Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Wahdat-ul-Wujuud and Shaykh Yusuf al-Makassari’s view of Tawhiid

Posted by tahirfarrath on May 7, 2013

(Click here to listen to A Hymn For “Tuanta’ Salamaka In South Sulawesi,  There are seven Religious Leader known as “Wali Pitue”, and one of them is Syekh Yusuf Al-Makassary.)

Wahdat al-Wujud In the View of Syekh Yusuf al-Makassari

A. Introduction
Since the early 17th century, Islam has spread completely in almost all regions of South Sulawesi where were still fragmented in several kingdoms such as Gowa-Tallo, Bone, Luwu, Soppeng, Wajo, Mandar, Sidendreng Rappang, and some small kingdoms.

Islam that was the first time introduced and spread in those regions by three Ulama from Minangkabau was mystical oriented (tasawwuf), besides Fiqh with mazhab oriented. It might be understandable since the general inclination of Islam disseminated in East at that time was colored with tasawwuf teaching after the fall of Bagdad in Mongol’s hand in 1258. Therefore, muslims who studied Islam at that time tended to pay their attentions to tarekat, tasawwuf teaching, and fiqh especially syafi’i school.

Syekh Yusuf (1626-1699) who will be major concern of this paper is one of ulama of Gowa kingdom who was born and grew up in such condition. As the product of his era, it is no surprising if he became expert in fiqh of Syafi’I school, tasawwuf and tarekat. However, his name became more famous as a great sufi and he is highly venerated in South-Sulawesi as the father of Khalwatiah order. Almost all of his adventures in seeking knowledge were spent to learn and deepen mystical order of various schools such as: Qadiriyyah, Ba’lawiyyah, Naksyabandiyah, Syattariyyah, Ahmadiyyah, Suhrawardiyyah, Kabrutiyyah, Maduriyyah, Muhammadiyyah, Madyaniyyah, Kawabiyyah, and Khalwatiyyah. For the last order, his teacher gave him honorific title “Taj al-Khalwati Hidayat Allah.”

In this paper, the writer only attempts to focus on Syekh yusuf’s view of Wahdat al-Wujud which is by no means associated with Ibn ‘Arabi, the father of such concept. It is interesting to study his view on this controversial concept since he was generally assumed by his followers as Sunni Sufi. However, in fact, in some of his works, he seems to partly accept Wahdat al-Wujud for certain extent.

B. Short Biography of Syekh Yusuf al-Makassari
The first written source which reveals the life of Syekh Yusuf Makassar is the traditional book of history belongs to Makassarese-buginese, that is the so-called “Lontara”. There are three Lontara which inform much of his life, namely lontara Tallo, lontara Gowa and lontara Bilangngang. It was the three lontara considered to very reliable in tracing Riwawayana Tuanta Salamaka ri Gowa (the history of our safe master in Gowa, i.e. Syekh Yusuf al-Makassar). Besides, oral tradition which is famous among Buginese-Makassarese people in South Sulawesi could also tell us such history.

According to “Lontara Bilangngang”, the heritage of the twin kingdoms, Gowa-Tallo, Syekh Yusuf was born on 3 July 1626 M coinciding with 8 Syawal 1036 H. The story of his birth was told in oral tradition in Buginese-Makassarese society and it become agreement among them. This fact indicates that his birth was 20 years after Gowa and Tallo kingdoms being Islamized by an Ulama from Minangkabau, namely Abdul Kadir Khatib Tunggal or popularly called Dato’ri Bandang.

As an ordinary human, he was born on the earth through his father and mother. As stated in Lontara Riwaya’na Tuanta Salama ri Gowa, his father is Galarrang Moncongloe, a brother in one mother line of the king of Gowa Imanga’rangi Daeng Manrabia or Popularly known as Sultan Alauddin, the first king who converted to Islam and declared Islam as the formal religion of his kingdom in 1603. His Mother is Aminah binti Damapang Ko’mara, who is descendant of noble family from the Tallo kingdom, the twin kingdom of Gowa.

