The Indonesian Hajj. Part 1: The Archive of the Dutch Consulate (later Legation) at Jiddah (Jeddah), Saudi Arabia, 1872-1950
The Indonesian Hajj
Part 1: The Archive of the Dutch Consulate (later Legation) at Jiddah (Jeddah), Saudi Arabia, 1872-1950
By the early 1870s thousands of Muslim pilgrims were traveling each year from the Netherlands East Indies to Mecca to perform the hajj , one of the principal duties of every follower of Islam. The voyage went by sea from the archipelago to the port of Jiddah on the Red Sea coast in the Hejaz region of Arabia, at the time a province of the Ottoman Empire. The desirability of exercising control over this vast movement of colonial subjects coupled with the possibility of increased trade through the Red Sea brought about by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 prompted the Dutch ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Colonies to open a consulate there. The request made to the Ottoman authorities in Constantinople was granted and in June of 1872 the first consul presented his credentials to the local Turkish authorities at Jiddah and the Dutch flag was hoisted to a ceremonial 21-gun salute.
Trading opportunities soon proved disappointing and the primary task of the con¬sulate for the next eight decades became protecting, caring for, administering and, signifi¬cantly, monitoring the political activities of, the many Indonesian pilgrims visiting the holy places. It was no accident that the first diplomat to hold this post was well acquainted with the situation in the East Indies and with the Indonesian language.
The famous Dutch Arabist and scholar of Islam, Snouck Hurgronje, who himself visited Arabia in 1884-1885 and entered Mecca as a Muslim convert, advised the Netherlands Indies government to appoint Indonesian personnel, who as Muslims would have access to Mecca itself, barred to non-Muslims. While tolerant of Islam as a religion, his constant counsel as a colonial adviser over many years was to repress political agitation. Thus in 1885 Consul de Vicq hired the Javanese Raden Abu Bacr as interpreter and scribe. He was able to accompany the pilgrims to Mecca and furnish the Dutch with all sorts of information about people and the Indonesian Muslim colony resident there.
In addition to politics, the medical care of the pilgrims was a major concern of the Dutch authorities and here too it was the practice to appoint Indonesian personnel. An Indonesian medical practice was established at Jiddah and transferred permanently to Mecca in 1927. The importance of this service can be seen by the fact that more than 20,000 patients were being treated there by 1938.
Initially the consulate's purview only extended to the port of Jiddah itself, but was expanded in 1894 to include the Hejaz and Yemen. Later a vice-consulate was also established in Mecca. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I led to the creation of mandate territories in the region, such as Iraq, and the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 1930 the Jiddah consulate was elevated to the rank of legation and in 1932 its jurisdiction was enlarged once again. With Indonesian independence at the end of 1949, care for the pilgrims became the responsibility of the new government and Dutch representation at Jiddah ended.
The archive: The infrastructure of the hajj
The archive of the consulate and later legation contains correspondence and other documents, such as reports, registers and statistical surveys from 1872 until 1950 in Dutch, but also in Arabic, Malay, French and English.
They can be used to study the entire infrastructure of the hajj in all its facets, including:
• transportation of the pilgrims by sea and later by air
• health and medical needs of the pilgrims
• public health and sanitation during the hajj
• treatment and prevention of disease and epidemics, quarantines
• medical personnel
• births and deaths during the pilgrimage, inheritances
• housing and food supplies
• religious currents and religious education
• legal and financial problems of the pilgrims
• political activities
• provenance and background of the Indonesian pilgrims
• pilgrims from other countries, especially from British India, Malaya and Singapore
• international cooperation in matters relating to the hajj, especially public health
• Dutch and Indonesian consular personnel
• relations with the authorities in Jiddah and Mecca
• the Java colony at Mecca
Political and economic history of the region
More generally, the archive also contains reports and other documents that can be used for the study of the political situation in the Middle East in this tumultuous period and its economic exploitation, including documents on slavery in the region, petroleum extraction, infrastructural development, such as road building and separate files kept for Aden, Eritrea, Hadhramaut, Iraq and Yemen.
An inventory in Dutch with an introduction in English provides access to the archive, which is being micropublished in its entirety with the exception of a number of files under embargo for reasons of privacy.