Making sense of religion: The legacy of Professor Fox in the study of Islam in Indonesia

Muhammad Adlin Sila (Ministry of Religion)


This paper traces the problems of how home anthropologist write the society they study in their home village. I will examine what the advantages and disadvantages for Muslim anthropologist to study their own religious beliefs and practices according to the anthropological way of thinking. In doing that, my engagement with Professor Fox is important to explore on how to look at Islam, my religion, as a matter of social practice. The influence of Professor Fox in my academic life started when I enrolled as MA student at ANU and wrote a thesis on the Hadhrami people in Makassar, my home town. My academic journey as anthro-pologist continued to evolve as I pursued my PhD in anthropology at the same university in 2010 and wrote a thesis Muslim in Bima of Sumbawa, Indonesia. Therefore, my study on Islam both in Makassar and Bima has assisted me to further develop the diverse traditions of Islam in Indonesia. Professor Fox has provided me a critical tool to understand that what it means to be Muslim as a socially constructed reality that exists in the minds of the local Muslims and this differ between social groups. I must admit that Professor Fox has succeeded to ‘convert’ me from an Islamic theologian to become an anthropologist