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Haji Sulong Abdulkadir al-Fatani : In James Ockey understanding

Individual imaginings: The religio-nationalist
pilgrimages of Haji Sulong Abdulkadir al-Fatani
Studies of the formation of national identity have highlighted the importance of
national pilgrimages, akin to sacred religious pilgrimages. However, less attention
has been paid to the effect of religious pilgrimages on national identities. In this
article, I examine the ways that religious pilgrimages have shaped identities in the
Jawi community, particularly early in the twentieth century, when nationalism spread
through Southeast Asia. Given the deeply personal nature of pilgrimages, I do this
primarily through an exploration of the religious pilgrimage and later life of one
well-known leader from Pattani, Haji Sulong Abdulkadir al-Fatani. I find that this
approach leads to a more nuanced consideration of the ways that plural identities,
even conflicting plural identities, are often held by individuals.
Just after the turn of the twentieth century, young Muhammad Sulong went on a
pilgrimage. Sulongs pilgrimage was not simply a matter of going to Mecca for the
Haj; it followed a form in use as a rite of passage for a small, select group of
young men from Pattani. Muhammad Sulong was bound for Mecca to study Islam,
learning from the teachers at the spiritual centre of his religion, in the original
sacred Arabic language. There he would study, as did other young Muslim men
from Southeast Asia and other parts of the Muslim world. After suitable learning
and preparation he would also perform the Haj. Then a decision would be made:
to stay on as a member of the Jawi community at Mecca, or return to Pattani as a
respected teacher, to share his experience and the accumulated wisdom with others
from his community. So his pilgrimage began..
In his Imagined Communities (1991), Benedict Anderson argued that pilgrimages
were crucial to the development of shared identities for both the older religious communities
and for the younger national communities:
It is not simply that in the minds of Christians, Muslims or Hindus the cities of Rome,
Mecca, or Benares were the centres of sacred geographies, but that their centrality was
experienced, realized(in the stagecraft sense) by the constant flow of pilgrims moving
towards them from remote and otherwise unrelated localities the strange physical juxtaposition
of Malays, Persians, Indians, Berbers and Turks in Mecca is something incomprehensible
without an idea of their community in some form. The Berber encountering
the Malay before the Kaaba must, as it were, ask himself: Why is this man doing what
I am doing, uttering the words I am uttering, even though we cannot talk to one
another?There is only one answer, once one has learnt it: Because we are Muslims.2
The educated played a crucial role in this process:
The literati were adepts, strategic strata in a cosmological hierarchy of which the apex
was divine the bilingual intelligentsia, by mediating between vernacular and [sacred
language], mediated between earth and heaven.3
Thus the small group of pilgrims, especially the literate ones, were able to influence
the identity of the larger community around them.
Nationalist pilgrimages, argued Anderson,4 were initially the province of bureaucratic
functionaries. Their pilgrimages were lifelong, realised in their progress through
the colonial bureaucracies as they wended their way around the colony, from municipality
to province, gradually working their way upward to the higher positions at the
capital, the spiritualcentre of the pilgrimage. Along the way, they met fellow functionaries
with whom they shared little except this grand lifelong progression. These
bureaucratic pilgrimages became nationalist in the colonies because of the different
centres imposed on functionaries due to their place of birth. While those born in
the metropole had the opportunity to rotate through a variety of colonies and even
advance to positions in the capital city of the metropole, those born in the colonies
found their pilgrimages circumscribed to the colony of their birthplace, their upward
movement centred on the colonial capital city. Consequently, they came to identify
with those following a similar path to the same centre, identifying with fellow
nationalsin their new nation.
In later years in places such as Southeast Asia these nationalist pilgrimages
extended downward, into the educational system:
The twentieth century colonial-school system brought into being pilgrimages which paralleled
longer-established functionary journeys . From all over the vast colony, but
from nowhere outside it, the tender pilgrims made their inward, upward way, meeting
fellow-pilgrims from different, perhaps once hostile, villages in primary school; from
different ethnolinguistic groups in middle-school; and from every part of the realm in
the tertiary institutions of the capital these journeyings derived their sensefrom the
capital, in effect explaining why weare here’ ‘together.5
Because of their ability to communicate in both local and colonial languages, again
this bilingual literati played a key role in mediating between the colonisers and
their community.6
While Anderson took some care to illustrate similarities between older religious
communities and the newer national communities, he left the relationship between
the two unexplored.7 And yet many of the anti-colonial nationalist movements
began as part nationalist, part religious movements, such as Sarekat Islam in
Indonesia or the Young Mens Buddhist Association in Burma, or the less organised
Kaum Muda of Malaysia. Furthermore, Anderson focused on the communities that
might be created by various types of pilgrimages, but without examining the deeply
personal nature of individual pilgrimages. Understanding the life of Muhammad
Sulong allows, perhaps requires, an exploration of the impact of pilgrimages on individuals,
and of the relationship between religious and national pilgrimages. Sulongs
pilgrimage included not only the spiritual identity-defining experience of the Haj, but
also included intensive training designed to provide him with the knowledge necessary
for a respected imam. He embarked on a form of educational pilgrimage that
would determine his life prospects and his social status, as well as his identity and
sense of community. These are precisely the characteristics of the educational pilgrimages
of the indigenous bureaucrats in colonial Southeast Asia that Anderson
thought shaped national identities. Exploring the nature of Sulongs pilgrimages, seemingly
both nationalist and religious, provides a better understanding of his life, and
perhaps of the relationship between national and religious identities within individuals
and communities.
Although Anderson has left the relationship between religious and national
identities and communities unexplored, other work has not. According to Ernest
Gellner, in the Muslim world the modernisation process broke down the old
isolated local communities, as it had in Europe. In forming a new community, a
shared culturewas necessary; a choice had to be made between Westernisation
and some form of local culture. In the Muslim world, elites turned neither to
Westernisation nor to folk culture, but to scholarly tradition, to the written works
of Islam. Wrote Gellner:
The question the reformers faced was: why did we fall behind the West? Why was Islam,
once so confident and dominant, subjected to the humiliation of alien and infidel conquest
and influence?the recommendation was a return to the origin, to the sources, to
purity, to, if you like, roots.8
Gellner thought that this process took place at the turn of the twentieth century,
approximately at the time that young Muhammad Sulong set off for Mecca, as reformists
sought to purify Islam by turning to scripture and scholarship, then to marry it
to modernism in order to overcome backwardness. Indeed, Sulong was one of those
engaged in this process. Where Anderson implied that religious identities eventually
gave way, however, Gellner believed that, for Islam only, religious identities overcame
national identities, as Islamic identity and the ummah won out over national identity
and the national community.9 For Gellner, then, both nationalism and fundamentalism
emerged together out of the same processes that created nationalisms elsewhere.
Islam uniquely defied secularisation, allowing fundamentalism to emerge victorious.10
Gellners argument has been widely critiqued, on several grounds, two of them of
particular importance here.11 First, the vast majority of the Islamic world has accepted
the nation-state system, and the nationalism that goes with it. Fundamentalism has
not overcome nationalism in Islamic societies. The two have found a way to coexist,
and the relationship between them deserves much more careful study than Gellner
gave it. Second, Gellner rightly emphasised the importance of the local community
in pre-nationalist societies, especially in Islamic societies. His contention that modernisation
broke up their isolation is more questionable. The local Islamic communities
were never as isolated in the past, nor were they as dramatically changed, as
Gellner would have it. The pilgrimage ensured that they were never isolated. At the
same time, the local-level focus of Islam, both organisationally and ideologically,
ensured that the local community remained important to identity long after colonialism
opened communities up. The Arabic word ummah highlights this dual nature
of identity and organisation. It best translates as community, and refers to both
the local community and the religious community as a whole. In many ways, the
ummah has always been conceptualised and felt most keenly at the level of the
local community, despite the more recent attempts to depict it as an alternative to
the nation.12
In examining pilgrimages and identity, I will begin by looking at the nature of
pilgrimages for the Jawi community. I will then examine Sulongs experience in the
context of the Jawi community at Mecca, and its relations with both the larger
Muslim community and with the Jawi community in Southeast Asia. Then I will
examine the experience of Sulong after he returned to Siam, seeking to understand
the effects of his pilgrimage on his life. Along the way, I explore the ways that the currents
of modernism, nationalism and Islam shaped his identity.
Jawi pilgrimages
While pilgrimage is generally used to refer to the Haj in the Jawi community, it is
not the only type of pilgrimage. Local pilgrimages, called ziarah (also ziarat), are also
made to places within the region. This type of pilgrimage is common throughout the
Muslim world, although some Muslims consider it un-Islamic.13 In Southeast Asia,
such pilgrimages to local shrines predate the arrival of Islam, and are similar to
those undertaken throughout the region by those of other religions as well. In
some cases, shrines that pre-date the arrival of Islam have been repackaged, as it
were, to give them some connection with a revered Muslim scholar or saint.14
Many aspects of the ziariah are associated with traditional folk magic, with good fortune
thought to follow from performing certain rites in particular ways. The most
important ziarah pilgrimage sites for the Jawi communities within Southeast Asia
have been the gravesites of Muslim saints or powerful kings and nobles.15
If we consider these pilgrimages in terms of identity, as Anderson does, we can
make several observations. First, the pilgrimage is often a local one, re-emphasising
the importance of the local tradition and the local saint within Islam. The pilgrim
was exposed to local, or perhaps regional, geography, to local variants of the sacred,
and to other pilgrims who were not too different in appearance or dialect. Only for
more prominent sites did people travel distances extensive enough to produce interaction
of dialects and culture. Second, whereas the Haj was expensive, ziarah
pilgrimages were possible for people of all classes.16 The identity forged was not as
closely connected to either prior or subsequent social status, so that the identity
was more fraternal than with the Haj. But third, another type of identification
altogether also occurred. The ziarah pilgrimages were similar to pilgrimages taken
by those of other faiths in the region, so that the experience was shared, in only
slightly different form, with the Chinese merchant and the Thai Buddhist civil servant
from the same region. Some pilgrimage sites were shared,17 and although in most
cases, those of different faiths would have visited different shrines, the experience
was similar enough that it could be discussed and shared. In this way, there was
some basis within the pilgrimage for the development of local identities across religious
and other ethnic lines, but without erasing those lines.18
The importance of ziarah in traditional Southeast Asia is evident in early travellers
accounts of the Haj. In one account, which describes the purported travels of
Hang Tuah, the leader of a diplomatic mission to the Seljuk/Ottoman Empire in
about 1481, the Haj was something of an afterthought. Hang Tuah stopped at
Jeddah to visit the tomb of Eve, and was convinced to go on the Haj by the harbour
master. Hang Tuah also sought spiritual power at Riau, Majapahit, and of course
Malacca.19 At least one sultan declared that the Haj was not necessary as Malacca
was to be turned into Mecca.20 Ziarah, with its powerful localising effects, remains
important for many in the Jawi Muslim community.21
One of the reasons the Haj only slowly took on importance for the Jawi community
was the difficulty involved in undertaking it. Not only was it expensive, it was
time-consuming, so that pilgrims not only had to finance the Haj itself, but also a
year away from their occupation. Even early in the twentieth century, about 15 per
cent of pilgrims did not survive the trip.22 There are no reliable figures on the Haj
from Southeast Asia in these early years, but the number must have been small.
During the mid-nineteenth century, the number of Jawi pilgrims each year was probably
no more than a thousand.23 After the mid-nineteenth century, the numbers of pilgrims
from the Jawi community began to rise. With the arrival of the colonial powers,
it also becomes possible to distinguish, to some degree, their origins. Around 2,000
pilgrims travelled from the Indonesian archipelago in 1850, increasing to about
7,000 by the turn of the century. Most travelled by way of Singapore.24 In addition,
by the turn of the twentieth century, perhaps 5,000 pilgrims from peninsular
Malaya managed to travel there each year, most from the wealthier Straits
Settlements and Federated Malay States.25 By the time Muhammad Sulong made
his own trip to Mecca, there would have been about 15,000 Jawi pilgrims a year,
with about 6,000 from the Malay peninsula, rising very rapidly to a high of nearly
40,000 by 191314 comprising well over half of all pilgrims before dropping dramatically
during the First World War.26 The Haj thus became much more familiar to
Southeast Asian Muslims, attainable for a select few in many communities rather than
something only possible for the very wealthy, very powerful, or very fortunate. In the
process, it became, increasingly, a somewhat familiar marker of social status, where
previously only those who already had social status (and their fortunate retainers)
could hope to undertake it.
