Arsip

Pesantren

DARUSSALAM — Pondok Modern Darussalam Gontor telah mempersiapkan kontingen pramuka yang akan dikirim mengikuti Jambore Dunia (Jamdun) ke-22 di Swedia, pada bulan Juli-Agustus 2011 mendatang. Kontingen yang diberi nama “Eagle Team” ini beranggotakan 28 orang santri yang terdiri dari 23 orang santri Gontor 1, dua orang santri Gontor 3, dua orang santri Gontor 5, dan satu orang santri Gontor 6. Mereka berhasil lolos seleksi yang meliputi kemampuan berbahasa Inggris dan skill kepramukaan.

Mengingat semakin dekatnya acara yang dijadwalkan akan berlangsung selama 10 hari, 27 Juli — 7 Agustus 2011 nanti, Majelis Pembimbing Koordinator Harian (Mabikori) mengadakan karantina peserta sejak beberapa minggu yang lalu, Rabu (1/6), dengan tujuan menggalang kekompakan antaranggota kontingen dan memaksimalkan latihan-latihan kepramukaan. Selama mengikuti karantina, mereka ditempatkan bersama-sama di ruangan Ankuperpus Gedung 17 Agustus hingga menjelang waktu keberangkatan. Menurut Ustadz Firman Kurniawan, staf Mabikori, kontingen direncanakan berangkat dari Gontor pada tanggal 23 Juli 2011 yang akan datang.

Sementara itu, selain berlatih dalam berbagai skill kepramukaan, para peserta juga mengadakan latihan Tari Aceh, Tari Malulo, dan Kesenian Reog. Ketiga seni inilah yang nantinya akan ditampilkan kontingen Gontor di Swedia untuk mewakili kebudayaan Indonesia, karena “Eagle Team” juga berstatus sebagai utusan Indonesia. Dengan persiapan ini, diharapkan “Eagle Team” mampu menyebarkan syiar Gontor ke seluruh dunia sekaligus membawa nama baik Indonesia di mata dunia melalui bidang kepramukaan.

Sumber

Istilah kurikulum ter­sem­bunyi (hidden curricullum) dikenalkan oleh Philip W Jackson pada tahun 1968 dan Paulo Freire pada 1972. Namun, Pondok Modern Darussalam Gontor telah menerapkan kurikulum ini sejak awal berdirinya, 10 April 1926. Kurikulum ter­sem­bunyi dilaksanakan untuk mengolah ranah afektif dan psikomotorik peserta didik. Dalam melaksanakan kuri­kulum tersembunyi ini, KMI dibantu oleh staf Peng­asuhan Santri. Untuk memberlakukan kurikulum ter­sembunyi ini, saf Pengasuhan Santri menggunakan “Total Quality Control” yang berfungsi untuk mencari dan me­nyelesaikan permasalahan, mencari inspirasi, memupuk rasa tanggung jawab dan menciptakan kehidupan sesuai dengan yang diinginkan/diarahkan.



Pelaksanaan hidden curriculum dapat dilakukan di rayon atau asrama, Organisasi Pelajar Pondok Modern (OPPM), Koordinator Gerakan Pramuka, dan non-OPPM. Di asrama, kurikulum ini dilaksanakan selama 24 jam per hari. Selama waktu tersebut para santri mendapatkan pen­­didikan hidup dan menghidupi, berjuang dan mem­perjuangkan, berkorban dan mengorbankan. Santri kelas 5 yang diberi tanggung jawab oleh Pengasuh Pondok untuk menjadi pengurus rayon diharapkan terdidik untuk bisa menjadi pemimpin yang hakiki. Mereka dituntut sewaktu-waktu untuk bisa menjadi ‘ayah’ atau ‘ibu’. Sewaktu-waktu juga bisa menjadi ‘kakak’ bahkan ‘teman’ biasa bagi anggotanya masing-masing. Sedangkan anggota rayon, santri kelas 1-4 dan kelas 5-6 yang tinggal di asrama, perlu memperoleh bimbingan, pengawalan, motivasi bahkan kadang-kadang perlu shock terapy.

Sistem asrama ini bagaikan sebuah sistem pemerintah­an suatu negara. Ketua rayon sebagai presiden, para pengurus rayon lainnya –yang terbagi menjadi dua bagian: keamanan dan penggerak bahasa– sebagai menteri, dan anggota rayon ibarat masyarakat. Anggota rayon itu bagaikan padi. Makin diperhatikan, dirawat dan dijaga dari segala serangan hama oleh petani (pengurus rayon) maka makin baguslah hasil panennya. Sebaliknya jika padi itu kurang diperhatikan, jarang dirawat, dibiarkan dari serangan hama, maka padi itu akan hancur, rusak, tak layak untuk dijual apalagi dikonsumsi. Sama halnya dengan anggota yang menghadapi pelbagai permasalahan dan kurang mendapat bimbingan, perhatian, motivasi, dan khususnya pengontrolan dari pengurus dalam bidang ubudiyah, akhlak, disiplin, akademik, dan bahasa, maka prestasi santri akan kurang memuaskan ke­ti­ka kenaikan kelas di­umum­kan.

Kurikulum pesantren di Pon­­dok Modern Gontor se­imbang. Tidak membedakan pro­gram intrakurikuler dengan ekstra­­kurikuler. Se­­­imbang bukan berarti fifty-fifty atau one hundred-one hundred me­­lainkan semuanya di­penting­kan, diperhatikan dan pada akhir­nya akan mem­pe­ngaruhi kinerja santri. Karena dipentingkan, di­per­hatikan, dan keduanya sa­ling mempengaruhi, maka kurikulum ter­sebut menjadi satu kesatuan yang utuh (integrated) dan menyeluruh (comprehensive). Program intrakurikuler tidak lebih utama daripada ekstrakurikuler atau sebaliknya. Jadi, kegiatan dalam kelas maupun luar kelas sama pentingnya. Bahkan dalam kasus-kasus tertentu, untuk kepentingan tertentu, bisa jadi kelas diliburkan untuk kegiatan ekstrakurikuler seperti pada acara pergantian pengurus OPPM, penerimaan tamu, pekan perkenalan Khutbatu-l-‘Arsy, dan apel tahunan. Dengan meliburkan kelas untuk kepentingan tertentu, itu menandakan bahwa derajat intrakurikuler dan ekstrakurikuler sama (seimbang).

Integrasi intrakurikuler dengan ekstrakurikuler dapat dilihat dari aspek pengembangan potensi santri, baik dalam ubudiyah, mental, sosial, maupun intelektual. Santri memperoleh pelajaran agama 100 persen dan pelajaran umum 100 persen. Dua hal tersebut dapat dilakukan dengan mudah karena seluruh santri berada dalam kampus selama 24 jam per hari yang terintegrasikan pada tri pusat pendidikan; rumah, sekolah, dan masyarakat dengan dilandasi oleh falsafah hidup pondok yang secara tidak sadar telah diajarkan oleh guru di dalam kelas melalui mata pelajaran agama dan umum yang kemudian diterapkan oleh seluruh santri pada kehidupan sehari-hari. Misalkan, pelajaran muthala’ah, mahfudzat, dan hadis mengajarkan tentang akhlaqul karimah, sedangkan pelajaran bahasa Inggris mengajarkan tentang kedisiplinan, dan lain sebagainya. Dengan demikian, tujuan pembelajaran di Gontor dapat tercapai sesuai yang diinginkan atau diarahkan.

Tujuan pembelajaran di Pondok Modern Darussalam Gontor adalah mencetak santri yang mukmin, taat menjalankan dan menegakkan syariat Islam, berbudi tinggi, berbadan sehat, berpikiran bebas, serta berkhidmat kepada bangsa dan negara, serta bukan untuk mencari ijazah atau gelar.

Oleh: Mochamad Lutfi Andriansa

Sumber


A type of school in Southeast Asia offering second‐level training in Islamic subjects is termed pesantren on Java, surau on Sumatra, pondok on the Malay Peninsula, and pandita (“school”) in the Philippines. Pesantren derives from the sixteenth century, when learning centers known as the “place of learning for the Islamic faithful (santris),” were established. Surau was a place for worship in early Southeast Asia, while pondok derives from the travelers’ inns (Ar., funduq) of the Middle East. Pandita was the local term for a holy man in the Philippines.

By the seventeenth century the pesantren on Java had become alternate centers of authority to the princely courts. The courts stressed elaborate lifestyles based on Old Javanese values of refinement, while the pesantren stressed pious conduct and the hereafter. Each rival, however, usually recognized the legitimacy and societal role of the other. In Minangkabau the surau was likewise a center of authority outside the traditional communal units of society. In other places there seems to have been less social division between the court and the learning centers than existed in Java and Minangkabau.

In earlier times the pesantren, surau, pondok, and pandita schools were a rural phenomenon, interacting with local communities. Scholars provided education, gave advice to villagers, and legitimized local ceremonies. Some scholars were regarded as “blessed” and were consulted for cures and supernatural assistance during their lives and after death by cults at their tombs. Villagers supported pesantren with food and labor; in some places a poor tax, alms, and pious endowments were also given. In Malaysia support networks of parents provided assistance, and in all places learners often worked in the fields of the pesantren, since fees were seldom taken for learning per se. Today some pesantren are located in urban areas, and many rely on fees.

Pesantren are private ventures by scholars—called kyai on Java, guru on the Malay Peninsula, pandita in the southern Philippines, and ʿalīm in most other places—usually with the assistance of their families. Many schools do not survive the founder, but others continue through several generations, with sons and sons‐in‐law succeeding to control and ownership. Prestige is gained by scholars through good contacts with other scholar families, some in Arabia, and also through pupils who establish new pesantren recognizing the original scholars as progenitors.

