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In addition to these particularly Indic tales, there are also repertoires of oral and written tales that came to Java from Persia, often through India, in the sixteenth century. The first versions of the stories probably came into Javanese through the Malay language, which was the language of trade and scholarship in parts of Sumatra and the Malay peninsula.

Amir Hamzah has two loyal friends, characters quite reminiscent of the clowns in other shadow play repertoires, named Umarmaya and Umarmadi. Many tales are love stories about Amir Hamzah and his wife Putri Muniggarim.

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The Amir Hamzah stories are performed with wooden puppets in the part of north central Java called Kebumen. What is interesting about these stories and their Islamic origins is how similar many of the plots are to the shadow play stories about the Mahabharata heroes and heroines. This is quite different from the way that the stories exist in India, where they are part of north Indian and Pakistani Urdu poetic performance traditions of recitation, music, and poetry.

Last, on the island of Lombok, just east of Bali, a shadow theater tradition known as Wayang Sasak is performed where the Islamic characters of the Amir Hamzah stories are the good heroes and the Mahabharata characters are the enemies to be defeated, signifying the triumph of Islam over Hinduism in most of Lombok. This repertoire is a unique one, reflecting historical struggles between the Balinese Hindus and the Muslim Sasaks of Lombok.

But the Amir Hamzah tales are performed in Hindu Bali as well, and the musical accompaniment for Wayang Sasak is a Balinese style of music.

The first writing traditions known in Java are Indic ones. They take the form of inscriptions written on stones in a Sanskrit based script from south India. Sanskrit is the language of religious, technical, and aesthetic information that was preserved by specialists in India. As far as we know, it may never have existed as a spoken language. For mainland Southeast Asia, these early inscriptions are dated to the third and fourth centuries CE.

On Java, the earliest inscriptions date from the fifth century.

By the ninth century, a fragment of a Ramayana text exists from the Indian tales discussed above. This fragment is written in Old Javanese with only a few Sanskrit phrases mixed in. More poetic literature in Old Javanese dates from the eleventh century and it mirrors poetic literature from northern India.

These are poems of love and beauty, of heroes and battles. Many of the poems are connected to the Ramayana and Mahabharata cycles of stories that are performed in Java and Bali up to the present day. The first inscriptions on Java connected to Islam date to the eleventh century and are found on gravestones of Muslim travelers who died in eastern Java. Manuscripts connected to Islam written in Malay and Javanese date from later periods.

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Because of the tropical climate, manuscripts had to be copied and recopied by hand until the introduction of printing, which came to Southeast Asia through Chinese woodblocks and European moveable type presses. Manuscripts connected to Islamic thought were written in several languages: an Arabic script used to write Javanese, an Arabic script used to write Malay, and an Indic script used to write Javanese.

Some of the manuscripts dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are illuminated ones. They tell the Islamic stories of Amir Hamzah and Yusuf, the Islamic name for the biblical hero Joseph, and the manuscript pages are decorated with shadow puppet characters. The letters of the various alphabets used to inscribe Javanese manuscripts were believed to be as powerful amulets and charms, as well as bearers of information. The act of writing was an art in itself; often those who composed the texts and those who copied them were different people.

Manuscripts had a sacred quality in past centuries in Java, and one had to have enough personal strength to be able to withstand the powers that writing invoked.

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The Dutch colonials, who controlled the many islands that make up Indonesia today from the middle of the nineteenth century until World War II, were concerned about Islam as a rallying point for anti-European sentiment. The Dutch discouraged strong attachment to Islam by those Javanese who served under the Dutch colonial regime.

One of the most prolific writers of the late colonial period in Java was R. Kartini, the daughter of a Javanese regent, the highest native rank under the Dutch in Java. He allowed his daughter to have a primary school education in a Dutch school. She was thus able to write letters in the years when, as a young girl, she was confined to her house and yard—as was common for women of high status until they married. She complained to her Dutch friends about the need for women to marry, about the polygamous household in which she was raised, and about the conditions of Javanese women, who were often forced into loveless marriages.

She herself finally married at age twenty-four and died a year later, a few days after her first child was born. She is celebrated today in Indonesia as the mother of the nation and celebrated for her work in demanding education for women. He was well known for his passionate speeches where he tried to combine Islam, nationalism, and communism. He often used Islamic phrases as well as references to shadow-play characters in his speeches. He was the leader of Indonesia from the proclamation of independence in until he was removed from office in After the Indonesians won their independence in , Islam could flourish in a variety of ways.

Today there are both puppet theaters and contemporary performing arts groups on Java. Some of the more famous directors and dancers regularly stage plays with Islamic themes. The well-known Javanese choreographer and dancer Sardono Kusuma staged the story of the famous Islamic rebel Prince Diponegoro, who led the Javanese of the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta to rise up against the Dutch in In he directed several plays about foreign fears of Islamic men in the post world.

In recent times, one of the major personae of the Indonesian performing arts is the young woman known as Inul. She is famous for her suggestive style of jaipongan dancing, as well as her strict observance of Islam. She is an apt image for the contradictions of Islam and modernity in the twenty-first century. Oral Traditions and Stories The mythological characters credited with bringing Islam to Java are the nine wali, or saints.

Shadow Puppet and Wooden Puppet Theaters Shadow puppet and wooden puppet traditions were an important means of organizing knowledge in Javanese society where many people depended on oral storytelling for the preservation and transmission of information.

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Conclusion After the Indonesians won their independence in , Islam could flourish in a variety of ways. You Might Also Like. Islamic Belief Made Visual. This essay looks at Islam's influence on the arts of Southeast Asia. Shahnama: The Book of Kings. Learn about the political and social changes under Iran's Safavid Dynasty by examining the Book of Kings.

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Learn about its religious diversity and history. Islamic Iran. An expansive essay on the history of Iran through the first great global age. Islamic Calligraphy and the Illustrated Manuscript. The calligraphic tradition, which grew out of the demand for illuminated Qur'ans, became an important art form worldwide. Islam in Southeast Asia. An essay about the spread of Islam into Southeast Asia and how religion and expression fit within societal contexts. Introduction to Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia is a geographically diverse region with equally diverse lifestyles and traditions throughout human history.

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The Middle East & Southeast Asia Collection at the Oman Library | Middle East Institute

At the same time, many Muslims say religious leaders should influence political matters and see Islamic political parties as just as good or better than other political parties. Many Muslims express concern about religious extremist groups operating in their country.

On balance, more Muslims are concerned about Islamic than Christian extremist groups. And while the vast majority of Muslims in most countries say suicide bombing is rarely or never justified to defend Islam against its enemies, substantial minorities in a few countries consider such violence justifiable in at least some circumstances. Attitudes vary somewhat in the other regions surveyed.

Views about the better type of government differ little by frequency of prayer, age, gender or education level. Muslims generally say they are very free to practice their religion. Most also believe non-Muslims in their country are very free to practice their faith.

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And among those who view non-Muslims as very free to practice their faith, the prevailing opinion is that this is a good thing.