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NOTE: Several words and terms in this glossary have the following symbols to indicate their etymological roots.
The terms marked Arabic are derived from the Arabic language and have been incorporated into Southeast Asian languages. Many of these terms are also known in languages around the world ranging from Turkish to Swahili. During this worldwide process of linguistic incorporation, meanings have often shifted in local usage. This glossary will often reflect the use within Southeast Asian languages.
Al-Qur’an Mushaf Istiqlala The “National Independence Qur’an,” completed for the fiftieth anniversary of
Amir Hamzah Uncle of the Prophet Muhammad and the central character in a number of literary works, including
Animism Religious system based on the idea that spiritual or supernatural powers organize and animate the natural world or material universe.
Archipelago A group of islands.
Bahasa Indonesia Formal name for the official language of Indonesia, which has Malay roots and is closely related
Bahasa Malaysia Official language of Malaysia.
Batik (JV) Method of making printed textiles by covering the parts not meant to be colored in wax that is later
Bendo Batik cloth headdress worn by Sundanese aristocrats. Sometimes wayang golek cepak is referred to as
Benzoin Resin from the tropical Asian benzoin styrax tree, used in making medicines and perfume.
Betel Plant that grows in South and Southeast Asia whose leaf is chewed together with the betel nut (seed
Bugis A major ethnic group of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Buraq (AR) The Prophet Muhammad’s legendary winged mount.
Chadoor A Persian term for “tent” that refers to a form of women’s clothing covering the entire face and body.
Copra Dried meat or flesh of the coconut, from which coconut oil is extracted.
Dakwah (IM) Proselitization, from the Arabic da`wa, or call.
Dalang Indonesian puppet master.
Dangdut A genre of music in Indonesia, and one of the most popular in the country today.
Dar al-Islam (AR) Literally, House of Islam; a term sometimes used to indicate a worldwide Muslim community or an area under Muslim rule.
Destar One type of Indonesian headdress: cotton cloth wrapped around top of head.
Djikir (IM) The mindfulness of God that comes by reciting or visualizing God’s divine names and attributes, from
Emas (IM) Gold coins in Malaysia (see mas).
Fatwa (AR) An authoritative ruling on specific points of Islamic law or dogma (pl. fatawa).
Fez A red brimless hat, made popular by the Ottoman Empire.
Gendang A type of Indonesian drum.
Gog and Magog This English translation’s gloss for Munkar and Nakir, the two “interrogating angels” that Muslims believe each individual faces at death.
Hadith (AR) Traditional reports of the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad that can be traced back to his
Haji (IM) An honorific term for a man who has returned from the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca, see below).
Hajj (AR) The annual pilgrimage to Mecca and the fifth pillar of Islam.
Haram (AR) Forbidden; a formal category of Islamic legal ruling.
Hikayat Literally, tales in Malay about the history of Arab kings, from Arabic for story or narrative.
Imam (AR) The leader of Muslim communal prayer in Sunni Islam.
Isnad (AR) The chain of transmission that authenticates a hadith.
Jaipongan (SU) a style of contemporary dancing from West Java where women move their hips in suggestive ways.
Jawi (IM) Malay or Indonesian written in Arabic letters.
Jilbab An Indonesian term referring to a woman’s scarf wrapped around the head that leaves the front of the face
Ka`ba (AR) The cube-shaped stone building at the center of the Grand Mosque at Mecca.
Kadi (IM) Judge, from the Arabic word Qadi.
Kasab Gold-thread embroidery, especially on pillows and cushions.
Keadilan (IM) Justice, equity.
Kiblat (IM) Refers to the direction of Mecca from any point in the world; derived from Arabic word Qibla.
Kris (IM) A dagger that is traditionally worn by men in the Indonesian archipelago.
Kulhu Prayer Refers to the 112th sura of the Koran, often recited in ritual contexts.
Madhhab (AR) Islamic school or traditions of law and jurisprudence.
Maghrib The western region of North Africa, which includes Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Mahabharata Epic cycle of tales originating in India and popular in Southeast Asia as well, dating back to between the 3rd–5th centuries BCE. They tell about wars between two groups of cousins, the Pandavas and Kauravas. One of the two major Sanskrit epics of India, along with the Ramayana (see Ramayana).
Maritime Relating to the sea or trade or navigation on the sea.
Mas (IM) Gold (see Emas).
Menak (SU) Title for nineteenth century Sundanese aristocrats—compare English “Sir” or “The Right Noble” or “Prince.” Thus, wayang menak is another term for wayang golek cepak, or puppet plays about Amir Hamzah.
Monsoon Periodic winds in the Indian Ocean and southern Asia; season of the southwest monsoon and the heavy rain associated with it.
Mufti (AR) An Islamic religious scholar qualified to issue legal rulings.
Musk Substance secreted from the gland of the musk deer, used in making perfume.
Orang laut (IM) Literally, “people of the sea.” (Note that the word “orang,” meaning person or human being, is part of a word that is familiar to English speakers, orangutan—this species of the great apes is native to the Indo-Malay region—, which means literally “person of the jungle,” and stems from the fact that the orangutan, when seen from a distance through dense trees, might look like a human being.) Orang laut is a term that is used for groups throughout the Indo-Malay region that make their living on the sea, spending most of their time or even living on boats.
Pesantren (JV) Islamic religious educational institution, where students reside with a teacher (sing. and pl).
Qadian A branch of the Ahmadiyya movement.
Qasidah Moderen A genre of music popular in Indonesia. Qasida is a poetic form in Arabic, and in Indonesia such Arabic texts traditionally have been sung and accompanied by a lute (‘ud). Qasidah Moderen, or “modern Qasidah,” consists of a lead singer (usually female), female chorus, and an ensemble of instruments. Texts are almost exclusively in the Indonesian language and have Islamic religious content.
