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The Significance of Printed Kitabs Catalogue for Strenghtening Southeast Asian Islamic Studies

Southeast Asian Islamic Studies is certainly a very interesting and of course important field of study especially due to the large number of Moslems living in the region. To some extent, however, Islam in Southeast Asia is still considered as peripheral because, empirically speaking, it is very much different from the phenomena of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and Iran.

Referring to the existing databases for Islamic world, one is impressed that Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia are not yet considered as one of important Islamic regions in the world. In fact, rarely known is the fact that Southeast Asian Muslims inherited such a great writing tradition established since the 17th century that the region is called the cradle of Islam. The written treasury (manuscripts and printed kitabs) made by the ulamas and Muslim authors in the past are undoubtedly strong evidences that Southeast Asia can definitely be considered as one of world centers for Islamic studies.

The kitab printing and publishing activities in the Middle East and then in Southeast Asia greatly contributed to wide spreading of the kitabs in pesantrens in the late nineteenth century, substantiating the established ‘ulama network of the period (Burhanudin 2007: 83).

There is no doubt, then, that printed kitabs written by those ulamas are one of the important variables for doing research on Southeast Asian Islam. The problem is that the printed kitabs themselves are thousands in number, and not so easy to locate and investigate by students and scholars. A comprehensive catalogue is highly needed. Information of printed kitabs made by Berg (1886) and Bruinessen (1990) are no longer sufficient.

The catalogue of Southeast Asian printed kitabs being developed by the Sophia University will play an important role in the context of study of Islam in the region. The Catalogue would be certainly a first “gateway” for all scholars of Southeast Asian Islamic Studies who are keen to see the characteristics of local Islam through the exploration of ulamas’ works in the past. It is due to the fact that this Catalogue includes thousands printed kitabs used by Muslim community in the region. Some of the printed kitabs are originated from manuscripts written since 17th century. Hopefully, in the future, this Catalogue could be accessed online by the public anytime and anywhere, so that the Catalogue will significantly contribute to strengthening studies on Southeast Asian Islam.

Considering a huge number of Southeast Asian printed kitabs, the Project of developing this Catalogue should be carried out continuously, and may be published in several volumes.

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