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Hamzah Fansuri: a Man of Literature and Religion

After the death of Prophet Muhammad SAW, Islam spread rapidly throughout the countries on the eastern part of Arabia. The first Islamic kingdom era, which lasted until half of the seventh century and governed by the Ummayah dynasty, was marked by wars and glorious victories over the surrounding kingdoms in order to expand the Islamic territory. During the times of Islamization, various cultures assimilated with Arabian culture brought by the soldiers. These acculturations and assimilations were the root of Islam civilization. The next dynasty, the Abbasiyah, consolidated their power and in 750 AD, Islamic civilization had spread to the outer territory of the Abbasiyyah (Schimmel, 1986: 30). One of the biggest countries ruled by Islam was Persia. As one of the kingdoms with the oldest culture in the world and a much higher civilization than Arabia, Persian culture gave a tremendously deep influence in Islamic civilization, especially in the fields of ethics, aesthetics, spiritual, and material. Moreover, these Persian elements had perfectly been an integral part of Islam civilization. After spreading throughout the east to India, Islam spread its wings to Southeast Asia. Here it also penetrated almost every aspect of cultural life. In its journey exploring Indonesia, Islam also introduced the Persian culture which later gave permanent colors to local archipelago cultures (Liaw, 1991). One of the important parts of Islamic culture in Indonesia with strong Persian influence is literature. Through India, which at that time was ruled by the Mughal dynasty, Malayan, Javanese, and Sundanese literature took the Persian elements as their own. In Sejarah Melayu, a local historiography of the Malacca Kingdom, the family tree of the dynasty was written on the introduction to legitimate the dynasty as the ruler of the Kingdom. Among the names of the ancestors, beside Alexander the Great who was considered the par excellence of King Nursiwan Adil, there was a famous Persian King named Khosru Anursyirwan

(Sejarah Melayu, 1952: 25). Anusyirwan’s name could be found again as Nursewan in Javanese literature which was a part of Hikayat Amir Hamzah. This hero in Javanese literature written by Yasadipura entitled Serat Menak was named Amir Ambyah or Wong Agung Menak Jayengrana. The Amir Hamzah tale has been told in various Indonesian literatures and contains many Persian names in it. According to a research by Van Ronkel, the Malayan tale was actually an adaptation of the original Persian source, and then it was converted to Javanese. (Van Ronkel, 1895) The same thing happened to Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiyyah (The Story of Muhammad Hanafiyyah), which told the battle between Husein, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, and Yazid, son of Muawiyah from the Umayyah Dynasty, in the beginning of Islam history that had cost Husein his life. To this day, an annual ceremony is held in some areas in Indonesia every 10 th of Muharam to commemorate the event (Baried, 1980, and Brakel, 1975). These stories were written in a Persian romance model (Braginsky, 1993: 23). Alexander the Great, king of the famous Macedonia, in Malayan and Javanese literature had been transformed into an Islamic king who conquered the kingdoms in Maghrib and Masyrik in order to spread the religion to those kings. Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain (The Story of Alexander the Great) was written based on his biography, and was combined with other element from the Syahnameh or The Book of Kings written by Firdausi, the famous Persian author. There are many themes in these hikayat—the Malayan romantic tales—which were taken from Persian literature as in the Hikayat Indraputra (The Tale of Indraputra), a well-known story in the archipelago. A literary text that has become the center of attention for scholars since the 19 th century is Taj al-Salatin (the Crown of Kings), which also has a strong Persian influence. This didactic literature contains a part which states the terms of a good king in the Persian model. Some says that the text was a translation from the Persian language, but some other researchers declined this statement. The poem inside the text was written in the form of mathawi,

ruba’i, and ghazal; those which were the Persian poetry forms (Liaw, 1991:70). It seems that the influence of Persia in governmental and political science was still powerful in the 19 th century. We can see this in the writing of Raja Ali Haji, entitled Thammarat al-Muhimmah, which also described the characteristics and obligations of an ideal king according to the basics of old Persian Kingdom. Above is a little description of how the Persian nuances affected Indonesian literature. It is obviously clear that these nuances can also be found in other parts of Indonesian cultural artifacts. Among them are the calligraphy arts with Farisi style as an example of the stylish flexible forms like those of the great Persian arts. (Akbar, unpublished).

