Shaykh Dāʾūd bin ‘Abd Allāh from Patani in southern Thailand, who was active as a scholar and teacher in Makka in the first decades of the nineteenth century, was a highly prolific and influential author of religious texts in Malay. He was the progenitor of what Bradley has elsewhere called the ‘Patani school’, a network of scholars with Patani roots that has dominated traditionalist Islamic learning in Malay during the past two centuries. Shaykh Dāʾūd’s books were read and studied throughout the Malay-speaking parts of mainland and insular Southeast Asia, and more than a dozen of them are still regularly reprinted for use in the pondok, the traditional Muslim boarding schools. Francis Bradley makes Shaykh Dāʾūd the central figure in this study of changing politics and authority in Patani, and persuasively presents the emergence of the Patani school of religious scholarship as a consequence of and response to the conquest of the Muslim Malay state of Patani and its ultimate destruction by the expanding Buddhist state of Siam. The decline of the court-centred aristocracy of orangkaya facilitated the emergence of the ulema as the most prominent moral guardians of society, and the pondok came to replace the court as the repository of Malay literacy and cultural memory. The transition spawned a remarkable flourishing of Islamic manuscript production, unparalleled elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Bradley’s analysis of the extant corpus of manuscripts of the Patani school constitutes the main part of this study. Patani was the northernmost of the Malay Muslim kingdoms in the Peninsula and it shared many structural characteristics as well as political ideology and legitimating myths with the other Malay states. In the first part of the book, Bradley offers a succinct description of the social world, economy and political organization of Patani in its heyday in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and a detailed narrative account of the five wars with Siam (between 1786 and 1838) that destroyed Patani as an independent polity. These two chapters are based on a rich array of previously unused primary sources (mainly Dutch and British but also Thai), besides the relatively well-known Malay chronicles Hikayat Patani and Sejarah Kerajaan Melayu Patani. They represent significant contributions to historical scholarship on the region. Shaykh Dāʾūd and a handful of other men from Patani relocated to Makka, perhaps in the late 1780s, dedicating themselves to study of the Islamic sciences. Bradley suggests that their self-exile also had political reasons and was a direct response to the conquest of Patani by its large non-Muslim neighbour. Be that as it may, there was by that time already a considerable community of Southeast Asian residents in Makka (commonly known as Jāwa), and one of Dāʾūd’s teachers was the famous Jāwa scholar ʿAbd al-Ṣamad al-Falimbānī, who was a shaykh of the Sammāniyya Sufi order and the author of widely read Malay adaptations of al-Ghazālī’s major works (as well as a treatise on the obligation of jihād, addressed to Central Javanese rulers who were compromising with the Dutch). Several earlier Jāwa scholars had already made significant contributions to Malay Muslim literature, from sophisticated mystical poetry to Qurʾānic exegesis and compendia of fiqh. Shaykh Dāʾūd was to outdo all of them in the sheer volume of his writings if not in sophistication. Between 1808 and 1843, he composed an extensive corpus of didactic books and tracts on almost the entire range of the Islamic sciences, many of them adaptations of Arabic originals. The entire corpus appears to be intended as an authoritative statement of the contemporary consensus on orthodox belief, Shafiʿi fiqh and Sufi metaphysics, made in easily understandable Malay in order to raise Malay awareness of and compliance with correct belief and practice. Bradley discusses Dāʾūd’s major works in chronological order, from simple texts on the fiqh of marriage and inheritance and on death and the afterlife, to a series of works on basic tenets of faith, to commentaries on classical Sufi texts, and finally a number of substantial works of fiqh and a lengthy primer on fiqh, doctrine and Sufism, for the benefit of beginners. These books reflected Shaykh Dāʾūd’s teaching, and many manuscript copies were made by his students to be taken home when they returned and used in their own teaching. Dāʾūd must have taught numerous students, of whom Bradley could identify two dozen by name. Most of these also hailed from Patani; the others from the neighbouring Malay states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah or from Borneo. Over 1,300 manuscripts of Islamic texts written or copied by Patani scholars are still extant, originating from different parts