Crimean trace in Indonesian Islam: Sulaiman Al-Qirimi

Crimean trace in Indonesian Islam: Sulaiman Al-Qirimi
Photo: Festive prayer in the Indonesian mosque
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Mykhaylo Yakubovych
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It is commonly known that Indonesia is on the list of the most populous Muslim countries (more than 250 million people). Some of its regions were Islamized in the late Middle Ages (primarily due to relations with the Middle East countries and India), and already in the XVII-XVIII centuries Muslims outnumbered the population of other faiths. Muslim states (for example, the Malay Sultanate) existed on Indonesia’s territory in the late middle ages. Later, in the colonial era, Islam became one of the counterpunch ideologies on the Portuguese and Dutch occupation. In the XIX century, during the Muslim world’s awakening (the so-called "Nagda" era, the Muslim revival), Islamic movements significantly developed on these territories, using both the ideas of returning to "pure Islam" of the Prophet's time, and developing the established branches.

Sufism was of importance in Indonesia, namely its contemporary forms. First of all, it is worth mentioning the Naqshbandiyyah-Khalidiyyah Tariqa, which appeared as a result of Ottoman Sufi Diya al-Din Khalid al-Shagrazuri activities, better known as Khalid al-Baghdadi (1776-1827). This Muslim figure of Kurdish origin and the author of many works (Medzhd-i Talid - "The Great Rebirth", Shemsu Sh-Shumus "The Sun of the Lights", etc.) traveled almost all over the Middle East and India (there, in fact, he learned "classical "Naqshbandism from Sheikh Abdullah al-Daglavi). Already in the second half of the XIX century, the spiritual heritage of Khalid al-Baghdadi reached the outlying regions of the Islamic world, among which Indonesia was.

It is interesting that spreading of Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya Tariqa, which is still popular in Southeast Asia and other regions of the Islamic world, was considerably due to the Crimean Sulaiman al-Qirimi. Unfortunately, there is less information about his life, but the mention of this sheikh (also known as Sulaiman Efendi) can be found in relevant tariqa sources. The nineteenth-century’s manuscripts Nagajatu s-Salikin - The Way of the Travelers and Ta'alim at-Tariq - The Teaching of the Tariqa, explored by Indonesian scholar Arrazy Hassim, show that Indonesian Muslims highly valued Sulaiman al-Qirimi's role in their religious development.

Sulaiman al-Qirimi, was born on the Crimea, which he left at the end of the XIX century, after the Russian empire annexation of the peninsula. For some time he was studying at Khalid al-Baghdadi and his disciple and caliph ("governor") Abdullah al-Arzindzhani. Around 1826, this scholar founded a zawiyah (Sufi abode) on the Mount Abu Kubays in Mecca, in which the followers of the tariqa gathered almost from all over the Islamic world. It had been existing for almost a hundred years, namely until 1926, when the region was merged in the Kingdom of Najd and Hijaz (the future Saudi Arabia) and the Sufi tariqat activities were felt into obscurity.

After Abdullah al-Arzindzhani, Sheikh Sulaiman al-Qırımi took the charge of this abode. He lived in Mecca until his death, 22 Dhu’l-Hijjah, 1275 by Hijri calendar (July 23, 1859). And it was Sulaiman al-Qirimi, who taught Ismail al-Minankabavi in the abode on Mount Abu Kubais. Ismail al-Minankabavi came from Western Sumatra, and returned to his homeland in the 1850s beginning the tariqa’s activities. Later, Sulaiman al-Qırımi’s another student, Ibrahim Fathi Kumpulan (died in 1914) engaged in these activities. Moreover, some sources report that Sulaiman al-Qirimi gave Ibrahim Fathi the Ijaz to translate some tariqa’s works in the "local language" (Minangkabau), in other words, he oriented his disciple on purpose to spread the tariqa’s teaching in his homeland.

It is interesting that the tariqa teachings were accepted by the Riau Sultanate, a state that was on the Sumatra Island from 1824 to 1911. The reforms, the aim of which was to Islamize the social system, were being carried out, (prohibition on gambling, tightening of the public moral norms, hijab must-wear, etc.) during the reign of Raji Ali (1844-1857). Two more students of the same Sulaiman al-Qırımi, Sulaiman al-Zuhdi and Ali Reed, were engaged in calling the Indonesian pilgrims, who visited Mecca, for tariqa. Ahmad al-Baqir was among them. Then, he spread the tariqa teachings among the inhabitants of his homeland Negeri-Sembilan (now the region of Malaysia). Apparently, there was someone with the knowledge of Minangkabau language in the Mount Kubais’ abode, as that language was used for communication exactly in those regions of South-East Asia. As a consequence, almost all the silsils (that is the list of knowledge carriers) which this tariqa’s sheikhs of Indonesia and partly Sumatra have now, include Sulaiman al-Qirimi, who, in turn, sent the knowledge from Khalid al-Baghdadi himself.

Despite the fact that, Sulaiman al-Qirimi, apparently, had never visited the territory of modern Indonesia, he precisely focused on the Muslims of this region. Given the fact that the Sufi orders played an important role in the Indonesian struggle for independence in the early twentieth century, it can be said that to a certain extent the natives of Crimea also was a part of this awakening.

Perhaps the new handwritten artifacts that become available in the era of the digital imaging of the Islamic heritage and the new cataloging of the manuscript archives will help to learn more about the figure of Sulaiman al-Qirimi and his contribution to the Islamic awakening in Indonesia.

Mykhaylo Yakubovych


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