Localized Islam in Lombok: Wali, sacred sites and ziarah tradition
October-December 2015
By: Erni Budiwanti

The process of converting local religions to Islam in Indonesia involved the vital role of the Wali Songo (the nine Javanese Islamic saints), venerated religious figures who left a tangible legacy in Indonesia, including Lombok, in the form of sacred sites (keramat) and the creation of the new tradition of ziarah (paying homage). The early stage of conversion was marked by contextualizing Islam into local cultural symbols and cosmology. Embedded in this stage were sacred attributes given to the proselytizers, the Wali, in the form of karomah, ngalap berkah and wasilah. The Wali and their sacred attributes obviously represent localized Islam in Lombok.

Port trade and an epic journey

The Dutch historian HJ de Graaf described Islam as spreading through Indonesia in three different ways: the peaceful course of trade; by the venerated preachers known as the Wali; and through the use of force and the waging of war. Graaf was right in saying that Islam was brought to the Indonesian archipelago in a relatively peaceful manner, by means of trade and the physical mobility of the Wali. Overseas Muslim traders from Gujarat, Madagascar, Malabari and Yemen, with their trading vessels plying the Strait of Malacca, entered ports in Malacca, Penang and Sumatra and sold jewelry, household goods made of ceramic and porcelain, silk, spices and fragrances to royal families. Due to these services, they were called “royal traders.” Good relations between traders and local populations created a mutual trust and trading contacts created a colony of foreign traders in the local territorial kingdoms and marriage with members of royal families.

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