The Malibari Network in Nusantara

by Amirul Ulum

The names Shaykh Zainudin ibn Ali al-Malibari (Zainudin Awwal/ The First) and Shaykh Zainudin Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari (Zainudin Tsani/ The Second) are famous among the Muslims in Nusantara. This was because both their books and writings are widely studied at various Pesantren Salaf (Traditional Religious Boarding Schools). So appreciated are these books, that syuruh (commentaries) have been written to reveal their meanings and to ease the understanding for those who study them.

That was the case for the book, Hidâyatul Adzkiyâ’ ilâ Tharîqati al-Auliyâ’ written by Shaykh Zainudin ibn Ali Al-Malibari, which covers the knowledge of tasawuf (spirituality). Various commentaries were written on the book, such as Salâlim al-Fudhalâ’ by Shaykh Nawawi al-Bantani, Minhâju al-Athqiyâ, by Kiyai Sholeh Darat al-Samarani, and Kifâyatu al-Athqiyâ’ Waminhâju al-Ashfiya’ by Sayyid Abu Bakar Syatha. In addition to Hidâyatul Adzkiyâ’ ilâ Tharîqati al-Auliyâ’, Al-Malibari also had other works such as Mandzûmah Syu’bul Iman which al- Bantani wrote a commentary on entitled Qamî’u al-Thugyân.

As for Shaykh Zainudin Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari, his books that are widely studied here in Nusantara are Qurratu al-‘Aini, the primer text and its commentary Fath al-Mu’in, written by the author himself. These two books received special attention from the great ’ulama of the Haramain (Makkah and Madinah), among them Shaykh Nawawi al-Bantani who wrote a commentary on Qurratu al-‘Aini, entitled Nihâyatu al-Zain and Sayyid Abu Bakar Syatha who wrote a commentary on Fath al-Mu’in entitled I’ânatu al-Thâlibîn. These two commentaries are used as the source of reference for many Muslims in Nusantara who wish to study the books by Shaykh Zainudin Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari.

Why are the works of Shaykh Zainudin ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari celebrated among the Muslims in Nusantara?

To answer this question, Shaykh Maimoen Zubair had given an explanation that in general there are similarities between Malabar (South India) and Indonesia on several aspects; both in its culture and maḏhab. The Islam that came from the Arabs that reached Malabar and Indonesia had a strong acculturation with the local cultures to the point of wide acceptance. The architecture of the mosques that exist in Malabar have some Hindu influence as can also be seen in Indonesia in the early stages of the coming of Islam to the island of Java. For example, the minaret of Sunan Kudus Mosque is similar in its architecture to a pura, the place of worship for the Hindus.

Sunan Kudus Mosque, Central Java Indonesia

The majority of the Muslim Ummah at that point of time followed the Hanafi Maḏhab (School of Jurisprudence) as most of the Muslim lands were under the Caliphate of the Turkish Ottoman who officially followed the madhab. This differed with the Malabaris whose majority followed the maḏhab of Syafi’i despite India being predominantly Hanafi. The similarity between Malabaris and Indonesians in following the maḏhab of Syafi’i was the main reason why the works of fiqh of Shaykh Zainudin Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari were accepted by many ’ulama in Nusantara.

KH Maimoen Zubair in Singapore during the Haul of Habib Muhammad bin Salim al-Attas at Ba'alwie Mosque, 2018.

Shaykh Zainudin Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari was one of the foremost students of Shaykh Ibn Hajar al-Haytamī, who was one of the renowned scholars in Haramain during his time.

According to Shaykhuna Maimoen Zubair, after the coming of al-Haytamī as one of the teachers in Masjidil Haram, the halaqah (study circle) held at the serambi (the Shafii’ building in the masjid; specifically in the study of Shafi’i fiqh) kept expanding, unlike previous times. All that had been established by al-Haytamī were succeeded by subsequent generations until the time of Shaykh Ahmad Zaini Dahlan, through which the study of Shafi’i fiqh in Haramain was further expanded. His halaqah was filled with many thalabah (students of knowledge) from all over the world. Among his students from Nusantara were Shaykh Nawawi al-Bantani, Sayyid Abu Bakar Syatha, Shaykh Mahfudz al-Tarmasi, Shaykh Umar al-Sarani, and Shaykhuna Khalil Bangkalan.