Hamzah Fansuri and the Sufi Lyrics The enormous number of Sufi poems written by Hamzah Fansuri, has made his name often connected with the tasawuf, especially in the tasawuf school of Wahdat Al-Wujud. Moreover, he is also well known for his lyrical poems as a form of Malayan literature. This poetry form was adapted by Hamzah from the ruba’i, a chain of poems with four lines in every stanza similar to those of the Arabian-Persian literature (Teeuw, 1966: xi). The form of literature, which at first was used to spread religious themes, was expanded to other fields such as history, narrative-lyric, didactic lyric, and other themes. Although common people knew Hamzah Fansuri as a writer of tasawuf lyrics, he actually had written several prose in the form of teachings. Three prose which are still preserved are:

1. Asrar al-Arifin or ‘The Secrets of the Wise’.

2. Syarab al-Asyiqin or ‘The Drinks of Lovers’.

3. Al-Muntahi or ‘The Believer’.

Meanwhile, 42 poems which are believed as his works have different variations of stanzas, from 9 to more than 30 (Drewes, 986: 142-143).

There are no direct sources to inform us of Hamzah’s life story. But according to Drewes, we can infer a lot of his personal experience in his struggle to find God from his poetry (Drewes, 1986: 3). The tasawuf school or movement also had a deep influence from the Persian thoughts and their spiritual life. In his poetry, we can see that Hamzah is quite familiar with Persian poem. For example, below is his poem about avian:

Tayr al-‘uryan unggas sultaniBangsanya nur al-rahmaniTasbihnya Allah subhaniGila dan mabok akan rabbani Arsy Allah akan pangkalannyaHabib Allah akan taulannyaBayt Allah akan sangkarannyaMenghadap Tuhan dengan sopannya Dhikir Allah kiri-kanannyaFikir Allah rupa badannyaSyurbat tawhid akan minumannyaDa’im bertemu dengan Tuhannya. The poem shows an influence of a Persian poem called Mantiq at-tayr written by Attar, a Persian poet. Mantiq at-tayr tells about a long and painful journey of a group of birds who want to find Simurgh, the King of Birds to lead them. In the verses above, avian or tayr al-uryan (the featherless bird, naked bird) is a description of a perfect Sufi who has let himself free from all worldly-bounding and gain the unio mystica. It is also a metaphor of human in the state of death to the world and to his own ego and, therefore, has been absorbed by the transcendent. Many Islamic researchers have noticed that Islam was easily accepted by Indonesian because the tasawuf nuances it brought in spreading its teachings. It is known that from the beginning of Islam development, tasawuf tendency had given colors to Islamic teachings even before Prophet Muhammad declared that it was part of the religion. At that time, there were people who spent their life by praying, and guided only by The Almighty blessings. These people thought that heaven and hell are obstacles to attain God, because by wanting heaven and not wanting hell human is still bounded with desires. This concept was described by the words of Rabi’ah al Adawiyah, a female Sufi in the 9 th century:

“My Love, I worship Thee neither out of fear for Thy hell nor out of desire for Thy heaven, but only for my love to Thee!”

Hamzah Fansuri’s verses described the world as a dangerous place and advised the reader to devote their life completely to God. Drewes, who earlier analyzed that the poems recorded Hamzah’s life, noted that in his poetry, Hamzah called himself as Hamzah, Hamzah Fansuri, or Hamzah Syahrinawi, depending on the context of the poem’s atmosphere. Hamzah’s confession of his search for God can be seen in the verse below:

Hamzah Syahrnawi zahirnya JawiBatinnya cahaya Ahmad yang safiSungguhpun ia terhina jatiAsyiqnya da’im akan Dhat al-Bari On the other poem, he admitted that he had thought wrongfully:

Hamzah Fansuri terlalu bebalDisangka dunia nin manisnya kekalTerlalu ghafil mencari bekalTiada syak esok akan menyesal The way Hamzah called himself Syahrinawi as a part of his name signified that the city of Syahrinawi was bound to him as the place he visited in his journey to find God. Hamzah nin asalnya Fansuri Mendapat wujud di tanah Syahr Nawi We can infer Hamzah’s success in his struggle to find God from this famous poem:

Hamzah Fansuri di dalam MekahMencari Tuhan di bayt al-Ka’bahDi Barus ke Kudus terlalu payahAkhirnya dapat di dalam rumah According to Drewes that was where Hamzah found what he was looking for, which was ‘wujud’ (God). The opinion of Al-Attas that ‘wujud’ has to be interpreted as ‘lahir’ [born/being] contradicts the first line. The event described in the poem happened in Syahrnawi, or Ayuthya, the capital city of old Siam which had many Moslems, although most of the citizens were Buddhists. The city was a meeting point for Moslems from all nations under the reign of the Siamese Kingdom. Persian language was a Lingua Franca there, as in the Islamic part of India. Tasawuf poetry are commonly written in Persian, Turkish, and, of course, Arabic languages. The latter was definitely mastered by Hamzah, as can be seen in his works which for most readers are difficult to understand due to the use of Arabic words in them.