Learners in earlier times remained at a pesantren until they felt they had learned enough and then returned to society. Committed learners, often sons of scholars (gus), moved among pesantren whose scholars had reputations for special knowledge. Such travel allowed a learner the opportunity to marry a daughter of an established scholar, ensuring himself a place to teach and perhaps to succeed the older scholar. Today, additional training is obtained in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, often at Al‐Azhar University in Egypt .

Historically, the intense education and worship schedule led to deep involvement of learners with their scholar, which produced strong loyalties and respect. In school and after departing, scholars could rely on their learners to answer a summons for aid, a factor of political importance at certain moments in history. In the Second Javanese War (1826–1830), the Acehnese War (1873–1903), and the Battle of Surabaya (1946) during the Indonesian revolution, scholars led their santris into armed conflict against enemies who they believed threatened the Muslim community. Contemporary Indonesian Muslim intellectuals have lauded the anti‐Dutch stance of the pesantren scholars, recognizing them as preservers of Indonesian and Islamic values during the colonial period.

Learning in pesantren is based on the “old books” (kitab kuning) of prominent scholars from the Muslim Middle Period (ca. 1250 to 1850), usually from the Shāfiʿī school of legal scholarship. Study has always included Arabic grammar (naḥw) and conjugation (ṣarf), Qur’ānic recitation (qirā’ah), Qur’ānic exegesis (tafsīr), theology (tawḥīd), jurisprudence (fiqh), ethics (akhlāq), logic (manṭiq), history (tārīkh) and mysticism (taṣawwuf). The weton or ḥalaqah system was used, in which learners sat in a semicircle before a seated scholar who called on them in turn for recitation. Learners at all levels of competence sat together, and the more accomplished assisted the less learned with their readings.

Change occurred slowly. Some learners studied in Mecca before becoming scholars and were influenced by thinking there. In this way the Naqshabandīyah order, with its balance between mysticism and legalism, became popular in nineteenth‐century Southeast Asia. Wahhābī purism was introduced through the Minangkabau suraus in the early nineteenth century, and in the early twentieth century some schools came under the modernizing and spiritual reform of the Manār school of Egypt. There was locally induced change as well, for example in the reforms of Hasyim Asy’ari (d. 1947), who introduced new techniques for the study of Arabic.

In the twentieth century pesantren came under pressure from society and governments to adopt current teaching techniques and to include nonreligious subjects; many responded favorably. In Indonesia the Modern Pesantren at Gontor, for example, expanded to include training from elementary grades to the university level, with a mixed curriculum. Other pesantren converted to madrasahs or sekolahs within the Indonesian education system. Still others offered specialized training in agriculture, crafts, and business alongside traditional religious subjects.

In the southern Philippines the pandita schools gave way to more organized madrasahs promoted by Egyptian religious teachers in the 1950s. In Thailand in the 1960s, the pondok schools were united into a state‐run system with a mixed curriculum. Losing pupils to government schools, pondoks in Malaysia sought accommodation with revivalist (daʿwah) activists in the 1970s to renew interest in Muslim education.

Although the value‐oriented education of the pesantren remains respected by Southeast Asian Muslims, the pesantren still appears to be waning as an educational choice. Muslims increasingly feel compelled to send their children to government schools with modern curricula, believing they will be better prepared for the job market. Even children of scholars, who earlier formed the cadre of young scholars and their wives, are drawn by nonreligious education, so that fewer scholars are being trained, and there is a long‐term decrease in the number of pesantren.

Adopted from http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0632

Published by:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Ed
Teacher in Malang Indonesia

How does pesantren education offer students help for future integration into ’s democratizing society and prepare them to live in a pluralist world? In light of an increasingly heated public debate that sees developments within the Muslim educational scene worldwide with much concern as a move to intolerance and militancy, this question does not allow for an easy answer. ’s pesantren are not spared similar accusations. Recent media coverage has been marked by a heightened sense that the pesantren constitute a “problem” globally as much as for Indonesia’s fledgling democracy to the extent that the German Geo declared the pesantren and their kiai “die vielleicht größte Gefahr für das Land” (Ger.; possibly the country’s gravest danger).[i] Accusations of a Saudi encouragement of radicalism there also feature prominently in articles. One reads of allegations that militant Muslim organizations exert control over a growing number of pesantren that generate “countless young militants schooled in jihad.”[ii]

Regardless of how one thinks about the alleged connection between Muslim radicalism and pesantren education, problems and challenges for the pesantren tradition have long been identified by both western and Indonesian educationalists when reflecting upon the schools’ potentials to prepare students for life in ’s modernizing society. Some have criticized the quality of education offered by pesantren as substandard; financial difficulties and insufficient qualifications of the teaching staff exacerbate the situation. Moreover, the religious nature of the curriculum and instructional techniques such as rote learning and memorization are deemed inadequate to the task of educating critical thinkers who will aid the process of social transformation upon which the country has embarked.

The alleged inability to prepare children adequately for the needs of the modern world is at the heart of the criticism. The modern world is generally characterized by a rational and secular outlook on life, which allows for the accommodation of scientific and technological developments as well as the pluralization and democratization of public life. In this perspective, secular institutions, which include secular systems of education, are deemed most able to prepare students for life in modern, pluralistic and democratic societies. In contrast, Muslim educational institutions appear unable either to accommodate modern scientific and technological change or to incorporate or support the pluralization and democratization of public life. In what follows I will argue that traditional Islamic education can and does prepare students for life in the modern world. More specifically, many of ’s pesantren exhibit a quite forward looking approach to balancing religious and formal education and make significant contributions to the empowerment of civil society by promoting an open attitude towards pluralism and democratic civility. Why might this be difficult to understand for someone trained in the western social sciences?

It has been common in western social theory to assume that in industrialized, highly educated, professionally specialized, and technologically advanced societies, religion will inevitably and progressively decline. Notwithstanding more recent challenges to the universality and inevitability of secularization, secular conceptions of modernity for a long time have shaped understandings of religion’s role in society. The projected retreat of religion from the public into the private realm, often coupled with the idea of religion’s subsequent marginalization and decline, set hurdles to any attempt to reflect on religion’s desirable contributions in the public sphere. In fact, a religion which does not accept it allocated space in the private sphere and seeks to assert itself publicly all too often is understood to be anti-modern, prone to extremism and fanaticism, and thus a potential threat. Education is undoubtedly a public matter whether it occurs in public schools or in private institutions. What happens in the educational institutions of a society ultimately concerns all citizens as it impinges on all facets of public life. It is not surprising then that recent discussions about religion’s role in education are located in the broader context of the debate about religion in the public sphere. Much of the current criticisms and stereotyping of Islamic educational institutions is motivated by a general suspicion of religion’s involvement in a public affair such as education.

Islamic Education in

Despite being a Muslim-majority nation, is not an Islamic state. Neither is Islam the official state religion. On the other hand, to consider secular would be mistaken. Constitutionally, the country is based on the Pancasila which acknowledges the religiously plural makeup of the Indonesian populace. This, however, does not indicate the state’s lack of support for Islam. An Islamic court system regulating matters of Islamic family law exists alongside the civil court system. A similar situation exists in the education system where the state maintains Islamic primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions of learning. Alongside the state system of education there thus exist a number of private educational networks on the levels of primary, secondary, and higher education. These institutions are mostly affiliated with religious organizations. Muhammadiyah maintains its own private universities with more than thirty campuses throughout the country, as well as a network of madrasah type schools. The latter is an Islamic day school that operates on a graded class system and employs a curriculum that combines general and religious subjects sanctioned by the Department of Religious Affairs. While the number of colleges and universities affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama is smaller, the majorities of ’s Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) have strong cultural affiliations with Nahdlatul Ulama and have traditionally been independent of the government system.

Within the above institutions is an ongoing debate over the proper forms and meanings of Muslim education that exhibits elements well ahead of corresponding debates in other South and Southeast Asian countries. However, answers to questions of the nature and function of Islamic education and of the relationship between religious and general education are, of course, anything but homogenous. In the wake of continuing decentralization, local governments have changed educational policies in their school districts, have begun to demand traditional Islamic garb for female students of state schools, and have added supplementary religious instruction to the curriculum. Moreover, there have been sporadic reports that instructors on all levels of education use the mandatory courses on religion to subject students to a rigid, anti-pluralist interpretation of Islam. Finally, increased proselytizing activities by dakwah groups on campuses within the state system have raised concern that these are a source of Islamic intolerance and militancy.

The foregoing indicates the centrality of educational institutions for the religious socialization of ’s youth. Notwithstanding the perception of Muslim institutions of education as promoting religious exclusivism, the Indonesian Muslim educational scene is generally characterized by an emphasis on moderation. Although the decentralization of education has had negative results in some cases, in other instances it has also freed Islamic institutions from the limiting control of the state and granted them autonomy to develop more progressive curriculum materials than their non-Islamic counterparts. On the tertiary level, the IAIN as well as the Muhammadiyah systems have implemented a progressive civic education program which includes such issues as gender equality, democracy, and human rights but also pays attention to teacher training and instructional methods that foster participatory learning and critical thinking. The materials developed for these programs have replaced the earlier courses in civic education that were required under the New Order and are well ahead of comparable programs in other institutions of higher education. Observations such as the foregoing have led Merle Ricklefs in a recent public lecture to describe the state system of Islamic higher education and its nationwide network of campuses as “bastion of tolerant, liberal, pluralistic Islam.”[iii] A similar reputation for advancing Islamic understandings of democracy has been earned by some of Muhammadiyah’s universities such as the Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang (UMM).

