Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Buleleng retains concept of brotherhood

Aditya Nusantara, Contributor, Singaraja, North Bali

Singaraja, is one of the few places in Bali where the influence of Islam is visible, particularly during the holy month of Ramadhan.

The capital city, along with other places in Buleleng regency, has a strong Muslim community. Despite the fact that the island is predominantly Hindu, the two religious communities have lived harmoniously for generations.

Buleleng has also become known as a hot spot for social and political conflicts. However, such conflicts are rarely sparked by ethnicity nor religious differences.

According to Achmad Muchlis Sanusi, an ulema (religious leader) of the Masjid Agung Jami Grand Mosque in Singaraja, people here deeply adhere to the concept of nyama-braya (interfaith and inter-ethnic relations).

Such a mutual respect has been enjoyed for hundreds of years, largely due to the great efforts of the former King of Buleleng, Anak Agung Ngurah Djelantik Polong, to unite his people.

Islam is believed to have come to the regency via international traders around the year 1600.

Buleleng Harbor had also attracted sailors and traders from other regions, such as the Buginese people from South Sulawesi.

The Buginese were believed to have spread Islamic teachings within the regency. They mixed well with other traders, as well as the locals. In fact many eventually settled in the coastal area and married local women.

The Masjid Kuna (Ancient Mosque), or Masjid Keramat (Sacred Mosque), marks Kajanan as one of the most important Islamic villages in Singaraja. Established around 1684, the mosque was evidence of the open and egalitarian nature of the Buleleng community.

"Buleleng people warmly welcomed outsiders from other places. They accepted people who had different religious and cultural backgrounds," he explained.

The mosque was initially intended as a place of worship for Muslim traders passing through Buleleng harbor.

Komang Achmad Syah, an Imam (Islamic leader) at Masjid Keramat, admitted he was not knowledgeable about the history of the Islamic community in Kampung Kajanan. However, he said that the villagers came from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

"My parents put Komang in front of my name. That means that I have Balinese blood," he said.

The Balinese Hindus use specific names to indicate the birth order of their children. The first child is often Putu, Gede or Wayan, the second child Made, Kadek or Nengah, the third child Nyoman or Komang, the fourth child, Ketut.

Imam Achmad Syah, said that many local people married `outsiders'. He explained that wedding receptions were often eclectic, with Hindu families dressed in Balinese clothes and Muslims wearing Islamic clothes. "Everybody is welcome to wear their own style," he added.

Buleleng has embraced numerous ethnic groups from South Sulawesi, Banten in the west of Java, Madura, Banyuwangi in East Java and many others.

"The architectural style of Masjid Keramat was believed to resemble that of Banten and South Sulawesi," he explained.

In urban areas in Singaraja, Islam had further spread to several villages, including Kampung Bugis, Kampung Arab and Kampung Anyar. These have been the strongest Islamic clusters in Buleleng regency since the l800s.

Islam may not have prospered here without the support of the Buleleng royal family. The Grand Mosque Masjid Agung Jami in Singaraja was built during the reign of King Anak Agung Ngurah Ketut Djelantik Polong in l846. The king was the descendant of Anak Agung Panji Sakti.

The king of Buleleng had also granted the provision of the land, on Jalan Imam Bonjol where the mosque currently stands. The king asked his close aide and relative Gusti Ngurah Ketut Djelantik Celagi, who had already converted to Islam, to oversee its construction. Muslim leader Abdullah Mascetty assisted Celagi with the project.

The mosque took around 24 years to complete. When Mascetty was arrested by Dutch troops, the development was delayed for some time. He was later taken to Padang, West Sumatera.

The King of Buleleng was greatly attentive to the mosque's construction; he commissioned a famous craftsman to carve a special gate for the entrances of the Grand Mosque and a smaller mosque at Kampung Kajanan, which still stand today.

Also, housed at the mosque is a priceless, centuries old handwritten Koran, which was inscribed by I Gusti Ngurah Ketut Djelantik Celagi. He was a royal family member who converted to Islam in the l820s.

The handwritten Koran, with a beautiful Balinese-style carved wooden cover, has been carefully maintained and is real proof of the close relations between local residents and Muslim immigrants.