Inventing a Sacred Tradition: Wali Pitu and Muslim Pilgrimage in Bali, Indonesia


Syaifudin Zuhri

PhD defended at: 

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


This study examines the invention of the Muslim cult of the Wali Pitu (seven saints) and Muslim pilgrimage in Bali, Indonesia. The discussion is primarily devoted to answer the question of how the notion of the Wali Pitu was invented and how it has been marketed, experienced and contested. In so doing, this thesis will take a close look at the triad coordinates of pilgrimage studies: the sites, the texts and the people. The ethnographic method employed in this study combines multi-sited and traditional situatedness, and -considering the fact that ‘bodily travel’ constitutes an essential element of the pilgrimage- mobile ethnography. This thesis further unravels the particularities of an invented sacred tradition in contemporary Bali in Indonesia where market and religious tradition have collided and led to the birth of a new sacred tradition, albeit not without contestation. Myth-making, canonisation, and branding were essential in the creation of the Wali Pitu’s enabling this invented tradition to prosper, receive popular acceptance, and guarantee its continuity. The Wali Pitu has also facilitated the influx of Muslim pilgrims to Bali for both pilgrimage and tourism purposes (wisata religi). The cult of the Wali Pitu, however, has invited contestation at local levels. Taking a close look at three pilgrimage sites: the grave of Ali Bafaqih in the all-Muslim village of Loloan in West Bali, the grave of Umar bin Maulana Yusuf al-Maghribi in the mixed Hindu-Muslim village of Candikuning in Central Bali, and the grave -turned Hindu temple- of Mas Sepuh in the all-Hindu village of Seseh in South Bali, and at the communities who live in the surroundings of these sites, this thesis reveals that identity, legitimacy, limitations, and boundaries have coloured the dynamics of these sacred sites, their surrounding communities, and their pilgrims.