Splashed by the saint: Ritual reading and Islamic sanctity in West Java

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Sanctity is a concept recognized by Muslims throughout the Islamic world, and often motivates observances with highly localized characteristics. Julian Millie spent a year attending a supplication ritual in which Muslims of West Java directed their prayers to Allah through ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaelani (d. 1166). This man, whose tomb even today is a popular pilgrimage site in Baghdad, is widely considered the most powerful intercessor of all the saints of Islam. The supplication takes the form of reading or singing the narrative proofs of ‘Abd al-Qadir’s saintliness in a ritual context. The ritual has deep roots in the Sundanese culture of West Java. The book captures the variety of understandings that participants bring to the ritual when it is held in various contexts, including Java’s largest Sufi order, religious schools and private homes. This first, book-length study of intercession through ritual reading in Indonesia will be of interest to scholars of Indonesian religions, Sufism and the anthropology of Islam. It expands our knowledge of Sufism and sanctity, and seriously considers the liturgical forms of village Islam, paying special attention to the use of Arabic supplications in localized ritual practice. Julian Millie (1967) is employed in the anthropology section of the Faculty of Arts, Monash University, Australia.

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