Teungku Sum’s dilemma: Ethical time, reflexivity, and the Islamic everyday

Daniel Andrew BIRCHOK


This article analyzes a dilemma faced by a young religious teacher in the Indonesian province of Aceh—namely, whether to continue teaching in an Islamic boarding school or to find more lucrative work elsewhere so that he can pursue a spouse. It argues that the way this teacher poses this dilemma as a choice between two mutually exclusive ethical goods makes visible an Islamic everyday constituted by different kinds and degrees of reflective awareness. This Islamic everyday brings different models of Islamic time to bear upon the details of a life in ways that frame multiple, and sometimes competing, accounts of self. In so doing, it challenges a distinction between Islam and the everyday that has been central in the anthropology of Islam.


Islam, ethics, temporality, reflexivity, the everyday, Indonesia

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/705468