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.


[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 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
[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
[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:

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:

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.


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

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

The Western aversion and distrust towards Islam runs deep, in contrast to how ‘friendlier’ religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism are often considered.[1] Even Westerners better informed about Islam have their concerns, so it is probably not simply a case of a ‘misunderstood’ religion. Many see Islam as an inherently undemocratic religion, placing restrictions on, for example, women’s rights or freedom of religion.[2] To assert that understanding leads to tolerance is not necessarily true. Islam confronts many of the foundations of Western liberal-democratic culture, and by its very nature does not lend itself to be co-opted into the pluralistic, ‘tolerant’ frameworks of liberal Western societies.

Islam in Java is extremely diverse in the manner of its expression, and highly variable in terms of depth of commitment to the religion. The oft-quoted figure that 90% of the Javanese population embraces Islam is extremely misleading, and in fact, wrong. It is perhaps true that 90% of the Javanese population hold an identity card (KTP) stating that Islam is their religion. However given the lack of religious freedom in Indonesia,[3] the life-threatening danger of not professing a government-approved religion, and pressure from within the Ministry of Religion and Islamists to inflate the number of Muslims in Indonesia for political reasons, this 90% figure should be summarily dismissed as an untruth.

Muslims in Java are usually divided vertically according to their level of identification with Islam; ie, Geertz’s abangan/santri dichotomy, with the santri much more closely identifying themselves as Muslim. In addition to this, there is also a horizontal traditionalist/modernist dimension within Javanese Islam.

So what constitutes a santri Muslim in Java? And how are they differentiated from other Javanese who call themselves Muslim? Originally a santri was simply a student or follower within an Islamic school called a pesantren (literally, “place of the santri”) headed by a kyai master. The word ‘santri’ referred to persons who removed themselves from the secular world in order to concentrate on devotional activities and mystical matters, and pesantren were the focus of such devotion.[4] It was only later that the word santri was used to describe that particular class within Javanese society that identified strongly with Islam, distinct from the more nominal Islam of the abangan and priyayi. And indeed, the word ‘santri’ used to describe a class probably had a lot more to do with the influence of Geertz himself on how Javanese think about themselves. In fact, in common conversation, the word muslimin[5] is far more likely to be used to distinguish ‘santri’ Javanese from other groups within society.

Further complicating this matter is that not all santri are alike; within this group itself there exists a wide variety of belief and interpretation of what constitutes ‘Islam’. To some extent this reflects the variety of belief held by Muslims the world over, and is generally characterised by a division between ‘traditionalist’ and ‘modernist’ outlooks. It can also be depicted as a division between an Islam that has been absorbed to become an integral part of a local culture, and a ‘puritan’ Islam that sees such cultural adaptation as being contrary to the original aesthetic.

Islam in Java eventually developed into two Islamic traditions that are apparent today; a Javanese Islam with its syncretic characteristics, and a ‘puritan’, modernist Islam. The first is an Islam within which is infused with a complex mix of animist-Hindu-Buddhist beliefs and concepts, and which is inclined to mysticism. The second is relatively freer of these syncretic accretions, and is much closer to the dogma of the defining Arabian orthodoxy.[6]

Islam did not arrive in Java in its pure, Arabian form.[7] One of the main reasons that Islam was able to take root in Java was due to the particular kind of Islam, Sufism, that emphasised with local traditions and customs, and was itself quite compatible with the pre-existing and highly developed Javanese mystical outlook. Islam was thus introduced with relatively little upheaval into the existing cultural, social and political structures.[8] In addition, amongst the Hindu-Buddhist nobility, Sufi Islam offered a credible mysticism as an alternative or additional source of mystical power and political legitimation[9]; Islam could be integrated into the wider Javanese search for magical powers.[10]

Because of its mystical outlook, Sufi Islam was more easily incorporated into the traditional Javanese worldview. Towards the end of the 19th century the whole of Java could be considered ‘Islamised’,[11] however the intensity of this process was uneven across the island. Santri culture was much more concentrated in the trading cities of the north coast, and in cities more generally rather than the countryside.[12] Santri life-styles only really influenced those neighbouring rural settlements where pesantren had been established.[13]

With the development of the modernist movement within Islam, starting with the Wahabie movement in Egypt, and with the increasing number of Javanese Muslims undertaking the Hajj to Makkah after the opening of the Suez Canal,[14] came an increasing awareness that Javanese Islam had absorbed many elements which could be considered in opposition to the ‘pure’ Islam of Arabia. Santri’s began to more consciously differentiate themselves from those holding traditional Javanese outlooks, considering them as irreconcilable with the teachings or the aesthetic expressed in the Koran, and thus increasingly polarising the santri from the abangan. Over the past two decades in particular Javanese society has undergone a process of Islamisation, moving generally towards a deeper understanding and commitment to Islam in the modernist santri style.[15] This has led to further polarisation of the abangan from the santri in contemporary Java.[16]

However, the santri should not be considered as an homogenous group, as they are themselves polarised along traditionalist/modernist lines. It is usually difficult to immediately differentiate ‘mystically inclined’ traditionalist santri from modernist ‘orthodox’[17] santri. Both may well observe the five pillars of Islam, and just as importantly, strongly identify themselves as Muslim.

