Wektu Telu

On the island of Lombok, east of Bali, on the other side of the Wallace Line, there exists a religion called Wektu Telu. Devotees think of themselves as Muslim, but aspects of their practice vary considerably from orthodox Islam. For example, they don’t pray five times a day, they don’t make the haj to Mecca, they fast only three days at Ramadam instead of a month, they will eat pork.

Wektu Telu is an amalgam of Islam, Balinese Hinduism, and the animism of the Sasak people who are native to Lombok. Wektu Telu is Sasak and means result (of) three. This refers to the three religions, but also to a series of related trinities: Allah, Mohammed and Adam, who are analagous to the sun, moon and stars, which are in turn related to heaven, earth and water.

Allah is the one true God, Mohammed the link between God and human beings and Adam a being in search of a soul; a further elaboration of threes represents the human head, body, and limbs as creativity, sensitivity and control. Three main duties are encouraged: belief in God, resisting the temptations of the devil and co-operating with others by being helpful and loving people.

A temple at Lingsar, built in 1714, combines both the Balinese Hindu and Wektu Telu faiths. It is divided into two sections on two levels. In the Hindu section, a shrine faces towards Gunung Agung, the sacred volcanic seat of the gods on Bali. In the Wektu Telu section, a pond is home to a population of sacred eels. Visitors make offerings of hard-boiled eggs to these eels. Nearby on an altar there are numerous mirrors donated by Chinese business people to bring good fortune. A number of stones wrapped in strips of cloth, connected with Sasak animism, rest here also.

Wektu Telu believe that during birth, four siblings escape from the womb: blood, egg, placenta, amniotic fluid. The afterbirth has to be treated with care and respect, or else the four siblings might harm the child. Offerings are made and the afterbirth buried, then the child is scattered with ashes. When it is 105 days old there is a ceremony for the cutting of its hair. Later, between the ages of 6 and 11, the boys are circumcised and carried through the streets on wooden horses or on lions with tails made from palm fronds.

After death Wektu Telu bodies are washed in the presence of a holy man, wrapped in white sheets and sackcloth then placed on a platform while the Koran is read and people pray to the spirits of ancestors. In the cemetery the body is interred with the head facing Mecca, while the Koran is read first in Sanskrit, then in Arabic. Carved wood, for a man, and decorative combs, for a woman, are placed on the grave. There are ceremonies on the 3rd, 7th, 40th and 100th day after death. After 1000 days, holy water is sprinkled on the grave and the wooden offerings removed and replaced by stones.

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