Ramadhan in Bajo Torosiaje Village
Ramadhan in Bajo Torosiaje Village

That morning the activities of the residents of the Torosiaje floating village did not appear as usual. The busyness of residents passing by Katinting boats (motorized) experienced quite significant intensity. The roar of the engine was like a helicopter at low speed which became more audible as it approached. The footsteps of residents carrying out their activities through the village alley, which resembles a long and winding bridge, looks busier. They are preparing something.

This village, which is inhabited by the Bajo ethnic group, is home to sea people or, in AB Lapain's (2009) description, also called the Sea Tribe, where the sea is their living environment. In contrast to other Bajo tribes who have "landed", the Bajo Torosiaje are a small community of sea people who still live on the sea, in the sense of building their homes far from land. Founded in 1901, this traditional fishing village is geographically located in the marine biota area of ‚Äč‚ÄčTomini Bay, northern Sulawesi.

The busyness that occurred that morning marked an important chapter in the traditional Muslim religious cycle which was about to enter a special and special month. While some villagers headed towards the sea to prepare supplies to welcome the holy month of Ramadan, others went to the graves of their parents or family on land/islands (Bonda and Patanang) to make a pilgrimage. That morning, the villagers took turns inviting their neighbors to a religious event that they regularly held every year.

Unlike depictions of maritime people and ethnicities with similar characteristics that some scholars understand as syncretic Muslims (Bottignolo, 1995), not conducive to embracing Islam (Chou, 2003) or considered sub-human and half-pagan (Kiefer, 1972), Orang Bajo Torosiaje shows a different trend. This can be seen from the enthusiasm for carrying out religious rituals which increasingly shows commitment as well as the cultural system that supports the existence of Islam.

The Vibes of Ramadan

My visit at the beginning of Ramadan 1445 AH to Torosiaje attempted to delve into the thoughts and religious practices of a community dubbed by Francois-Robert Zacot (2008) as the Sea Nomad Tribe. This is the second time I have visited the village where every day we can look at the sea in a relaxed manner and enjoy the breeze, while chatting with the friendly and open residents.

One of the friendliness and openness that I felt was when I visited one of the village traditional leaders, Puak Dawi. Before the conversation with him had finished, someone suddenly interrupted and asked the man to lead a prayer together with what local residents called Maca' Bulan. I was also invited and even though I was there I was categorized as an outsider, which in their terms is called 'like'. Because I come from a culture that is close to Java, they call me 'Bagai Jawa'.

Like many traditions in Javanese society such as munggahan, megengan and nyadran, or makmeugang in Aceh, the Maca' Bulan tradition has been practiced for a long time by the Torosiaje people to welcome the arrival of the month of Ramadan. The motive for holding this tradition revolves around expressing gratitude for the opportunity given to them by God to reach this special month and hoping that goodness will be showered on the sohibul hajat (host) and their families and those involved in the event.

The closest people gather, pray and eat together in an atmosphere of homely joy. In a small circle surrounding various dishes, dozens of participants sat cross-legged and followed the readings sung by the priest. The Dawik tribe who led the event started the reading of Al-Fatihah, short letters of the Koran, tahlil, tasbih, tahmid, salawat and prayers for spirits and prayers for salvation. In a relaxed atmosphere, participants enjoyed the meal after being invited by the host. A fragrant incense glowed in the corners of the room.

Apart from enjoying the dishes served by the host, when they go home the participants are provided with various food souvenirs in simple containers (the term mungkos) which in Java is usually called a blessing. The difference is, here the side dish elements are dominated by fish cooked in several ways and with certain spices. Coming home with mungkos is a small happiness that family members look forward to at home. We can call this round the Ramadan-welcoming-feast.

Entering the nights of Ramadan, human and boat traffic around the village seems quiet. Only mosques and prayer rooms are the centers of human gathering. Several nights in the first week of Ramadan, Torosiaje residents were very enthusiastic about participating in tarawih which was carried out with 20 raka'ats plus 3 witr rakaats at a speed that was classified as express. Less than 2 minutes per two rak'ahs, reminds me of tarawih in my village (Cirebon) where the Nahdliyyin Kultural community holds tarawih solemnly and cheerfully.

The joy of fasting people is of course centered on the time of breaking the fast. Various foods and drinks were served to cover the table. The family where I live is no less lively than other families. The faces of the whole house looked happy and excited. Banana compote, dates and brown sticky rice (bajoe) are the starter menu, while rice and various seafood are mandatory menu items. I know various types of fish, yes, when breaking the fast and also at dawn like this. Starting from skipjack fish, baronang, sandalwood, Lului, as well as the typical food of North Sulawesi, namely Kapuro (local papeda/sago porridge) which is eaten with fish in soup.