The importance of the Islamic educational scene for this moderate branch of Indonesian Islam is further underscored by the fact that many of the Muslim intellectuals and activists found in the network of “civil Islam” are graduates from Islamic higher educational institutions such as the IAIN. Besides continuing their higher education at Islamic universities in the Middle East such as Cairo’s al-Azhar, it has become increasingly common for graduates from these programs to enter graduate programs at secular universities in Europe, , the , and . As a consequence, it has become more common that to find young Muslims among the ranks of students at these institutions who in addition to their traditional religious formation have participated in religious studies programs at Western universities and are well versed in the social sciences. Many of the leading contemporary advocates of a civil pluralist Islam in such as Azumardi Azra and Amin Abdullah are institutionally affiliated with the state system of Islamic higher education. The former is the rector of the UIN Jakarta whereas the latter maintains a position as professor in the Fakultas Ushuluddin (Faculty of Comparative Study of Religions) at the IAIN Yogyakarta.

The Pesantren Tradition

A similar creative energy and progressive thought is visible in many of ’s pesantren.[iv] The pesantren are traditionally providers of private, non-formal (religious) education and do not issue state-recognized certificates for these educational activities. They range from local Qur’an schools, in which students are instructed in the system of Qur’an recitation, to religious colleges akin to those found in the Middle East . Some have only a few regular students, a single teacher and perhaps some small agricultural fields, whereas others instruct upwards of three thousand students. Compared to state schools, the educational standards of many pesantren are considered lower. This is often the result of financial difficulties to fund the expansion of educational programs to include high-quality formal education. Nevertheless, over the past decades a growing integration of the pesantren into the national system of education can be perceived. Many pesantren have begun to teach a government-accredited curriculum in addition to traditional religious subjects while others have fully incorporated madrasah or sekolah-type schools. In the wake of such changes, some of these pesantren have become very large educational institutions, and many are increasingly integrated in the state-controlled education system.[v] Other pesantren have rejected the enhanced state control and interference in their educational routines that are part of adopting state-sanctioned curricula. Consequently, there remain numerous pesantren opting to stay outside the national system. Yet many of these have incorporated additional subjects such as English, journalism, computer science, and economics.[vi] Training in applied skills is equally prevalent. Drawing on ideas of critical pedagogy as expressed in the writings of such thinkers as Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich, many activists promoted the pesantren as model institutions for community development in the 1970’s, offering specialized training in agriculture, crafts, and business alongside traditional religious subjects.[vii] Still other pesantren have developed special programs that are connected to some of the functions the pesantren and their kiai have traditionally fulfilled. These include the provision of basic medical training as well as therapeutic programs such as psychotherapy or drug rehabilitation based on mystical practices.

Through their varied educational programs the pesantren contribute to a strengthening of the social fabric. They provide comparatively affordable education and, in some cases, are the only educational institutions available to families who otherwise could not send their children to school. No less important is the role that pesantren have played in the realm of community development: many pesantren are key institutions in the empowerment of civil society down to the grass-roots level. In their efforts at community development, many pesantren co-operate with the growing number of NGOs in this field. The mushrooming NGO activity in and around the pesantren tradition was one of the most remarkable features of the 1970s and 1980s. A number of these newly-emerging NGOs was affiliated with and supported by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) for which development work had become a major focus in the 1980s.[viii] Among the most prominent contemporary NGOs are the Indonesian Society for Pesantren and Community Development (Perhimpunan Pengembangan Pesantren dan Masyarakat or P3M). The main goal of Jakarta-based P3M is to promote community development with a particular focus on pluralism and democracy. In its work P3M often utilizes the extensive network of ’s pesantren, which are both agents for and targets of community development programs. With the changing political climate in the 1990’s, some pesantren have begun to see their educational and socio-religious activities intimately connected with support for democratic civil society and seek to raise a critical political awareness among a wide spectrum of society for issues such as human rights, pluralism, political and social justice, democracy, and interfaith tolerance. Using classical Islamic texts, these institutions have geared their educational activities towards the affirmation of thought and praxis on anti-violence, civility, justice, and pluralism. Here Muslim organizations not only are involved in the theoretical and intellectual dimensions of building a pluralist society in a Muslim majority country, but also they are preparing their students to live as Muslims in diversity by empowering them in very concrete ways to participate in this process of social transformation.

As the result of these efforts within the pesantren scene, a network of Islamic scholars and activists affiliated with the pesantren has evolved that advances and supports democratic processes, civil society, pluralism, gender justice, and human rights within the framework of traditional Islamic scholarship and teaching. Through their role in community development and democracy building these pesantren are an integral part of the network of “civil Islam.”[ix] Although it may seem surprising to some that traditional religious institutions such as the pesantren are involved in forging an understanding of democracy and pluralism in an Islamic context, the educational activities in a variety of these schools exemplify such a trend. Pondok Pesantren Al-Muayyad Windan in Solo, Central Java is one such pesantren which explicitly seeks to prepare students to participate in transforming ’s society. In its efforts Al-Muayyad Windan cooperates with numerous NGOs, thereby utilizing as well as reinforcing the creative endeavors occurring on this level of society. Some of the highly visible and widely known organizations with which Al-Muayyad Windan collaborates include the aforementioned P3M and LKiS, Rahima (The Center for Education and Information on Islam and Women’s Rights Issues), CePDeS (Center for Pesantren and Democracy Studies), Interfidei (Institut Dialog Antar Iman), FPUB (Yogyakarta Interfaith Forum), and Percik (Institute for Social Research, Democracy, and Social Justice). Other pesantren such as Darul Tawhid in Cirebon have gained a widespread reputation for their work on issues of gender and women’s rights. Kiai Hussein was instrumental in the foundation of the pesantren-based NGO Fahmina which hence has had remarkable success engaging the support of numerous kiyai and pesantren in the region promoting women’s rights on the local level.

Evaluating Pesantren Education: Ambivalences
An evaluation of these developments will have to concede that ambivalences remain. Among the many noteworthy aspects of pesantren education is the integration of theory with religious praxis. The emphasis of pesantren education on character formation has most recently been pointed out by Lukens-Bull who described values such as keikhlasan (selflessness), kesederhanaan (simplicity), and kemandirian (self-sufficiency) as central to pesantren life. He notes, “By providing secular education, religious instruction, and training aimed at character development, pesantren are creating a new type of modern Indonesian… They are redefining modernity in an Islamic mode.”[x] Moreover, most pesantren have become co-operative institutions within the national system of education. What consequences the integration into the state system has for pesantren, however, is a topic of debate within the tradition itself. Some are confident that the integration will result in a well-balanced education that provides both religious and general training and allows graduates to continue their studies in state institutions of higher education. In my conversations with them, many kiai and santri signaled an awareness of the possible and at times very real dilemma for the pesantren posed by the integration of formal learning, namely that students at times conceive of traditional religious education only as secondary. Contributing to these developments are economic constraints and the perceived necessity of state-certified education in order to ensure employment opportunities in the public sector upon completion of one’s education. The question thus remains whether the pesantren have achieved a truly integrated concept of education or whether a dualism between religious and formal learning remains. Formidable problems of infrastructure such as a lack of financial resources, facilities, equipment, textbooks, as well as a scarcity of qualified teaching staff exacerbate the difficult situation.

A similar ambiguity is presented by the vertical structure of authority in the pesantren which is at odds with civic notions of democratic participation. At the same time it must be acknowledged that not all verticalism is bad. In some cases vertical structures can preserve social harmony and reinstate peaceful relations among communities and thereby actually strengthen a public culture of civility and participation.[xi] The role of the kiai in the process of peace building constitutes the focus of a recent study by LP3ES. In their function as “cultural brokers,” to use Geertz’s term, the report sees the kiai centrally involved in peace building initiatives and as mediators of social and political problems in local communities.[xii]

Finally, it cannot be denied that there are pesantren that promote a highly exclusive interpretation of Islam—one that narrowly focuses on a fixed canon of knowledge, opposes the process of democratization and pluralization, and thereby closes down the space in which a strong civil society might otherwise grow. In addition to Pesantren Al-Mukmin, better known as Pesantren Ngruki, in Solo, Central Java mentioned earlier, several other pesantren have been implicated with ties to militant Muslim organizations in Southeast Asia in research undertaken by the International Crisis Group (ICG). These include Al-Muttaqien in Jepara, Central Java , Dar us-Syahadah in Boyolali, Central Java , Pesantren al-Islam in Lamongan, East Java , as well as the pesantren of the Hidayatullah network.[xiii] The existence of such institutions within the pesantren tradition, however, does not contradict a broader point, namely that the majority of pesantren show a strong commitment to values of civility and many among them have become leading institutions in the fields of peace building, conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, and the empowerment of women. Notes Robin Bush, “Over several years of holding training workshops for pesantren leaders, women’s activists, and Muslim youth organizations, gradually a network of pesantren, of ulama, and of Muslim intellectuals became grounded in arguments in favor of civil society, democratic institutions, and pluralism that were deeply rooted in Islamic teachings and perspectives.”[xiv]

It is this latter aspect which is truly remarkable about the pesantren tradition at present and its potential to remain relevant in a pluralistic world. The pesantren remind us that religious education can help students find their way amid pluralism in a time when many see relativism as the greatest moral danger. On one of my several visits to pesantren I was asked to discuss an article by Hans Küng that one of the santri had found in the library. There, Küng had eloquently written about the tension between theological steadfastness and the ability to engage in meaningful dialogue. For Küng, it was not a shallow or compromising tolerance that made real civility possible. Instead, respect for the rights of others comes form someone with deep and profound commitments. “The cure for intolerance,” Thiessen reminds us, “is not found in relativistic elimination of convictions, but in a liberal education which combines teaching for commitment with the encouragement of respect for others.”[xv] Education, as many pesantren exemplify, can take religion seriously and still welcome diversity and pluralism. Such a context does well to prepare students for participating in a global world of differences while simultaneously showing them that they can hold on to their particular faith.

Notes

[1] Short paper presented at TICI Yogyakarta on April 29, 2006.

