The Muslim New Year In A Malay Context
- Dr Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, Centre for Interfaith Understanding (CIFU)

* Paper presented at an intercultural dialogue on ‘What’s in a New Year?’ on 31 March 2019, organised by Centre for Singapore Tamil Culture.

Introduction

Festivals are significant events in the communal life of a society. One common festival found across all cultures is that of the new year, which celebrates the dawn of a new beginning within the calendrical system adopted by the community. This is found in Muslim societies too. But unlike other communities, Muslims do not generally observe the new year in a huge way. Hence, new year celebration has never been a key feature of Muslim communal observances, including in the Malay world. In fact, there is a glaring absence of grand celebrations for the Muslim new year. One of the few, if not the only, mentions of a new year celebration was a sya’ir (Malay poetry) by Munshi Abdullah (d.1854) who wrote it in 1848.[1] This sya’ir however referred to the first of January, which is the new year according to the Gregorian calendar. It was introduced to the Malay world during colonial times by the British.

A century later, Malay writer and linguist, Zainal-‘Abidin bin Ahmad (popularly known as Za’ba) wrote:

“There are actually only two festivals regarded and observed as such in the course of the year by Malay in common with the rest of Islamic peoples in other parts of the world. These festivals are called among the Malays of Malaya Hari Raya Puasa or Fast-Ending festival, and the other Hari Raya Haji or Pilgrimage festival.

…The New Year is not considered sacred or even religious; it has only a chronological or calender significance. In the kampongs there is no celebration at all of any kind. Even the schools until a few years ago were not closed for that day, and it had never been the practice to observe any official holiday on the Muslim new year, except perhaps in Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Trengganu under the old regime as the Muslim tradition was always strong there. But in the towns and cities where there are Muslim religious schools, it appears to have been made a practice since recent years to have such schools closed for that day and sometimes to mark the day by arranging sports meetings for the achool children. Apart from this. no gathering of any kind is usually held.”[2]

Za’ba confirmed what continues to be the case in the contemporary context: the new year is not a major celebration in the Muslim tradition. In Malaysia though,  the Muslim new year known as Awal Muharram is observed. I would consider it ‘an invented tradition’, as  it was  introduced rather recently in history. Various activities are conducted in the month of Muharram, which is the start of the Islamic calendar. These include road processions to symbolise Muslim unity and gatherings in mosques for special prayers. Forums and lectures in conjunction with Awal Muharram are also a common practice there,  as well as mosques in Singapore. A special award for individuals who contributed significantly to the Muslim community –– known as Tokoh Maal Hijrah –– is also conferred annually by the Malaysian government. The  Muslim new year is otherwise a relatively quiet affair.

Pre-Islamic Malay Calendar

It will be interesting to consider how the ushering in of the new year was observed by the Malays prior to the coming of Islam. Unfortunately, very little is known of the pre-Islamic Malay calendrical system and mentions of a festival associated with the New Year is absent in many classical Malay texts. The 15th century legal code of the Malaccan Sultanate, Undang-Undang Melaka, mentioned  an octaval calendrical system (8 year-cycle), with one section stated to have been completed in 1231, called a ha year. According to Proudfoot (2006),

“The practice of identifying the year with a letter of the Arabic alphabet is linked to a peculiar form of the Muslim calendar that was widely used in Southeast Asia, but is not so well known elsewhere in the Islamic world. It is a calendar that operates on an 8-year cycle. This kind of calendar is mostly found in Java, where the 8-year cycle is called a windu. However, the versions of the octaval calendar found in the Malay world are more various and have an older pedigree than their Javanese counterparts.”[3]

Much of the ancient Malay calendrical system is lost now, even though the standard Hijri Muslim calendar became widespread only from the early 20th century. This was partly due to the modernising movement of the Kaum Muda.[4] Hence, any old Malay practice associated with the new year would have been lost too. What we find in the modern period is the focus on two major festivals –– Hari Raya Puasa (Eid ul-Fitri) and Hari Raya Haji (Eid ul-Adha) –– that corresponds to the Muslim Hijri calendar.