Not only did the number of pilgrims change, but also there is some evidence that
the experience of the pilgrimage was changing. Virginia Matheson and Anthony
Milner have traced this phenomenon by looking at traveller accounts, which have
the advantage and disadvantage of revealing some of the thoughts of a small number
of pilgrims in detail. Matheson and Milner argued that as late as 1860, the travellers
accounts they present indicate that the pilgrimage was seen and portrayed
primarily in the context of Malay court identity, rather than Islamic identity, although
this conclusion is based on very few accounts, all by members of the court.27 However,
beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, the experience began to change,
according to Matheson and Milner, in different ways for different types of travellers.
For one, described as deeply influencedby contact with Europeans, Munshi
Abdullah, who died in Jeddah, the experience was deeply personal, conceived as
the supreme religious experience for a man on earth.28 Rather than simply performing
a ritual, one seen as similar to other court ritual, Munshi Abdullah sought profound
religious experience. Matheson and Milner also discuss the pilgrimage
experience of a Malay nationalist, Harun Aminurrashid, who sees not only the Haj,
but the experience of his fellow Malays on the Haj. Seeing the Haj in terms of
ones fellow nationals, rather than ones fellow Muslims, is a new development.
Matheson and Milner, based on five accounts, conclude that after the 1860s, at
least, the Haj was no longer seen in terms of traditional Malay court culture. It was
conceived in new contexts, both in relationship to fellow nationals, and in more
sacred terms, as the old court culture became increasingly irrelevant. While conclusions
based on so few accounts can only be extremely tentative, and cannot represent
the experiences of all pilgrims, the potential for the promotion of new types
of identity in the Haj after the 1860s is evident, most clearly in the form of Harun
Aminurrashids nationalist pilgrimage. Such a pilgrimage experience could not have
been imagined before Malaysia as a nation came into view.
Educational pilgrimages
While ziarah pilgrimages predate Islam in Southeast Asia, and the Haj pilgrimage
arrived with Islam, at least as an integral principle, though it would be a long time
before many could undertake it, the notion of educational pilgrimages to the Hijaz
came later. Mohammad Rezuan Othman noted that, while it is difficult to ascertain
who was the first Malay to go to the Hijaz in search of knowledge among the first
was Shaykh Abdul Malik Abdullah of Trengganu …’ who studied in Mecca for
12 years in the second half of the seventeenth century.29 There is further evidence
of the presence of Jawi students at Mecca in the seventeenth century in the writings
of Ibrahim al-Kurani, who wrote two works in response to questions from the Jawi
community in Mecca.30 The first well-known Jawi scholars also can be traced to
about this period.31 While records from this period are often vague, where information
is available, those who travelled to Mecca on educational pilgrimages generally
appear to be established teachers, rather than young students.32 This was probably
due to the expense and difficulty involved. The most prominent teacher from
Pattani itself, Daud ibn Abd Allah al-Fatani, arrived in Mecca in the second half of
the eighteenth century. He was the most important Jawi scholar during the first
half of the nineteenth century, having written at least 20, and perhaps nearer to 60,
books, some of which are still in use.33 Despite the prominence of these scholars,
total numbers of educational pilgrims remained small, until travel became easier, in
the same way as with the Haj itself. Again, as with the Haj, such educational pilgrimages
increased quite considerably late in the nineteenth and early in the
twentieth century. Easier and cheaper transportation also must have increased
opportunities for younger scholars. An increase in the number of pondok schools
as education spread in Southeast Asia created demand for teachers and thus also
contributed to the rising numbers of educational pilgrims.34
The nature of these educational pilgrimages was such that we might expect them
to influence the identity of the pilgrims, and perhaps also the identity of the community
more generally. Like the nationalist pilgrimages, these educational pilgrimages do
loop gradually upward. However, while the local levels and the peak at Mecca follow a
standard pattern, some pilgrims visited other centres, local and Middle Eastern, on
their educational pilgrimages. Locally, the courts of the sultans, especially Aceh,
occasionally Siam, and later often Singapore, were intermediate stops. In the
Middle East, Cairo and, more rarely, the Hadhramaut were stops for some educational
pilgrimages especially at the end of the nineteenth century, but certainly not for all.
With no fixed pattern, and with these stops sometimes left out, the creation of a
broad-based identity through these pilgrimages alone may have been somewhat
shallow. Also noteworthy are the endpoints of these pilgrimages. For thosewho made the
pilgrimage to Mecca there were four possible endpoints: the Malay courts, Singapore, a
return to their home region, or remaining inMecca. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century,
some educational pilgrims returned to take employment at the court of one of the
sultans. There was some opportunity for mobility among these courts. Later, some
returned to take up residence at Singapore, a centre for those on their way to the Haj,
and a centre for publications on Islam for the community.35 However, most educational
pilgrims either spent their lives at Mecca, able to wield some influence on the Jawi
community from that position, though circumscribed by distance and time. Or they
returned to their home region, where they generally became religious teachers with considerable
status and influence. While those who returned to a sultans court or to
Singapore may have helped to create some sense of a Southeast Asia-wide Jawi community,
themore common patterns were to remain at the holy centre or to return to the local
community. In this way, educational pilgrimages primarily reinforced local identity, and
related that local identity to the holy centre of Islam. Few, if any, of the educational
pilgrims left Mecca to teach in other parts of the Islamic world, excepting, in some
later periods, theHadhramaut and Cairo. Thus while the educational pilgrimage inspired
some sense of Islamic community, it was of an unvisited and thus rather vague and
ill-defined community, and identification with other parts of the Islamic world was
reinforced in more limited ways than we might expect.
Taken together, ziarah, the Haj and educational pilgrimages in the Jawi community
enhanced three kinds of identity. Perhaps the weakest was that of the regional
Jawi community, since there was no standard regional pilgrimage route, nor were
the pilgrimages bounded in any clear way at the regional level, nor was there even
a standardised intermediate stop, although at different times, different places served
this role to some extent.36 Indeed, in some ways, the strongest influence on a Jawi
identity came from the presence of a named Jawi community at Mecca, rather than
from such an entity back in Southeast Asia. Ironically, this identity might have
been diluted by the larger numbers of pilgrims after about 1850. Michael Laffan
argued for the existence of a Jawi identity. Yet he noted, From the moment they
[pilgrims] pledged their intention to sail, the Jawi pilgrims were categorised by their
ethnicity of linguistic group by both the colonial state and their pilgrimage hosts.37
As for residence in Mecca, The swelling size of the community would have
given smaller groups more scope to activate their own communities …’, and indeed,
there were different quarters in Mecca for those from different parts of the Jawi community.
ecumenism abroad, ethnic ambiguity still coexisted, only now it was increasingly
phrased in terms of national parameters: Javan (or Indies?), Malay, and Siamese.39
In other words, attempts to create a Jawi community even at Mecca and Cairo
were undermined by different nationalexperiences. The second identity that was
promoted was an Islamic one, which, as we have seen, became stronger over time,
though it was perhaps quite personal, with the larger community unvisited and
vaguely felt. Last, and most easily overlooked, the pilgrimages enhanced the sense
of local identity. This was evident in the ziarah pilgrimages in particular, but also
in the scholarly pilgrimages, where scholars who remained at Mecca maintained
relationships with their own communities through letter, through meetings with
pilgrims, through written work, and through issuing fatwas appealed to them from
their home communities.40 Scholars who returned interacted even more closely
with their local communities.
Young Muhammad Sulong's Siam
Muhammad Sulong was born in the village of Lukson, in Pattani, in the year 1895.41
It was a time when the experiences of the different parts of the Jawi community were
increasingly distinct, and in ways that affected the development of nationalisms.
Those in Java and the Straits Settlements had been under colonial rule for generations.
The Dutch, on the advice of Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, were seeking to reduce the
influence of pilgrims, and to promote modern education as an alternative. By 1902, the
ethical policies would have a large focus on promoting education, leading to nationalist
sentiments.42 The British took a more liberal attitude towards the pilgrims, and
Singapore was flourishing as a centre for Islamic scholarship. In Mindanao, the
United States was about to take over from the Spanish, and fight a long and bloody
war. Aceh was at war with the Dutch. And the British were gradually taking power in
the Malay sultanates, in most places beginning in the guise of advisors, then slowly
expanding influence until they held control. In Siam, the court at Bangkok was working
to take greater control of its periphery, including the lower south.
Sulongs birthplace of Pattani had a long history as an independent kingdom, and
a long history of resistance to central Thai rule. In 1808 King Rama II separated the
Kingdom of Pattani into seven small sultanates, each ruled by a hereditary sultan or
Tunku. This provoked considerable discontent for some time, and apparently inspired
those writings of the famous Pattani scholar Daud ibn Abd Allah al-Fatani that deal
with the concept of jihad.43 The hereditary sultanates were eliminated at the turn of
the twentieth century when the reforms of King Chulalongkorn brought the south
gradually into the same system of government as the rest of Siam. After 1901, the sultanates
were placed under the control of the governor of Monthon Nakhon
Sithamarat, and the tributary system was replaced with a taxation system. When
the sultans resisted the change, the government applied pressure. The sultan of
Pattani, Tunku Abdulqadir Kamarruddin, continued to resist the changes, and he
was imprisoned first in Songkhla, and later in Phitsanulok. Under duress, and in
return for an annual retirement annuity and other privileges, most of the other sultans
were convincedto accept the new monthon system.44
Passive resistance of various sorts continued throughout the seven sultanates, and
especially in Pattani. When the former sultan of Pattani was released after two years in
prison in Phitsanulok, in return for a promise to give up political activity, he returned
to a heros welcome.45 He later fled to Kelantan, where his descendants continued the
resistance. Many religious scholars and others also fled to Kelantan. Meanwhile,
under the treaty of 1902 Kelantan got a British advisor, although it remained
under Siamese control until 1909, when it was ceded to the British. In 1906, the sultanates
were reorganised into provinces, amphoes and a monthon, bringing them into
line with other regions in Siam.
Sulongs ancestors were religious teachers in Pattani, an occupation that was
influential and often hereditary in the sultanates. For several generations, the family
had been wealthy enough to send members to Mecca for the Haj,46 so that the family
had both long experience with the identity-shaping experience of the pilgrimage, and
with the influence the title Hajicould bestow. Sulongs grandfather, Syeikh Zainal
Abidin bin Ahmad al-Fatani, was one of the best-known Jawi scholars of his generation.
47 Sulongs father, Haji Abdulqadir, son of Muhammad, was wealthy enough not
only to go on the Haj, but was also able to support three wives, and to send his eldest
son to the best schools. Muhammad Sulong was born to Haji Abdulqadirs first wife,
Sarifah in 1895. Thus when the sultan of Pattani, his sultan, was arrested, charged
with rebellion, and imprisoned, Muhammad Sulong was just seven years old.
Sulong went to school at a Muslim pondok school at Kruze, the old capital of
Pattani, run by Tokhru Waemuso.48 There, in what is thought to be the hometown
of the best-known Pattani scholar, Daud ibn Abd Allah al-Fatani,49 Sulong studied
Malay, basic Arabic and Islam. He must have done well because in 1907, at 12 years
old, his father decided to send him to Mecca for further studies.
Muhammad Sulong's Mecca, and beyond
Most of the travel to Mecca at the time of Sulongs departure was on British
steamships, out of Padang, Singapore and Acheh; the ocean voyage took about 22
days. On arrival, there were two different periods of quarantine, then customs and
immigration to clear before the two-day camel trip across the desert to Mecca.