[i] “Unterwegs auf Heisser Erde,” Geo (May 2004).
[ii] Andrew Marshall, “The Threat of Jaffar,” New York Times (March 10, 2002). More than any other pesantren, Pondok Pesantren Al-Mukmin in Ngruki, which is close to the Central Javanese city of Solo , has been mentioned repeatedly in the international press and was also implicated by an International Crisis Group (ICG) report as the center for a network of militant Muslims in with suspected links to al-Qaeda. See International Crisis Group, “Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia : The Case of the ‘Ngruki’ Network in ,” ICG Briefing (Jakarta/Brussels, August 2002). Available at http://www.crisisgroup.org.%5Biii%5D. Merle C. Ricklefs, “Islamizing Indonesia: Religion and Politics in ’s Giant Neighbour,” Public Lecture at the Asian Civilizations Museum , Singapore (September, 23 2004).
Available at http://www.ari.nus.edu.sg/docs/PLS_Merle_Ricklefs_Paper.pdf.
[iv] In 2001, the Ministry of Religious Affairs reported about 14,000 pesantren throughout the archipelago. Due to the internal diversity and independent status of many pesantren, their exact number is difficult to gauge and could considerably exceed the figures presented by the ministry.
[v] A particularly notable effort at reform was the establishment of Gontor Pondok Moderen at Gontor Ponorogo in East Java in 1926. Inspired by reforms at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Syanggit in North Africa, as well as by the Anglo-Muslim college of Aligarh and Santiniketan University in India, Gontor sought to modernize its methods of teaching and broaden the scope of subjects taught. Over the years Gontor expanded its educational program that now includes training from elementary grades to the university level. Arabic and English are the languages of instruction, and Gontor’s achievements with respect to foreign language study have been noted even outside of Indonesia. As the certificate offered by Gontor is recognized by Al-Azhar, the pesantren sends a significant number of students to Cairo. Other examples of pesantren that have undergone and continue to undergo similar reforms to those at Gontor include Pondok Pesantren Modern Islam Assalaam Surakarta, Darun Najah, Darul Falah, and Tebuireng.
[vi] An example of a well known, large pesantren is Pondok Pesantren Sidogiri in Pasuruan, East Java. In addition to religious training, Sidogiri has earned a reputation for its efforts and achievements with respect to economic development. Particularly celebrated is the Koperasi Pondok Pesantren (Kopontren) Sidogiri. Founded in 1961, the cooperative includes various businesses, for example, a cafeteria, grocery and clothing stores, and a bank inside the pesantren complex, as well as in the surrounding community.
[vii] Pondok Pesantren Pabelan in Muntilan, Central Java is a particularly prominent example. The pesantren trains santri to assist the surrounding villages in their economic development. In addition to the general education, the santri, together with people from the wider community, receive agricultural and medical training as well as training in building construction.
[viii] See Martin van Bruinessen, NU: Tradisi, Relasi-Relasi Kuasa, Pencarian Wacana Baru (Yogyakarta: LKiS, 1994).
[ix] A similar point is made in a recent study by the Jakarta-based research institute LP3ES, Laporan Penelitian: The Role of Pesantren to Support Community Network and to Develop Peaceful Co-existence in Indonesia ( Jakarta: LP3ES, 2005).
[x] Ronald Lukens-Bull, “Teaching Morality: Javanese Islamic Education in a Globalizing Era,” Journal of Arab and Islamic Studies 3 (2000): 26-48, 42.
[xi] Robert W. Hefner, Civil Islam. Muslims and Democratization in ( Princeton and Oxford : Princeton University Press, 2000), 25.
[xii] This point is made in a recent study by the Jakarta-based research institute LP3ES, Laporan Penelitian: The Role of Pesantren to Support Community Network and to Develop Peaceful Co-existence in Indonesia ( Jakarta: LP3ES, 2005).
[xiii] See International Crisis Group, “Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: Damaged but Still Dangerous,” ICG Asia Report no. 63 (International Crisis Group, Jakarta/Brussels, August 26, 2003). Available at http://www.crisisgroup.org.
[xiv] Robin Bush, “Islam and Civil Society in ,” paper presented at the CSID Sixth Annual Conference on Democracy and Development: Challenges for the Islamic World, Washington, DC – April 22 – 23, 2005.
[xv] Elmer John Thiessen, In Defense of Religious Schools and Colleges ( Montreal : McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), 52.

Written By: Florian Pohl
(Ph.D Student of Temple University)

Adopted from: http://www.tici.or.id/artikel2.php?idartikel=6

Published by:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Ed
Teacher in Malang Indonesia


Having the largest Muslim population in the world, it is no surprise that Indonesia is a major centre of religious education for members of the faith in Southeast Asia.

Muslim boys from nearby countries are often sent to Islamic boarding schools – known as pondok pesantren – scattered across this sprawling archipelago. Numbering well into the tens of thousands, the pesantrens provide religious knowledge and wisdom, but are more than just classrooms for dry theoretical instruction. There, young Muslim men and women from all strata of society also learn how to lead lives according to the basic tenets of Islam.

In the last few years, however, Indonesia’s Islamic schools have been forced to fight allegations that they are breeding grounds for fanatics who go out and unleash violence in the name of religion. Indeed, many of their foreign students who return home hoping to use what they learned to better their communities have instead found themselves being suspected of being sympathetic to Islamists. Young Muslim Thais who have gone to school in Indonesia, for example, have been looked upon as possible sympathisers of the separatists in Thailand’s Muslim-dominated south.

It’s a situation that is puzzling to many of those who run pondok pesantrens in Indonesia, even as some of them concede that there may be some schools that teach narrower interpretations of Islam. Pesantren administrators, however, point out that such schools are hardly the norm.

K.H. Masykuri Abdurrahman, secretary at Indonesia’s oldest and best-known Islamic school, Pondok Pesantren Sidogiri Salaf, also says, “When it comes to politics, whether domestic or international, Sidogiri takes a neutral stance. We’ve never interfered with politics. Nor have we looked to incite division and have not the slightest intent to play a political role.”

“We do not support anybody who is intent on creating social division whether through mere verbal expression of their thoughts or through action,” he adds. “Sidogiri has never taken part in any protests of any kind and its students do not have any right to go out and partake in any civil action.”

“If we want to express our opinion,” he also says, “we will do it through a letter, a press release or through our school’s newsletter. We will never take part in any action.”

For sure, too, Indonesia’s Islamic schools are not all the same. Categorised according to curriculum, pesantrens are generally either ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’. A pondok pesantren offering Islamic religious studies alone or with a few non-religious subjects is known as a Salaf or traditional while one that also has “mainstream” education subjects is described as Modern.
According to Perhimpunan Pengembangan Pesantren Dan Masyarakat (Association for Pesantren and Social Development), one-fifth of Indonesia’s religious schools are Salaf, an equal proportion are Modern, and 55 percent are a mix of both. Five percent of pondok pesantrens do not fall in any of the first three categories, it says.

Some observers say, however, that there is so much similarity between the two main types that at times it is difficult to tell which school is Salaf and which is Modern. One way of distinguishing one from the other, though, is by looking at how the students are dressed: those in Modern pesantrens wear slacks while those in Salaf must wear sarongs during and even after school hours.

Whatever category it falls under, a pesantren does not put age limits for admission. All pesantren students also spend an average of six years living and studying how to be a true Muslim.

A Salaf steeped in history

Of course there is no mistaking what kind of Islamic school Sidogiri Salaf happens to be. Even without its very descriptive name, the school, located some 700 km east of the capital city of Jakarta, has been adhering to a strict Islamic curriculum since its establishment two centuries ago. It is one of Indonesia’s most revered Islamic theological centres, and many Islamic schools throughout the country follow the courses and methodologies it has developed.

Founded in 1475 while the Dutch had yet to get a real foothold in Indonesia, Sidogiri Salaf is proud of having joined the struggle for the country’s independence centuries later. This led to the development of a system aiming to equip students with knowledge and skills enabling them to help the country break free from the shackles of colonisation and move on the path of progress. Its long history alone makes it well qualified to educate young people about Indonesia’s past and the future direction the country should take, says Abdurrahman. By most indications, this does not include Islamist extremism.

Given its history, Sidogiri Salaf has enjoyed the freedom to design its syllabus. “Our teaching doesn’t have any external parties trying to come in and take control and set down their own rules and regulations for us,” says Abdurrahman.

The school believes it is supporting the state by training young people to lead the true Islamic life with a sound knowledge of the faith and a progressive worldview. In its campus that is surrounded by picturesque rice fields in Sidogiri Kraton, in Pasuruan, east Java, its teachers instill the belief that Indonesia and its people are sacrosanct and plays an important role in the overall scheme of Islam, says the school secretary.

Yet even as it gives attention to Islamic teachings, in particular reading and understanding the Koran, and learning its verses by heart, Sidogiri Salaf is up to date when it comes to teaching aids. Students connect with the rest of the Islamic world through the Internet, widening their religious knowledge beyond what they learn in the school.

“We pay particular attention to Arabic language studies so students can build a high level of proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing,” says Abdurrahman. “At the very least, they will be able to read the many Islamic resources from around the world that are written in Arabic.”

Great importance is given to reading. “Our slogan is ‘smart people are reading people – not one day shall go by without reading’,” he says. “Moreover, we believe that we, as a school have no place in opposing or resisting the changing and developing world outside. We must continuously change with it.”

A source of student teachers

Pondok Pesantran Sidogiri Salaf has more than 4,000 pupils. Those at the higher levels must become Islamic teachers at other religious schools for one year. Fortunately, Sidogiri Salaf’s highly rated pupils are eagerly sought as student teachers by other pondok pesantrans, which actually pay for their services – to Sidogiri Salaf. The student teachers get living allowances.

Sidogiri Salaf sends out more than 600 student teachers every year and the income from their teaching services is an important contribution towards its operational costs. But even with such a large number of students going out to teach, the school cannot meet the growing demand for high quality religious instructors.