However, according to hasyiyat fi al-Kitab al-Anba’ fi I’rab la Ilaha illa Allah, one of syekh yusuf’s works stated that his father is Abdullah, so Prof. Hamka decides that his father’s name is Abdullah. Besides, oral tradition inherited by his descendants informs that His father is Abdullah Khaidir. Yet, the latter name still becomes controversy in common people since some regard that he is the prophet Khaidir. Nonetheless, the geneology of his descendants which is inherited by generations can convince us that his father is Gallarang Moncongloe, then Islamized as Abdullah Khaidir.

The life of Syekh Yusuf was popular up to now in four places or countries; they are Makassar (South Sulwesi), Banten (West Java), Ceylon (Sri Langka), and Cape Town (South Africa) since he spent much of his life at those places. In Ceylon and South Africa, he was even regarded as the first who put foundations of the existing Moslem community and as the father of several Moslem communities in south Africa who struggled to realize unity against oppression and ethnical differences.

During his childhood, he spent with learning to read al-Qur’an and was taught how to practice Islam in daily life. After being able to read al-Qur’an and ready to study further, his father sent him to pondok pesantren Bontoala to study Islamic knowledge and linguistic means such as: Nahw, Sharf, Balaghah, Ma’ani and ‘Ilm al-Mantiq. Afterwards, Syekh Yusuf pursued his study in pondok Cikoang under the teaching of Syekh Jalaluddin al-Aidid. Because of his intelligence in following Majlis, he was then suggested by his teachers to continue his study in Jazirah Arabia.

Having adventured in Middle-East for around twenty years to study Islam, he returned to his hometown. Although there is oral story stated that he never go home, this story can not be accepted because we do not get any strong reasons and historical fact for evidence. Yet, it should be noted that after returning to Nusantara, Syekh Yusuf became the great warrior who always precipitated rebellions against the Dutch either when he was in Makassar, Banten, Ceylon, and South Africa. Wherever he was, he often dessiminated Da’wah Islamiyyah and called upon Jihad fi Sabilillah.

Syekh Yusuf was also popular as the prolific writer of tasawwuf works either in Makkassarese, Bugis, Arabic, Javanese, and Arabic. His works written in Arabic to mention some as follow:

1. al-Barakat al-Sailaniyyah
2. Bidayat al-Mubtadi’
3. al-Fawaih al-Yusufiyyah
4. Hashiyah in Kitab al-Anba’
5. Kaifiyyat al-Munghi
6. Matalib al-Salikin
7. al-Nafhat al-sailaniyyah
8. Qurrat al-‘Ain
9. Sirr al-Asrar
10. Sura
11. Taj al-Asrar
12. Zubdat al-Asrar
13. Fath Kaifiyyat al-Dzikr
14. Dafal-Bala’
15. Hazhihi Fawaid ‘Azima Dzikr La Ilaha illa Allah
16. Muqaddimat al-Fawaid allati ma la budda min al-‘Aqaid
17. Tahsil al-Inayah wa al-Hidayah
18. Risalah Ghayat al-Ikhtishar wa Nihayat al-Intizar
19. Tuhfat al-Amr fi Fadilat adz-Dzikr
20. Tuhfat al-Abrar li Ahl al-Asrar
21. al-Munjiyya ‘an Madarrat al-Hijaiba

Syekh Yusuf passed away in 22 Zulqaidah 1109 H coinciding with 23 May 1699 M. in his seclusion, Zandvliet at the age of 73 years old. He was buried in sandy hill of Fasle Bay, not far from his residence. His tomb now was seen as ‘sacred’ and believed as the holy place. His tomb was completed with other buildings, including the tombs of his four students who also struggled for Islam in South Africa.

