1st Edition

Defending Traditional Islam in Indonesia The Resurgence of Hadhrami Preachers

By Syamsul Rijal Copyright 2024
    192 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Defending Traditional Islam in Indonesia examines the rise of young preachers of Arab descent (habaib) and their sermon groups in the region and shows how Islam and politics coexist, flourish, interlace, and strive in Indonesia in complex, pragmatic, and mutually beneficial relationships.

    The book argues that the emergence of Arab preachers in the late 1990s, when traditional forms of Islamic authority came under growing challenge from a diverse array of Muslim groups and ideologies, is closely tied to contestation between traditionalists and their puritanical rivals, the Salafi-Wahhabi. Not only have the habaib featured prominently in defending traditionalism, they have also used this contestation as an opportunity to build their authority and religious capital through marketisation and their ties to the Middle East. The author explores the ways in which habaib promote themselves to the mostly young urban, Muslim community, and also analyses the use of new media and marketing strategies by habaib to attract young followers. The use of merchandise utilising popular culture and group identity markers is especially salient in the preachers’ outreach to urban audiences. In addition, public staging and entertainment during preaching activities are means by which the habaib cast their Islamic preaching (dakwah) as the Prophet’s mission and encourage their followers’ participation.

    A novel socio-cultural and religious study and a contribution to the growing discussion on new media, market, and religion, this book will be of interest to anthropologists, social scientists and area studies scholars interested in Indonesia, Southeast Asia and Islamic studies.

    Chapter 1. Introduction; Chapter 2. Internal dynamics within Hadhrami Arabs in Indonesia: From Social Hierarchy to Doctrine; Chapter 3. Defending Traditional Islam: Habaib and Anti-Salafism; Chapter 4. Performing Arab Saints and Marketing the Prophet; Chapter 5. Reviving Yemeni Traditionalist Networks: the Assertion of Authenticity and Authority; Chapter 6. Following Arab Saints: Muhibbin, Popular Piety and Youth Expression; Chapter 7. Conclusion; Bibliography & Appendix; Index


    Syamsul Rijal is a Professor of Sociology of Islam at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, Indonesia. He also serves as the Head of the PhD Program in Islamic Studies at the Indonesian International Islamic University.