Endangered manuscripts of Western Sumatra and the province of Jambi. Collections of Sufi brotherhoods - major project (EAP352)

Aims and objectives

This project deals with written Islamic heritage in Arabic and Jawi (Arabic Malay) of two regions - Western Sumatra (Minangkabau region) and Jambi, specifically Sufi collections of manuscripts mainly from two Sufi brotherhoods: Shattariyah and Naqshbandiyah.

From the point of view of Islamic Studies it is interesting to note that many Sufi surau collections possess the treatises on the peculiarities of regional Islam such as the history of local Islam, hagiographical works and works on Naqshbandiyah and Shattariyah mystical conceptions written by local shaikhs. The manuscripts describing suluk mystical ritual can be especiallly distinguished as the ritual of suluk is practiced only in the remote corners of Sumatra and is considered to be old-fashioned and unpopular among young generations of Muslims. There are also interesting examples of al-Qur’an and works on traditional medicine in Jambi.

Further studying of such written heritage can contribute much to the history of Sumatra, the history of Islam and Sufism and especially to the studying of the local form of regional Islam of the regions of Minangkabau and Jambi. These collections contain unique examples of calligraphy, illumination and binding which are important to preserve.

Almost all collections of manuscripts are preserved in rather bad conditions in small surau (old wooden or stone houses) most frequently in paper boxes or more seldom in the special holes in the walls or in the ceilings. Some of the manuscripts are partly illegible because of the humid climate and insects. The manuscripts mainly date back to the 17-19th centuries.

The conditions of preservation both in surau and in private collections are very poor. The material is endangered due to the humid climate, insects, the poverty of the population, frequent fires of wooden houses and earthquakes.

During the work it is planned to make digital copies of about 100-120 manuscripts. Copies will be received by Andalas University of Padang, Philological Faculty and National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta as well as the British Library.