An Islamic Javanese Text from Kuningan, West Java

A manuscript in the collection of Iim Abdurrohim from the Lengkong area in Kuningan, West Java has attracted my attention. This manuscript was digitised in the fourth mission of DREAMSEA, and can now be viewed online in the DREAMSEA repository with collection number DS 0012 00001.

The text is interesting because one part of the text uses Javanese in Javanese script in addition to Arabic (language and script) and Pegon (Arabic script for Javanese). The Javanese text explains several provisions regarding the Islamic months and includes certain calculations based on the Javanese alphabet “ha-na-ca-ra-a-da-ta-sa-wa-la-pa-dha-ja-ya-nya-ma-ga-ba-tha-nga”.

The letters of the Javanese alphabet with their numerical values (marked by circles).

The data at my disposal state that the manuscript contains an exposition of the seven ontological stages known as Martabat Tujuh. They are Aḥadīyah, Waḥdah, Waḥidīyah, ‘Ālam Arwāḥ, ‘Ālam Mithāl, ‘Ālam Ajsām, and Insān Kāmil. The text of the al-Tuḥfah al-Mursalah is preceded by a fragment of a tuḥfah and some prayers. On the first page is a note in Javanese on the manuscript’s ownership: “Ikilah Kitabe Bagus Nur Salim ning Garawangi (bumi?) distrike lan kabupatene Kuningan”. (This kitab is owned by Bagus Nur Salim from Garawangi Bumi in the district and regency of Kuningan). Six of the nine texts in the manuscripts start with an elegant illumination in black and red. The text is written on traditional tree bark paper (daluwang). It was probably written somewhere between 1800 and 1900.

Only three pages contain text in Javanese: 75r, 74v, 74r. Javanese script runs from left to right and thus differs from Arabic that runs from right to left. However, apparently, the writer counted the number of pages he was to write correctly so that the final two sections of the texts would neatly fill one page even though they use different alphabets.

Intersection page between Arabic and Pegon script with the Javanese script.

The text opens with the salawat and prayers for the spirits. The text then continues with the 12 months of Hijri year and their positions on 12 human body parts. The month of al-Muḥarram is in the right ear, the month of Ṣafar is in the left ear, Rabīʿ al-ʾAwwal is on the right calf, Rabīʿ al-ʾĀkhir is in the left calf, Jumādā al-ʾAwwal is in the right eye, Jumādā al-ʾĀkhirah is in the left eye, Rajab is in the right nostril, Shaʿbān is in the left nostril, Ramaḍān is in the mouth, Shawwāl is on the tongue, Zū al-Qaʿdah is in the liver, and Zū al-Ḥijjah is in the heart.

The next text tells about the naktu lilima or neptu which are the days of the five-day week (pasaran) in the Javanese calendar, namely manis, pahing, pon, wage and kaliwon. The value of Manis, located in the east, is 5, the prophet is Usman and its color is white. The value of Pahing, located in the south, is 8, the prophet is Baginda Ali and the colour is red. Pon is located in the west, the prophet is Umar, its color is yellow, and its value is 7. Wage is in the north, the prophet is Abubakar, its color is black and the value is 4. Kaliwon is in the center, the prophet is Muhammad, it has five colors (mancawarna) and its value is 9. The first four names mentioned in the text are not those of prophets in the history of Islam, but rather the companions of the prophet.

The rest of the explanation of the directions and their corresponding colours in this part of the manuscript is inspired by Hindu elements and mentions Hindu gods and their positions and other characteristics in the cosmology. Betara Sambhu is in the East, his appearance is white and he faces West; the South is inhabited by Betara Brahma whose appearance is red and who faces North; in the West is Mahadeva whose appearance is yellow and who faces East; in the North is Betara Vishnu who is black and faces South. Interestingly, the god of the center, Betara Siva has been omitted in this cosmology.

Clearly, the text in Javanese and written in Javanese script in this Islamic manuscript from Lengkong, Kuningan, West Java juxtaposes Islamic astrology and cosmology with Hinduism.