Being Muslim in Bima of Sumbawa, Indonesia: Practice, Politics and Cultural Diversity

PhD defended at: 

Australian National University


Muhammad Adlin Sila



This thesis argues that religious practice remains vigorous in present Bima. It examines the various ways in which Bima Muslims constitute their Islamic identities and agencies through rituals and festivals. The title being Muslim is intended to express how Muslims in Bima consider their religious practices, politics and culture as Islamic. The focus is on the productive agency of Muslims within the embodied meanings of being Muslim in everyday life. The thesis investigates Islam in Bima as experienced by the local Muslims.

Given the importance of social context, I approach Bimanese Muslims as social actors. Although Islamic practices are unified in the name of Islam, varied expressions of Islamic practices among Bima Muslims reflect particular historical cultural legacies and socio-political contexts. As part of an Austronesian culture, Bima belongs to a dyadic socio-political organisation: the Sultan and the Raja Bicara. This duality has resulted in the dynamics of Islamisation and being Muslim in Bima.

The thesis is ideally suited to exploring the reproduction of religious meanings among the local Muslims. The Islamic observance in Bima makes up what it means to be Muslim as a socially constructed reality that exists in the minds of the local Muslims and differ between social groups. Islam is represented between the traditionalist Muslims and the reformist Muslims, between the royal family and the ordinary Muslims, and between Muslim clerics and lay people. Hence there is no single picture of Islam. As Bima Muslims construe their Islam in response to their surroundings, what it means to be a Muslim is constantly negotiated. The complexity of religious life is said to have been a result of the duality of socio-political settings in Bima that stems from the early period of Bima Islamisation to the present.

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