While the trip was much easier than it had been a few decades earlier, it was still arduous,
especially for a 12-year-old boy.
In Mecca, most young students stayed at a wakaf, a sort of boarding house for
students, which would have been founded by one of the rich pilgrims from the
Jawi community as a type of charitable duty. A few, including Sulong for at least
part of his time at Mecca, stayed with relatives.50 When he arrived at Mecca,
Sulong had the opportunity to meet Syeikh Wan Ahmad bin Muhammad Zain
al-Fatani, the leading scholar from Pattani and a prominent modernist.51 Sulong
began his education at Mecca by studying Arabic and Islam at a primary school
run by the Jawi community near al-Haram mosque.52 During this early period, he
met and studied with Tok Kenali, a scholar from Kelantan who was a disciple of
Syeikh Wan Ahmad.53 His course of study later involved visiting the many mosques
in Mecca, listening to the teachers there, and studying with those who had the most
knowledge or the best reputation. In this way, he learned from religious teachers from
throughout the Muslim world.54 Sulong gradually earned a reputation as a scholar
himself, especially among the Jawi community, and he was encouraged to teach,
becoming a junior lecturer on Islamic law of the Shafiite school in 192755 at
al-Haram Mosque.
Haji Sulong studied, and later taught, at a time of considerable political ferment
in Mecca. The Ottoman Empire still controlled the Hijaz, but both local rulers and the
British also held influence. Since about 1880, the British had had designs on Ottoman
territory, due in part to a desire to increase trade, in part to concerns over the radicalisation
of Indian pilgrims to Mecca, in part to concerns over control of the Suez. In
1882, the British had invaded Egypt. There they established a protectorate, with a
British advisoreffectively exercising control over an Egypt that was still technically
part of the Ottoman Empire. This exertion of power through an advisor held similarities
to the experience of the Malay community back in Southeast Asia, where
the same technique had been used in several sultanates, including Kelantan,
Pattanis neighbour. During this period, the British also unsuccessfully sought to
take control of Afghanistan, increased their influence in Oman and, in 1904, gained
control over what is now South Yemen through a treaty with the Ottoman Empire.
Elsewhere, the Russians were encroaching on Ottoman territory. The Ottoman
emperor also was resisting the political change promoted by the secular nationalist
Young Turks, who would come to power in 1908, then depose the sultan in 1909,
just four years after Sulong arrived in Mecca. The weakening of the Ottoman
Empire, and the secularisation under the Young Turks, called into question its ability
to serve as the protector of Islam and of the Hijaz. At the same time, there was no
other powerful political entity able to step in and defend Islam and its holy centre.
Sulong thus found himself at the centre of political uncertainty, of anxiety over the
future political status of the region, and of concern over what it would mean for Islam.
Increasing division in the politics of the Ottoman Empire was matched by
increasing intellectual pluralism. While Mecca remained the spiritual centre of
Islam, Cairo and, to a much lesser degree, the Hadhramaut were expanding their
intellectual influence. The revival of religious education in the Hadhramaut followed
a long period of decline, due, at least in part, to unstable political conditions. The revival
began in the late 1870s when Ali bin Muhammad al-Hibshi, whose father was the
Mufti of the Shafii school at Mecca, established a ribat (college) to teach more formally.
This was followed a few years later by the establishment of a college at
Tarim, financed by rich merchants from Java and Singapore as a place to send
their children. A third college was established in Ghayl Ba Wazir, a coastal city, in
1902, by Shaykh Muhammad bin Salim, who studied in Egypt. These and other smaller
colleges all led to at least a short-term revival of scholarship in the Hadhramaut.
Teaching methods and content remained mostly conservative, and the impact of this
revival was rather limited, except among some families in Java and Singapore.56
In Egypt, the reformation was more substantial. During this period, al-Azhar, the
best of the religious schools, and the centre of Sunni scholarship, underwent reforms
that would make it much more progressive. In the second half of the 1890s, shortly
after appointing Muhammad Abduh to its board, al-Azhar introduced more secular
subjects to its curriculum. During this era, despite resistance, attempts were made
to improve the qualifications of the faculty, examinations and coursework were standardised,
and the library was consolidated, mostly through the efforts of Abduh.57 As
both a modern university and the centre of Sunni learning, al-Azhar became the leading
institution of higher education in the Islamic world. Finally, in 1908, the even
more progressive Cairo University was organised, giving Egypt a modern secular university
alongside al-Azhar. Egypt and al-Azhar became known for political activism
over the next two decades. Despite the prestige of Mecca, an increasing number of
students from the Jawi community chose to study at al-Azhar, especially during the
1920s, as numbers rose from an estimated 80 at the beginning of the decade to
about 200 by 1925, with at least some of these from southern Thailand.58 This
plurality of religious centres, while not entirely new, matched the increasing political
pluralism as the Ottoman Empire weakened.
Intellectually, two powerful ideologies, nationalism and Islamic revivalism, both
central to the identities being developed through pilgrimages at the time, were
expanding within the region, with Mecca, Istanbul and Cairo as the main focal points.
Nationalism came in two primary variants, the secular constitutional nation-state
nationalism of the Turks, exemplified in the Young Turk revolution of 1908
which was not well received in Mecca and the integrationist Arab nationalism of
Cairo, Mecca and Damascus. Constitutional nationalism had also its champions in
other parts of the Islamic world, particularly at Cairo where, especially after the
First World War, attempts were made to fuse it with Islam, to create a kind of
Islamic constitutional nationalism. In this later style, Islam and nationalism were to
be fused to create movements demanding independent nation-states in Islamic
countries and colonies such as Egypt or Malaysia. Such nationalism was closely
related to modernist Islamic reformism, and propagated through al-Manar, a journal
founded by Muhammad Rashid Rida, a student of Muhammad Abduh. Al-Manar had
a powerful impact on the Jawi community, with many of its ideas making their way
back to Malaysia and Indonesia during the first part of the twentieth century.59 There
Al-Azhar, or schools at Mecca, and that they reversed the decline only temporarily. The point to be made
here, however, is not their effectiveness, but the breadth of reform throughout the region, and its plural
was also contact between this group and the Jawi community at Mecca, at about the
time when Sulong was rising to prominence there.
A second form of nationalism, integrationist nationalism, sought to join the
many tribal communities together into a larger nation, one that could take a place
on the international stage. Initially, it took the form of Pan-Islamic nationalism,
due, in part, to the changes in social and educational structures, due in part to shared
dangers of Islamic nations facing colonialism, and due in part to the attempts of both
the Ottoman sultans and the British, through the local rulers of Mecca, to reinforce
legitimacy and extend influence.60 During and after the First World War, integrationist
nationalism increasingly took the form of Arab nationalism. It had a political
champion in the local ruler of Mecca, Sharif Husayn, and in his son Faisal, who
was close to the Damascus-based nationalists.
As for revivalism, it was, of course, not new. It had swept across the region many
times before. It also had many variants; nearly all Southeast Asian Muslims who visited
Mecca can be said to have promoted it to some degree, returning with tales of the
way that Islam was practised in the heartland. Haji Sulongs version of revivalism, like
that of many in the Jawi community, was most influenced by the teaching of
Muhammad Abduh (18491905).61 Abduh62 was born in a small village in 1849, in
the Nile delta. By the time he was 12 years old, he had memorised the Quran; he
then went to the prestigious Ahmadi mosque at Tanta for further study, before moving
on to al-Azar. Abduh graduated from al-Azhar in 1877, and stayed on as a teacher.
Abduhs only foray into political activism came when the British invaded in
1882. At that time he was involved with a group of army officers who rebelled against
the British, and consequently was exiled for three years.
In 1888, Abduh returned to Egypt, and was appointed a judge. In 1895, he was
appointed to the administrative council of al-Azhar, where he worked to implement
some of the educational reforms he had long advocated. Then in 1899, he was
appointed Grand Mufti of Egypt, and given charge of the judicial system. He was
also named to the Legislative Council. Politically, he believed that the government
had a right to obedience. This had to be balanced against the right of the people to
justice. The people had to provide counsel to the ruler to ensure justice and prevent
the government from errors and passions, necessitating popular participation in
politics.63 As for his reformist teachings, Abduh believed that Islam should strip away
the accretions of tradition and return to its foundations. Science and reason would then
have greater scope to build on those foundations, so that religion and science could be
compatible, since both sought fundamental truths.64 For Abduh, then, religious and
educational reform went together. He also chose to work within the existing political
system, despite his disagreements with it, rather than seek to overturn it. Abduhs
teachings and his life would provide inspiration for Sulong upon his return to Siam.
Modernist revivalism had competition froman older retrogressive revivalism thatwas
popular among some Bedouin. This retrogressive revivalism held little attraction for either
Sulong or the Jawi community in general. Where modernists were forward-looking,
Wahhabism found its ideal society by looking back to the time of the prophet
Muhammad, and envisioning the return to such a state. It was also more forceful in its
attempts to reform Islam, as a political movement under the leadership of Abd al-Aziz
ibn Saud, who began his conquests in 1902. This was just before Sulong arrived, and
while then distant, the conquests would draw ever nearer. Eventually, in 192425 the
House of Saud and theWahhabis took over Mecca, Medina and eventually the entireHijaz.
Through all this ferment, Sulong studied, and with a variety of teachers from
around the region. As he matured, he began to teach others. When he was 27
years old, Haji Sulong married Sabiya, daughter of one of the teachers at Mecca.
Along with his status as a teacher came increased wealth and, since his wife was a
local, a house for his new family.65 Haji Sulong thus came to occupy a privileged position,
and planned to spend his life among the Jawi community in Mecca. His marriage
to a local gave him a certain status in relations with those from Mecca, and with
those from other communities. He was in a position to broker deals, to ease social
relations, and consequently to gain considerable respect. Snouck Hurgronje described
this status as partial assimilation, and noted that children of such marriages, or at least
grandchildren, would have been entirely assimilated.66 Sulongs future opportunities
at Mecca seemed unlimited. A year later, Sabiya passed away.
During his time at Mecca, Sulong had the opportunity of meeting many members
of the ruling classes of Jawi society, who came from throughout Southeast Asia to
study or to perform the Hajj. At 29 years old, after the death of his first wife, he married
Khadijah, who came from this elite. Khadijah was the daughter of Haji Ibrahim
and sister of Haji Mohammad Nor, who would later become Mufti of Kelantan. This
second marriage must have helped to tighten Sulongs links with the Jawi community
back in Southeast Asia. These relationships with leading Malaysian Muslims
enhanced Sulongs influence both at Mecca and, later, back in Southeast Asia.
Haji Sulong was in Mecca throughout the First World War, through its intrigue,
alliances and betrayal. He saw the British, particularly the charismatic T.E. Lawrence,
encourage the Arab rebellion of Sharif Husayn against the Turks, promising an Arab
state when the war ended. He would have seen both the First World War and smaller
tribal wars, including those between the proponents of Arab nationalism and revivalism,
sweep through the area. He was at Mecca when the war ended, and when the
British government made the Balfour declaration, outlining a Jewish homeland in
Palestine. He experienced the British betrayal of Arab nationalism and the breaking
of promises to Sharif Husayn as the British took control and divided the Middle
East with France. He thus had little reason to trust in British promises. He saw the
abdication of Sharif Husayn and the abandonment of Mecca to the Wahabbi forces
in 1924, and witnessed, from a short distance, the fall of Medina a year later to the
same forces.
