The Ammatoans

Samsul Maarif, Ph.D Cand.*


Samsul Ma’arif

Jenne’ Telluka, Sambajang Temmattappu (hereafter JTST) is a local understanding and practice of Islam popular among Muslims of South Sulawesi, especially the Ammatoans. Many Muslims, however, misunderstand JTST to be invalid for one or another reason. JTST literally means that wudu (ablution) is never void and solat (prayer) is never paused. Conceptually, it implies that Islam is a serious and constant commitment and practice. Like all Muslims, the Ammatoans express their understanding and practice of Islam with their own uniqueness, which is reflected in their practice of JTST.


Many Muslims see JTST as a false understanding of Islam. For them, wudu must be occasionally void and prayers could only be performed in certain conditions and places. According to Islamic laws, there are several occasions where wudu is void. A Muslim who has already performed wudu is ritually pure until things (nawaqiz) take place. Those nawaqiz include urinating, defecating, farting, menstruating (for women), and others. Again, when one of those nawaqiz takes place, wudu is void. This understanding of wudu is diferrent to Amatoans’ JTST belief that wudu could never void and solat is never paused.


They also misperceive that JTST is conceptually and practically against one of the Islamic pillars, the five times daily prayers. In the Quran, it states that those prayers are enjoined at specific times (QS. 4: 103). Referring the Quranic verse, those Muslims then argue that the practice of JTST is a syncretism combining Islamic prayers and indigenous practices. This leads to the accusation that JTST is heretic.


In contrast to this misperception, the Ammatoans contend that JTST is the essence of being Muslim. For them, JTST is not only about performing the five pillars of Islam (confessions, daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting in Ramadan, and Hajj in Mecca), but also and more importantly manifesting Islam in all aspects of life. Islam should appear in mosques, offices, markets, fields, homes, schools, and everywhere. As a Muslim, one should perform Islam in all situations. Professing to be Muslim but committing sins (such as corruption and terrorism) are against JTST. This practice could be seen as an implementation of the Quranic command to , “enter Islam completely…” (QS. 2:208).


There is a belief among Ammatoans that sallang (Islam-ness) is a primordial oath prior to someone’s birth. The primordial oath of sallang is to establish relationship between the self as a human and other beings. Based on the oath, Ammatoans understand that to establish humans’ well-being is to carry out the well-being of others, such as animals, plants, forest, land, mountains, and sky. For the Ammatoans the existences of other beings required human being to work for environmental preservation. Destroying one of non-human beings, like forest, transgresses the oath and it would destroy the life of humans’ own life. In other words, misconduct to a life of a being is a disaster for all beings.


JTST is also seen as the practice of the primordial oath. In practice, JTST means being resolute (gattang), honest (lambusu’), patient (sabbara’), and self-fulfilled (appisona). These are the values Ammatoans strive for in their everyday practices. Their collective and individual practices are to implement those values. They are references for everyday behaviors. Personal quality is examined and evaluated based on those values. Traditional (adat) leaders, sanro (ritual specialists), and guru (imams) all have to demonstrate their commitment to those values.


To implement those values or JTST into life, Ammatoans commit to be modest. They are resolute (gattang) in keeping their oath by not bringing asphalted roads and electricity into their inner territory because those modern technologies would embarrass other beings. They are patient (sabbarak) to have bare feet as one way to establish and uphold intimate relationship with land. They are self-fulfilled (appisona) to avoid abuses of power over both humans and non-human others.


The Ammatoans’ Islamic practices, as explained, are not limited to rituals (like performing the five pillars of Islam). Their Islam-ness extends to all segments of life. In politics, the leader of the Ammatoa has to be the poorest. In their oral tradition, it says, “If the Ammatoans are destined to be poor, the leader would be the first, and if they are destined to be rich, the leader would be the last.” In reality, if ordinary people could build a house made of wood and/or made of cements (for those who live in the outer territory), the leader lives in a house made of bamboo. The politics of JTST is to be consistent in modesty and not to have easy accesses to all things, not to be authoritarian, and not to corrupt.


Economically speaking, JTST guarantees resoluteness (gattang) of privileging communal prosperity. Those who make good harvest or do good businesses sponsor rituals to share their wealth (rizki) with others. Someone who sponsors a ritual involving large amount of money gets financial help from others. Their ethos is motivated by virtue of sharing and helping. If they have no money to help a ritual sponsor, they borrow from neighbors or others. Helping and sharing are the basic norms and objectives of the Ammatoans’ economic system. In other words, the Ammatoans’ economic activities are in theory not to collect money for themselves. They do not collect it to enrich themselves, their families, and cronies.


As a local contextualization of Islam, JTST illustrates the dynamics of Ammatoans’ Islam-ness. Ammatoans interpret Islam in accordance with their life experiences. They understand their Islam-ness to be unique because they realize that their life experiences are unique. For them, it is not fair to impose one’s understanding upon others because people live their lives with their unique and different experiences. JTST is a local Islamic understanding and practice exercised as one of the ways to be a true Muslim.


Samsul Maarif is a Ph.D Candidate at Arizona State University, United State of America. Currently he teaches religion and local culture at CRCS, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


Photo: Blogspot.Com

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