Sidigori Salaf earns most of its income, however, from an internal cooperative based on the model used by nearly all pondok pesantrens in the country. The cooperative distributes food, school equipment, and basic living supplies. The cooperative system generates an internal transaction of over $175.2 million every year. The school itself has never had any reason to seek government support.

The annual tuition fee ranges from 240,000 rupiah ($ 24) to 300,000 rupiah ($30), depending on the student’s learning level. This does not cover food and school uniforms. Pupils eat in the school canteen, cook their own meals in kitchens provided by the school, or buy food from the local community. All meals must be eaten within the school premises.

As the country’s oldest religious school, Sidogiri Salaf has graduated hundreds of classes. It has no intention of becoming a Modern school and does not think it will ever start a secular vocational education programme.

“We have no goal to produce a ‘workforce’,” says Abdurrahman. “There are no vocational studies to enable our students to enter the normal workforce. We stress on the importance of religion, understanding Islamic teachings and the correct way of seeing the world and our community. Being a perfect person means being one whose heart is there for our brothers and sisters in the community.”

The school’s graduates can pursue higher religious studies according to aptitude. “If we understand that knowledge is like a building’s foundation,” argues Abdurrahman, “having this deep a level of religious knowledge means that we will always have a very strong foundation as well as the right attitude when it comes to solving problems that exist outside our walls.”

A ‘new’ Modern

Far away in the opposite direction from Sidogiri is an example of an Islamic school that combines religious with modern secular instruction: Pondok Pesantren Al Hamadiyah, located in western Java on JI Raya Depok, Sawangan.

The school, set up by K.H. Almad Sjaichu, a former member of Indonesia’s Parliament, opened on 17 January1988. Several government officials attended the inaugural ceremony, enhancing the school’s credibility in the eyes of parents. Starting with just 70 pupils, the school now has 1,500 students, 700 of them boarders.

After teaching the regular pondok pesantren syllabus for many years, Al Hamadiyah started pre-school and primary classes in 2002. High school students must live in school dormitories, but pre- and primary students go home after classes.

According to school director K.H. Zainuddin Ma’shum, Al Hamadiyah was intentionally established as a Modern school to enable students to pursue non-religious careers besides deepening their knowledge of Islam. It argues that students of the traditional Salaf school system cannot compete in the job market with graduates of institutions offering mainstream along with religious education.

“Having taken a good look at today’s society,” says Ma’shum, “we decided to establish this modern model of pesantren so that students could keep up with all the new knowledge and changes in the world.”

Although graduates of the system based solely on religious instruction would be considered elite Islamic teachers, their employment options are ultimately limited to being an ustadz (religious teacher) or an imam, he points out. Or they may open their own school, but the chances of that actually happening are relatively slim.

Al Hamadiyah’s stance makes the school quite different from a traditional pondok pesantren and those that adapt their curricula only slightly in order to be called Modern, says Ma’shum. But he says equipping its students with wider knowledge, skills, and worldview would enable them to take up many types of employment. This also means they can take their religious knowledge back into mainstream society to help build a stronger community, he says.

Al Hamadiyah’s curriculum was designed with government support. The Ministry of Education helped with mainstream courses and the Ministry of Religious Affairs with religious subjects. But like many pondok pesantrens, the school does not rely on government funding and uses a cooperative system.

Studying at Al Hamadiyah is relatively inexpensive with tuition, boarding, and food charges for the entire term being about 400,000 rupiah (around $40). Poor parents are exempted from tuition fees. Teachers are paid on a par with the private sector – about one million rupiah ($100) per month, aside from get free accommodation.

Admission seekers, however, must pass English and Arabic language examinations or take supplementary language lessons in case of failure in these tests. This is because besides reading, rote-learning, and understanding the teachings of the Koran, students have to study English and Arabic up to a high level of proficiency.

The school says while knowledge of English enables them to communicate internationally, fluency in Arabic gives students access to external self-learning resources, widening their intellectual perspective. Al Hamadiyah also has science and computer labs.

The traditional touch

Yet like other pesantrens, its students have to follow rigid routines. They wake up at four a.m., pray, read the Koran and have breakfast two hours later. Classes run from seven a.m. to four p.m. with a one-hour break for lunch and prayers. An hour of asar prayer after classes is followed by physical education, including team games like football. Evening prayers start at six p.m. and are followed by dinner ending one hour later. There is an hour of post-dinner study of the Koran and an additional hour of rote learning of English and Arabic words. Students go to sleep by 10.00 p.m.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are extra-curricular activities including music and sports like football, badminton and the Indonesian/Malay martial art of pencak silat. Every Friday, students rehearse prayers. Religious debating competitions are held in both English and Arabic.

Boarding students can visit their homes one day every month. On Sundays, students are allowed to go to the local shopping mall or places outside the school for an hour.

Although called “modern”, the school hands out strict punishment for breaking the rigid rules and regulations. This includes whipping, shaving the head, and even suspension or expulsion. Many erring students get punished every week.

Still, the fact that it has established itself as a school suited to present-day conditions has increased the popularity of Al Hamadiyah, leading to many more branches being opened in both Java and Sumatra, says the school director.

“We need to expand not just because we want to create more opportunities for students to get a regular education, but also because we see the need in society for the pondok system of education,” he adds.

“The pondok has a burden that is extremely important to Islam as a whole – to teach correct religious practice in its purest form,” says Ma’shum.

Knowledge of Islamic law, he says, enables the faith to thrive and move forward the way it was supposed to be practised from the very beginning. And truly, there is nothing “extremist” about that.

Montri U-domphong
Reporter from iTV, a private television station in Bangkok.

Adopted from: http://www.seapabkk.org/newdesign/fellowshipsdetail.php?No=597

Published by:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Ed
Teacher in Malang Indonesia


If the Indonesian pesantren have drawn some suspicious attention in the past few years — not so much from the Indonesian authorities as from those of the Philippines, Singapore, Australia and the US, as well as from international journalists — this is mostly due to the fact that some highly visible terrorism suspects have a relation with one particular pesantren in Central Java, the PP Al-Mukmin in Ngruki near Solo.[1] Ustad Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, who was one of the founders of this pesantren in the early 1960s and who returned there in 1999 after fourteen years spent in Malaysian exile, has been accused of being the spiritual leader of an underground movement known as Jama’ah Islamiyah, that is believed to be active all over Muslim Southeast Asia and to have carried out a large number of terrorist actions in Indonesia. Several of the perpetrators of the Bali bombing of 12 October 2002, which killed some two hundred people, were associated with a small pesantren in East Java that was established by Ngruki graduates.

Nothing could be more misleading than to extrapolate from ‘Ngruki’ to other Indonesian pesantren. PP Al-Mukmin and the handful of secondary pesantren that it has spawned do not teach terrorism, but both its curriculum and the general culture of this pesantren make it stand out from the mass of pesantren in Java and, for that matter, Indonesia and Southeast Asia as a whole. Before explaining what makes Al-Mukmin so different, it is necessary to give a summary overview of the range of pesantren presently existing.
The traditional pesantren: history

The beginnings of Indonesia’s pesantren tradition may not go back as far as has often been claimed. Certain scholars have claimed that the pesantren represents a continuation of similar schools with resident students in the pre-Islamic period. Islam began to spread among the indigenous population of Java in the fifteenth century, and seventeenth-century Dutch East India Company records mention a ‘priest school’ near Surabaya. However, the oldest pesantren still in existence, that of Tegalsari in East Java, was established in the late eighteenth century. An early nineteenth-century survey of indigenous education indicates that the pesantren then was not a widespread phenomenon and that religious education of a basic level took place informally in the mosque or in the private house of a man more learned than his surroundings. Most of the prestigious old pesantren do not date further back than the late nineteenth century, and many not even that far.[2] Rather than imitating Hindu and Buddhist precursors, the nineteenth and early twentieth-century pesantrens appeared modeled on institutions with which their founders had become familiar during studies in Mecca or Cairo: the riwâq al-Jâwa at the Azhar, the halqa in the Masjid al-Haram, and especially Mecca’s modernized madrasas, the Indian-owned Sawlatiyya (est. 1874) and much later the Indonesian Dar al-`Ulum (1934). The methods of teaching followed those of Mecca and Cairo, and educational reforms in these centres (classrooms, graded classes, shifts in curriculum) gradually spread to Indonesian pesantrens. The curriculum was very similar to that in other Shafi`i regions: Shafi`i fiqh and ‘devotional’ hadith collections dominated, but in the course of the twentieth century the sahih collections of Bukhari and Muslim, Qur’anic commentaries and works on usul al-fiqh gradually became more prominent.[3] The traditional pesantrens are also closely associated with various devotional practices, such as the visiting of graves, and with Islamic healing practices.

Influential reformist currents of the early twentieth century (notably Muhammadiyah, established in 1912, and Persatuan Islam or Persis, 1923) strongly opposed those devotional and ‘magical’ practices as well as the flexibility of fiqh, which they believed should be replaced by recourse to the Qur’an and Sunna. Religious puritanism in Indonesia received a boost when in 1924 Mecca was conquered by the Saudis, who soon began forbidding traditional devotional practices. Together with the abolition of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal in the same year, this convinced many pesantren ulama that their form of Islam was under threat, and they established an association to defend it, Nahdlatul Ulama.[4] This was later to become the largest association of Indonesia and perhaps of the entire Muslim world, claiming tens of millions of members. In a recent nation-wide survey, 42% of the respondents indicated that they felt more or less represented by the NU, 12% by Muhammadiyah.[5] The way the questions were framed suggests that those identifying with the NU meant not so much the organization itself as the religious attitudes it is associated with, including an openness to local tradition (and even syncretism), flexibility and tolerance, as opposed to the more principled and puritan, if not fundamentalist, attitudes associated with Muhammadiyah. In the organization NU itself, the pesantren remains the major institutional prop, and the ulama of major pesantrens remain the chief authorities.