The Wahabbi takeover led to some hardship for the Jawi community, particularly
for teachers, as all teachings, except Wahabbi teachings, were banned, and restrictions
were placed on the publications of religious materials. Many from the Jawi community
left for Jeddah and for Southeast Asia, and the Straits Settlements government
issued safety warnings for pilgrims intending to go on the pilgrimage in 1925.67
Some from the Jawi community were killed in the fighting.68 However, a shared reformist
agenda allowed enough common ground for some from the Jawi community to
coexist, even thrive under the new regime. The famous Pattani scholar Muhammad
Nur Fatani would become the new leader of the Jawi community. Sulong must
have seen a way to coexist with the new government, as it was during this time
that he was appointed a junior lecturer at al-Haram.69 Then in 1927, Sulongs
one-year-old son Mahmud died, and, to escape the grief, he and his wife returned
to Pattani for a planned two-year visit.70 It would mark their permanent departure
from Mecca.71
Young Sulong during his time at Mecca became Haji Sulong. He grew to maturity,
had, and lost, a wife and then a child. He became prominent in his own community
and a teacher of some renown. He was at Mecca at a time when not only he, but
the entire region experienced tremendous change: the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire, a world war, the rise of colonialism, the rise of nationalism and the rise of
perhaps the strongest and most diverse revivalist movement to date. While we can
only begin to appreciate the change his pilgrimage had on his identity by exploring
his later life, we can briefly summarise some of the most important influences.
Sulongs maturation took place during a time of expanding pluralism: pluralism of
thought, pluralism of politics and pluralism of identities. Such pluralism is not unproblematic
for Islam, where some argue that the Quran mandates that the ummah must
be one. However, for Abduh, for Sulong, and other modernists, the unity was in religion
only, not in government and society, and only in issues clearly settled in the
Quran itself.72 Otherwise, pluralism held its virtues, in the competition of ideas,
and perhaps in ensuring the preservation of Islam by associating it with a variety
of polities, some of which were bound to survive, rather than tying it to a single
empire. Pluralism of identity at the time was prevalent not only in Mecca, where
Pattani, Siamese, Jawi, Shafii, Islamic, reformist, fundamentalist, Arabic and
Ottoman identities were all available to Sulong, but also back in Southeast Asia,
where colonialism was creating a variety of experiences for different groups, organised
around new boundaries. Also noteworthy was Sulongs intellectual attachment to
modernism, and to Muhammad Abduh and his teachings. Sulong, we should note,
returned to Pattani as a visitor, not as a resident. He thought of himself as a
Meccan by that time, and left his home and possessions behind, intending to return.
That would soon change, as Sulong found that his identity was perhaps more complex
than he had thought.
Haji Sulong's Siam
When Haji Sulong returned to Pattani, he soon decided that the rest of his life
should be spent in Siam, not Mecca. He appears to have discovered his purpose in
life: a need, and an opportunity, to put Abduhs Islamic modernisation programme
into action. He would subsequently follow the path advocated by Muhammad
Abduh quite closely, first seeking to revive Islamic teachings, then seeking to reform
Islamic education, then seeking to implement modern political and legal systems
within an Islamic context. Upon his return, it seemed to Haji Sulong that Islam in
Thailand was fraught with superstition, and believers were apathetic.73 He felt a
responsibility to teach Islam according to the teachings of the Quran, as he had
learned, practised, and taught it in Mecca. So for two years Haji Sulong travelled
around southern Thailand, promoting a revival of interest and a purification of
local Islam. He also taught in the main mosque at Pattani. His teachings, described
as progressive and bold,74 so upset local Muslim teachers since they were responsible
for the teachings that Sulong wanted purified that a government investigation
was requested and conducted to determine whether he was fomenting rebellion. The
government wisely chose to stay out of such religious conflicts, and no charges were
After two years of travelling through Monthon Pattani promoting Islamic revivalism,
Sulong decided that the next step was to build a school. Perhaps due to the
influence of the teachings of Abduh, he did not wish to establish another pondok
school, teaching only religion. He wanted to build a school that would also lead to
higher standards of education in the area, and to higher levels of development. It
would be Thailands first Islamic school. In this way, Haji Sulong combined his revivalism
and his goal of modernisation through Islamic-based education and development.
So he set out to raise the money to build the school through donations.
However, at the time, the great depression was just beginning to affect Thailand,
making fund-raising difficult. Haji Sulong went to the former sultan of Yaring,
Phrayaphiphitsenamat, and convinced him to match the donations of the villagers,
so that he would meet half of the cost. In return, the school would bear his
name. After construction began, Haji Sulong had a sign bearing the name of
Phrayaphiphitsenamat made for the school. However, Phrayaphiphitsenamat passed
away shortly thereafter. After his death, his son, Phraphiphitphakdi, then district officer
of Mayo, objected to the use of his fathers name and appealed to the provincial
governor to have it removed. In the end, the name of the school was changed, the
donation was not made, and construction had to be halted for a time.76
As the school slowly approached completion, political circumstances changed in
Sulongs Siam with the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932. The change in
government opened up new pathways to power through election to both local and
national government. It also put in place a new national leadership that needed to
forge links to local leaders. Among those to take advantage of these new opportunities
was Haji Sulong. The new government wanted to rapidly increase educational levels,
but, in the midst of the depression, had only limited resources to do so. So they
encouraged approved individuals to build schools, which would then be recognised
by the government. In 1933, Haji Sulong travelled to Bangkok to request funds to
finish the school. He also invited Prime Minister Phahon to the opening. Phahon
provided the necessary funds, and agreed to come and officially open the school.
Pridi Phanomyong, while he was Minister of the Interior (193435), also visited
the school. Thus through the school, Haji Sulong became known to those in
Bangkok as a local leader of the MalayMuslim provinces. After the school opened,
Haji Sulong became headmaster, and built up influence among students, former students
and parents. The school also came to serve as a mosque for those who lived
nearby and accepted Haji Sulongs modernist Islam.77 Sulong frequently met with
those in the area to discuss his plans for the school, according to Numan
Hayimasae, and in 1935, the government ordered the school closed, because it feared
that the school was becoming a centre of political activity. Sulong then went back to
travelling around the region, teaching in different towns and villages.78
The political reforms implemented after the overthrow of the absolute monarchy
opened up new opportunities. Tengku Mahmud Mahayiddin, the son of the last sultan
of Pattani and the most important separatist leader, returned from exile in northern
Malaya, expressing a desire to work within the new system.79 He took up
residence not in the south, but in Bangkok, close to the centre of political power,
but far from his southern constituency. Sulong was also drawn into politics during
this period.
In 1937, the first direct election to the Thai parliament was held. The two leading
candidates were Phraphiphitphakdi (Kamukda Abdunlabut), the son of the last sultan
of Yaring, and Khunjaroenworawet (Jaroen Suebsaeng), who resigned his position as a
government medical officer to run for parliament. Another hopeful, the former
governor of Pattani, Phrayaratanaphakdi, who had been removed by the new government
after the overthrow of the absolute monarchy, asked Sulong for his support in
the election. Sulong was a prominent citizen, and knew the former governor well;
however, he felt loyal to his old friend Jaroen and chose to support him instead.
Phraphiphitphakdi was the only Muslim contesting the election in Pattani and he
sought to capitalise on that status.80 He emphasised the role of his father and his
ancestors as sultans, able to mediate with the Thai government. And in a campaign
leaflet, he cryptically quoted a verse from the Quran, which stated that Muslims
should respectfully support that which was good, while withholding their support
for the evil works of their enemies.81 With Haji Sulong supporting a Buddhist, this
Thai history. When money became available in the budget, a contest ensued between Phibun, who
wanted to spend it on defence, rewarding his military supporters, and Pridi, then the Minister of the
Interior. Pridi sought to spend the money to promote democratic participation in the provinces in a
programme that would have sent Thammasat graduates throughout the country, increasing his influence
at the local level. Phibun correctly saw that Pridi was building influence in the provinces, and, under
pressure, Pridi took a rather sudden trip overseas, during which time Phibun consolidated his power.
See Judith Stowe, Siam becomes Thailand (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 1991), pp. 858;
Virginia Thompson, Thailand: The new Siam (New York: Paragon, 1967), pp. 889. Since Pridi had
visited Sulongs school the year before, perhaps it is not surprising that the school was closed at that
time. It marked the first (but not the last) time that Sulong would get caught up in the political struggle
between Pridi and Phibun. The school then became the headquarters for an organisation established to
encourage leading ones life according to Islamic principles.
It is important to note that Haji Sulong was sufficiently integrated into the political
system that he would support a Buddhist with a similar political ideology rather
than a Muslim with a different ideology. In other words, the politics of a candidate
was more important to him than ethnicity. Both Charoen and Haji Sulong were
new thinkers, modernists who shared a belief in the rhetoric of democracy and
equality promoted by Pridi Phanomyong and some other leaders in Bangkok at the
time. With Haji Sulongs support, Charoen would later be elected mayor of the municipality
of Pattani. After the Second World War, he would be elected to the
In 1938, Field Marshall Phibun Songkhram became prime minister and pursued
a policy of forced assimilation nationwide. Forced assimilation and the reshaping of
culture hit particularly hard in MalayMuslim areas, where provisions came into conflict,
not only with local culture, but also with religious practices. School curricula
were revised to include more Thai culture, and all lessons were to be conducted in
Thai. Traditional hats, headscarves and sarongs were all prohibited. The Muslim
courts previously used for civil cases were eliminated. Objections to these measures
were raised by the Muslim members of parliament (MPs) in parliament and through
other means, but to no avail.82 Effectively, Muslims were forced to choose either a
Phibun style Thai (Buddhist) identity, or a local identity, which was really no choice
at all. Passive resistance to the government became widespread. When there was a dispute
between Muslims, it would be arbitrated informally. If it could not be settled,
those living in the border provinces would appeal it to courts in Malaysia. In
Pattani, where the border was distant and inconvenient, the imams in the province
elected Sulong to serve as the arbitrator of those conflicts that could not be solved
locally.83 Sulong was also influential in creating an informal organisation to promote
co-operation among local ulama and the continued use of Islamic law.84 Sulong thus
became the leader of the informal Islamic legal system in Pattani, a position indicating
that he was held in high regard for his knowledge of Islam, and a position indicating
his own choice of identity.
Heavy promotion of the policies of forced assimilation coincided with the outbreak
of the Pacific War. Although Thailand quickly capitulated to the Japanese, a
resistance movement was established both overseas and in Thailand, spreading to
all parts of the country, including the MalayMuslim provinces. In the lower south,
the British decided to support the resistance movement under the leadership of separatist
leader Tengku Mahayiddin, offering him, he believed, support for his cause after the
war. Some, including Tengku Mahayiddin himself, saw independence as a desirable
alternative to the harsh policies of the Phibun regime.85 For others, support for the
resistance to Phibun and the Japanese allowed a reconciliation of Malay and Thai
identities, albeit uneasily. The mobilisation and militarisation of provincial society,
mostly in urban (Thai Buddhist) areas, the difficult wartime economy, and British
covert support for separatist leaders in Malaysia who promised to fight Phibun all
further undermined Bangkoks relations with the lower south, and support for separatism
grew. However, after the war, Mahayiddin and his movement received very limited
support from the British. They were left to seek other means to win their goals.86
At the close of the war, a new government was put into place. It found itself
facing a complex situation in the south. During the war, the northern and eastern
Malay states had been returnedto Thailand by the Japanese, so that southern
Thailand and northern Malaya were reunited after their earlier separation in 1909.
Then after the war, while the United States wanted to treat Thailand as an ally because
of the co-operation of the Free Thai resistance movement during the war, the British
wanted to treat Thailand as a defeated enemy. With British policy uncertain, the separation
of the lower south must have seemed a distinct possibility. During this period,
Sulong developed channels of communication to both the British and to
Mahayiddin.87 This provided insurance for Sulong, should Mahayiddin succeed. It
also was probably an attempt to ensure, and increase, his influence in the region.
