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Tomb of Sunan Gresik also known as “Tomb of Syekh Maulana Malik Ibrahim, Gresik” Neelakantan, Vivek


Since the nineteenth century, Syekh Maulana Malik Ibrahim (1359-1419), known variously as Syeik Maghribi, Sunan Gresik or Syek Ibrahim as- Samarkandi is regarded as the first among the Wali Songo. The Wali Songo refers to the nine Sufi saints who introduced Islam to Java during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Sunyoto 2017). The discovery of the fifteenth century tombstone of Syekh Maulana Malik Ibrahim during the nineteenth century, elevated him to the status of Wali Songo. Babad Diponegoro was the first Javanese Babad to include Maulana Malik Ibrahim within the category of Wali Songo. Syekh Siti Jenar is sometimes included in the category of Wali Songo but sometimes his historical existence is denied due to controversy as he was the only pantheist among the Sufi saints of Java (Gil 2014). Each of the Wali Songo has a recognized tomb attached to a mosque and is a site for local pilgrimage or ziarah. Pilgrim visits occur at specific times, dictated by intersections of cycles of the Javanese calendar. Each saint of the Wali Songo is related to other members of the council either through genealogy or the master-apprentice relationship. Sunan Gresik was born in Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan) in 1359. By the time he was twenty, he was trained as a physician (Nourse 2013). Timur Lang's bullying tactics contributed to his migration to the Champa Kingdom (a collection of kingdoms that controlled parts of the coast of modern day Vietnam). At Vijaya, the then capital of the Champa kingdom, he succeeded in curing the king's illness. The King of Champa offered his daughter in marriage as a reward for Sunan Gresik's cure. Legend states that the Champa King subsequently converted to Islam (Nourse 2013). In 1404, Sunan Gresik and his Champa wife sailed to the north coast of Java and settled near the Gresik harbor. Sunan Gresik's son from his Champa wife was Raden Rahmat, popularly known as Sunan Ampel according to Babad Ngampeldenta (Sunyoto 2017). In Java, Sunan Gresik's medical skills led to his sanctification as Wali Gresik. His skills as a physician attracted followers from the inland Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Majapahit. As with most Islamic physicians of his time, Sunan Gresik belonged to a secret Sufi brotherhood Kubrawiyya Tariqa (Nourse 2013). The Kubrawiyya Tariqa was led by Syaikh Jumadil Kubra. Kubra taught that one could perceive Allah's healing essence as a glowing light (Nourse 2013). Over several generations, Sunan Gresik's descendants positioned themselves through strategic marriages with Javanese nobility and centralized power through control over sacred mystical knowledge (Nourse 2013). Dutch scholar J.P. Moquette notes from Sunan Gresik's tomb stone marker with an Arabic inscription that states [translated into English] : " This is the grave of Maulana Malik Ibrahim who passed away on Monday, 12 Rabi'ul Awwal, 812 Hijrah [date corresponding with April 7, 1419 of the Gregorian Calendar]. Exalted teacher of the princes and friend of the poor and destitute, he sacrificed his life for the cause of Islam. Maulana Malik Ibrahim, is originally from Kashan [Persia]. May Allah shower His mercy and grant him a place in paradise." The tomb of Sunan Gresik is situated less than 200 meters from the Gresik town square in the area of Desa Gapura. Sheltered by a Pendopo (Javanese Pandhapa), the tomb of Sunan Gresik reflects the imprint of Javanese architecture. The Pendopo is a large pavilion-like structure supported by columns and is rectangular in plan. It provides shelter to the pilgrims from sun and rain.

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