Hindustani Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in Suriname
Raymond Chickrie
Born in Guyana, RAYMOND CHICKRIE was a teacher in the New York City public school system, New York, currently teaching in the Middle East.
By Raymond Chickrie
Published on 11/9/2009

Hindustani Muslims celebrate and pray Eid-Ul-Fitr at the end of holy month of Ramadan. The organization of the event was held by SMA (Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat-Hanafi). These Muslims are oriented towards Pakistan. SMA (now calling Suriname Muslim Association), founded in 1932, is still one of the largest Hindustani Sunni organizations in Suriname.

Hindustani Muslims and Javanese Muslims are celebrating and praying differently due to fundamental conflicts for commenting their religion of Islam. The Muslim population of Suriname is predominantly made up of Hindustanis who belong to the Hanafi Madhab, while the Javanese belong to the Shafi theological school of Islam.

A small group of Africans are Muslims and they were the first Muslims to set foot in Suriname.

The rebirth of Islam in Suriname started with the arrival of the Hindustanis in 1873. Islam was reintroduced in Suriname when the ship Lalla Rookh arrived with 45 Hindustani Muslims from Northern India.

These Hindu Muslims were from Urdu speaking but many of them also spoke their regional dialects like Avadhi, Brij, Bhopuri and Maithli. They migrated from the Indian States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, coming mostly from the districts: Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Mirzapur, Lucknow, Allahbad, Jaunpur, Azamgargh, Gaya, Faizabad, and Benares.

From 1890 to 1939, the Dutch began importing Javanese labourers to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations of Suriname like their Hindu counterparts. The Javanese arrived in Suriname without religious teachers.

It was not until the beginning of the 1930s, partly through contacts with Hindu Muslims, that some realized that the Kaaba was not located west, but to the northeast of Suriname. Subsequently, a number of Javanese Muslims started praying in that direction. This small group, led by Pak Samsi, encouraged people to change the direction of prayer from west to east. Since then, this small group has been called wong madhep ngetan (East-Keblat people).

Later some became very critical of what was seen as the superstition and religious innovation (bidah) among the Javanese Muslims. The moderates do not openly criticize the practice of praying to the west as most of the Javanese Muslims continued to do; hence they are called wong madhep ngulon (West-Keblat people).