of the Malay-speaking world but most of them now held in major collections in Malaysia and smaller numbers in Britain, the Netherlands and South Africa. Bradley is the first Western scholar to undertake a serious investigation and analysis of this rich corpus. (In a more traditional style, however, the late Malay author, Wan Mohd. Shaghir Abdullah, himself from a Patani ulema family and an avid collector of manuscripts and oral tradition, has published extensively on the Patani scholars and their works.) Perusing a subset of two hundred manuscripts, Bradley is able to trace the emergence and geographical expansion of the Patani school network, primarily in the neighbouring Malay polities that became part of British Malaya, but also to Sumatra, Borneo and even Cambodia and the exiled Malay community of South Africa. Here and there, Bradley appears too eager to read more into his material—especially direct responses to the political conditions of Patani in his day—than may be warranted. Where Dāʾūd writes that on the day of judgment sinners will be taken away and cannot be saved by their relatives, Bradley reads this an allusion to the experience of many Patani families with war, death or enslavement (p. 96). He claims that Shaykh Dāʾūd ‘selected the works he translated because they addressed the problems faced by the Patani diaspora [such as] the breakdown of familial and social relations’ (p. 83), and generally attributes a great deal of individuality to Dāʾūd as an author. His students are said to have ‘spread Dāʾūd’s teachings’, and the pondok network to have integrated a politically divided region ‘based upon the thought of Shaykh Dāʾūd’ (p. 137)—as if there was something specific to Shaykh Dāʾūd in those teachings, apart from his presenting them in a familiar vernacular. (A few decades later, another prolific Jāwa scholar based in Makka, Nawawī al-Bantanī, from Banten in West Java, chose a very similar corpus of texts to be presented to his countrymen in the form of commentaries in simple Arabic. Both mediated in their works the uncontroversial consensus of Makka-based scholars of their day.) This book is especially valuable as a detailed study of what Bradley calls the scripturalist turn in Patani Islam, i.e. the moment of reform in which mystical-magical beliefs and practices gave way to the study of religious books. This was made possible by the appearance of an extensive body of Malay texts that made detailed knowledge of Islamic law, doctrine and mysticism available to those literate in the vernacular, along with the simultaneous expansion of the pondok network in which these texts were systematically studied. Scholars of Patani origin were the crucial actors in this transition, although the knowledge network soon spread over most of the Malay-speaking world, and its centre of gravity shifted from Patani to neighbouring Kelantan. Bradley’s empirically rich descriptions invite comparison and raise stimulating questions, making this book of interest not only for the specialist of Malay history and civilization but for those interested in other parts of South and Southeast Asia, where similar processes took place in the nineteenth century. The expansion of the pesantren network in Java occurred more or less simultaneously with that of the pondok in the Malay world, and for the pesantren too it has been argued that they owed their social significance to the gradual subjection of Java’s sultanates to Dutch rule. Unlike Patani, however, in Java this process was not accompanied by the vernacularization of religious texts. The Javanese scholars who wrote didactic works, most notably Nawawī al-Bantanī, did so in simple Arabic (but pesantren students studied these Arabic texts with the help of interlinear word-by-word Javanese translations). Perhaps the most remarkable case of vernacularization of Islamic learning was the rapid shift from Persian to Urdu in northern India in the mid-nineteenth century, which appeared to be associated with the demise of the Mughal Empire, resistance to British rule, the rise of an activist and ‘populist’ class of ulema, and, most significantly, the introduction of print technology. Print came later to Southeast Asia; the earliest lithographed works of Shaykh Dāʾūd and the Patani school, produced in Bombay, Makka and Cairo, date from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Bradley’s work on the manuscripts suggests that these Malay authors were part of a global trend towards scripturalism and vernacularization, and were addressing rapidly expanding vernacular audiences even before the advent of printing. © The Author (2017). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Journal of Islamic Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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