Muhammadiyah’s distinguishing mark was the modern school, modeled on Christian missionary schools. Muhammadiyah people spoke of returning to the Qur’an and Sunna but most could only read them in translation — and their actual religious reading consisted of contemporary reformist writers. An effort to bridge the gap between Muhammadiyah religious attitude and traditional pesantren education resulted in the ‘modern pesantren’ at Gontor (established in 1926), which became the example on which later a range of other reformist-oriented schools modeled themselves.[6] The founders of Gontor were not only inspired by reforms in al-Azhar and by the Anglo-Muslim college of Aligarh but also by Rabindranath Tagore’s philosophy of education and his Santiniketan experiment. The didactic methods were those of the modern school, and students were obliged to communicate in either Arabic or English, in order to train them in active mastery of these languages. The religious teaching material continued to include the classical texts of Shafi`i fiqh, however. Gontor took its place between NU and Muhammadiyah; some of its graduates became teachers in NU pesantrens, others in Muhammadiyah schools. Several went on to establish their own pesantren on the Gontor model, or to reform an existing one with their Gontor experience guiding them.

One other pesantren that was to have significant influence on later radical thought was that established by Persis in Bangil. Persis was by far the most puritan of Indonesia’s reform movements and it developed a religious attitude close to that of Saudi Salafism, although not under any notable direct influence from Arabia. Unlike Muhammadiyah, it had little interest in welfare work and it concentrated on efforts to ‘correct’ religious belief and practice. The pesantren it established in Bangil in East Java was long the only one in Indonesia that was deliberately non-madhhab and focused very strongly on the study of hadith.[7]

Integration in the national education system

After Indonesia’s independence, and especially since the transition to the ‘New Order’, when economic growth took on, pesantren education became more streamlined. There are still pesantren where students are tutored in the traditional way, reading out a text individually in front of the teacher, who occasionally makes a few corrections and gives some explanation, but most have also or exclusively classroom teaching now, with a fixed curriculum. And most offer teaching in general subjects besides classical Islamic texts. Many in fact teach a government-approved curriculum consisting of 70 percent general subjects and 30 percent religious subjects and are similar to government-run religious schools known as madrasah; they even can give the same diplomas. The difference between a pesantren and a state madrasah is that the pesantren is a boarding school (although some of the students may live near enough to go home after classes), and that most pesantren now teach primarily at secondary level. (A madrasah ibtida’iyah is like a primary school; madrasah tsanawiyah and `aliyah correspond with lower and higher secondary. Some pesantren offer higher levels that may be called mu`allimin, i.e. ‘teacher training’, or ma`had `ali, a name that suggests university level.) Moreover, in most pesantrens it is also possible to follow exclusively purely religious lessons.

A madrasah diploma does not give access to a proper university, but in independent Indonesia there was one Institute for Higher Islamic Studies that was open to madrasah graduates, and after 1965 the number of such institutes, then called State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) rapidly increased, and there is now one in each provincial capital.

Through the madrasah curriculum and the IAINs, most pesantrens have become integrated in the national educational system and brought under government control. For a significant part of the population this has been a channel for social mobility. Pesantren education was cheaper than education in secular schools, whether private or state, and for some families a learning career in religious school was culturally more acceptable than one in a non-religious environment. Some successful IAIN graduates have been able to switch to a general university for postgraduate studies (mostly in the humanities or social sciences) and made a further career outside the religious sphere; many more found clerical or other jobs in the vast bureaucracy of the Department of Religious Affairs (which oversees all religious education, administers marriages, runs religious courts, organizes the pilgrimage, and administers the collection and distribution of zakat).

Involvement in community development and new discourses

Some pesantren deliberately refused to adopt the standard madrasah curriculum, for a number of different reasons. Some preferred to offer a solid religious curriculum, reading more and more difficult texts that was possible in the standard curriculum — or different religious texts altogether (non-madhhab or Salafi texts). Others did not wish their graduates to become civil servants and teach them more practical knowledge. In the 1970s and 1980s, several pesantrens experimented with teaching agricultural or technical skills besides religious subjects. The pesantren of Pabelan near Yogyakarta, belonging to the Gontor ‘family’, became famous for training its students in skills that could be useful when they returned to their village, and refused to give them diplomas in order to prevent them from becoming just civil servants (although this is what some of its best known alumni actually became); another in Bogor was geared to teach agriculture besides religion.[8] V.S. Naipaul, who visited Pabelan in 1980, caustically asked what use it was to teach village boys to become village boys,[9] but visitors like Ivan Illich were much more upbeat about this ‘alternative’ type of education. Many Indonesian social activists believed that it was precisely this that was needed to bring genuine development to the country and not just economic growth that failed to empower the poor.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, co-operation developed between development-oriented NGO activists and Pabelan and a few other pesantrens whose leading teachers had some social commitment and believed in development from below. The inspiration came again from Indian self-reliance movements, the experiments of Paulo Freire and writings of people like Ivan Illich. In New Order Indonesia, no parties or associations were allowed to organize down to the village level. Pesantrens were virtually the only non-state institutions actually functioning at the grassroots level, and therefore appealed to activists believing in bottom-up development besides or instead of the government’s top-down policies. Students of the Bandung Institute of Technology, prevented from direct political involvement due to new legislation following a wave of student protest in 1978, joined in activities to bring appropriate technology to the rural poor through the pesantren. Western aid agencies — first the German Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, later various other agencies — supported these efforts.[10] In 1984, a major NU congress decided that ‘social activities’, meaning relief and development work, would be one of the organization’s top priorities, and it established several affiliated NGOs that were to engage in these activities.[11] The following two decades saw a dramatic increase in NGO activity in and around the pesantren, which at least provided a considerable number of pesantren graduates with employment — although it is hard to assess the other positive impact of these activities.

The integration of the pesantren in the national education system had another interesting consequence: the emergence of a dynamic and rapidly growing circle of young Muslim intellectuals of pesantren background, who while studying at IAINs were exposed to a range of other intellectual influences, that included social science, philosophy, theology of liberation and Marxism. Partly overlapping with the environment of NGO activists, this diffuse group of young people, sometimes dubbed the ‘progressive traditionalists’, were one of the most surprising and interesting phenomena of the late 1980s and 1990s.[12]

Islam against the New Order

The developments sketched so far took place in the most visible part of the religious spectrum, among groups and prominent individuals who were acceptable to, and themselves accepted in principle (though critically) the policies of the New Order government. There were other circles that had a more conflicting relationship with the regime and resented its policies of social and religious engineering. Two broad groups stand out. One consisted of the most outspoken leaders of the former Masyumi party, reformist Muslim in religious orientation, liberal democrats in political style. The party had clashed with Sukarno over the president’s authoritarian style and its leaders had taken part in an American-supported regional rebellion in the late 1950s. Suharto never allowed the party to resurface and mistrusted its most prominent leaders, the best known of whom was Mohammad Natsir. Natsir and friends established an association for da`wa, the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), intending to change society and the state through changing its individuals, turning them into better Muslims. The other group, much less visible yet, consisted of an underground network of Islamic activists who strove to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state. The network consisted of the remnants of the Darul Islam movement, which had from 1949 until 1962 been in control of parts of West Java, South Sulawesi and Acheh and as the ‘Islamic State and Army of Indonesia’ (NII/TII) challenged the Republican government.[13] At the grassroots level, there had always been close relationships between the Masyumi following and that of Darul Islam, but the leadership of both had always been antagonistic: Masyumi considered the Republic as legitimate and Natsir once served as a prime minister; the Darul Islam resented Masyumi’s supporting military operations to destroy it.

The Darul Islam was a home-grown movement and never had international contacts worth mentioning. Masyumi had been more internationally oriented, and the DDII developed especially close contacts with the Arabian Peninsula. It was initially especially the ideas of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (many of whose activists had taken refuge in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states) that inspired them, and the DDII published several seminal texts in translation and was instrumental in introducing Brotherhood-style mobilizing on university campuses.[14] Later, from the late 1980s onward, the Dewan came increasingly under Salafi (‘Wahhabi’) influence.

The pesantren at Gontor was the one that was ideologically closest to the DDII; like the Dewan itself, it developed increasingly close relations with the World Muslim League (Rabitat al-`Alam al-Islami), which may have contributed to a more ‘puritan’ attitude than in other pesantrens. It appears however that the DDII leadership was disappointed with Gontor because it produced alumni who adopted much more liberal religious views and politically accommodating attitudes than what the DDII had hoped for — Nurcholish Madjid, who in 1970 called for secularization and opposed the idea of Islamic parties, being the most prominent example.[15] The Dewan took the initiative to establish a few pesantren that were more closely in line with what it deemed appropriate Islamic education, one of them, the pesantren Ulil Albab in Bogor, primarily serving students at that city’s agricultural university, another targeting a less sophisticated public in the Central Javanese city of Solo. The latter pesantren, Al-Mukmin, became better known by the name of the village on the edge of Solo to which it moved after some time, Ngruki.

Ngruki

Al-Mukmin was established in 1972 by the chairman of the Central Java branch of the DDII, Abdullah Sungkar. Among the co-founders was the presently well-known Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, then a young Gontor graduate. Al-Mukmin aimed to combine the best aspects of two models, Gontor for the teaching of Arabic, and the pesantren of Persis in Bangil for the teaching of shari`a.[16] Sungkar, Ba’asyir and their colleagues were strongly influenced by Muslim Brotherhood thought, and this was reflected to some extent in their teaching of Islamic history and doctrine. [17] By the end of the decade, Sungkar and Ba’asyir joined the underground Darul Islam and became increasingly active in mobilizing radicals outside the pesantren. Using the organizational model of the Egyptian Brotherhood, they set up an underground structure of cells (usrah), members of which were recruited among the most committed of radical mosque activists but also among ordinary neighbourhood toughs.[18] This underground organization was also loosely referred to as ‘Jama`ah Islamiyah’, an name that was later to gain a certain notoriety. Sungkar and Ba’asyir openly opposed certain New Order policies that they considered as un- or anti-Islamic; they spent some years in detention and decided to flee to Malaysia in 1985 when another arrest threatened. It was around this time that Sungkar first sent a handful of followers to Pakistan in order to take part in the Afghan jihad and gain guerrilla experience.[19] Ba’asyir lived a frugal life as an itinerant teacher during the fifteen years he spent in Malaysia, and in the 1990s established a modest pesantren, Luqmanul Hakiem, in Johor.