In the Malay context, Hari Raya Puasa is a grand celebration often compared to the Lunar New Year celebration of the Chinese community. Hence,  it is often misunderstood as the Muslim New Year. Hari Raya Puasa occurs on the first day of Syawwal, the tenth month of the Muslim calendar; while Hari Raya Haji occurs on the tenth day of Dhul al-Hijjah, the twelfth and final month.  Neither of these major Muslim celebrations are associated with the new year.

Muslim Hijri Calendar

The Muslim calendar is a lunar-based system that was instituted by Umar ibn al-Khattab (d. 644), the second caliph who reigned from 634-644 CE. In consultation with the other Companions of the Prophet, four events were deliberated as the starting point of the calendar: the birth of the Prophet, the occasion of the first Revelation to the Prophet, the Prophet’s hijrah (migration) from Mecca to Medina to avoid persecution, and the death of the Prophet. Umar eventually decided on the hijrah, but only because the Companions were not clear on the exact date of the birth and occasion of Revelation, while the Prophet’s death was a sad occasion to mark a new calendar. Hijrah, on the other hand, symbolised a new beginning for the Muslims and allowed the nascent Muslim community to rally together under a new polity.[5]

Clearly, the Islamic calendar system emerged out of a political decision in 637 CE, five years after Prophet Muhammad passed away and sixteen years after the hijrah. Caliph Umar’s decision was not arbitrary. It was made at a time when the Muslim political identity was growing stronger. Furthermore, Muslim territories expanded considerably during the time of Umar through military expeditions. Governing a vast area was not easy and required more efficient and systematic governing principles, including taxation. Hence, having a standardised calendrical system for the caliphate was a necessity. The choice of the hijrah was for good reasons. It was a projection onto the past where a nascent Muslim political identity emerged and took root in Medina as a result of it. Hence, the Muslim calendar is known as the Hijri calendar.

Nonetheless, the Qur’an –– which is the principle sacred text by which Muslims derive their religious views and formulate laws on Islamic matters –– contains references by which the Hijri calendar adheres to. Firstly, there must be twelve months in a lunar year: “The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year)– so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth.” (Q. 9:36) Secondly, the Qur’an mentions that each month begins with the appearance of a new moon: “They ask you concerning the new moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for Pilgrimage.” (Q. 2:189) The Prophet had formally adopted the lunar system during his last pilgrimage (known as the Farewell Hajj) in 632 CE, which effectively led to the abandonment of the Arab’s lunisolar system of the pre-Islamic period.[6]

 

Similar to other lunar calendrical system, each year has a total of 353 to 355 days, which is shorter than the 365 to 366 days in a solar calendar. This accounts for festive days such as the Eid or Hari Raya, shifting by about 11 days back each year when placed on the Gregorian solar calendar. According to Proudfoot (2006), the lunar cycle inconvenienced farmers and tax-collectors, as well as others who relied on seasonal rhythms.[7] Hence, pre-Islamic Arabs made up for the shortfall in number of days by adding an extra lunar month every three years or so. The pre-Islamic Arab calendar, therefore, was lunisolar.[8] A similar practice was done by the Jews in Arabia. This customary practice was known as intercalation. However, the Qur’an prohibits such a practice: “Verily the transposing (of a prohibited month) is an addition to unbelief: the unbelievers are led to wrong thereby, for they make it lawful one year, and forbidden another year, in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by Allah and make such forbidden ones lawful. The evil of their course seems pleasing to them. But Allah guides not those who reject faith.” (Q. 9:37)

One other issue that emerged out of the Muslim calendrical system is on the dependency on moon-sighting (ru’yah), particularly in the pre-modern period. Hamzah Yusuf (2017) wrote:

“The Prophet commanded the Muslims to keep track of the crescent moons and to inform him of the sightings. If a new moon was sighted for the devotional months of Ramadan or Dhūl al-Hijjah (the month in which hajj is performed), the news was announced to all.”[9]

The issue of moon-sighting is still debated in several Muslim societies. Traditionalists often hold to the principle of ru’yah (lit. to see with the eye) to determine, for example, the  start  and end of the fasting month of Ramadan. This principle is based on an often-cited hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) of Sahih Muslim: “Whenever you sight the new moon (of the month of Ramadan) observe fast, and when you sight it (the new moon of Syawwal) break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then observe fast for thirty days.” Modernists, however, resort to scientific calculation, otherwise known as hisab (lit. calculation). The argument of the modernists focuses on the unreliability of the human eye, including unpredictable weather conditions that may hide the moon from the naked eye. The disagreement between the traditionalists and the modernists over ru’yah and hisab continues to play out every year in terms of the start and end of the fasting month. Hence, we find that Muslim communities can end up celebrating  Eid ul-Fitri or Hari Raya Puasa on different days. The religious authority in Singapore adopts the hisab method, which results in a stable and constant determination of the start and end of the fasting month. This allows for Hari Raya Puasa to be predictable and can then be inserted into the annual calendar of public holidays issued by the Singapore government.

