Skip to main content Accessibility help

Putting Habib Abdurrahim in His Place: Genealogy, Scale, and Islamization in Seunagan, Indonesia

  • Daniel Andrew Birchok (a1)

In this paper I argue that the ways in which a genealogical idiom brings together multiple scales of space and time is as important to its social, political, or religious efficacy as the particular people, places, and events it incorporates. To illustrate this point, I turn to the unusual patrilineal genealogy of Habib Abdurrahim, a nineteenth-century descendant of the Prophet Muhammad buried in the Indonesian region of Seunagan. Since the late 1950s, Habib Abdurrahim's descendants have cultivated a version of his patriline emphasizing five prominent figures. This constellation of figures, together with the relationships Muslims in Seunagan foster with each of the five, produce configurations of spatial-temporal scale through which local Muslims inscribe themselves as participants in several Islamic pasts: the establishment of Seunagan's customary practice, the Islamization of the Indonesian nation, and Islam's cosmic history. Narrative, social, and ritual practices surrounding Habib Abdurahim's patriline link Muslims in Seunagan to the multiple scales that inhere in the genealogy, encouraging them to see themselves as actors within entwined and unfolding histories of Islamization.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Abdurrahman, Tgk., Amin, Ibrahim, Berueuh, Tgk. M. Daud, and Indrapuri, Tgk. H. Ahmad Hasballah. 1948. MAKLUMAT-BERSAMA. 5 May. (Published in Analiansyah, M.Ag and Drs. Jamhuri, , eds., Syariat Islam di Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (Inventarisasi Dokumen). Banda Aceh: Dinas Syariat Islam Provinsi NAD, 2008.)
Aspinall, Edward. 2009. Islam and Nation: Separatist Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Azman, T. R. 1962. Lapuran Tahunan Pemerintahan Umum dan Otonomi Daerah Ketj. Seunagan Tahun 1962. Bundle 13, box 1, Archive of the Kec. Seunagan Dati II Aceh Barat held at Arsip Propinsi, Banda Aceh.
Azra, Azyumardi. 2004. Jaringan Ulama Timur Tengah dan Kepulauan Nusantara Abad XVII & XVIII: Akar Pembaruan Islam Indonesia. Jakarta: Kencana.
Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel. In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Emerson, Caryl and Holquist, Michael, trans. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Benda, Harry J. 1958. Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje and the Foundation of Dutch Islamic Policy in Indonesia. Journal of Modern History 30: 338–47.
Bernstein, Anya. 2012. More Alive than All the Living: Sovereign Bodies and Cosmic Politics in Buddhist Siberia. Cultural Anthropology 27, 2: 261–85.
Birchok, Daniel Andrew. n.d. (forthcoming). Locating the Descendants of Ali in Southwest Aceh: The Places of Alid Piety in Late 20th-Century Seunagan. In Feener, R. Michael and Formichi, Chiara, eds., Shi'ism in South East Asia: ‘Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions. London: C. Hurst & Co.
Bowen, John. 1989a. Narrative Form and Political Incorporation: Changing Uses of History in Aceh, Indonesia. Comparative Studies in Society and History 31, 4: 671–93.
Bowen, John. 1989b. Salat in Indonesia: The Social Meanings of an Islamic Ritual. Man 24, 4: 600–19.
Bowen, John. 1993. Muslims through Discourse: Religion and Ritual in Gayo Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Bowen, John. 2003. Islam, Law and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Braune, W. 2010. ʿAbd al-Ḳādir al-Ḏj̲īlānī. Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Brill Online, (accessed 27 Apr. 2010).
Bubandt, Nils. 2001. Malukan Apocalypse: Themes in the Dynamics of Violence in Eastern Indonesia. In Wessel, Ingrid and Wimhӧfer, Georgia, eds., Violence in Indonesia. Hamburg: Abera Verlag Markus Voss.
Bubandt, Nils. 2009. Interview with an Ancestor: Sprits as Informants and the Politics of Possession in North Maluku. Ethnography 10, 3: 291316.
Chodkiewicz, Michel. 1993. Seal of the Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn ‘Arabī. Sherrard, Liadain, trans. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society.
Clark, Samuel and Palmer, Blair. 2008. Peaceful Pilkada, Dubious Democracy: Aceh's Post-Conflict Elections and Their Implications. Jakarta: World Bank.
Controleur [signature illegible]. 1935. Nota van Toelichting Betreffende Landschap Seunagan. 25 July. Algemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague.
Cornell, Vincent J. 1998. Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Daud, Sammina. 2009. Abu Habib Muda Seunagan & Thariqat Syattariyah. Jakarta: Karya Sukses Sentosa.
DeWeese, Devin A. 1994. Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Dresch, Paul. 1988. Segmentation: Its Roots in Arabia and Its Flowering Elsewhere. Cultural Anthropology 3, 1: 5067.
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1940. The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. New York: Oxford University Press.
Feener, R. Michael. 2013. Sharī‘a and Social Engineering: The Implementation of Islamic Law in Contemporary Aceh, Indonesia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Florida, Nancy K. 1995. Writing the Past, Inscribing the Future: History as Prophecy in Colonial Java. Durham: Duke University Press.
Florida, Nancy K. 1997. Writing Traditions in Colonial Java: The Question of Islam. In Humphreys, S. C., ed., Cultures of Scholarship. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Formichi, Chiara. 2012. Islam and the Making of the Nation: Kartosuwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia. Leiden: KITLV Press.
Frank, Allen J. 1996. Islamic Shrine Catalogues and Communal Geography in the Volga-Ural Region: 1788–1917. Journal of Islamic Studies 7, 2: 265–86.
Geertz, Clifford. 1968. Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gilsenan, Michael. 1973. Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gladney, Dru C. 1987. Muslim Tombs and Ethnic Folklore: Charters of Hui Identity. Journal of Asian Studies 46, 3: 495532.
Green, Nile. 2012. Making Space: Sufis and Settlers in Early Modern India. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hasymy, Ali, ed. 1989. Sejarah Masuk dan Berkembangnya Islam di Indonesia. Medan: Alma'arif.
Henige, David P. 1974. The Chronology of Oral Tradition: Quest for a Chimera. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Ho, Engseng. 2002. Names beyond Nations: The Making of Local Cosmopolitans. Études Rurales 163/164: 215–32.
Ho, Engseng. 2006. The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hodgson, Marshall G. S. 1974. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hoffman, Valerie. 1995. Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.
al-Hujw'iri, ‘Al'i B. ‘Uthm'an al-Jull'abi. 1997. The Kashf al-Mahj'ub: The Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism. Nicholson, Reynold A., trans. Lahore: Islamic Book Service.
Irvine, Judith. 1978. When Is Genealogy History? Wolof Genealogy in Comparative Perspective. American Ethnologist 5, 4: 651–74.
Kraus, Werner. 2010. The Shattariyya Sufi Brotherhood in Indonesia. In Graf, Arndt, Schröter, Sussane, and Wieringa, Edwin, eds., Aceh: History, Politics and Culture. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Kumar, Ann. 1985. The Dairy of a Javanese Muslim: Religion, Politics, and the Pesantren, 1883–1886. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies (Monograph 7), Australian National University.
Laffan, Michael. 2011. The Making of Indonesian Islam: Orientalism and the Narration of a Sufi Past. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lev, Daniel S. 1972. Islamic Courts in Indonesia: A Study in the Political Bases of Legal Institutions. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lev, Daniel S. 1985. Colonial Law and the Genesis of the Indonesian State. Indonesia 40: 5774.
Nicholson, Reynold Alleyne. 1921. Studies in Islamic Mysticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Njaksih, K. 1970. Letter 99/16/1070, bundle 96, box 10, Archive of the Kec. Seunagan Dati II Aceh Barat held at Arsip Propinsi, Banda Aceh.
Panitia Penyelenggara Musabaqah Tilawatil Qur'an. 1981. Dari Sini Ia Bersemi. Banda Aceh: Panitia Penyelenggara Musabaqah Tilawatil Qur'an.