Sungkar and Ba’asyir were both a source of pride and an embarrassment to Ngruki. Their radical reputation was not good for the school’s relation with local authorities and it inhibited the acquisition of students from outside the milieu that understood and supported the politics of these two teachers. But some of the teachers who stayed behind continued sharing their ideas, and contact with them was maintained over the years, through visits of students and graduates. The ICG reports emphasize the centrality of Ngruki in the Jama`ah Islamiyah network, but many of the JI activists involved in violent acts are not Ngruki alumni. There are indications that some activists were first recruited while studying in Ngruki, but it is not entirely clear what this recruitment meant.[20]

Compared to many other pesantrens, Al-Mukmin is poor and its teachers lead a precarious life, earning a little money on the side as preachers. Most of the students are from families that cannot afford high fees; the pesantren appears to have few prosperous supporters. Because of its radical reputation, few would like to be seen financially supporting it. The pesantren carefully maintains the network of alumni, because it is though this network that new students are recruited. A few alumni have established, or joined, modest pesantrens themselves. One of these, Al-Islam in Lamongan, East Java, gained a sudden notoriety because three of the Bali bombers were brothers of its founder. However, this founder was not himself a Ngruki graduate; one of the brothers, Mukhlas or Ali Gufron, was a Ngruki graduate but, more importantly, he was also an Afghanistan veteran. The three brothers had spent time together as migrant workers in Malaysia and had visited the pesantren Luqmanul Hakiem, where Mukhlas was also a teacher.

The Hidayatullah ‘network’

The 2003 ICG report implicates a number of other pesantrens in the Jama`ah Islamiyah, notably the ‘Hidayatullah network’. Suspected JI activists spent brief periods in pesantrens of this network.[21] The pesantren Hidayatullah of Balikpapan in East Kalimantan is no doubt an interesting and remarkably successful institution. It was officially established in 1976 and has meanwhile almost 150 branches all over the Archipelago. This network is closely connected to the Bugis diaspora — the Bugis are a seafaring ethnic group originating from South Sulawesi — and appears to have a link with what remains of the Bugis Darul Islam network. However, since its founding this pesantren network has made efforts to maintain good relations with the government. The first pesantren was officially opened by the then Minister of Religious Affairs, A. Mukti Ali. Eight years later, the pesantren received a prestigious government prize, the Kalpataru prize for environmental conservation, presented by President Suharto himself. Later, president Habibie and Megawati’s vice-president Hamzah Haz also made official visits to this pesantren. It frequently receives foreign visitors. Daughter pesantrens have been established wherever there is a Bugis diaspora community, from Acheh to Papua.

The pesantren gained a wide renown for a magazine it has published since 1988, Suara Hidayatullah, and which at its peak achieved a circulation of 52,000 copies. The magazine reads like a broadsheet of the Islamist International; it is militant, gives information on all the jihads being fought in the world, is fiercely anti-Jewish and anti-Christian, and has interviews with and sympathetic articles on all radical Islamic groups of the country.

Pesantren Al-Zaytun

The most posh pesantren of the country is Al-Zaytun in Indramayu, which in the past few years has drawn a lot of attention and has been accused of heterodox practices. Like Hidayatullah, it appears to have close connections to the underground Darul Islam movement, in this case that of West Java and, again like Hidayatullah, it has excellent relations with certain powerful people. Although it has come under attack for alleged heterodoxies and for being financed through dubious activities, it appears to enjoy such strong protection that it is immune from all criticism.[22] The pesantren is so wealthy that there has been some speculation as to the source of its wealth: was it the coffers of the Darul Islam movement, or money from the Suharto family? The evidence in the public domain suggests that both may be true, at least to some extent.

[1] This pesantren was presented as the central hub in an Indonesian Al-Qa`ida network in a report by the International Crisis Group, “Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia: the case of the ‘Ngruki network’ in Indonesia”. Jakarta/Brussels: International Crisis Group, 2002.

[2] Claude Guillot, “Le role historique des perdikan ou “villages francs”: le cas de Tegalsari”, Archipel 30, 1985, 137-162; J.A. van der Chys, “Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van het inlandsch onderwijs”, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 14, 1864, 212-323. The historical evidence is surveyed in: Martin van Bruinessen, “Pesantren and kitab kuning: Continuity and change in a tradition of religious learning”, in: W. Marschall (ed.), Texts from the islands: Oral and written traditions of Indonesia and the Malay world [Ethnologica Bernensia 4], Berne: The University of Berne Institute of Ethnology, 1994, pp. 121-146.

[3] On the books studied in the pesantren, and the shifts in the curriculum see: Martin van Bruinessen, “Kitab kuning: books in Arabic script used in the pesantren milieu”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 146, 1990, 226-269. There is a striking similarity to the curriculum in Kurdish madrasas, as described in: Zeynelabidin Zinar, “Medrese education in Kurdistan”, Les annales de l’autre Islam 5, 1998, 39-58.

[4] Martin van Bruinessen, “Muslims of the Dutch East Indies and the caliphate question”, Studia Islamika (Jakarta) vol.2 no.3, 1995, 115-140.

[5] Saiful Mujani and R. William Liddle, “Indonesia’s approaching elections: politics, Islam, and public opinion”, Journal of Democracy 15/1, 2004, 109-123.

[6] Lance Castles, “Notes on the Islamic school at Gontor”, Indonesia 1, 1966, 30-45; Ali Saifullah HA, “Daarussalaam, pondok modern Gontor”, in: M. D. Rahardjo (ed.), Pesantren dan pembaharuan, Jakarta: LP3ES, 1974, pp. 134-154; Mahrus As`ad, “Ma`had al-Juntûr bayna’l-tajdîd wa’l-taqlîd”, Studia Islamika vol.3, no.4, 1996, 165-193.

[7] On Persis and its pesantren, see: Howard M. Federspiel, Islam and ideology in the emerging Indonesian state: the Persatuan Islam (PERSIS), 1923 to 1957, Leiden: Brill, 2001. Cf. my review in International Journal of Middle East Studies 35 (2003), 171-173.

[8] M. Saleh Widodo, “Pesantren Darul Fallah: eksperimen pesantren pertanian”, in: M. D. Rahardjo (ed.), Pesantren dan pembaharuan, Jakarta: LP3ES, 1974, pp. 121-133; M. Habib Chirzin, “Impak dan pengaruh kegiatan pondok Pabelan sebagai lembaga pendidikan dan pengembangan masyarakat desa”, in: (ed.), Pesantren: Profil kyai, pesantren dan madrasah [=Warta-PDIA No.2], Jakarta: Balai Penelitian dan Pengembangan Departemen Agama R.I., 1981, pp. 69-78.

[9] V.S. Naipaul, Among the believers, an Islamic journey, New York: Knopf, 1981.

[10] M. Dawam Rahardjo (ed.), Pergulatan dunia pesantren: membangun dari bawah, Jakarta: P3M, 1985; Manfred Ziemek, Pesantren dalam perubahan sosial, Jakarta: P3M, 1986.

[11] Martin van Bruinessen, NU: tradisi, relasi-relasi kuasa, pencarian wacana baru, Yogyakarta: LKiS, 1994.

[12] Djohan Effendi, “Progressive traditionalists: the emergence of a new discourse in Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama during the Abdurrahman Wahid era”, Ph.D. thesis, Deakin University, Department of Religious Studies, 2000; Laode Ida, Kaum progresif dan sekularisme baru NU, Jakarta: Erlangga, 2004.

[13] C. van Dijk, Rebellion under the banner of Islam: the Darul Islam in Indonesia, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1981; Holk H. Dengel, Darul-Islam. Kartosuwirjos Kampf um einen islamischen Staat in Indonesien, Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1986.

[14] Asna Husin, “Philosophical and sociological aspects of da`wah. A study of the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia”, Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1998; Lukman Hakiem and Tamsil Linrung, Menunaikan panggilan risalah: dokumentasi perjalanan 30 tahun Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia, Jakarta: Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia, 1997; Martin van Bruinessen, “Genealogies of Islamic radicalism in Indonesia”, South East Asia Research 10 no.2, 2002, 117-154.

[15] See the comments to this effect in: Kamal Hassan, Muslim intellectual response to New Order modernization in Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa, 1980.

[16] The history of this pesantren is sketched in: Farha Abdul Kadir Assegaff, “Peran perempuan Islam (penelitian di Pondok Pesantren Al Mukmin, Sukoharjo, Jawa Tengah)”, Tesis S-2, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Program Studi Sosiologi, Jurusan Ilmu-Ilmu Sosial, 1995; Zuly Qodir, Ada apa dengan pesantren Ngruki?, Bantul: Pondok Edukasi, 2003; ES. Soepriyadi, Ngruki & jaringan terorisme: melacak jejak Abu Bakar Ba’asyir dan jaringannya dari Ngruki sampai bom Bali, Jakarta: P.T. Al-Mawardi Prima, 2003.

[17] A list of books taught in Ngruki in the mid-1990s mentions Sa`id Hawwa’s Jundullah as one of the textbooks for doctrine (Qodir, Ada apa…, p. 52), and a former student recounts that the distinguishing of al-walâ’ wa-l-barâ’ was at the core of the curriculum (Soepriyadi, Ngruki, p. 24-5).