Contested Month of Muharram

The first month of the Hijri calendar[10] is called Muharram, which means “forbidden”. This is believed to be the second holiest month of the year, apart from the tenth month, Ramadan. In Muharram, it is forbidden to engage in warfare. It is unclear why the notion of truce came to be associated with the month of Muharram. Its root may be pre-Islamic and meant to protect trade within the sanctuary of Mecca.[11] This was mentioned in Q. 2:217: “They asked you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, ‘Fighting therein is great [sin]…’” In the post-Islamic period, non-fighting in Muharram could be evoked by the painful memory of the Battle of Karbala that took place on the tenth day of Muharram. In fact, Muharram is often associated with this day, also known as ‘Ashura (lit. ‘tenth day’). But the significance of the ‘Ashura differs between two of the main sects within Islam: the Sunnis and the Shi’as.[12]

Within the Sunni tradition, ‘Ashura is commemorated with fasting. This practice was based on several ahadith (pl., sayings of Prophet Muhammad) such as the following:

 

“The Prophet came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura. He said, ‘What is this?’ They said, ‘This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies [in some version, Pharaoh was drowned while in pursuit of Moses and the Israelites], so Moses fasted on this day.’ He said, ‘We have more right to Moses than you,’ so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

 

              In another version narrated by Imam Ahmad (d. 855) in his Musnad, ‘Ashura was identified as the day in which the ark settled on Mount Judi after the Great Flood and Noah fasted in thanksgiving; hence, the injunction by Prophet Muhammad to emulate the fast. Al-Bukhari (d. 870) in his Sahih al-Bukhari has yet another version in which Prophet Muhammad, when he migrated to Medina, saw the Jews celebrating on this day and commanded the Muslims to be different from the Jews by fasting instead. The 15th century commentator, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 1449) in his commentary, Fath al-Bari Sharh ‘ala Sahih al-Bukhari, remarked that the apparent motive for the ‘Ashura fast was to carve a different identity for Muslims from the Jews; hence, Muslims would fast when the Jews did not because people do not fast on a day of celebration.

 

              No one could actually verify if any of the incidents mentioned, i.e. the drowning of Pharaoh or the landing of Noah’s ark on Mount Judi, occurred on the day of ‘Ashura; and there is no independent verification for an actual Jewish celebration on that day or if the Jews ever fasted on the day of ‘Ashura.[13] What is plausible is that pagan Arabs fasted on that day for reasons unknown as narrated by ‘Aisha, the Prophet’s wife: “The people of Jahiliyyah (i.e. pagan Arabs) used to fast on that day…” The 13th century exegete, al-Qurtubi (d. 1273) seemed to agree but attributed it to the tradition of Prophet Abraham, which cannot be verified too: “Perhaps the Quraysh (Meccan tribe) used to fast on that day on the basis of some past law, such as that of Ibrahim.” According to Syed Farid Alatas (2017), it is remarkable that the Sunni’s commemoration of ‘Ashura ignored the only event that has been historically verified – the massacre in Karbala (in present-day Iraq) in which the Prophet’s grandson, Husayn (the son of ‘Ali) was killed along with his followers, including women and children.[14] The incident occurred on 10 October, 680 CE after a battle between the loyalists of ‘Ali and his son, Husayn (now known as the Shi’as) and the army of the Umayyad caliph, Yazid bin Muawiyah (d. 683).