As for the government, under the circumstances, it had little choice but to try to
win back support. Pridi, with the guidance of his Muslim friend and advisor
Chaem Phromyong,88 returned to the policies of accommodation and integration pursued
after the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy. The highest profile move to
improve relations with the leaders from the lower south came when Sulong and others
were invited to Bangkok to meet King Ananda. The King donated 20,000 baht to promote
religion, education and welfare in the region.89 Pridi even indicated a willingness
to allow autonomy, within a Siamese state, providing a means to reconcile plural identities
to those who remained loyal to both Siamese and Malay identities.90
As part of its reconciliation policy, the government approved the Patronage of
Islam Act, which recognised the role of religious leaders in the lower south, and provided
a structure of authority for them. In addition to the Jularachamontri, the
national leader, there would be a central Islamic committee, provincial committees
and mosque-level committees. At the provincial level, all the imams from the province
would choose the committee. In this way, the government could learn who comprised
the recognised leaders in MalayMuslim communities. At the same time, government
recognition of what had been informal leadership both reinforced the influence of
those leaders, and gave them formal control over mosque committees and their
imams, increasing their power considerably. In Pattani, Haji Sulong was elected president
of the provincial Islamic committee. With Sulongs support, his old friend
Jaroen Suepsaeng, the mayor of Pattani during the war and a Pridi supporter, won
election to the parliament in 1946. As president of the Pattani Provincial Islamic
Committee, Sulong had a formal platform for expressing his views, and through his
long-time relationship with Jaroen, and indirectly with Pridi, he had taken a clear political
stand. He was firmly positioned in both local and Thai (Siamese) national
Sulong also took an interest in the governments initiative to restore first the
system of Islamic judges, and then a revamped system of Islamic courts in
Thailands MalayMuslim provinces.91 Sulong again can be seen following the path
set out by Abduh, who had during his career become involved in the judicial system
in Egypt. Sulong was unhappy with both government proposals, so that his position
became not only deeply political but oppositional. The government wanted to select
the judges itself, and to require that they be able to speak and write Thai. This would
have advantaged the former judges, removed by the Phibun government, in filling the
positions. Sulong, who had filled the position informally since the justices were suspended,
wanted the local imams to vote on the new judges, which, given his level of
support, would have allowed his preferred candidates to win. The government later
proposed an examination for those who wished the position, but Sulong held firm,
on the grounds that the judges had to be chosen by the imams, not the secular government.
The policies of reconciliation continued, as pondok schools were allowed to teach
without regard to the curriculum restrictions put in place by Phibun. Then in
response to numerous complaints about government officials, in March of 1947,
Pridi ally Prime Minister Luang Thawin Thamrongnawasawat established a committee
composed of four government officials and the Jularachamontri to go to the south
to investigate. This seeming opportunity would set in motion events that would lead
to Sulongs imprisonment. When religious leaders in Pattani learned that the committee
would soon visit, they organised a meeting to discuss what problems should be
raised. About 100 people attended the meeting, which chose Haji Sulong as representative
to make seven specific requests of the government:94
1. That the four southern provinces be governed as a unit, with a Muslim governor.
2. That for the first seven years of the school curriculum, Malay be allowed as the
language of instruction.
3. That all taxes collected in the four southern provinces be expended there.
4. That 85 percent of the government officials be local Malays.
5. That Malay and Thai be used together as the languages of government.
6. That the provincial Islamic committees have authority over the practice of Islam.
7. That the Islamic judicial system be separated from the provincial court system.
It is unclear whether Luang Thamrong ever intended to act on the recommendations of
the committee, or whether he merely intended to use it to gauge, or to manipulate public
opinion. However, people in the south took the committee seriously, and Sulong and
other religious leaders coordinated a response. Having sought public opinion, Sulong
must have felt a responsibility to follow up on the issues raised to the committee, as
he subsequently established a Seven Requestsmovement for this purpose.
The separation of the court systems, perhaps the matter of greatest concern to
Sulong, had already been rejected. Of the other requests, the first was the most difficult,
as it would grant administrative autonomy to the four MalayMuslim provinces.
95 The committee met Haji Sulong and held extensive discussions over the
requests, but had no authority to make decisions. It also listened to similar requests
from Narathiwat, with additional requests for radio broadcasts in Malay, for Friday
holidays, and for a campaign to convince Thais not to use the derogatory word
khaekto refer to Malays. And it heard complaints about local officials, according
to its original purpose. Whatever Luang Thamrong intended, the bureaucrats were
not willing to take seriously these complaints against their own. Another committee
made up of representatives of the ministries concerned investigated 20 of the complaints.
Twelve of the complaints they considered were against government officials,
and in every case they decided that due to lack of evidence, the complaint should be
dismissed.96 As for the seven requests themselves, a government response was slow in
coming. After an interpellation in parliament by his friend Jaroen received an unsatisfactory
response, Haji Sulong began to organise his movement to pressure the government
into considering the requests more quickly, and, he hoped, more
Sulongs continued efforts to force the government to separate the court systems,
even after it had compromised in the selection process for justices, seems to have
convinced the government that he was stubborn, and would not listen to reason.
Sulong further alarmed the government when, in following up on the Seven
Requests/Demands, he developed an organisational structure, a plan of action, and
a mission statement, based around the twin goals of preserving Malay ethnicity and
creating an autonomous unit for the MalayMuslim provinces, under Thai rule.
For Sulong, such a solution would have reconciled Thai and Malay identities; for
the government, it amounted to separatism. Sulong then began to raise funds and
to travel around the region speaking in mosques about his movement and its goals.
He also announced that, in accordance with the wishes of the people expressed
in the seven requests/demands meeting, he would invite Haji Mahayiddin, a son of
the last sultan of Pattani and leader of the separatist movement, to return and govern
the four southern provinces.97 None of this was considered secret, and when the
governor of Pattani was notified, he chose only to continue to collect information.
During this same period, the separatist movement, based in Kelantan and led by
Haji Mahayiddin, spurred by rising sentiments of nationalism and independence in
Malaysia, increased its agitation. There was a rise in robberies, especially of
Buddhists, some schools were burned, and violent incidents in general increased
about the middle of the year 1947. A British reporter from the Straits Times was
invited; she wrote a story about the Sultanate of Pattani and the way its people
were being repressed by Thai authorities. Haji Sulong was the host of the reporter
when she visited Thailand, so that some officials saw this as evidence that he was
involved in a separatist conspiracy with Haji Mahayiddin and with foreigners.
About the same time, a large meeting was held in Kelantan, with leaders invited
from both sides of the border, where the liberation of Pattani was discussed. With
such activities coming while Sulong was promoting autonomy and the return of
Haji Mahayiddin, some Thai officials inevitably saw the two movements as one.
They claimed that Haji Sulong was the leader of the Pattani branch of Haji
Mahayiddins movement.98 However, as Surin Pitusuwan argued, Haji Sulongs
machinations were much more complex.99 Bangkok politicians were in contact
with Mahayiddin, at least intermittently, throughout this period.100 Sulong would
not have wanted to be left out of any arrangement made between Bangkok and
Mahayiddin. He also may have hoped to use the threat of an alliance with
Mahayiddin to improve his leverage with the government. In a time of political tension,
it was a risky approach, one that ultimately proved too provocative, as Haji
Sulong and his movement came under intense scrutiny.
Gradually, the government response to the Seven Requests/Demands became
clear. Only the request to separate the courts was refused outright. The other requests
were either referred to the ministries concerned (an indirect refusal), accepted in principle,
but considered possible only in the long term (such as an increase in Malay
Muslim officials), or, in a few cases, limited concessions were granted (such as
radio broadcasts of news in Malay, five hours a week of teaching Malay in elementary
schools where qualified teachers were available, and agreement in principle that government
offices would close on Friday). In addition, more development money was
promised, including money for provincial mosques, when it became available.
In November of 1947, a military coup overthrew the Pridi-allied regime and
placed a conservative pro-royalist Democrat party government in nominal power.
The following month, as a part of a policy to crack down on the southern separatist
movement, the Ministry of the Interior decided to transfer the governor of Pattani.
The proposed new governor, Phrayarattanaphakdi, had left the civil service many
years earlier, and before agreeing to return, exacted a promise of support. Sulong
believed that Phrayarattanaphakdi still held a grudge against him, since Sulong had
not supported him when he wished to run for election.101 At about the same time,
there were reports that Bangkok would open a dialogue with Haji Mahayiddin, and
through the auspices of a Muslim senator, had invited him to Bangkok.102 Haji
Sulong travelled to Kelantan to find out if this report was true, and when he was
told that it was accurate, he promised to draw up a petition in support of autonomy
for Haji Mahayiddin to use in his negotiations. Upon his return, Haji Sulong met with
the new governor, and reported his plans. However, when his supporters circulated
the petition, they were arrested, and on 16 January 1948 the police came and arrested
Haji Sulong at his home on charges of conspiracy in a separatist movement.103
The trial began in March in Nakhon Sithammarat and lasted for nearly a year
during which time the accused were held without bail. On 28 February 1949, Haji
Sulong and three others were convicted and sentenced to three years in jail. When the
prosecutor appealed, the sentence was increased to four years and eight months. Haji
Sulongs appeal was rejected. He served most of his sentence at Bangkhwang Prison in
Bangkok, and was released three months early in the hope that it would appease his
followers in the south. Some 1,000 people were there to meet him at the train station
on his return home in March of 1952.104
While in prison, Sulong wrote about the events that had led to his conviction. He
claimed that the government had pressured witnesses to affect the outcome. Of his
own actions, he wrote:
The people of Pattani then suffered a lot of hardship as a result of discriminatory practices
of government officials. Those who did not agree with the officials were accused of
various offenses. The accused were then brought in. Halfway along the journey, they
were said to have attempted to escape and then shot dead. They died for nothing.
There were not just one or two such incidents, but tens of them . Citizens faced extortion,
as they were accused of all sorts of offenses. If they failed to accede to the demands,
they would be detained, and sometimes shot . In short, whoever had any sense of
social conscience could not stand learning about these terrible incidents caused by officials
from that period until my arrest .105
It is not surprising, but it is also disappointing, that my movement is based upon
their foundation: that is to raise the status of Islam. My movement does not violate the
legal framework set by the government. Since I could not avoid the present circumstances
[prison] I should be at peace with myself, and try to be patient.106
After Haji Sulongs release, provincial authorities continued to keep a close watch
on him. He was required to check in at regular intervals, even though he had limited
his activities. At the end of 1953, the district officer called him in and asked him to
stop teaching. He did so, but, unable to work, he struggled to support his family, and
wrote a letter of protest to the Ministry of the Interior, stating that he was not a
separatist, that he would not engage in such activities, and that if he were to be
under restriction permanently, he might have to leave the country.107 Denying his
right to teach in his school was effectively taking away what had been the great purpose
of his life, the purpose that had led him to stay in Thailand. By April of 1954,
meetings between separatists in Kelantan and supporters in the MalayMuslim provinces
were again increasing. Banditry was on the rise. The Pattani MP,
translates literally to journey, and it may be that Sulong here is thinking of his lifes journey more broadly
rather than his political movement more narrowly. If so, he would seemingly be stating that his lifelong
task was to raise the status of Islam, and he had not violated the law along the way. He also wrote: ‘… I
am doing what the prophet had done, that is to alleviate [sic, elevate?] our religion and position.
Furthermore in my struggle I did not go against the law of the country. Hence, I accept the Will of
God, with willingness and patience.See Mohamed bin Apandi, Translations from Suara Siswa (Kuala
Lumpur), Dec. 1970, Articles by: National Liberation Front of Patani Front, mimeograph held by the
Cornell University library, p. 8.
Phraphiphitphakdi, reported to the government that the root cause of the rise in
crime and discontent in the south was the decline in rubber prices. This, he claimed,
had upset plantation owners and had led to widespread unemployment, especially
among young male rubber tappers who were angry and had too much free time.108
However, the government was not convinced that rubber prices were to blame. At
about the same time, Haji Sulongs good friend, Jaroen Suebsaeng, former MP
from Pattani, came under investigation for involvement in the Peace Rebellion
(Kabot Santiphap). Jaroen was arrested and imprisoned. This may have further deepened
government suspicion of Haji Sulong, and, a few months afterwards, he and
some of his close associates were told to report to police at Songkhla. Haji Sulong
took along his eldest son, Ahmat, to interpret and to provide a contact in case of
need. On 13 August 1954, they reported to the police as ordered. They were last
spotted at noon prayers in a mosque in Hat Yai, guarded by armed police officers.
