The gentle side of Islam
Java is said to be at least 90% Muslim, and you do see and hear many signs of Islam being practised. The calls to prayer are of course the first thing that hit you, especially the early morning ones, at about 4/4.30… booming out from the nearest mosque, with 4 loudspeakers blaring the voice of the Imam to the four corners of the local area. Some sing rather beautifully, others chant, and others (speaking purely personally) should be offered re-training. Interestingly it is not just tourists who find the volume rather challenging! See story below…
Ironically, the loudest call we heard was on Flores (which is predominantly Christian – thanks to the Portuguese colonialists and missionaries); we were staying in a convent school, and possibly because of this, thought we might have a quiet night. Well I did actually have a blissful night, but Julia and Partho could not believe that I had slept through the call to prayer, which apparently sounded like the loudspeaker was outside their window. So when we had our daily debrief at breakfast, they were disgusted that I had managed to sleep through the racket.
Anyway, I was surprised to discover that our partner Deddy gets up every morning at this early call to do his first prayers of the day. That means by the time he collects me at about 8.30/9 he has been up for 4 or more hours. He (like many others I met) then quietly excuses himself for 5-10 minutes around lunchtime for more praying. Homes, hotels, and businesses all have a dedicated space for prayer. It’s all quite modest and understated, but it is a deeply-rooted practice.
Many women wear a head-scarf, although the decision whether to wear one or not looks like it is a very personal one.
Furthermore people will wear the hijab on some occasions and not on others. Both Deddy’s wife Desty, and our main weaving producer Pak Kisno’s wife, wore them when we first met them during this visit, but on subsequent meetings were seen in more relaxed, uncovered mode.
I enjoyed seeing a number of clothing shops with window mannekins dressed in a wide array of head-scarves: this is becoming quite a fashion business! In fact there were signs in Jogya advertising the “second world fair of Islamic fashion – Sept 2016”. Given how stunning this model looks below from a previous show in Jakarta 2013, I’m sorry not to have been around to see the Jogya show!
Anyway, to finish my original train of thought… I was enjoying a quiet meal in a trendy Jogya restaurant called Mediterranea (French chef called Kalil!), when I saw two headscarf-wearing girls grooving and shimmying away to some favorite pop tune while they chopped vegetables in the kitchen. They looked straight at me, tickled that they had been spotted, but not in the slightest bit embarrassed: comfortable in their own skin. How delightful.
Moderate, giggling, gentle, and progressive Islam. What a tonic.