Playing with Piety: The Phenomenon of Indonesian Muslim Dolls

Budiyanto, A.
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Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Introduction Muslim dolls are a new phenomenon within contemporary popular Islamic culture, particularly in Indonesia. While most contemporary Indonesian Islamist movements like Salafism (neo-Wahabism) are deeply influenced by transnational Islamist ideologies and thus reject any figures of humans,1 moderate Salafists often allow children to play with dolls. This acceptance is based on the Hhadits that spoke about Aisyah, the youngest wife of the Prophet, playing with a type of doll when she was about nine years old. Despite this acceptance, many conservatives still argue that Aisyah’s doll was not precisely a human-shaped doll. Muslim dolls emerged in Indonesia in 2005, soon after the reformation era2 when Islamic movements emerged more prominently in public spheres, marking a modern turn in the evolution of Islamic movements. Along with this transition into modernity, members of various Muslim organizations that married and built families began to consider secular toys for their children’s entertainment, particularly dolls. Not only were Muslim parents concerned about whether toys were or affordability of toys. Toy makers developed creative strategies in order to take these concerns into account. Muslim dolls and other popular “Islamic”imagery in popular culture—such as busana Muslim (Islamic clothes), Islamic stickers, Islamic music performances, among others—represent a huge material database for “religious visual culture.”
This journal has been published at different time periods under the following titles: Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Explorations in Southeast Asian Studies, and The Journal of the Southeast Asian Studies Association.
Budiyanto, A. 2009. Playing with Piety The Phenomenon of Indonesian Muslim Dolls. Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 9 (1):3-10.
Indonesia, Islam
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