Wali Pitu and Muslim Pilgrimage in Bali, Indonesia

Inventing a Sacred Tradition

Author: Syaifudin Zuhri

About this book

This ethnographic book deals with the emergence of the Wali Pitu (seven saints) tradition and Muslim pilgrimage in Bali, Indonesia. It touches upon the issues of translocal connectivity between Java and Bali, Islam-Hindu relationship, relations between Muslim groups, and questions of authority and authenticity of saint worship tradition.

Besides, it offers a new perspective on Bali, seeing the island as a site of cultural motion straddling in between Islam and Hinduism with complexities of local figurations, and belongings of ‘Muslim Balinese’. The study also urges the intricate relationship between religion and tourism, between devotion and economy, and shows that the Wali Pitu tradition has facilitated the transgression of spatial and cultural boundaries.


Syaifudin Zuhri is a lecturer at State Islamic University of Sayyid Ali Rahmatullah/UIN SATU and a former research fellow at Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies/BGSMCS. He graduated from the State Islamic University of Sunan Kalijaga, majoring in Sociology of Religion (2005) and obtained his Master Degree in Islamic Studies at Leiden University (2009). In 2018, he finished his doctoral studies at Humboldt University of Berlin specialising in Southeast Asian studies.

Format: Hardback

Pages: 312

Illustrated: black and white

ISBN Print: 9789087283858

ISBN ePUB: 9789400604315

Language: English


  • Vincent Houben, Professor of Southeast Asian History and Society at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

    'This mobile ethnography on the invention, experience and place-making of vernacularized Islamic worship offers a unique and compelling account of how a new sainthood tradition has manifested itself on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali. Through a transdisciplinary view from below and the comparative study of three sacred places, the importance of translocal spatial dynamics in the creation of Indonesian Islam is shown. As such this remarkable and insightful book by Syaifudin Zuhri deserves the attention of all those who are interested in Indonesian as well as in Islamic studies.'

  • Prof. Dr. Nico J.G. Kaptein, Professor of Islam in Southeast Asia, Leiden University Institute for Area Studies

    'This groundbreaking study challenges the common stereotype of the island of Bali as a Hindu enclave within the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the book focuses on the recently invented cult of seven Muslim saints in Bali, called the Wali Pitu, and the pilgrimage to their graves by mainly Javanese pilgrims, which has resulted in a lucrative business of religious tourism. Highly original, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in Islam in Indonesia, pilgrimage studies, and Hindu-Muslim relations in Bali.'

  • Martin van Bruinessen, Professor of the Comparative Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies, Utrecht University

    'This is a highly original study, very well executed, and an important contribution to the study of Indonesian Islam. A surprisingly mature work for what is obviously the author’s first book. It is very rich in new empirical information; the analysis is sophisticated and shows that the author is not only a perceptive observer but also well versed in the relevant literature. It has a clear and balanced structure; each chapter presents significant new insights.'

  • Kees van Dijk, emeritus professor of the history of modern Islam in Indonesia at Leiden University

    'In exploring a recently established famous Islamic pilgrimage from Java to Bali, its origins, the Islamic law interpretations, opinions about the supernatural, and the social and economic implications, the book provides a rare insight into the life of ordinary Indonesians and abounds with well-chosen quotes from interviews. Package tours to the sacred sites are booked by Muslims of very modest means, eating at simple stalls and used to the most basic accommodations; a far cry from ‘Hajj plus tours’ for the rich, or the roads to some of the sites in Java, laid out to allow for Mercedes-chauffeured traffic.'

  • Prof. Mark Woodward (Professor at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University)

    'This is a carefully researched, theoretically informed study of emerging Muslim identities in Hindu majority Bali. It is an important contribution to the study of identity formation and inter-religious relations in In Indonesia. Zuhri focuses on the “discovery” of the Wali Pitu (seven saints) and how the pilgrimage to their graves contributes to the formation of distinctively Balinese traditionalist Muslim identities. He also explores multiple understandings and varied practices of saint veneration and how it is contested between traditionalists, for whom it is a central component of Muslim piety, and modernists who reject it. He also examines varied forms of Hindu/Muslim relationships, ranging from sharing sacred sites to the conflict concerning village traditions.'

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