No bodies were ever found.109
Pilgrimages, identity and Sulong
Sulongs educational pilgrimage to Mecca reshaped his life in many ways. It is not
surprising that it had such a profound impact when we consider that he was there
during his formative period, from the age of 12 years, when he was just beginning
his education, to the age of 32 years, when he had grown to maturity, found an occupation,
married, had a child, and grieved for the loss of his first wife and his young
son. What is rather striking is that his vacationto Siam would so completely
move him from his former path, that, rather than spend the rest of his life in
Mecca, he would never return there, even when he found his life in danger in
Thailand. Despite his time in Mecca, despite his strong identification with the Arab
and Jawi communities there, Sulong still retained a strong local identity that would
become his primary identity upon his return.
The strength of this identity, and its relationship to Sulongs other identities, can
be explained, in large part, through an exploration of his pilgrimages. We have noted
that Jawi pilgrimages tended to promote three types of identity: a universal Islamic
identity, a local identity, and a Jawi identity, with the latter generally the weakest of
the three. We can observe aspects of all these identities in Sulongs life. Sulongs marriage
to his second wife, Sabiya, gave him a close connection to at least part of a
Jawi-wide community, and he was, for many other Jawi, a respected (though still
young) teacher. His local identity, while he remained at Mecca, was seemingly
weak, since he never had any intention to return. It is only in the pattern of his
later life that we can see how strongly he retained it. Upon his return to Thailand,
it would take on new prominence, as he found a way to align it with his Islamic identity,
and his identity as a scholar. Sulong found his personal link between the local and
were released and disappeared along the way home. The most widely told and widely believed
story alleges that they were tortured, forced to drink alcohol, killed, and their bodies were stuffed into a
barrel and dumped into the ocean near Songkhla. Chaloemkiat, Resistance to government policy,
the universal in the teachings of an Egyptian scholar and leader respected by many in
the Jawi community, Muhammad Abduh. Upon his return to Thailand, Sulong saw a
need to put into practice the teachings of Abduh, which had become the focus of his
scholarship. We cannot know exactly when his vacationto Siam became instead his
lifes work. What we can tell is that upon his return, he made a deeply personal pilgrimage
through the MalayMuslim Siamese provinces teaching the Islamic reformism
of Abduh. After two years of peregrinations, his lifes work in Siam was clear
to him. The school he subsequently established was not the typical pondok of other
returning scholars. Rather it was a modern and progressive school. Where initially
he had taken his message to the people of the MalayMuslim provinces, now they
would come to him, in a sort of reverse pilgrimage, with him at the centre.
Sulong soon became involved in Siamese politics, supporting the modernist
faction, as he would have seen it. As we noted, he attached more importance to his
ideology, and his relationship with the Sino-Thai Jaroen Suebsaeng, than he did to
his ethnicity, actively supporting Jaroen rather than fellow MalayMuslim
Phraphiphitphakdi, son of the last sultan of Yaring. When the Phibun government
later came to power, Sulong resisted assimilation, but in a relatively passive fashion,
as he became a judge in an informal system of Islamic jurisprudence, designed to
allow MalayMuslims to seek justice within their own legal system, rather than
through the secular courts. This provided the basis for one of his later political battles
with the state.
There are many ways to interpret Sulongs political activities after the war. The
separatist movements in the south have sought to claim his legacy, emphasising his
grievances against the government. The government has also sought to paint him
as a separatist. Sulong himself, and his son after him, tell a different story. They
describe a man who was concerned with social justice, who sought to protect his
people through the political means available to him at the time. In some instances
he sought help from the state. He also communicated, and to some degree
co-operated with other potential sources of assistance, including the British and the
leader of the separatist movement. This kept Sulongs options open, of course. As
Surin noted,110 this was probably a means of applying pressure to a government
that was also courting the separatist leader, seeking arrangements of its own.
In trying to understand Sulong and his life, it is essential to keep in mind that
most of the time, people do not have to choose between plural identities; indeed,
even seemingly contradictory identities can be simultaneously embraced under
most circumstances. There is nothing about Haji Sulong Abdulkadir al Fatani, his pilgrimage,
or his identity that is singular. Rather, his pilgrimage, like his life, and his
identity, can only be understood as plural. Sulongs pilgrimage to Mecca came at a
time of great pluralism in the Middle East: pluralism of educational centres, pluralism
of ideas, pluralism of politics. This pluralism may have contributed to his complex
identities. The religious and nationalist nature of his pilgrimage also contributed.
Indeed, the key characteristic of a religio-nationalist pilgrimage seems to be to
enhance the multiple identities that all hold, making choices among them all the
more difficult. For Sulong, one identity is clearly visible throughout: his commitment
to Islamic modernism. It is rather striking that it was this commitment that allowed
him to effectively bridge his universal and local identities. At the same time, it drew
him into Siamese politics on what would ultimately be the losing side. Ironically, it
was his involvement in Thai politics, rather than any attempt to separate from it,
that would lead to his untimely death.
In writing of pilgrimages and the creation of nationalism, Anderson wrote of the
impact of large numbers of people all undertaking new types of pilgrimages, which led
to the birth of nationalism. And yet older forms of pilgrimage did not disappear,
remaining to produce alternative forms of identity. Gellner, writing of nationalism
at the same time, argued that Islam was uniquely resistant to nationalism, and that
fundamentalism would preclude national identities for those of that faith. Missing
from both these analyses is the deeply personal nature of identity, and of a pilgrimage.
While it may be true that the combining of large numbers of new bureaucratic and
educational pilgrimages created the then new national identity, it is only when we closely
examine individual pilgrimages that the complexity of the experience and the
consequent complexity of identity appear. Exploring the different types of pilgrimages,
ziarah, the Haj and educational pilgrimages, also highlights the linking of
the universal to the local, in ways that these analyses have overlooked. Even today,
as the Haj has become much easier and cheaper, allowing many more people to
undertake this central religious pilgrimage, the local aspect has perhaps been strengthened.
Pilgrims attend the Haj under national quotas, generally with a tour group from
their own local area, so that the experience is shared primarily with a local community.
And while superficial impressions of the pilgrimage may be widely shared, the
deeply personal ones are often shared only with close friends and family.
Religious identity, ethnic identity, local identity, one or perhaps two different
national identities, and a sense of personal mission all crystallised in the pilgrimage
of Haji Sulong. His Muslim identity did not preclude his national identity, or
his local identity, as we see a complex interweaving of all his many identities helping
to shape his decisions. Sulongs experience, writ large, helps to explain the plurality of
identities among both individuals and groups in places such as the lower south of
Thailand. It also suggests some of the ways that individuals struggle to reconcile
their own diverse identities in difficult political circumstances, a challenge many
face in the Kingdom of Patani/Thailand today.
**James Ockey is Doctor at Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand. Correspondence in
connection with this paper should be addressed to: J.Ockey@pols.canterbury.ac.nz. The author would
like to thank Den Tohmeena, Supoj Chaengraew, Chaloemkiat Khunthongphet and the librarians at
the National Archives of Thailand and the Cornell University library for their assistance with the research
for this article, and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies reviewers for their helpful comments on the
1 al-Fatani (of Pattani) is affixed to the names of scholars at Mecca who come from Pattani. Some of
these ideas, including the contextualisation of the Sulong story, first appeared in brief form in James
Ockey, Botrian jak prawatsat: Haji Sulong kap jangwat muslim phak tai’ [Lessons from history: Haji
Sulong and the southern Muslim provinces], Sinlapawatthanatham, 25, 6 (2004): 1009. I would like
to thank Supot Chaengrew for his encouragement and support in that work.
2 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, Imagined communities: Reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 53–4.
3 Ibid., pp. 15–16.
4 Ibid., pp. 55–8.
5 Ibid., pp. 121–2.
6 Ibid., p. 115 and following.
7 Robert Hefner, ‘Reimagine community: A social history of Muslim education in Pasuruan, East Java’,
in Asian visions of authority, ed. Charles Keyes, Laurel Kendall and Helen Hardacre (Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 1994), pp. 82, 94, also noted this gap, but chose to explore educational pilgrimages within the local Islamic school system rather than the educational pilgrimage to Mecca.
8 Ernest Gellner, Nationalism (London: Phoenix, 1997), p. 81.

9 Ibid., p. 83.
10 Ibid., p. 84.
11 For a detailed summary and critique of Gellners argument, and its application to Southeast Asia, see
Tristan James Mabry, Modernization, nationalism and Islam: An examination of Ernest Gellners writings
on Muslim society with reference to Indonesia and MalaysiaEthnic and Racial Studies, 21 (1998):
12 See Frederick Mathewson Denny, The meaning of ummah in the QuranHistory of Religions, 15
(1975): 3470. Oddly, Denny claims that ummah means community or nation, (p. 44) as if the two
words are interchangeable, although he consistently gives it as community in translation. Of course in
Quranic times, there was nothing like a nation in the Middle East, but rather tribal organisations, trading
centres such as Mecca and Medina, and the two great but weakening empires in Persia and Byzantium.
13 For a general discussion of ziarah throughout the Muslim world, see Surinder M. Bhardwaj,
‘Non-Hajj pilgrimage in Islam: A neglected dimension of religious circulation’, Journal of Cultural
Geography, 17, 2 (1998): 69–88. On ziarah in the Jawi community in Java and its relationship to the
pre-Islamic past, see James Fox, ‘Ziarah visits to the tombs of the wali, the founders of Islam on
Java’, in Merle C. Ricklefs, Islam in the Indonesian social context (Clayton, Victoria: Centre of
Southeast Asian Studies Monash University, 1991), pp. 19–36.
14 G. W. J. Drewes, ‘Indonesia: Mysticism and activism’, in Unity and variety in Muslim civilization, ed.
Gustave E. von Grunebaum (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1955), pp. 297–8, described this process for
Java, where it was probably most coherent due to the desire to create a link to the Majapahit kingdom. If
he is correct, the nine Hindu guardian deities were transformed into Muslim saints, or wali, who in the
tales became responsible for all the cultural traditions being repackaged as Islamic. Fox discusses the
legend of the wali in detail in ‘Ziarah visits to the tombs of the wali’. One version of the legends can
be found in Ian Mustafa, Cerita Sejarah Wali Sanga (Bandung: Indah Jaya, 1985).
15 I have been told that in the past ziarah pilgrimages were made to Kruse, a mosque at the old capital
of Pattani; however, that has not been the case for many years now. Since the 1970s, Kruse has been a
political site for Muslims rather than a pilgrimage site. An associated Chinese temple long has been, and
remains, a pilgrimage site for Chinese. See Chaiwat Satha-anand, The life of this world: Negotiated lives in
Thai society (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2005), ch. 3. The Taloh Manoh Mosque in Narathiwat,
built, according to legend, on the instruction of Haji Saihu in 1769 is another likely site, as it has a
tomb in the same style as those at other ziarah pilgrimage sites. The minaret is built in the style of a
Chinese pavilion. For a photograph and a brief history, see http://www.tourismthailand.org (last accessed
on 16 Sept. 2010).
16 Some from the lower classes were able to make their way to Mecca for the Haj, generally itinerant
holy men who travelled overland or servants travelling with wealthy patrons. In later years, as transportation became easier, some were able to borrow enough from friends and family for the trip
17 Fox, ‘Ziarah visits to the tombs of the wali’, pp. 19–20, noted one particularly apt example of shared
pilgrimages in Cirebon at the mausoleum of Sunan Gunung Jati, where the tomb of Putri Cina comprises
part of the complex. ‘According to popular tradition, when Putri Cina married Sunan Gunung Jati, she
converted to Islam. But her conversion was only partial. She was converted to Islam from the waist up,
and as a consequence of this partial conversion, non-Muslim Chinese are permitted to approach her
tomb and light joss-sticks to that part of her that remained unconverted.’ Duncan McCargo has recently
informed me of a similar site in Pattani province, where people from different religions make pilgrimages, so that this is not unknown in the lower South.