Due to its importance, Fath al-Mu’in was received positively among the ’ulama from Haramain to be taught at the serambi. One of the scholars who had taught the book was Shaykh Ahmad Khatib al-Minangkabawi. Once, when al-Minangkabawi was chosen to be an imam and teacher in Masjidil Haram on top of being a Mufti in Hijaz, he instructed one of his students, Shaikh Karim Amrullah (the father of Buya Hamka) to teach the book with its commentary, I’ânatu al-Thâlibîn, authored by Sayyid Abu Bakar Syatha. Sayyid Abu Bakar Syatha was the teacher regarded as the umdah (main teacher) of al-Minangkabawi and many of the scholars from Nusantara, especially for those who were active in Haramain such as Syaikah Mahfudz at-Termasi, Shaykh Ali al-Banjari, and Shaykh Ma’shum al-Samarani.

The Fath al-Mu’in that was being taught in Masjidil Haram and the “pesantrens” that spread across the Nusantara possessed the sanad (chain of narration) connecting from the author to his students. This sanad was from Shaykh Yasin al-Fadani (musnid al-dunya) who narrated Fath al-Mu’in and all of the works of Shaykh Zainudin ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari. Tracing the chain of narration from al-Fadani for the book al-Wafi Bidzaili Tadzkari al-Mashafi are as follows: 

 ارويها عن التقى الصوفى جبير بن هرون البلخى الحبشتى عن أبيه هرون بن إبراهيم البلخى عن جده إبراهيم بن جلال الدين بن حسن بن خواجة محمد أكرم شاه بن كريم الدين بن فريد الحق بن خواجه جمال شاه يوسف البلخى عن أبيه عن المؤلف الشيخ العلامة زين الدين بن عبد العزيز المليبارى الفشانى الشافعى

“I narrate the book Fath al-Mu’in and all of the works of Shaykh Zainudin ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari from al-Taqi al-Sufi Jubair ibn Harun al-Balkhi al-Jabasyti who narrated from his father, Harun ibn Ibrahim al-Balkhi who narrated from his grandfather Ibrahim ibn Jalaludin ibn Hasan ibn Khawajah Muhammad Akram Syad ibn Karimuddin ibn Fari al-Haq ibn Khawajah Jamal Syah Yusuf al-Balkhi who narrated from his father, who narrated from the author of Fath al-Mu’in, Shaykh al-Allamah Zainudin Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Malibari al-Fusyani al Syafi’i.”

Fath al-Mu’in which was studied by scholars from all over the Islamic world, specifically in the Nusantara, cannot be separated from its commentators, Sayyid Abu Bakar Syatha and Shaykh Nawawi al-Bantani. Almost everyone who wants to study and understand the book will also be required to read I’ânatu al-Thâlibîn and Nihâyatu al-Zain.

The contents of Fath al-Mu’in are complex, therefore a student of knowledge must have studied the basic books of fiqh before delving into the text. One of those basic texts is Matan Taqrib, authored by Shaykh Ahmad Bin Husain bin Ahmad al-Asfahani, and followed by its commentary Fathul Qarib al-Mujibn fi Sharh AlFaz at Taqrib by Shaykh ibn Al Qasim al-Ghazi. When the contents of these two books have been fully understood, the student will not encounter many obstacles when proceeding to study the contents of Fath al-Mu’in.

The majority of pesantren salaf in Nusantara make Fath al-Mu’in part of the syllabus for students in senior classes (muntahi). One of the classes was at Pesantren Al-Anwar, under the guidance of Shaykh Maimoen Zubair.

The senior students study this text every night except Monday and Thursday nights. Every single letter and word is expounded in detail – to find the purpose and meaning within it. The syntax, how the sentences are structured, are explained in depth, through an understanding of the methodology of Arabic language (in terms of grammar, morphology, rhetoric and logic). Following that, some of the students will present questions regarding fiqh that are developing in the midst of the community at large. These are then answered by referencing books of the salaf, especially on Fath al-Mu’in and its commentaries.

Despite Fath al-Mu’in having been written in the mid-16th century CE, its content remains relevant in answering evolving issues until the present day. It is to be a part of one’s obligatory studies for whosoever wishes to master the teachings of the Shafi’i Maḏhab.

Amirul Ulum is a student of the late KH Maimoen Zubair. He has written in many journals and articles and has authored many books. His main research interest is on biographies and history of the 'ulama in the Haramain and Nusantara. He resides in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Article was originally written in Indonesian, translated by Hadrah Press.