Conviction without Being Convinced: Maintaining Islamic Certainty in Minangkabau, Indonesia:

Gregory M. Simon

In Minangkabau society in West Sumatra, Indonesia, Islam provides the solid ground of truth and morality. I examine the role that a notion of conviction plays in allowing Minangkabau people to maintain a sense of commitment to that truth despite practices and experiences that contradict it. Drawing from person-centered research, I argue that individuals can maintain the certainty of Islam and the Islamic nature of their own selves in the subjective realm of conviction. The ambiguity of conviction gives individuals the room to creatively manage the disparities between experience and a totalizing conception of Islamic Truth. Situated within a discussion about selfhood and moral subjectivity in Muslim societies, I develop this article to demonstrate how notions of belief can be used to maintain the sense of an absolute commitment to a totalizing truth even in the context of ambiguous experience, obviating the motivation to pursue a fundamentalist agenda.