18 Nelly van Doorn-Harder and Kees de Jong, ‘The pilgrimage to Tembayat: Tradition and revival in
Indonesian Islam’, Muslim World, 91 (2001): 339. In recent years, ziarah has changed, as it has come to
resemble a kind of spiritual tourism, carried out in air-conditioned buses, led by knowledgeable tour
guides. On the one hand, it seldom includes the kind of sacrifice and commitment it required in the
past. On the other hand, it is available to many more people. The identities it generates are thus broader,
but perhaps less intense. This, too, is like the Haj.
19 Virginia Matheson and Anthony C. Milner, Perceptions of the Haj: Five Malay texts (Singapore:
ISEAS Research Notes and Discussion Paper, 46, 1984), pp. 4–9. Note that the facts of the trip are
less important than the account that is told and remembered, for our purposes.
20 Ibid., p. 13.
21 Recognising the ongoing potency of such sites, in more recent years, the Suharto regime tried to
manipulate ziarah pilgrimages. See van Doorn-Harder and de Jong, ‘The pilgrimage to Tembayat’, p. 328.
22 William Roff, ‘The conduct of the Haj from Malaya, and the first Malay pilgrimage officer’, SARI
(Institute of Malay Language Literature and Culture) Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Occasional
Papers No. 1, 1975, p. 96, noted that in 1924, 540 of the 3,317 registered pilgrims died in the Hijaz,

23 Michael N. Pearson, Pilgrimage to Mecca: The Indian experience 1500–1800 (Princeton: Markus
‘some 16 percent, a rate not untypical of the time’.
Weiner, 1996), p. 52. During this period, pilgrims from the Jawi community were numbered with the
Indian pilgrims. Pearson (pp. 56–7) estimated the Indian pilgrims separately at around 15,000 during
the period of his study; he gave no estimate for Southeast Asia, but subtracted out 1,000 from his calculations in accounting for them.
24 William Roff, The origins of Malay nationalism (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1994) [o.d.
1967], 2nd edn.
25 Mary Byrne McDonnell, ‘The conduct of Hajj from Malaysia and its socio-economic impact on
Malay society: A descriptive and analytical study, 1860–1981’ (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University,
1986), p. 76. These figures would include most pilgrims from Pattani, as they generally travelled to
Mecca via Malaysia or Singapore. We should also note that travel and migration from the Middle
East to Southeast Asia also increased dramatically. Huub de Jonge notes that at the turn of the nineteenth
century, there were only 621 Arabs in Java. By 1870, there were 13,000 in all of the Netherlands East
Indies, increasing to 27,000 by 1900. Most came from the Hadhramaut to trade, some came from the
Hijaz to accompany pilgrims. See Huub de Jonge, ‘Discord and solidarity among the Arabs in the
Netherlands East Indies, 1900–1942’, Indonesia, 55 (1993): 74, 75.
26 Calculated from McDonnell, ‘The conduct of Hajj from Malaysia’, p. 631 and J. Vrendenbregt, ‘The
Haddj: Some of its features and functions in Indonesia’, Bijdragen tot de Tall-, Land- en Volkenkunde,
118 (1962): 149. No actual figures are available for the First World War period since consular offices
were withdrawn. Despite the seeming precision of the figures after about 1884, the numbers should be
considered rough estimates at least until 1927 when a passport system was implemented; see Roff,
‘Conduct of the Haj from Malaya’, p. 112. The only figure I have been able to find for Siam is 245
pilgrims in the year 1898 (Michael Francis Laffan, Islamic nationhood and colonial Indonesia (London
and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), p. 218). Nearby Kelantan sent just 70 pilgrims in 1920, in
the aftermath of the war, and averaged about 275 over the next decade (McDonnell, ‘The conduct of
Hajj from Malaysia’, p. 636).

27 Matheson and Milner’s contention that pilgrims before the 1860s saw the Haj through the lens of
traditional court culture is somewhat difficult to evaluate because both the accounts presented come
from members of the court, while none of the three presented from the later period came from that
group. That at least some pilgrims had different experiences is evident in the Padri movement, inspired
in 1803 by three returning Hajis who taught a rather puritanical version of Islam that would lead to a
revolution against the Dutch. See Anthony Reid, ‘Nineteenth century pan-Islam in Indonesia and
Malaysia’, Journal of Asian Studies, 6, 2 (1967): 272.
28 Matheson and Milner, Perceptions of the Haj, p. 23.
29 Mohammad Rezuan Othman, ‘The role of Makka-educated Malays in the development of early
Islamic scholarship and education in Malaysia’, Journal of Islamic Studies, 9, 2 (1998): 147.
30 Azyumardi Azra, The origins of Islamic reformism in Southeast Asia (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen &
Unwin; Honolulu: University of Hawai’i, 2004), p. 42. According to Azra, the first of these, al-Masa’il
al-Jawiyyah (the questions of the Jawi people) may have been underway as early as the 1650s, but certainly in the 17th century. While it is possible that many of these students could have been pilgrims, since
extended stays were then common, there were at least some who came primarily to study.

31 Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, pp. 52–3, noted that Hamzah al-Fansuri, a scholar who died early
in the 17th (or perhaps the 16th) century, spent time in Mecca. He also spent time in Siam (see Peter
Riddell, Islam and the Malay–Indonesian world (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001), pp.
104–5). The much more prominent Abd al-Ra’uf, or Ali al-Jawi al-Fansuri al-Sinkili, from what is
now Aceh, travelled to Mecca in about the 1640s (Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, p. 71; Riddell,
Islam and the Malay–Indonesian world, pp. 125–6). The third, Muhammad Yusuf, or Abd Allah Abu
al-Mahasin al-Taj al-Khalwati al-Maqassari, went to Mecca at about the middle of the 17th century.
Both al-Sinkili and al-Maqassari studied with al-Kurani at Mecca, and thus may have been among
those asking questions. (The other major ‘Jawi’ scholar from the period, al-Raniri, was born in
Gujarat (Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, p. 54).)
32 I base this observation on the evidence available in Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, Riddell, Islam
and the Malay–Indonesian world and the other secondary sources employed here. Abd al-Ra’uf, or
al-Sinkili, was relatively young at about age 26 years when he left for the Middle East. According to
Azra, even Daud ibn Abd Allah al-Fatani, who arrived over a century later, was in his mid-twenties, if
not older.
33 Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, pp. 122–6; Virginia Matheson and M.B. Hooker, ‘Jawi literature
in Pattani: The maintenance of an Islamic tradition’, JMBRAS, 61,1 (1988): 14–15; Mohd. Nor bin Ngah,
Kitab Jawi: Islamic thought of the Malay Muslim scholars (Singapore: ISEAS Research and Discussion
Paper, no. 33, 1983), p. 6. When a Malay language government printing press was established in
Mecca in 1884, a Pattani scholar, Ahmad bin Muhammad Zain bin Mustafa bin Muhammad
al-Fatani (see below), was appointed to supervise it. He had many of Daud’s works printed. See
Matheson and Hooker, ‘Jawi literature in Pattani’, pp. 21, 28–9.
34 Othman, ‘The role of Makka-educated Malays’, p. 147.

35 William Roff, ‘South-east Asian Islam in the nineteenth century’, in The Cambridge history of Islam,
vol. 2, ed. Peter Malcolm Holt (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1970), p. 177, noted that in Singapore
there were scholars from the region, including from Pattani, who had studied at Mecca. There were also
scholars from the Hadhramaut and the Hijaz in Singapore.
36 Trengganu, Aceh and Singapore in different historical periods had some status as centres of
37 Laffan, Islamic nationhood and colonial Indonesia, p. 48.
38 Ibid., pp. 70–1, 75; Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, Mekka in the latter part of the 19th century; Daily
life, customs and learning of the Moslims of the East-Indian-Archipelago, trans. James Henry Monahan
(Leiden: Brill, 1970), pp. 6–8.
39 Laffan, Islamic nationhood and colonial Indonesia, p. 218.
40 See Nico Kaptein, ‘Fatwas as a unifying factor in Indonesian history’, in Islam in the era of globalization (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002).
41 Chaloemkiat Khunthongphet, ‘Kantotan naiyobai rattaban nai si jangwat phak tai khong prathet
Thai doi kan nam khong Hayi Sulong Abdunkadae’ [Resistance to government policy in the four
southern provinces of Thailand under the leadership of Haji Sulong Abdulqadir] (M.A. thesis,
Silapakon, 1986; published in Pattani: Munnithi Ajan Haji Sulong Abdulqadir Tohmeena, 1989), p. 2.
Chaloemkiat’s work is the most detailed account of Sulong’s life, and the source for many of the basic
facts here.
42 George McT. Kahin, Nationalism and revolution in Indonesia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1952),
pp. 29–36, 52–3; Anderson, Imagined communities, p. 116 and following.
43 Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, p. 143.

44 Kittisak Nakmuang, Kanburana kanchat nai hua jangwat chai daen phak tai’ [Restoring the nation
in the southern border provinces] (M.A. thesis, Thammasat, 1995), pp. 18794; Rattiya Salae,
Kanpatisamphan rawang sasanik thi prakot nai jangwat Pattani Yala lae Narathiwat [The interaction
between religious adherents in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat] (Bangkok: Samnakngan Kongthun
Sanapsanun Kanwijai, 2001), pp. 578; Krasuang Mahatthai, Prawat mahatthai suan phumiphak jangwat
Pattani [History of the Ministry of the Interior by Province, Pattani province] (Bangkok: Ministry of the
Interior, 1985), pp. 423.
45 Kittisak, Restoring the nation, pp. 1913.
46 Interview, Den Tohmeena, 10 Feb. 2004.
47 Numan Hayimasae, Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (18951954): Perjuangan dan sumbangan beliau
kepada masyarakat Melayu Patani’ (M.A. thesis, University Sains Malaysia, 2002), p. 81.
48 Chaloemkiat, Resistance to government policy, p. 2. According to Numan, Haji Sulong Abdul
Kadir (18951954), p. 83, however, Sulong studied at the school of Haji Abdul Rashid bin Abdul
Rahman at Sungai Pandang in Pattani.
49 Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, p. 124; Riddell, Islam and the MalayIndonesian world, p. 199. In
Malay, Kruse is spelled Kresik. It may also be worth noting that according to legend, Malik Ibrahim, one
of the nine Wali Sanga, spread Islam to Pattani before moving on to Java (Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism, p. 124), where he is said to have ruled in Gresik, a commercial centre.
50 According to Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, pp. 83–4, after the death of his second
cousin, Syeikh Wan Ahmad (in 1908, see below), Sulong moved in with Tuan Minal, or Pak Do Omar
(full name, Syeikh Zainal Abidin al-Fatani), a member of the family. Numan does not specify where
Sulong stayed before that time; however, if Wan Ahmad was his second cousin, as Numan claims, he
may have stayed in his household, which would also explain his move at the time of Wan Ahmad’s death.
51 Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, pp. 83–4. Wan Ahmad was born in Sena Janjar,
Pattani in 1856, and studied at Pondok Bendang Daya, before travelling to the Middle East for further
study. He spent time in Jerusalem and Egypt, settling in Mecca where he taught at Masjid al-Haram,
the central mosque of Mecca, and of the Ka‘ba. He published a large number of books in Arabic and
Malay, on topics ranging from science to history to politics, and was apparently also a medical practitioner and researcher. He was also given responsibility for the first state-sponsored Malay language
printing press in 1884. See Othman, ‘The role of Makka-educated Malays’, pp. 148–9; Azra, Origins of
Islamic reformism, p. 151; Matheson and Hooker, ‘Jawi literature in Pattani’, pp. 21, 28–9. The progressive, scientific orientation of this prominent Pattani scholar must have contributed to Sulong’s own modernist outlook.