The tradition of providing takjil (appetizers) at the mosque is also present here. After tarawih, the mosque management announces the schedule for takjil providers. At the end of the loudspeaker, the names of the mosque administrators could be heard: "Mama Lina, Mama Tami, Mama Rail and Mama Cinta, please prepare takjil tomorrow." When I asked who the takjil was for, the mosque administrator answered, "This is for residents and travelers who might visit Torosiaje," he said bluntly. The next day, I visited the mosque, some of the participants who attended were children who were very enthusiastic about welcoming the sunset drum surrounded by various cakes and cold drinks.

I saw that the practice of reading the Koran by both children and adults also colored the village atmosphere. In the mosque after the congregation performs the obligatory prayer or at home, people recite verses from the holy Koran with their own inclinations. After tarawih, when I walked in the village alley, I could faintly hear the strains of these holy verses. The quiet atmosphere of the village makes it easy to hear voices. It's like a village on the edge of the forest, far from the crowds.

After tarawih, I was invited by young Torosiaje children to look for shrimp in the mangrove forest. Armed with flashlights and arrows, the small boat we paddled managed to bring in a number of shrimp for a delicious dinner. Tomini Bay, where Torosiaje Village is located, is known as a home for various types of fish and diverse marine life. This complex marine ecosystem is not only useful for meeting the food needs of the surrounding population but has also been used by some people as a useful natural marker for other needs.

The Hilal of the Torosiaje People

One of the interesting things about the Torosiaje people's experiences and observations of their environment is the realization that nature provides signs that are useful for the benefit of their lives. Apart from the sky, wind, currents and tides, Bajo Torosiaje has local wisdom to mark the change of the Qomariah month through the appearance of seagrass flowers known as Sammo.

Sammo flowers which usually appear and blow in the wind around their "home yard" are easy to see. At certain times, it is like white foam that floats in quite large quantities. Immediately after its appearance, the old people shouted: "Tomorrow is fasting", or "tomorrow is Eid", because it marks the new month.

I had the opportunity to observe the process of the emergence of these sea flowers a few days before Ramadan. It is not easy to find the flower stalks that emit white flowers that convey the news of fasting and Eid. In the afternoon, accompanied by Yeri Darise, a resident of Torosiaje who is the former head of this hamlet, I explored the seagrass spots around the floating settlement.

Luckily, I was able to find and witness a rare scene when the white grains, which from a distance resembled styrofoam, became increasingly massive on the surface of the water. With the help of Hengky Sompah, I found the source of the flowers. Like a bubble toy that children blow: “brus-brus-brus” I watched the white flowers shoot out from their stems and emerge floating on the surface.

I caught some with the palm of my hand and saw white objects the size of sesame seeds, giving them quite a magical charm. "That's the crescent moon of the Torosiajae people," said Risno Jalil, one of the Imams of the Torosiaje Mosque. Hilal here means a natural marker for sea people who are increasingly committed to carrying out religious rituals.

This local wisdom used to be the only way for people to dedicate themselves to marine life. For the Torosiaje people, currently this natural phenomenon is only a reinforcement for the announcement of the results of the istbat session which is routinely delivered by the government (Ulil Amri). They are trying to become part of the orchestra led by the conductor of this republic. "We follow Ulil Amri," argued the traditional leader, Jekson Sompah.

Maritime Islam

If Andre Moler (2005) calls Ramadan in Java both joy and jihad, Ramadan in Torosiaje also presents the enthusiasm of sea people in carrying out traditions to create simple happiness. The tendency of maritime communities to base their lives on the principles of communalism, spiritualism and pragmatism, has paved the way for the entry of Islamic orthopraxy which is easily identifiable in the months filled with worship and cultural festivals.

The month of Ramadan is a manifestation of Islamic cultural practices in maritime communities which basically still retain the pillars of old traditions which are sought to coexist and complement each other. The "titen science" (knowledge based on observation and reflection) of the Torosiaje people regarding the Sammo flower as a marker of fasting and Eid is clear evidence of maritime culture serving/facilitating religious (Islamic) needs.

If religion is sometimes perceived as a source of conflict and violence, in the experience of the Torosiaje community, religion has actually facilitated happiness for its adherents who have a thirst for togetherness, interconnection with nature and dedication to harmony and harmony in life. Ramadan in this floating village displays fragments of 'maritime Islam' culture which at a certain level reflects the unique face of Islam which in practice is indeed diverse. (AN)

Hamdani, Lecturer at the UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Postgraduate School, Jakarta

This article was published at https://islami.co/ramadan-di-kampung-bajo-torosiaje/ on April 4 2024