C. Wahdatul Wujud in the View of Syekh Yusuf al-Makassary
It is widely acknowledged that the founder of wahdat al-wujud is the outstanding sufi, Ibn Arabi, who was born in Murcia, Andalusia in 560 H/1165 M and passed away in Damascus in 683 H/1240 M. Albeit the term “Wahdat al-Wujud” can not be found in his works, he always made statements that lead to such idea.

One of his works, Futuhat al-Makkiyyah, in which he wrote much about his amazing spiritual experiences that marked with many signs indicate that he has reached the level of kasyf when he was still young. Despite his works he wrote are more symbolic, he acquired his knowledge through the process of ‘opening’ (Kasyf).

It is hard to precisely understand Ibnu ‘Arabi’s concept of Wahdatul Wujud, but the main point is that there is no being/existence (wujud) except God; only one wujud, namely God. Anything except God is nothing in itself; it is merely the manifestation of God. Universe has no wujud itself except borrowing wujud comes from God. God (al-Haqq) and alkhalq (universe) are one but different.

In terms of the concept of Wahdat al-Wujud, Syekh Yusuf elaborated it in his message (risalah) Matalib al-Salikin. In introduction, he explains actually that risalah were the notes he wrote during his participation in majlis under his teacher Syekh Abdul Karim Al-Lahure, one of the leaders of Naqsabandiyah order and the famous Ulama in that era. Syekh yusuf notes that one should necessarily learn three things in order to complete his knowledge, namely ma’rifah, tauhid, and ibadah. The aforementioned kinds of knowledge cannot be separated with one another since they are illustrated as a tree, tauhid as the root, ma’rifah as the branch and the leaf, and lastly ibadah as the fruit.

In explaining the meaning of tauhid, he devides it into two parts, tauhid Wahdat al-Wujud and tauhid that can be understood by common Moslems. Syekh Yusuf did not strictly put one or both tauhid under priority, because according to him, the ability of human to understand tauhid is different with one another. Therefore, everyone is able to understand the concept of tauhid in accordance with his ability.

Commenting the concept of Wahdat al-Wujud, he argues that this kind of tauhid is only believed by some sufi. In his view, basically there is no ‘being’ (maujud) in ghaib and syahadah, in form (surah) and meaning (ma’na), in exoteric and esoteric, except in one existence (wujud), one essence and one substance. Syekh Yusuf illustrated this explanation like different parts of human body with its spirit itself. Similarly, as he said, the relation between God and creatures like the relation between human body and its spirit. It means that human spirit does not only exist (istiqrar) in one part of his body, but it covers all parts of his body. Likewise, God does not only exist (istiqrar) in one creature, but He covers all creatures.

In the context of essence unity and the characteristic (sifat) of God, Syekh Yusuf explains that both are one unity that is impossible to be separated. It is more likely the same with the nature of human who has body and spirit, as long as he or she is still alive, there is no separation at all. It seems from the explanation above that the concept of Wahdat al-Wujud according to Syekh Yusuf is not exactly the same with that addressed to Ibnu ‘Arabi since the latter stated: “know that Allah is one in unity, it is impossible if the one hulul to thing, or the thing hulul to Him, or He unites with a thing”.

Ibnu ‘Arabi asserted that it is impossible if the qadim One can become a place for the jadid (new) or take place in jadid. The new existence and qadim existence are interlinked with one another on the bounding of idhafah and law, not the bounding between one existence with the other one, since it is impossible if God can unite with His creature in the one level (martabat).

If one compares between Ibnu ‘Arabi’s statements and Syekh Yusuf’s interpretation on Wahdat al-Wujud, it will be apparent that Ibn ‘Arabi’s concept is more complicated and vulnerable to be misleading. It was Ibnu Arabi entitled as the father of Wahdat al-Wujud in tasawwuf world because he the first composed such concept more completely and this influenced much the latter sufi and scholars. That is why his thought up to now still becomes controversial among Moslem thinkers.