52 Nik Anuar Nik Mahmud, Sejarah Perjuangan Melayu Patani 1785–1954 (Bangi: Universiti
Kebangsaan Malaysia, 1999), p. 51; Surin Pitsuwan, Islam and Malay nationalism (Bangkok: Thai
Khadi Institute, 1985), pp. 147–8. According to Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’,
p. 83, the school was Ma’had Dar al-Ulum.
53 Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, p. 84. Tok Kenali (Muhammad Yusof bin
Muhammad) was a prominent scholar in his own right who taught at al-Haram as well. In 1903, two
years before Sulong arrived at Mecca, Wan Ahmad took Tok Kenali to Jerusalem and Egypt, where
they evidently took an interest in educational reform and visited al-Azhar, still under the influence of
the famous Islamic modernist Muhammad Abduh (see below), who passed away in 1905. Tok Kenali
was deeply saddened by the death of his mentor, and stayed on at Mecca for only about two more
years, returning to Kelantan in 1910, so Sulong would not have studied with him for long. See
Othman, ‘Role of Makka-educated Malays’, p. 151, footnote 26; Azra, Origins of Islamic reformism,
p. 151.
54 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, pp. 2–3; Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–
1954)’, p. 85.
55 Surin, Islam and Malay nationalism, pp. 147–8.
56 Ulrike Freitag, ‘Hadhramaut: A religious centre for the Indian Ocean in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries?’, Studia Islamica, 89 (1999): 168–71. Freitag argued that the colleges never reached the level of

Al-Azhar, or schools at Mecca, and that they reversed the decline only temporarily. The point to be made
here, however, is not their effectiveness, but the breadth of reform throughout the region, and its plural
57 Bayard Dodge, Al-Azhar: A millennium of Muslim learning (Washington, DC: The Middle East
Institute, 1961), p. 129 and following. An earlier round of reforms had taken place in the aftermath
of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, which included the introduction of some secular subjects; see
Bassam Tibi, Arab nationalism, 3rd edn (Houndsmill and London: Macmillian, 1997), p. 84 and
58 William Roff, ‘Indonesian and Malay students in Cairo in the 1920s’, Indonesia, 9 (1970): 74.
59 Azyumardi Azra, ‘The transmission of al-Manar’s reformism to the Malay–Indonesian world: The
cases of al-Iman and al-Munir’, Studia Islamica, 6, 3 (1999): 77–100; Roff, ‘Southeast Asian Islam in the
nineteenth century’, pp. 73–87. This may have provided some impetus to creating a Jawi nation.
However, the political impact of these ideas, according to Roff, The origins of Malay nationalism,
p. 87, was limited back in Southeast Asia, due to difficulties in reaching a mass audience
60 Kemal H. Karpat, The politicization of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ch. 11,
especially pp. 256–7. Karpat noted that much of the Pan-Islamic/Islamic sentiment came from below,
and especially from those in formal education, similarly to nationalist sentiment. This sentiment was susceptible to manipulation by political leaders.
61 Sulong’s adherence to Abduh’s strand of Islamic modernism was first discussed in Surin, Islam and
Malay nationalism, p. 148 and following. His modernism is also a theme in Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to
government policy’. More recent explication of Sulong, Abduh and modernism can be found in Numan,
‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, Ockey, Botrian jak prawatsat [Lessons from History] (the earliest
version of the argument I present here) and Thanet Aphornsuvan, ‘Origins of Malay Muslim “separatism” in southern Thailand’, in Thai South and Malay North: Ethnic interactions on a plural peninsula, ed.
Michael Montesano and Patrick Jory (Singapore: National University of Singapore, 2008).
62 I rely here on Dodge, Al-Azhar: A millennium of Muslim learning, pp. 129–32; Malcolm Kerr,
Islamic reform: The political and legal theories of Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1966), especially ch. 4; Yvonne Haddad, ‘Muhammad Abduh: Pioneer
of Islamic reform’, in Pioneers of Islamic Reviva, ed. Ali Rahnema (London: Zed, 1994), pp. 30–63.
63 Kerr, Islamic reform, p. 108.
64 Ibid.
65 Although Den was unclear himself, he believed the house came at the time of his marriage to Sabiya,
who was from Mecca (interview, 10 Feb. 2004). According to Den, Sulong was then 27 years old, making
the year either 1922 or 1923.
66 Snouck Hurgronje, Mekka in the latter part of the 19th century, pp. 6–8.
67 Roff, ‘The conduct of the Haj from Malaya’, pp. 99–100. Laffan, Islamic nationhood and colonial
Indonesia, p. 224, cited sources indicating that 1,500 out of 4,000 ‘Indies subjects’ returned at this time.
68 Laffan, Islamic nationhood and colonial Indonesia, p. 223.
69 Surin, Islam and Malay nationalism, pp. 147–8.
70 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, p. 4; interview Den Tohmeena, 10 Feb. 2004;
Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, p. 86. According to Numan, Khadija could not bear
to see Sulong suffering such grief, and so she suggested the trip, and it was due to her encouragement
that Sulong decided to return to Siam.
71 According to Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, pp. 83–5, Sulong had made one earlier return. Numan wrote that in 1915, Sulong set out overland to Southeast Asia, where he intended to
teach, to make some money, and to visit Pattani. In Pattani, he would also fulfil a very personal form of
ziarah: just after he arrived at Mecca, his mother had passed away, and this would be his first visit to her
grave. Sulong would have then been 20 years old, and away from home for eight years. His first stops
were to areas on the fringes of the Jawi community; he travelled first to Cambodia, to an area occupied
by Cham Muslims. He then moved on to Bangkok, staying at Bankhrua and teaching there for a month,
then moved on to Aceh, Sumatra, Singapore, Malaya, and finally arrived at his hometown in Pattani. He
stayed there only about a month, fulfilling his duty to his mother, then returned overland to Mecca. No
other source mentions this trip, and it seems extremely unlikely that he could have made the journey
overland, twice, in the time frame given.
72 Islam in an era of nation-states: Politics and religious renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia, ed. Robert
W. Hefner and Patricia Horvatich (Hawaii: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997), pp. 27–8. For Sulong here,
I make this judgement based on his known adherence to Abduh’s thought and on his later actions; see
73 Interview, Den Tohmeena, 10 Feb. 2004.
74 Nik Anuar, Sejarah Perjuangan Melayu Patani, p. 51. According to Nik Anuar, Sulong also established a madrasah, called al-Muaruf al-Wataniah (al-Màarif al-Wataniyya), which the government
closed. No dates or sources are provided, and it is not clear whether the local or national government
would have closed it, or whether this would have been at the request of the same imams who accused
him of fomenting rebellion
75 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, p. 6.
76 Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, pp. 139–41.
77 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, p. 13; Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–
1954)’, pp. 114–44.
78 Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, p. 144. The year 1935 was a key turning point in
Thai history. When money became available in the budget, a contest ensued between Phibun, who
wanted to spend it on defence, rewarding his military supporters, and Pridi, then the Minister of the
Interior. Pridi sought to spend the money to promote democratic participation in the provinces in a
programme that would have sent Thammasat graduates throughout the country, increasing his influence
at the local level. Phibun correctly saw that Pridi was building influence in the provinces, and, under
pressure, Pridi took a rather sudden trip overseas, during which time Phibun consolidated his power.
See Judith Stowe, Siam becomes Thailand (Honolulu: Hawai’i University Press, 1991), pp. 85–8;
Virginia Thompson, Thailand: The new Siam (New York: Paragon, 1967), pp. 88–9. Since Pridi had
visited Sulong’s school the year before, perhaps it is not surprising that the school was closed at that
time. It marked the first (but not the last) time that Sulong would get caught up in the political struggle
between Pridi and Phibun. The school then became the headquarters for an organisation established to
encourage leading one’s life according to Islamic principles.
79 The sultan of Pattani, Abdul Kadir Kammarudin, died in 1933 in Kelantan. One of his sons, Tunku
Mahayiddin, took up the separatist leadership. He later got support from the British in Delhi when he
served there in the resistance against the Japanese. After the war, he returned to British Kelantan and
was an official in the education department while leading the separatist movement.
80 According to the complaint, he campaigned as follows: ‘The reason I have come here is to introduce
myself and ask for the help of Muslim brothers and sisters here in one matter. In the upcoming parliamentary election, there are four candidates: myself, Khun Charoen, Momluang Chai, and Mr Thaen. I am
the only Malay, the others are all Thai. I ask my Muslim brothers and sisters to choose carefully. Do not
choose someone from another chat, language or religion.’ (Chat has become the Thai word for nation,
but is here used in the older meaning, ancestry.) Krasuang Mahatthai [Ministry of the Interior];
‘Batsonthae klaothot Phraphakdi nai kanklao chakchuan nai kanluaktang pho. so. 2480’, National
Archives, Mo. Tho. 0201.6.6 box 1, folder 8.
81 ‘Barisan Nasional Pembebasan Repablik Patani [National Liberation Front for the Patani Republic]’,
Suara Siswa, 2, 2 (1970): 29. Suara Siswa has reprinted much of the autobiographical portion of
Sulong’s Gugusan Chahya Keselamatan, a book also containing a selection of prayers, religious practices
and favourite verses written while he was in prison in Nakhon Sithamarat in 1948–49, but later banned
and confiscated by the government. Phrayaratanaphakdi would later be reappointed as governor; see below.
82 According to Ibraham Syukri, History of the Malay kingdom of Patani, trans. Conner Bailey and John
N. Miksik (Chiang Mai: Silkworm, 2005, o.d. 1985), p. 90, the reply to one such letter from an MP,
received from the Office of the Secretary of the Prime Minister, read, ‘… the Office of the Ministry of
the Interior has given notice that the actions of the Governor of Pattani are considered to be proper
and should give no cause for anger from the majority of the people. Be so informed.’
83 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, pp. 24–5.
84 Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–1954)’, pp. 122–3. The organisation was called Hay’ah
al-Munfizah al-Akham al-Shar’iyyah.
85 Surin, Islam and Malay nationalism, pp. 94–9. Tengku Mahayiddin answered directly to the British
rather than through the Seri Thai movement.
86 Ibid., pp. 94–106; Imron Maluleem, Wikhro khwamkhatyaeng rawang ratthaban Thai kap Muslim
nai khet jangwat chaidaen phak tai [An analysis of the conflict between the Thai government and
Muslims in the southern border provinces] (Bangkok: Islamic Academy, 1995), pp. 142–4.
87 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, p. 40. Chaloemkiat also noted that Sulong, as president of the Pattani Provincial Islamic Council and as a respected religious leader was important enough
in the region that the British and the Tengku also sought to cultivate relations with him.
88 Pridi had appointed Chaem as Jularachamontri, chief Islamic cleric for the country.
89 Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, Minority problems in Southeast Asia (Stanford: Stanford
University, 1955), p. 160.
90 Surin, Islam and Malay nationalism, pp. 150–1.
91 Ibid., pp. 119–41.
92 The struggle over the appointment of judges was complicated by a struggle over influence within the
Muslim community in the South. On the one side were Sulong, head of the Pattani Provincial Islamic
Council, and his supporters, while on the other was Jae bin Abdullah Langputeh, long-time MP for
Satun and head of the Satun Provincial Islamic Council. Jae, who represented the more Thai-ified
Satun constituency, had briefly been a cabinet minister in the Phibun government and would have
been influential in any government appointment of judges. Sulong, of course, had strongly resisted
the Thai-ification campaigns. This dispute is still remembered in the South today. See Chaloemkiat,
‘Resistance to government policy’, p. 49 and following; Numan, ‘Haji Sulong Abdul Kadir (1895–
1954)’, p. 122 and following.
93 Chaloemkiat, ‘Resistance to government policy’, p. 44 and following; Surin, Islam and Malay nationalism, p. 154.


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