[18] The best published study of this Usrah network is: Abdul Syukur, Gerakan Usroh di Indonesia: peristiwa Lampung 1989, Yogyakarta: Ombak, 2003. A good early overview, based on court documents of trials against arrested Usrah members, is: Tapol, Indonesia: Muslims on trial, London: Tapol/Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, 1987. There is much useful information in a thesis by a Ngruki graduate: Muh. Nursalim, “Faksi Abdullah Sungkar dalam gerakan NII era Orde Baru (studi terhadap pemikiran dan harakah politik Abdullah Sungkar)”, Tesis Magister, Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta, Program Pascasarjana, 2001. See also Bruinessen, “Genealogies” and International Crisis Group, “Al Qaeda”.

[19] Nursalim, “Faksi Abdullah Sungkar”; a detailed overview of Sungkar followers who went to Pakistan during the 1980s in: International Crisis Group, “Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: damaged but still dangerous”, Jakarta: International Crisis Group, 2003.

[20] One of my informants is a former student in Al-Mukmin, who was recruited into the NII by an older peer — not by a teacher! — in 1993, when Sungkar and Ba’asyir were living in Malaysia. Another frequent visitor of the pesantren told me that promising students would be singled out for special treatment. They would be woken up in the middle of the night and told to perform the nightly prayers, after which they would be given special instruction, presumably of a religious nature but secret.

[21] International Crisis Group, “Jemaah Islamiyah”, p. 26-27, uncritically repeated in various other reports.

[22] The Islamist activist Umar Abduh has published three books denouncing this pesantren: Umar Abduh, Membongkar gerakan sesat NII di balik pesantren mewah Al Zaytun, Jakarta: Lembaga Penelitian & Pengkajian Islam, 2001; Umar Abduh, Pesantren Al-Zaytun sesat? Investigasi mega proyek dalam Gerakan NII, Jakarta: Darul Falah, 2001; Umar Abduh, Al Zaytun Gate. Investigasi mengungkap misteri. Dajjal Indonesia membangun negara impian Iblis, Jakarta: Lembaga Pusat Data & Informasi (LPDI) bekerjasama dengan SIKAT & AL BAYYINAH, 2002. A former(?) Darul Islam activist, Al Chaidar, claims that much of the money for the pesantren was collected by the Ninth Regional Command of the NII, which carried out robberies and other unorthodox fundraising activities. He also accused the movement of heterodox beliefs and practices: Al Chaidar, Sepak terjang KW. IX Abu Toto Syech A.S. Panji Gumilang menyelewengkan NKA-NII pasca S.M. Kartooewirjo, Jakarta: Madani Press, 2000. The Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) carried out an independent investigation, that found some of the accusations founded: Majelis Ulama Indonesia Team Peneliti Ma’had Al-Zaytun, “Laporan lengkap hasil penelitian Ma’had al-Zaytun Haurgeulis Indramayu”, Jakarta: Majelis Ulama Indonesia, 2002.

Martin van Bruinessen, ISIM, Netherlands
Paper presented at the ISIM workshop on ‘The Madrasa in Asia’, 23-24 May 2004

http://www.let.uu.nl/~martin.vanbruinessen/personal/publications/pesantren_in_Indonesia.htm

Published by:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Ed
Teacher in Malang Indonesia


At four a.m., as the chilly mist cloaks the isolated and fertile valley surrounding Mount Sawal in west central Java, the call to prayer sounds from a lone minaret. From its top, outlined in brilliant neon in the black night blazes the word “Allah” in Arabic script. Here in the small village of Surialaya, nestled among the rice paddies and bamboo groves, is an Indonesian Islamic school known as a pesantern. Over the past hundred years, the pesantren system has played a key role in the Islamization of many Javanese communities.

The Surialaya pesantren is located just off a small country road, its entrance framed by an arching ironwork sign. The natural surroundings are rustic and peaceful; it is an ideal place for study and contemplation. At the center of a group of brick houses is a large mosque surmounted by a 25-meter-high (82-foot) minaret, built in 1970 at a cost of 2.5 million rupiahs – then equivalent to $7350, a large sum in Indonesia. There is also a spacious hall where the kyahi, or leader, receives his guests each day; nearby are basic dormitories and dining rooms for both girls and boys. The style of the place encourages a simple, frugal way of living.

The pesantren of Surialaya is one of the few religious schools in Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country – that draws many of its followers from different social strata, occupations and regions. Its members are an important social force, in that they have developed there a spirit of cooperation aimed at improving the spiritual lot of the less fortunate. One 23-year-old student, Muhammad Norman Zaidi, is attending the school in order to learn Arabic. But he is no ordinary student: He is the son of the governor of Sarawak, and intends to pursue a career in politics. “I like politics – it’s exciting,” he says. “Whenever you do something, large or small, good or bad, it’s noticed. To be a politician is not only to be an administrator but to involve yourself with the people.” Zaidi is particularly impressed by the school’s ruling principle of ijtihad, an Arabic word translated as a positive struggle to become better, without fatalism.

The Islamic pesantren system ranges from small local kindergartens to boarding schools at the junior and senior high school and academy levels. Supplementary Islamic instruction is given in the evening to students from local elementary schools. Pesantrens are funded privately, with occasional assistance from the Indonesian government, and tuition varies according to the student’s ability to pay. One could conceivably spend 20 years of one’s life at a pesantren – from age four (kindergarten) to graduation at age 24 from the academy. The curriculum is largely Islamic, although the school is also required by the state to teach secular courses.

The Indonesian word pesantren, or per-sanlri-en, means “the place where the wise men are,” santri being a derivative of the Sanskrit word shastri, “a man learned in the scriptures.” The Javanese pesantrens, in Hindu-Buddhist times, were monasteries, the centers of spiritual life and guidance in the villages. Islam took root on a large scale in the 15th and 16th centuries, brought by Muslim traders from the Arabian Peninsula. Buddhism and its predecessor on the island, Hinduism, were gradually displaced. In the 17th century, as Muslim influences of different kinds increased, the monasteries underwent a gradual transition to become what we would now call village counseling centers. Cross-pollinated by the disciplines of the monk and the mystic, this function remained basically intact for two centuries. A man could go to the kyahi, the cultural and political leader, for religious instruction or for personal help.

In the latter part of the 19th century, in the last century of Indonesia’s 350 years of Dutch colonial rule, the economies of the villages began to change. Java was no longer the remote eastern boundary of Islam, thanks to the steamship and the Suez Canal. The pilgrimage to Makkah now took less than a month and was possible for more people. As the pilgrims returned, a purer, less mystical Islam came to Java, and with it the desire for more rigorous religious education. The wealthier village members began to turn the centers into schools for their children – boarding schools that provided Islamic education while still maintaining their role as the spiritual nuclei of the villages. At the turn of this century, the first modern pesantrens emerged from this complex balance among family duties and education, community and school.

Shaykh Abdullah Mubarak,, better known as Abah Sepuh, “the old kyahi,” founded one of the. most significant of these pesantrens in Surialaya in 1905, with a starting enrollment of ten students. Today, under the charismatic Abah Anom, Mubarak’s son/the school boasts an average yearly enrollment of 1200,; with students and faculty coming from Bandung, Jakarta, Palembang and as far away as Malaysia. The Surialaya pesantren also has branches on other Indonesian islands, and centers throughout Southeast Asia.

Now in his early 70’s, Abah Anom is an expert in Islamic law and theology; he speaks fluent Arabic in addition to his national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and one of Indonesia’s 300 regional tongues, Sundanese. He has organized a training course for preachers who, once their training is complete, become his deputies in various districts of Indonesia. Abah Anom’s teaching emphasizes observance of the law (shari’ah) as revealed in the Qur’an and amplified by the sayings and the practices of the Prophet Muhammad. Although his deputies are not linked by formal ties, they, and the various regions where they preach, are held together by respect for his learning and authority as well as by their common devotions and their shared enthusiasm.

Today’s Indonesian society is rapidly changing. Though four out of five Indonesians still make their living on the land, poverty and riches, traditional ways and modern technology rub shoulders in teeming cities like Jakarta. Java, with 100 million inhabitants, is twice as densely populated as Japan; Indonesia’s 13,667 islands altogether have a population of more than 188 million, of whom 92 percent are Muslim. These circumstances place ever-renewed demands on religion to remain relevant human needs as these needs change with the times. The harmony that prevails in the Surialaya pesantren today is largely due to Abah Anom’s skill at looking beyond apparent conflicts to the lasting relevance of the Islamic revelation, which has permitted, even encouraged, good relations with both civil and military authorities. During the Dutch colonial period and during Japanese occupation of Indonesia in World War II, many pesantrens were hotbeds of rural protest or political resistance – indeed, during the Surialaya pesantren’s first 30 years, until the departure of the Dutch, it was constantly regarded as suspect by the government of the day, and at one time was ordered to close down. Even since Indonesia won its independence in 1949, both local and national government officials have followed all pesantrens closely, aware of their political potential.

One of the pesantren teachers, a young man named Basyar, is heading toward the graveyard where the tomb of the school’s founder, Abah Sepuh, is located. Basyar, himself a product of the pesantren system, is dressed traditionally in dark trousers and an elaborate batik kemeja shirt; on his head sits a snug-fitting, woven black hat called a pichi. As he climbs down the winding stone stairway, Basyar suddenly stops and turns toward the courtyard below with an expansive gesture. He seems filled with the power and promise of all youth. “Islam is my life,” he says quietly. “I have never even considered another way. I believe that Islam is the right religion for Indonesia today.”

Written by:
Karen Petersen
Free-lance writer and photographer Karen Petersen is based in New York; her work has appeared in German Geo and National Geographic.

This article appeared on pages 8-15 of the November/December 1990 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

Published by: M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Ed, Teacher in Malang Indonesia

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