In the year that I attended lectures on the Dutch East Indies with Professor Wim van den Doyle in Leiden, I visited the grave of Arabist Christian Snook Hargronje at midnight. After nearly 25 years, Wim van den Doyle presented a fist-sized biography of this interesting man who had shaped policy towards the archipelago’s Muslims for the Dutch government, but who also converted to Islam and in that capacity visited Mecca to perform the Hajj. . He married a Sudanese woman, had five children with her, and wrote a compelling book about his trip to the Holy City in German!
In short, a man about whom we will be making many documentaries and films in the Netherlands to give depth to the controversy, especially at this time when we are talking about citizenship, Islam and identity. So no, because we live in the Netherlands where the birds of paradise are hunted out of the country in broad daylight. Additionally, Snouck Hurgronje, as befitting a man of the nineteenth century, was racist and sexist. When it detracts from others, it makes it more interesting and complex. But nobody in the Netherlands has heard of Snouck Hurgronje.
At night at the cemetery
Few people know that this intellectual giant is buried in a modest tomb in Leiden. I didn’t know in 1997 either. I found out around 10 p.m. when I sat at a table with a fellow student at the Jazz Café Razmattaz in downtown Leiden. At the same table sat a short man bent over a Qur’an. While the jazz tones sounded delightful, he became as focused as a mystic monk in Bible study. To keep his studies smooth, he drank from a can of soft drinks he had brought with him. Poverty portends at work.
We sat close enough to speak, the man seemed happy that he was able to leave the study of the Bible for what it is. He came from Malaysia, was a historian and visited Leiden to attend a symposium on Islam. To pass the time he taught himself Arabic for the Quran. He took us deeper and deeper into the wonderful world of Islam in the former Dutch East Indies and then dropped the name Snouck Hurgronje. And this is one of them! Did he turn to Islam in order to be able to investigate the effect of the Islam of Arabia on the Indian pilgrims in Makkah? Or is he a sincere Muslim? Later, he will advise war criminal Van Heights on how to put down the rebellion in Aceh. Is Snook a friend or enemy of Muslims? ”
Snook Hurgrouni never spoke about it, for he remained a man of many worlds until his death. “Anyway, he was buried here,” said the scientist as he collected his writings. “Right?”
Grunstage Cemetery. He’s risen, we said goodbye. You call the stranger who brings wisdom a friend. My colleagues and I looked at each other. To Groenesteeg! While the dogs were barking, we crawled over the cemetery wall to finish at the Snook family grave. There is also a mystery about his burial. Snouck Hurgronje directs a friend to bury him according to his instructions. Do these Islamic controls make the final resting place of Islam? Hopefully, Wim van den Doel’s biography will provide a solution.
Abdelkader Bin Ali (1975) writer. In 1996, he made his debut with “Wedding by the sea”, and in 2003 he won the Libris Literature Award for his novel “De long-waiting.” Every two weeks he writes a column for Trouw. Read it here.