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A note on source materials for the biographies of Southeast Asian `ulama

By M.M. van Bruinessen


The study of the history of Islamic thought and the social organisation of\ud learning in Southeast Asia is rendered more difficult by the dearth of\ud easily accessible sources and the absence, until very recently, of\ud biographical dictionaries of `ulamâ this region such as we have for most\ud other parts of the Muslim world. We are relatively well informed about a\ud dozen or two of prominent `ulamâ (mostly Sufi authors or, in this century,\ud political leaders), but the thousands of others who have played influential\ud roles remain very much in the shadow. As more and more Javanese and\ud Malay manuscripts are being edited or summarily translated, interesting\ud bits and pieces of information on individual `ulamâ and their roles are\ud coming to light, and prudent use of the VOC archives may also yield\ud valuable information, but for the time being we still have a very poor\ud insight in who, before the end of the 19th century, the `ulamâ of Southeast\ud Asia were, what sort of family backgrounds they had, how and what they\ud studied, and what their relations with the courts and with village society\ud were. For the late 19th and 20th century, it is easier to find information on\ud not only the most prominent `ulamâ but also those of the second echelon.\ud Especially during the past two decades, numerous biographies of `ulamâ of this period have been compiled and published, though not always easily\ud accessible. The aim of this communication is to draw the attention of\ud colleagues to source materials that are at present available

Topics: Letteren
Year: 1997
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