The Islamic Legacy of Barus: Tracing Indonesia’s History Through Ancient Tombs

The entry of Islam into Indonesia left various historical legacies, one of which is burial sites. These ancient graves are scattered throughout the archipelago, bearing witness to the early spread of Islam and the rich history of the region. One such significant site is located in Barus, an area that was once an important trading port on the west coast of Sumatra.

Barus, also known as Fansur, was renowned for its production of camphor, cloves, sandalwood, and nutmeg. Its strategic location on the edge of the Indian Ocean made it a major international trade hub, attracting traders from various parts of the world. Among these were Arab traders, who played a crucial role in introducing Islam to the region.

Historical records dating back to the 9th century mention Fansur as a bustling port city that enticed traders with the aroma of camphor. Arab merchant Ibn al-Faqih noted Fansur as a significant trading port on the west coast, further cementing its importance in the history of trade and Islam in the region.

The ancient graves of Barus tell the story of early Islamic civilization in Indonesia. The Mahligai Tomb site, located on a hill in Aek Dakka, is the largest tomb complex in Barus, covering an area of around 3 hectares. It contains approximately 200 graves, grouped into several types of stones, each with its own unique motifs and Arabic calligraphy.

Among the figures buried at the Mahligai Tomb site are Syekh Rukunuddin, Syekh Muazzamzyah, Syekh Zainal Abidin Ilyas, and Syekh Imam Khatib, all of whom played important roles in spreading Islam in the region. However, the tombstone of Syekh Rukunuddin, dated to 48 Hijriyah, is no longer at the site and is now housed in the North Sumatra State Museum.

Another notable tomb in Barus is the Papan Tinggi Tomb, located in Pananggahan Village. This tomb complex contains about eight graves, with one tomb measuring over 8 meters long and featuring intricate Islamic calligraphy.

In the Gabungan Village, the Tuan Ibrahimsyah Tomb stands as an ancient testament to the presence of Islamic communities in Barus. Inscriptions on tomb number 12 provide evidence of Islamic settlements dating back to 602 H, further solidifying Barus’s status as an early center of Islamic civilization in Indonesia.

In 2017, President Jokowi visited Barus to inaugurate the Tugu Titik Nol Peradaban Islam Nusantara (Zero Point Monument of the Nusantara Islamic Civilization), recognizing Barus as a pivotal point in the early spread of Islam in the archipelago. This designation highlights the importance of Barus in Indonesia’s history and its role in shaping the country’s cultural and religious landscape.

In conclusion, the ancient tombs of Barus stand as a testament to the rich history of Islam in Indonesia. These burial sites not only serve as a reminder of the early spread of Islam in the region but also highlight the importance of Barus as a center of trade and culture in Southeast Asia. Through these ancient graves, we can trace Indonesia’s history and appreciate the diverse influences that have shaped the country into what it is today.