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Menyoal Wahdatul Wujud: Kasus Abdurrauf Singkel di Aceh Abad 17

Author: Oman Fathurahman
Publisher: EFEO and Mizan
Year: 1999

Abdurrauf Singkel is known as one of the Indonesian ulemas —together with others such as Hamzah Fansuri, Syamsuddin as-Sumatrani, and Nuruddin ar-Raniri— who have been engaged in the political conflicts and religious debates of the early times of Indonesian Islam, more precisely in the second half of the 17th century in Sumatra.

Born in Singkel in the kingdom of Aceh around 1615, Abdurrauf received a religious education during his childhood from his own father, Syekh Ali. Upon adulthood, he travelled to the Middle East, where he lived for 19 years, and where he collected knowledge in the field of exoteric Islamic sciences (ilmu syariat), such as exegesis, prophetic tradition and jurisprudence, as well as esoteric (ilmu hakikat), such as mysticism.

Back in Sumatra, he was confronted with various political and religious problems, particularly because the society of his native country had been recently shaken by a severe controversy between the adepts of orthodox mysticism, led by Nuruddin ar-Raniri, and those of the school of Unicity (wujudiyah), who were following the teachings of Hamzah Fansuri and Syamsuddin as-Sumatrani.

As an accomplished ulema, who was later in charge of religious affairs as a kadi under the reign of the queen Safiyatuddin (1645—1675), Abdurrauf wrote many treatises about mysticism, jurisprudence, exegesis, and other domains of the religious sciences. Some of these books, written at the request of the queen, were used as text books for teaching, while others, we may surmise, were written as reaction against the controversy about the Unicity doctrine and with the aim of moderating its consequences.

Currently, Abdurrauf's writings, like other ancient works, exist as manuscripts, some of which, due to their age, are in a worrying condition. The most efficient way to preserve the value of these old manuscripts — apart from keeping them in libraries— is to analyse their contents and to publish them. This book is the result of such an effort, applied to a tract written by Abdurrauf in Arabic and entitled Tanbih al-Masyi al-Mansub ila Tariq al-Qusyasyiyy (“Directions for the adepts of the brotherhood of al-Qusyasyi”). The original text of this tract is edited here, together with an Indonesian translation.

This text, preserved in four manuscripts, contains the teachings of Abdurrauf presented as five stages: the dogma (akidah), the law (syariat), the path (tarikat), the truth (hakikat), and the gnosis (makrifat). The first exposes his interpretation of the Unicity doctrine, while the other four reflect his teachings regarding mysticism. The precepts he puts forward, particulaly those regarding the invocations (zikir), show that as an ulema, he followed and promoted the Syatariyyah brotherhood, the name of which is derived from that of its founder Abdullah asy-Syattar (ob. 1429).

The considerations regarding the Unicity doctrin exposed by Abdurrauf in this text lead to the formulation of two concepts, which he comments on before combining them; that is, the concept of emanation (al-faid) and that of shadow (al-zill). According to him, the universe represents the emanation of the Unique Being (al-Haq Swt.), but it differs from God himself: the relation between the two is that of an object with its shadow. An object is hardly distinguishable from its shadow, however they differ from each other. In this way, Abdurrauf maintains simultaneously both principles of divine immanency (tasybih) and of transcendancy (tanzih).

In the context of Aceh at that time, this interpretation appears as a refutation of Hamzah Fansuri's teaching regarding the Unicity doctrine, which was considered, by ar-Raniri in particular, as giving too much importance to the principle of divine immanency, to the detriment of that of transcendency. The difference was profound enough to cause a conflict at the time. However Abdurrauf does not approve —and implicitly contradicts, we can say— the radical attitude of ar-Raniri, who had condemned the adepts of that trend of the wujudiyah and had declared them infidels (kafir).