Preserving Religious Manuscripts in Jember, East Java

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DREAMSEA, Jember – The DREAMSEA manuscript digitization team has completed a preservation mission in Jember, East Java, Indonesia. In this mission, a collection of manuscripts was obtained, which generally contained Islamic texts.

There were two manuscripts that are quite eye-catching in this mission in Jember. The first is a manuscript of the Quran illuminated with beautiful colorful ornaments. Second, manuscripts with Javanese script and Middle-Javanese language which uses interlinear translations of Javanese and Madurese languages.

The team is led by Fiqru Mafar with other team members, namely Rahmatia as a photographer, Tifa as an assistant academic expert, and Hanafi as an assistant photographer. For six days (from October 27 to November 1, 2022) they preserved manuscripts belonging to the Jember community which were quite important in the map of the spread of Islam in the eastern region of Java island.

The manuscripts found were generally written using Arabic script, while some other manuscripts used Pegon and Javanese scripts. The languages used in the text are quite diverse, namely Arabic, Javanese, Middle-Javanese, and Madurese.

Fiqru Mafar, who is also a manuscript researcher in Jember, stated that manuscripts in Jember can be divided into two groups, namely Islamic and Christian religious manuscripts. There are also manuscripts on cultural topics, which are used for the purpose of ritual activities in society. For example, for marriage, a kind of mamaca (reading manuscript) in the form of rokat a kind of ruwatan (cleansing ritual).

“The general physical condition of many manuscripts is not maintained and is not handled properly by the owners. This is because of the lack of knowledge about manuscript maintenance. For example, manuscripts stored in plastic bags. They have it, but don’t know what’s in it. It’s just stored in a potluck way, so a lot of it has been damaged.”

Depict Pristine Adi, one of the owners of the manuscript, expressed high enthusiasm in the preservation efforts carried out by DREAMSEA. He hopes that his manuscript can benefit the community in the future.

“I like history, so hopefully the manuscript can be kept neatly and saved well. I hope that the manuscript can be used for its content, so that the knowledge can be useful for others. I think that manuscripts are a thing of the past, to be read by the present and can be useful for the future”.

Muhammad Nida Fadlan, a researcher of DREAMSEA, stated that this activity was an effort to assist the community in Jember to take care of manuscripts they inherited from ancestors in the past. In Jember there are many manuscripts but the condition is worrying, both in terms of physicality and utilization.

“A lot of manuscripts have important value but the conditions are damaged. The heterogeneity of Jember society, which among others consists of Javanese, Balinese, and Madurese ethnicities, is reflected in the text. Therefore we seek to preserve through digitalization. So that in the future people can still take care of the diversity of their ancestral heritage from the past. This is certainly in line with DREAMSEA’s vision of savaeguarding cultural diversity.” He said.

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