Negotiating Temporality: Sufistic Zapin in Maritime Southeast Asia
Mohd Anis Md Nor
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur
One of the many Sufi practices, which utilize dhikr (recitation of the divine names or litanies) that is muted by non-verbal inward recitations, could be observed in the Zapin dance and music in the coastal areas of maritime Southeast Asia. Performed by Zapin dancers who are followers of Tariqat or ‘way’ of the sharia’at, which literally means “the road to the watering place,” dancing the silent dhikr symbolizes the broad way in which the performer-practitioners find way to travel and seek God. The accompaniment of music and the physical movement of performing a structured movement system portray ephemeral permeation of Islamic aesthetics and Malay artistic conventions while negotiating the traditional mode of temporality that is diachronically and synchronically linear in form, time and space. This temporality that is curled from the past remains important in the present as the performers negotiate their togetherness as Sufis and practitioners of religious and cultural practices that are embedded in mute dhikr, which plays an important role in sustaining Malay-Islamic traditional performance practices that is essential in seeking the realm of the altered other. This paper will discuss how dichotomies of the past and the present are negotiated within the traditional mode of temporality that progresses lineally through the procession of the past (diachronic), present (extant and synchronic) and future (impending) through the silent dhikr in the Zapin dance of Southeast Asia.