 

              This is where the commemoration of ‘Ashura differs from the Shi’as. In the Shi’a tradition, ‘Ashura is a day of mourning. Mervin (2014) wrote that “believers must refrain from any expression of joy and must wear black or dark clothes. It is a time for lamentations, tears, sorrow and compassion…”[15] Tracing their religious allegiance to the Family of the Prophet via ‘Ali, the Shi’a community saw ‘Ashura as a day to express their grief as well as renew their solidarity with Husayn and those who were massacred in Karbala. Annually, Shi’as would do a pilgrimage, known as the Arba’een procession, to the tomb of Husayn on the 40th day after ‘Ashura. ‘Ashura, therefore, is a black mark in Muslim history where sectarian conflict led to the murder of the grandson of the Prophet. It was a pivotal moment in the formation of the Shi’a identity. Given the traumatic nature of the event that was barely ten days after the ushering of a new year, Muslims generally do not see the month of Muharram or the occasion of the new year as a day of joy and celebration. In fact, the meta-historical aspect of the Sunni narrative on ‘Ashura could have been part of a need to bury the historical memory of Karbala, as was the emphasis on Muharram as a month forbidden to engage in warfare or fighting. 

 

The Malay Heritage of Muharram

 

    a. Bubur ‘Ashura

 

              In Malay society, ‘Ashura is often commemorated with a special delicacy known as bubur ‘Ashura. Bubur is Malay porridge and bubur ‘Ashura is usually prepared with slices of egg, fish and shrimp. According to Pelras (1996), the porridge involves seven different types of ingredient and “first presented in offering to the ancestors of the family and then shared by all the household.[16] Muhaimin (1999) also wrote that the porridge would be distributed to neighbours and close kin.[17] It is interesting to note the widespread identification of ‘Ashura with this special porridge, which is consumed at the break of the ‘Ashura fast. In Aceh, the porridge is known as kanji ‘Ashura while Javanese call it bubur Sura.

 

The serving of bubur ‘Ashura is a unique communal practice of the Malays in the context of Muharram, although the occasion is the tenth day of Muharram and not of the new year itself. This, however, is a Malay Sunni practice. The Shi’as do not have the tradition of cooking or consuming bubur ‘Ashura. According to Zulkifli (2013),

 

“For Shi‘is, fasting on ‘Ashura is considered to be bid‘a (unlawful innovation) and forbidden. They argue that this fast is a product of false teachings by the Umayyad regime. When the Shi‘is commemorated the martyrdom of Husayn as a day of mourning and a symbol of their struggle against tyrants, the Umayyads are said to have turned it into a day of thanksgiving, and are even said to have produced Hadiths to justify this change. In the eyes of Indonesian Shi‘is, the Sunni version of ‘Ashura fasting is the product of the Umayyad regime.”[18]

 

    b. Boria

 

              One other unique communal practice that emerged out of ‘Ashura is the boria. Boria is a pseudo-religious carnival that evolved from the Muharram processions marking the day of ‘Ashura. Historically, a Muharram procession involved (i) the closing of markets; (ii) the wearing of coarse woolen clothing; (iii) the beating of one’s face; and (iv) wailing accompanied by the recitation of elegies.[19] Therefore, it is surprising to find a festive atmosphere for a procession that supposedly emerged from the ‘Ashura tradition itself. According to Putten (2015), boria was introduced in the 19th century by South Asian regiments and convicts brought by the British to Penang.[20] The merry processions were participated by Indian immigrants and Jawi Peranakan (Malays of mixed ancestry), and soon became a festivity for merchants and villagers. To some extent, boria shared similar origins with the tabut or tabot in Bengkulu and Pariaman, two coastal areas of West Sumatra, Indonesia.[21] But the latter retained its character associated with ‘Ashura while boria had taken a completely different tone and performativity. 

 

              The devolution of boria happened with the involvement of “South Asian convicts [who] reportedly teamed up with members of existing secret societies”.[22] In 1867, violent clashes broke out between members of Chinese and Malay secret societies during the Muharram observances. Boria troupes were again sites of recruitment for secret societies that eventually led to another outbreak of violence in 1877, resulting in a temporary ban of boria.[23]  The boria association with secret societies and gangs, led to the religious element gradually dissipating. By the early 20th century, Muslim clerics and reformists began decrying against boria and in 1922, Muhammad Yusuf bin Sultan Maidin, son of a wealthy Madras-born cloth merchant, published the first polemical writing – Boria dan Bencananya [Boria and Its Woes]; and Syair Boria [Poetry on Boria] – to fight against the evils brought by it. Putten (2015) summarised Yusuf’s argument as such:

“…Muhammad Yusuf sets forth his objections, which were predictably based on the disruption of everyday life and the inversion of social norms brought about by boria. He mentions youngsters who take up drinking, stay out all night, stay away from school and associate with gangsters, eventually becoming gang members. Another contentious bone he needs to pick is with those who squander their money, such as Chinese, Europeans, Indians and even Malays who invite boria troupes to perform at their homes, or the people who get entangled in court cases as a result of boria. He also scorns the people who pretend not to have money to pay for their children’s education, to feed their families or to give alms to the beggars, yet when the boria season arrives they show off their affluence by generously giving to the troupes that come by. Boria not only induced Malay women and their children and grabbed by Chinese and Indian males, it even ridiculed the Arabs and their language by using God’s name in vain. Boria confirmed European prejudices about how uncivilised Malays were; and it generated violence and discord within the Malay community.”[24]

 

              With clerics objecting and its social rituals no longer readily identified with ‘pure’ Shi’i practice, the boria came into disrepute. Between the 1930s and 1960s, it was reduced to popular theatrical art performed in amusement parks in Malay urban centres. Today, boria survives as a cultural heritage of Penang. Similar to the boria, the tabut/tabot had also been reduced to a cultural showcase for tourism since 1974. This, according to Kartomi (1986), meant a loss of “the essential element of passion, which is a distinguishing feature of Shi’ism.”[25] But unlike boria, the rise of religious orthodoxy and the strengthening of the Sunni identity through power institutions could account for this phase.

 

Conclusion

 

              The above discussion suggests why the new year has never been a major celebration within the Muslim tradition. Although the Muslim calendar begins with the Prophet’s migration to Medina and escape from persecution in Mecca – hence, symbolising a new beginning –, the first month of Muharram is marked by contested meanings. This was due to the sectarian conflict that emerged a few decades after the death of the Prophet and culminated in the Battle of Karbala that saw the Prophet’s grandson and his supporters being massacred.

 

              That incident occurred on the tenth day of Muharram. Its significance continues to reverberate till today in two ways: one, it defines the Shi’a identity as a movement upholding the martyrdom of Husayn and allegiance to the Ahl al-Bayt; and two, it tempers Muharram as a month of devotion, if not sorrow, and not of celebration. The practices associated with Muharram or ‘Ashura itself, however, continues to evolve and adapt to specific cultural and political contexts. Nonetheless, its roots in history must not be forgotten. One aspect that all Muslims can agree on is the devotional element of the month in which piety is renewed and contemplation acted on to truly uphold the name ‘Muharram’ or ‘forbidden (to engage in warfare and fighting)’. It is a month of reconciliation, rather than division – if only we can draw lessons from history. Therein lies the sanctity of the month as affirmed in the Qur’an.

End Notes

[1] Amin Sweeney, ed., Teks Lengkap Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi; Jilid 2; Puisi dan Ceretera. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia; Ècole française d’Extrême-Orient, 2006.

 

[2] Zainal-‘Abidin bin Ahmad, “Malay Festivals: and some aspects pf Malay Religious Life”, Journal Malayan Branch, Vol. XXII, Pt. I, 1949, Royal Asiatic Society.

[3] Ian Proudfoot, Old Muslim Calendars of Southeast Asia. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2006; p. 1.

[4] For the influence of the Kaum Muda (also known as the modernists) in Malay social and political landscape of the early 20th century, see William Roff, The Origins of Malay Nationalism. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, 1967. The modernists were part of a global movement that emerged at the onset of the decline of the Ottoman empire. After the fall of the empire, the administration of Muslim lands were largely in the hands of colonialists and hence, the Gregorian calendar was almost universally adopted while the Muslim lunar calendar was used only for devotional and religious practices.

[5] See, al-Biruni’s Al-athar al-baqiya, ed. & trans. by C. Edward Sachau, The Chronology of Ancient Nations. London: William H. Allen and Co.,

1879; pp. 34-35.

[6] Hideyuki Ioh, “The Calendar in Pre-Islamic Mecca”, Arabica 61, 2014; p. 473.

[7] Ian Proudfoot, Old Muslim Calendars of Southeast Asia, p. 6.

[8] This explains the season names of some months that was retained in the Muslim lunar calendar.

[9] Hamzah Yusuf, Caesarean Moon Births: Calculations, Moon Sighting, and the Prophetic Way. USA: Sandala, 2017; pp.13-4.

[10] The twelve months in the Muslim calendar are: (1) Muharram, forbidden; (2) Safar, void; (3) Rabi’ al-Awwal, the first spring; (4) Rabi’ ath-Thani/al-Akhir, the second/last spring; (5) Jumada al-Ula, the first parched land; (6) Jumada al-Akhira, the last parched land; (7) Rajab, honour/respect; (8) Sha’ban, scattered; (9) Ramadan, burning heat; (10) Shawwal, raised; (11) Dhul al-Qa’da, the one of truce/sitting; (12) Dhul al-Hijjah, the one of pilgrimage. The names of these month were presumably pre-Islamic, i.e. used by Arabs prior to the introduction of the Muslim calendar.

[11] Hideyuki Ioh, “The Calendar in Pre-Islamic Mecca”, pp. 489-490.

[12] Sunni, or the full description – Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah (People of the Practice of the Prophet, and of the Community) – is the main denomination within Islam. About 85% of the Muslim world comprises of Sunnis. The Shi’as, on the other hand, are a minority denomination of about 15% of the total Muslim population, but they form the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan; and has a significant number in Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait and parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sunnis and Shi’as share similar fundamental beliefs but differ largely on issues of religious authority and allegiance. While Sunnism developed a theory of the caliphate based on majority-elect, Shi’as adhere to the imamate theory that follow a line of succession from ‘Ali (the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet) and the Household/Family of the Prophet (Ahl al-Bayt). For a discussion on Sunni-Shi’a division in Islam, see John McHugo, A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is. London: Saqi Books, 2017.

[13] A possible parallel is perhaps the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur, which is a day of atonement and repentance, not a celebration. But this occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar.

[14] In a lecture titled “Muharram in Sunni and Shi’a Traditions”, 16 September 2017 at the MKAC, organised by MCollective Singapore.

[15] Sabrina Mervin, “ ‘Ashura’ Rituals, Identity and Politics: A Comparative Approach (Lebanon and India)” in The Study of Shi’i Islam: History, Theology and Law, eds., Farhad Daftary and Gurdofarid Miskinzoda. London: I.B. Tauris; The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2014; p. 512.

[16] This is of the Bugis variant. See, Christian Pelras, The Bugis. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996; p. 176.

[17] Muhaimin, “The Morphology of Adat: The Celebration of Islamic Holy Days in North Coast Java”, Studia Islamika: Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies, 6 (3) 1999; p. 109.

[18] Zulkifli, The Struggle of the Shi’is in Indonesia. Acton, A.C.T.: ANU E Press, 2013; p. 105.

[19] Najam Haider, Shi’i Islam: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014; pp. 74-75.

[20] Jan van der Putten, “Burlesquing Muharram Processions into Carnivalesque Boria” in Shi’ism in Southeast Asia: ‘Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions, eds., Chiara Formichi & R. Michael Feener. London: Hurst & Company, 2015; p. 208.

[21] Tabut or tabot involves parading of ritual sarcophagi of Husayn, and mirrors that of the ta’ziya, a Persian passion play that re-enacts the martyrdom of Husayn during the massacre in Karbala. Snouck Hurgronje speculates that the parade was introduced to Sumatra in the late 17th and 18th centuries, following the coming of the sepoys (Indian soldiers) brought by the British. C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Acehnese, Vol. I. Translated by A.W.S. O’Sullivan. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1906; pp. 202-207. Cf. Michael Feener, “Tabut: Muharram Observances in the History of Bengkulu” Studia Islamika: Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 6 (2), 1999; pp. 87-130.

[22] Jan van der Putten, “Burlesquing Muharram Processions into Carnivalesque Boria”, p. 209.

[23] Ibid., p. 210.

[24] Ibid., p. 217-218.

[25] Margaret J. Kartomi, “Tabut – A Shi’a Ritual Transplanted from India to Sumatera” in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Indonesia: Essays in Honour of Professor J.D. Legge, eds., David P. Chandler and M.C. Ricklefs. Clayton, Victoria: Centre of Southeast Studies Monash University, 1986; pp. 159.

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