Presiden Soekarno di Demak: Manusia Hidup dalam Ketjemasan. 1958. Suluh Indonesia, 4 Apr.
Ricci, Ronit. 2011. Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ricklefs, M. C. 2012. Islamization and Its Opponents in Java: A Political, Social, Cultural and Religious History, c. 1930 to the Present. Honolulu: University of Hawaìi Press.
Rinkes, Douwe Adolf. 1996. Nine Saints of Java. Gordon, Alijah, ed., Froger, H. M., trans. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Sociological Research Institute.
Ruslan, , and Nugroho, Arifin Suryo. 2007. Ziarah Wali: Wisata Spiritual Sepanjang Masa. Yogyakarta: Pustaka Timur.
Saleh, Hasan. 1956. Revolusi Islam di Indonesia. Darussalam: Pustaka Djihad.
Sangren, P. Steven. 1988. History and the Rhetoric of Legitimacy: The Ma Tsu Cult of Taiwan. Comparative Studies in Society and History 30, 4: 674–97.
Shaery-Eisenlohr, Roschanack. 2009. Territorializing Piety: Genealogy, Transnationalism, and Shi'ite Politics in Modern Lebanon. Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, 3: 533–62.
Shryock, Andrew. 1997. Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination: Oral History and Textual Authority in Tribal Jordan. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Siegel, James. 1979. Shadow and Sound: The Historical Thought of a Sumatran People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sila, Muhammad Adlin. 2001. The Festivity of the Maulid Nabi in Cikoang, South Sulawesi: Between Remembering and Exaggerating the Spirit of the Prophet. Studia Islamika 8, 3: 156.
Sjamsuddin, Nazaruddin. 1985. The Republican Revolt: A Study of the Acehnese Rebellion. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Snouck Hurgronje, C. 1906. The Achehnese. Swete O'Sullivan, Arthur Warren, trans. 2 vols. Leyden: Late E. J. Brill.
Stewart, F. H. 2012. ‘Urf. Encylopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Brill On-line, (accessed 28 Sept. 2012).
Stiner, Mary C., Earle, Timothy, Smail, Daniel Lord, and Shryock, Andrew. 2011. Scale. In Shryock, Andrew and Smail, Daniel Lord, eds., Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Tiro, Hasan Muhammad. 1958. Demokrasi untuk Indonesia. Aceh: Penerbit Seulawah.
Tiro, Hasan Muhammad. 1984. The Price of Freedom: The Unfinished Diary. Norsborg: Information Department, National Liberation Front Acheh Sumatra.
van Bruinessen, Martin. 1989. Tarekat Qadiriyah dan Ilmu Syeikh Abdul Qadir Jilani di India, Kurdistan, dan Indonesia. Ulumul Qur'an 2, 2: 6877.
van Dijk, C. 1981. Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: The Darul Islam in Indonesia. Verhandelingen van het Koninklik Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 94. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
van Klinken, Gerry. 2007. Return of the Sultans: The Communitarian Turn in Local Politics. In Davidson, James Seth and Henley, David, eds., The Revival of Tradition in Indonesian Politics: The Deployment of Adat from Colonialism to Indigenism. London: Routledge.
van Langen, K.F.H. 1888. Atjeh's Westkust, Met Daarbij Behoorende Kaart. Tijdschrift van het Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig (2d series) 5, 2: 443521.
van Vollenhoven, Cornelis. 1981. Van Vollenhoven on Indonesian Adat Law: Selections from Het Adatrecht van Nederlandsch-Indië (Volume I, 1918; Volume II, 1931). Holleman, J. F., ed. The Hague: M. Nijhoff.
Waly, Muhibbuddin. 1993. Ayah Kami Maulana Syeikh Haji Muhammad Waly al-Khalidy (Teungku Syeikh Haji Muda Waly). Malaysia: Kulliyyah of Laws International Islamic University.
Werbner, Pnina. 2003. Pilgrims of Love: The Anthropology of a Global Sufi Cult. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Woodward, Mark. 1988. The Slametan: Textual Knowledge and Ritual Performance in Central Javanese Islam. History of Religions 28, 1: 5489.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed