Dr Peter Riddell and Associate Professor Julian Millie both launched their fascinating books at an event to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace on Tuesday 21 November at Bankstown Library in Sydney. 

Tasneem Chopra, Cross-Cultural Consultant holding up one of the books.

Facilitated by a cross-cultural consultant, Tasneem Chopra, the theme of the event was Stuff Not Fluff: Improving narratives on refugees and migrants through increased dialogue and informed debates, influenced by scholarly literature.

Both academics had extensive knowledge of their very particular niche topics which demonstrates their level of detailed expertise about their own subject matter.

Associate Professor of Anthropology from Monash University, Julian Millie, presented Hasan Mustapa: Ethnicity and Islam in Indonesia which he put together and edited.

His book looks at the life of Hasan Mustapa, a scholar, mystic and poet who studied in Mecca for thirteen years before commencing his career as an Islamic official in the Netherlands East Indies. He wrote a number of sufistic treatises on Islamic belief and practice, mostly in the Sundanese language.

Hasan Mustapa: Ethnicity and Islam in Indonesia is comprised of chapters by Sundanese scholars, alongside the editor’s contributions. Some provide introductions to Mustapa’s life and work, while others perform a discursive move of increasing importance in contemporary Indonesia: reaching into a regional Islamic past to make authoritative statements about the present.

Together, the chapters form a timely addition to the literature on a question of growing importance: what influence should regional traditions have in contemporary Islamic societies?

Millie’s previous works include his first book, Bidasari: Jewel of Malay Muslim Culture, a study of Islamic romance in the Malay language. His second, Splashed by the Saint: Ritual Reading and Islamic Sanctity in West Java, was based on a period of field research over fourteen months during which he attended an Islamic intercession ritual in West Java.

Since then, Millie has continued to work in West Java, focusing mainly on Islamic preaching and the interactions between sub-national and national Islamic spheres.

Vice Principal of the Melbourne School of Theology, Dr Peter Riddell presented Malay Court Religion, Culture and Language: Interpreting the Qur’an as in 17th Century Aceh.

In this book, Dr Riddell undertakes a detailed study of the two earliest works of Qur’anic exegesis from the Malay-Indonesian world. Riddell explores the 17th century context in the Sultanate of Aceh that produced the two works, and the history of both texts. He argues that political, social and religious factors provide important windows into the content and approaches of both Qur’anic commentaries.

He also provides a transliteration of the Jawi Malay text of both commentaries on sūra 18 of the Qur’ān (al-Kahf), as well as an annotated translation into English. This work represents an important contribution to the search for greater understanding of the early Islamic history of the Malay-Indonesian world.

Peter Riddell, PhD Australian National University, is also a Professorial Research Associate in History at SOAS. He has published widely on Islam in Southeast Asia, including  Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World.

When Dr Riddell was asked by a member of the audience about his dedicated study of the Quran, if he believed it was the word of God. He provided a thoughtful and clever response, “As a believing and practicing Christian, I have a lot of respect for the Quran.”

Director of Basmala AUS, Ansari Jainullabudeen presented a few video messages and videos on the purpose of the day and spoke about the International Day of Peace.

Khaled Sukkarieh, Chairman of the Islamic Council of NSW provided the vote of thanks for the evening.

The event was hosted by Basmala Islamic Street University and the Islamic Council of NSW, and sponsored by the NSW Government.