Raja Hindu or Malay prince or chief (from Hindu, sometimes also spelled rajah).
Ramadan Ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar; month in which first verses
Ramayana Great epic of South and Southeast Asia, along with the Mahabharata (see above), which tells of King Rama and his struggle to free his kidnapped wife Sita. The Sanskrit epic is ascribed to the sage Valmiki and dates to about 200 BCE.
Rattan A plant from which mats are often woven and furniture made in Southeast Asia.
Regent One acting as a ruler or governor.
Saga tree Commonly known as the Red Bead Tree; its small yellow flowers turn orange and smell faintly of orange blossoms. Pods dry and split to liberate brilliant red seeds. The strong red color is reminiscent of passion and is a symbol of love.
Salat (AR) The second pillar of Islam; daily prayers that Muslims perform five times a day.
Sapanwood The wood of a small tree found in parts of Southeast Asia, that produces a red dye. Also spelled
SAW (S) (AR) These letters are abbreviations for the words “Salla Allahu `Alayhi wa (Sallam)”, which means: may the blessing and the peace of Allah be upon him. When the name of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned, a Muslim is to respect him and invoke this statement of peace upon him. The expression is sometimes contracted to SAW, sometimes SAWS, and sometimes S.A.W. (S.), and is sometimes written as an English abbreviation PBUH, for Peace Be Upon Him.
Sawm (AR) Fasting, the fourth pillar of Islam, undertaken during the month of Ramadan. In Muslim Southeast Asia, this is usually referred to by the Malay term puasa.
Seni Khat The art (IM seni) of calligraphy (khat, derived from AR khatt).
Serat Kandha (JV) Texts and traditions from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in which Hindu, Javanese, and
Shafi`i (AR) The interpretation of Sunni law that now holds sway in Southeast Asia. Muhammad b. Idris al- Shafi`i (767-820), an Islamic legal scholar whose tomb is in Cairo, was the widely-cited founder of this madhhab (literally approach, Islamic school or traditions of law and jurisprudence).
Shahada (AR) The first pillar of Islam; a statement of belief and an identification with the Muslim community through a ritualized speech act.
Shaman Ritual specialist who mediates between the human realm and the worlds of spirits and nature.
Shari`a (AR) Islamic law (also often romanized as Sharia). Also see Syariah.
Shroud Cloth used to wrap a body for burial.
Sufi (Sufism) (AR) Used to refer to the doctrines, practices, and practitioners of Islamic mysticism (tasawwuf) and its associated orders (singular: tariqa).
Sultan (AR) A ruler of a Muslim state. A state or government ruled by a sultan is called a Sultanate.
Sundanese Ethnic group from the western part of Java.
Sura (AR) A “chapter” of the Qur’anic text. There are 114 suras in the Qur’an.
Surau (IM) A Malay-language term for a small building where Muslims can go to make any of their five daily prayers. A mosque, by contrast, is a place that can also serve as a formal location for Friday congregational prayers.
SWT This is the standard acronym for the Arabic pious formula expressing divine glory “subhana wa ta’ala,” that many Muslims add after any mention of the name of God (Allah).
Syariah (IM) Islamic religious law; modern IM variant of AR Shari`a. Also see Shari`a Syech (IM) an Islamic scholar or leader; modern IM variant of AR shaykh.
Taqwa (AR/ IM) Often translated as “piety” this term conveys a sense of deep faith and intent religious observance in one’s everyday practice.
Tarekat (IM) Used in Indonesia to refer to both Sufi brotherhoods and to Sufism more broadly.
Tawaf (AR) Ritual circumambulation of the ka`ba during the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).
Tawhid (AR) The transcendental oneness of God.
Tropics (tropical) Part of the earth’s surface between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (30° north and 30° south of the Equator) that is characterized by hot, humid weather and a lack of cold seasons.
Tsunami A great wave produced by an undersea earthquake or volcanic eruption.
Typhoon A tropical cyclone which takes place in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
`Ud (AR) A stringed, lute-like instrument (also often romanized in English as oud), traditionally popular in the Middle East among Arabs, Persians and Turks.
`Ulama (AR) Islamic religious scholars or “men of learning” (sing. `alim). In IM the ` is often left off.
Umma (AR) “The Community,” generally used in reference to the collectivity of Muslims.
Wahhabi (AR) Used in reference to Muslims inspired by the eighteenth century reformer Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792). Sometimes used pejoratively to refer to other Muslims perceived as over-zealous in their interpretation and application of Islamic doctrine.
Wahyu (AR) In Javanese literary tradition this term is sometimes used to refer to a ball of light that signifies both power and grace; derived from the Arabic word for inspiration.
Wali (AR) Term used to refer to sacred persons or saints. A group of “nine walis,” known as the Wali Songo, are
Wayang golek (JV, SU) Wooden puppet theaters of Java, especially west Java. Wayang means shadow. These puppet plays tell both Mahabharata and Ramayana stories, as well as stories about Amir Hamzah (for more information, see entries under Amir Hamzah, Mahabharata, and Ramayana elsewhere in this Glossary).
Wayang golek cepak (JV) Wooden puppets used to enact Amir Hamzah stories that originated in Arabia.
Wayang kulit or purwa (JV) Shadow puppet theater of Java and Bali, using two-dimensional puppets cut out of leather. There are several repertoires, but the most popular remain the Mahabharata and Ramayana tales.
Yasin Chapter (sura) 36 of the Qur’an, a popular reading in many Muslim societies, often used in ritual contexts.
Zakat (AR) Almsgiving, the third pillar of Islam.
Ziarah Pilgrimage to a holy place in Indonesia (such as Tembayat).