One of the main themes in Hamzah’s poems is a persuasion to leave the worldly desires and seek infinite happiness in His blessings. Tuhan kita itu tiada bermakanZahirnya nyata dengan rupa insan’Man ‘arafa nafsahu’ suatu burhan‘Fa qad ‘arafa rabbahu’ terlalu bayan Riwayat ini daripada Qur’an al-majidAkan ahl al-dunya tiada sempurna sa’idBanyaknya

sangat terlalu syadidManakan ada ilmunya yazid Mencari dunia berulang- ulangBerbuat ‘ibadat terlalu kurangTiada kaupikirkan nini dan moyang Dengan sehelai kain sekaliannya pulang Aho segala kita ummat rasulTuntuti ilmu haqiqat al wusulKarena ilmu itu pada Allah qabulI’tiqadmu jangan ittihad dan hulul Ma’rifat itu ilmu yang mudahBarang mendapat dia mengenal sudahCitamu daripada tempat jangan kauubahSupaya wasil tiada dengan susah Aho segala kita yang bernama awwamYogya kauturut ma’rifat yang tamamKarena ma’rifat itu hakikat kalamMenyampaikan kita ke dar al-salam In describing God, his words had been chosen beautifully. Subhana ‘llah terlalu kamilMenjadikan insan alim dan jahilDengan hambanya da’im Iya wasilItulah mahbub bernama adil Mahbubmu itu tiada berlawanLagi Iya alim lagi bangsawanKasihnya banyak lagi gunawanOlehnya itu beta tertawan Bersunting bunga lagi bermalaiKainnya warna berbagai-bagaiTahu berbunyi

di dalam sakaiOlehnya itu orang terlalai In other poem, Hamzah described

the substances of Allah: Bahr al-Butun tiada bermulaOmbaknya makhful tiada bernamaOlehnya Ahad belum terbukaAdanya quddus suatu juga Kuntu kanzan mulanya nyataHakikat ombak di sana adaAdanya itu tiada bernamaMajnun dan Layla ada di sana Dhat dan sifat bersama- samaKeduanya itu tiada berantaraDatang tawfan ombaknya nyataPada ‘kun

fa yakunu’ bangatlah kata Bahr al-qadim hening sendirinyaDatang tawfan

jadilah gilaAnak Adam jua sekalian kitaDi mana berbangsa di mana hina However, human never realized that they have to get back to the calm ocean, the beginning of us all. Sayangnya engkau terlalu lupaAkan laut yang tiada berupaTandamu tuli lagi dan butaMabuk dang hijab lain mota Asalmu itu terlalu nyataTiada jauh dang citarasaAhad jua baharu dan lamaNini dan moyang ibu dan bapa(Taken from G.W.J. Drewes, The Poems of Hamzah Fansuri)

Hamzah’s was well-known as a pious man, as reflected in his prose. Syed Naguib al-Attas, among the Islam researchers, had dug Hamzah’s characters and teachings in his book, The Mysticism of Hamzah Fansuri. Hamzah’s teachings—reflected in his poem Wahdat al-wujud—has spread in many writings and Islamic schools in Indonesia, because his works cannot be separated from the schools which practice the discipline mentioned above. From the religious writings in Indonesia, as described by a study conducted by Oman Fathurahman and continued by Fakhriyati, we can observe the ups and downs of Wahdat al-Wujud school which was connected with al Syaikh al-Akbar Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi. It is said that the teachings of this school had gained an Indian influence, and then it softened in Indonesia in order to adapt to local culture. For example in Minangkabau, especially Ulakan (Fathurahman, 1999); West Java, in Pamijahan (Christomy, 1994), Aceh (Fakhriyati), and other Islamic centers with their own adaptation characteristics until today. The importance of this school in Aceh through Syamsudin and its later controversy must be emphasized. In conclusion, Hamzah Fansuri’s thoughts and concept of God has been a big influence for a long time for many religious schools and their practice until today.

Glossary Ahad oneBangat amazingBayan clear, brightBurhan evidenceDar al-salam place of peaceDa’im alwaysGhafil wrongHaqiqat al-wusul oneness Hulul incarnationIttihad unificationYazid increaseKalam Religious ScienceKun, fa yakun be, then shall beKuntu kanzan I am ghazanahMahbub Loved oneMakan, bermakan tempat, knowing a placeMota thick garmentQabul permittingSa’id perfectSyadid full of desireSharbat tawhid the drink of onenessSultani kingdomTamam perfectTasbih complimentWasil together, unifiedYazid increase, meningkat

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