It is more probably that Syekh Yusuf did not directly refer this matter to Ibnu ‘Arabi’s writings especially Futuhat al-Makkiyyah and fushus al-Hikam. He might merely rest on the interpretations of Wahdat al-Wujud which were developed in his era through his teachers. Nevertheless, we can find in his writings focusing on the essence of universe existence that have slight similarities with Ibnu ‘Arabi’s statements in his book Fusus al-Hikam such as: “actually the existence of universe is equal to non-existence, likes the existence of shadow. The existence of shadow is not the reality; in fact it is non-physic in the form (surah) of existence.”

This statement is almost the same with that of Ibn ‘Arabi in Fushus al-Hikam: “know that anything that is called as “except al-Haqq” or the so-called as universe, if it is addressed to al-Haqq (Allah), it might be like the human’s shadow. Universe is the shadow of God, and He is the essence of addressing existence to universe since that shadow exists in reality without any doubt in belief.

It seems to me, from the explanation above, that the influence of Ibnu ‘Arabi on essence of al-wujud is quite dominant in Syekh Yusuf’s philosophy of tasawwuf. While the interpretation of Wahdat al-Wujud referred to Syekh Yusuf was obviously influenced by the thought trend expanded in his era. His interpretation in this case is much closer to idea of negating the existence at all except the existence of God.

Furthermore, in his works, we also can find the influence of Syekh Nuruddin ar-Raniri’s thought concerning the interpretation of Wahdat al-Wujud. It might be due to his acquaintance with him in Aceh before travel to Middle-East for seeking knowledge. The works of ar-Raniri he read improved hid horizon especially his criticism toward those misunderstood the concept of Wahdat al-Wujud.

There are some terms of ar-Raniri which is also used by Syekh Yusuf in explaining the meaning of wujud and Wahdat al-Wujud in his works such as: hakiki, majazy, muqayyad. Mazha, zill and so on. This may indicate that he was impressed by Wahdat al-Wujud delivered by ar-Raniry.

Wahdat al-Wujud expressed by Syekh Yusuf only mentioned once in his risalah Mathalib a-Salikin. Even he makes a new term, namely Wahdah Samadiyyah which means one meaning to express the sense of creature’s togetherness with God in that can not be reached by human understanding except God himself, who knows the essence of such togetherness . However, it may be felt by those who perform ibadah sincerely and continually.

Based on the explanations above, the writer can formulate that Syekh Yusuf in elaborating Wahdat al-Wujud still holds firmly manhaj ahl Ahl Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. He treats Muhkamat verses on Tauhid as the foundation of aqidah, while Mutasyabihat verses, he understood them without ta’wil and render the essence and the meaning to God. He is very careful in interpreting sufi’s views relating to Wahdat al-Wujud. Therefore, he did not label his tasawwuf teaching as Wahdat al-Wujud even more hulul and ittihad.

Nevertheless, in the context of relation between creature and his God through ibadah, he used the terms ihatah and ma’iyyah derived from al-Qur’an. He formulated both terms in one concept which he called Wahdah Samadiyyah. This concept, as I mentioned before, is the sense of togetherness of God with his creatures, and this can be felt by anyone who devotes himself to God.

D. Conclusion
It is undeniable that Syekh yusuf al-Makassari is the great ulama in 17th century who got involved in coloring the Islamic thoughts in Indonesia, notably tasawwuf and lots of his works he produced during his life. On the basis of the elucidations above, we can draw a conclusion that he is typical ulama that is very careful in interpreting sufi’s view in relation to Wahdat al-Wujud. Although he was influenced by Ibnu ‘Araby’s concept, he did not become the extreme follower of Ibnu ‘Arabi since he did not label it as Wahdat al-Wujud. Instead, he uses his own terms ihatah and ma’iyyah for the context of relation between God and Human. Both terms were formulated into one concept, namely Wahdat as-Samadiyyah. This concept does not concern on unity between God and Human in essence and substance (zat), but the sense of togetherness with God.


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