By Ahmad Charis

Studying history is very important for building your identity, worldview and personality. But usually we do not know how to distinguish the real history from bed-time stories. Therefore, we often trust in false narrations. When we discover that this narration was wrong, we totally lose our trust in anything related to the past. As a result, we lose our connections with our identity, culture and personalities. Let me share with you some of my ideas on how we can study history in a proper manner. But this writing is only the guidance in studying history, some titles of the books mentioned here do not exist in reality.

Let say, we study the history of the Javanese tribe. The Javanese tribe is the largest tribe in Indonesia. They live in the islands of Java, Madura, and also some numbers can be found in every island of Indonesia. This tribe depicted by their language, dialects, foods, attires, and culture. As an Indonesian, it is very important for me to know their background and history. By knowing their history, somehow we will learn how they have changed, adapt and transformed through centuries. As well as we will learn how to respect and deal with them.

It is true that we might find some differences between various cultures. Those differences make our lives more colorful and meaningful. If someone knows a history of particular tribe well, he or she will be able to make good relations. Studying the history of the Javanese is not a useless thing that must be avoided, but it brings a lot of values that might enlighten people.

Particularly for the Javanese nowadays in contemporary world, youth are not interested enough in knowing their origin, and, as a result, they start to forget their backgrounds. One of the reasons for that could be globalization.  Some believe that the Javanese culture is left behind, and they began following the Western, Korean or other ‘more civilized’ cultures. Perhaps, by reading this small writing, which is based on primary and secondary sources with the critical evaluation, hopefully, some readers will start thinking differently.  For studying the tribe, we need primary and secondary sources. The secondary sources of history could be any scholarly book written based on primary sources. Let say, we are reading a book entitled

For studying the tribe, we need primary and secondary sources. The secondary sources of history could be any scholarly book written based on primary sources. Let say, we are reading a book entitled Sejarah Prasasti Jawa written by an Indonesian author, which provides a plenty of critical information. In this book, every detail was explained explicitly including facts, opinions, dates and years. The author also gives lot of references. He mentioned that Java is the heart of Indonesia not only because of the location of central city of Indonesia is in Java, but there are numerous and diverse cultures are found in it that make these differences look unique and more colorful than other tribes.

The author in his writing discusses history since 1200. He mentioned about the arrival of Hinduism preachers in Java. He accordingly revealed a critical question that why in some parts of Java some Islamic teachings are practiced slightly different from original teachings of Islam. Shortly, Hinduism was a religion of the Javanese before the arrival of Islam. So Javanese nowadays may blend Islam with few Hinduism teachings.

According to the author, in 1400’s, Wali songo, nine preachers, started preaching Islam and they have an essential and significant role in Javanese history. Although almost 90% of Javanese were previously non-Muslims, the approach of Wali songo was very effective that the majority of the Javanese embraced Islam in almost 50 years.

If we will find different views in another books, we may refer to the primary sources. Let say, going to museum can help us in finding more reliable information on history of the Javanese tribe. In museum people can see the relics of ancient times. It is very interesting because people could see and imagine what actually did exist long times ago. Let me bring the example of a traditional clothe of Javanese. Sometime, people just see it from the book, but in museum they can directly see and visualize it. In the Javanese ancient period, people wore blankon, a Javanese head cover for men as symbol of triumph and as official clothe at official events.

Some also can look at the war clothes worn by warriors in the period. People can feel and fantasize the atmosphere of war happened at that time. Besides of displaying attires, museums also provide some information that portrays the tarikh or history. In Java, there were many wars against the colonial powers. Along displaying the pictures of wars, they also provide some information related to the reasons for these battles and what were the triggers and how did the Javanese combat. Those wars are displayed in museums in interactive ways such as they are pasted on walls with colorful light, put in ancient cupboard, edited with some paintings, and other many interesting displays.

The last method of obtaining possible information on the Javanese history is the conduct of interviews with the elderly who eye witnessed occurrences in the past. The information provided by them is considered as an original source for writing history. They lived in the past that was totally different from the current world that is full of gadgets and technologies. What we got from interviewing the elderly is that the Javanese practiced gotong royong, a kind of activity that people gather in one place to help each other, for example, during the building of  houses, harvest time or while combatting the colonial powers.

The story what I heard from the freedom fighter against imperialism is tragic, historical, and surprising. While the colonial powers used tanks, rifles, and guns in the battles, the Javanese used bamboo that sharpened in the end of the side. Fortunately, with the full of spirit of supporting, combatting, and striking with all of the stuff that might be used, the Javanese could tackle and defeat the colonial powers. From this finding, as a modern Javanese, we have to remember own ancestors’ spirit and that our ancestors strived to make our future better.

In a nutshell, there are many sources that people can use in their searching for truth and real history. The sources should be authentic and neutral. I hope that the future generations will not blindly follow what others suggest, but they will be more aware and interested in studying history and taking lessons to create a better future for humanity.

Writer is a UG student at the Kulliyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia