Event — Book presentation

Caught between Three Fires: The Javanese Pangulu under the Dutch Colonial Administration 1882-1942

Prof. (Em.) Nico Kaptein and Prof. Kamaruddin Amin discuss Muhamad Hisyam's (d. 2021) Caught between Three Fires (2001), a book that shows how the colonial administration changed the religious life of indigenous people. 

This book discussion will take place in the IIAS conference room from 13:00 to 14:00 p.m. (not online). 

Everyone is welcome to attend. We kindly ask you to register, as seating is limited.

This event is part of Festival Islam Kepulauan, organised by the Netherlands Branch of Nahdlatul Ulama (PCINU Belanda). 


This book discussion is part of a series of activities in the Festival Islam Kepulauan, held in The Netherlands from 1 to 20 May 2024. The Festival is an initiative of Lesbumi (Indonesian Muslim Cultural Artists Institute) of PCINU Belanda (The Special Branch of Nahdlatul Ulama in The Netherlands). It is centred around the theme “The Voices of Archipelago", celebrating Javanese Ṣūfī poetry, specifically Suluk, which entails the mystical path of Sufis and aspirant Sufis. For the complete agenda, please see www.thevoicesofarchipelago.org/schedule-tab.

The Book and Author

Muhamad Hisyam (d. 2021) was a senior researcher in Islamic society and history. He was the Head of the Research Centre for Society and Culture at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Caught between Three Fires shows how the pangulus saw themselves and alludes to the three forces which the panghulus had to take into account in their functioning, namely God, in their capacity of Islamic judge; secondly, the Muslim community in their capacity of religious leader, and thirdly, the Dutch colonial government, for, in their capacity of Islamic leaders the panghulus were confronted in an ever more intense manner with a government which was non-Islamic.

The last "fire" constitutes one of the book's most fascinating aspects: the relationship between the panghulus and the Dutch colonial administration. This relationship became more complicated in the crucial year 1882 when the Muslim religious courts, the so-called "rad agama (priester-raden), were established, resulting in the institution of panghulu becoming incorporated into the Dutch colonial administration. After this date, the panghulus no longer fell under the responsibility of the indigenous administration. They were made part of the colonial bureaucracy that became responsible for their appointment and for whom, from then on, they worked as civil servant (ambtenaar).

The book shows how the colonial administration changed the religious life of indigenous people.

The Speakers

Nico Kaptein is Emeritus Professor of Islam in South East Asia at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies. His expertise is in the Relationship between Islam and local culture; Relations between the Middle East and South-East Asia in the religious domain; Islam in the Netherlands East Indies, Islam in Indonesia.

Kamaruddin Amin is the Director General of Islamic Community Guidance. He is a Professor of Islamic Studies at Alauddin State Islamic University, Makassar, South Celebes. His expertise centres on the transmission of ḥadīth, the exemplary practice of the prophet Muḥammad.

Registration (required)

Everyone is welcome to attend, but please register using the web form on this page, as seating is limited.