So what is it that differentiates the Javanese santri from the rest of the population? Essentially, differences can be reduced to identity. Santri consciously identify themselves as Muslims, and attempt as far as possible to live in accordance to their own understanding of Islam, whether this be the traditional syncretic Islam, the purist Islam of the modernist, or mixtures of both.

In terms of belief, the typical santri would adhere to the basic tenants of Islam as laid down within Koran, and the Sunnah, which comprises the Syrah (Mohammed’s life story) and the Hadith (Mohammed’s saying and customs). The Koran is considered to be the literal word of God, and thus cannot be doubted in any way. The Hadith, however, can be the subject of debate and difference of opinion, and it very often is. Consisting of literally hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of separate sayings and customs, and written or conveyed by numerous authors, the Hadith is a hotbed of contradiction, dispute, xenophobia and occasionally, downright weirdness.[18]

In terms of their day-to-day behaviour, the santri closely adhere to the formal requirements of the religion, the most obvious of which is solat, the ritual prayer undertaken at specific times five times a day. More than anything else, it is the conscientious performance of solat that separates the santri from the abangan. According to Islamic law solat is wajib ‘ain (absolutely compulsory), gaining merit for performance, and punishment for its non-performance.[19] Santri frequently live in areas surrounding mosques called kauman. Quite apart from a providing a sense of community, living close to a mosque means that the calls to prayer are clearly heard to ensure that every solat is performed.

Also wajib ‘ain is fasting during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During this month every able Muslim must abstain from food, drink, sex, immoral acts, and negative thinking from dawn to sunset. In contrast to solat, many abangan also follow the fast during this month, though perhaps not as seriously as their santri cousins. Koentzereningerat (1985) claims that Agami Jawi (abangan) Muslims who do not perform solat or give zakat seldom neglect to fast during the entire month of Ramadan, because it is in accordance with the indigenous idea of tirakat, of deliberately seeking out hardship and discomfort for religious reasons.[20]

The contemporary Javanese santri can aspire to performing the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, at least once in their lifetime, usually when they are older. The Indonesian government though the Ministry of Religion provides highly organised packages to the Holy Land for reasonable cost.[21] As a consequence, the high status associated with someone who had undertaken the Hajj in days past has now diminished considerably. The honorific title ‘Haji’ is now very rarely used when addressing or referring to someone verbally, though the abbreviated title (“H.”) will often be used in written forms.

Externally, differences in dress are nearly always apparent in the contemporary santri. Muslimah in particular stand apart from non-santri by the wearing of a jilbab (full headdress covering the head, ears, and neck, leaving only the face visible). Older muslimah, or for the more ‘liberal’ female santri, a less severe kerudung is often substituted, covering only the head leaving much of the hair, neck and ears still visible. Headdress is worn whenever the muslimah is outside the house, or whenever she is in the presence of any males apart from her husband, sons, father and brothers. (Some muslimah are less strict about this within their own home.) Muslimah will frequently absent themselves whenever male guests come to visit, partly due to the reserve that the muslimah is expected to show, but often also because they do not want to go to the trouble of wearing their head-dress in order to meet the guest.

Islam defines an awrah,[22] or areas of the body considered ‘private’, for both sexes. The muslimah must cover all her body, except for her face and hands.[23] Long, loose-fitting dresses or slacks are usually worn, though in Java many muslimah also commonly wear jeans along with a long, loose-fitting shirt. Basically, the female form must be so covered as to obscure the shape of the breasts,[24] hips and buttocks, so as not to arouse the passions or attention of males. This concept of the awrah is also extended to female behaviour, with the muslimah expected to guard (‘cover’) her voice and her physical movements, and to avoid drawing undue attention to herself.

The Javanese santri male also wears certain types of clothing, however these are not prescribed by Islam, traditional or otherwise, nor are they worn all the time. The male awrah is much less restrictive, between the waist and the thighs, but it is generally considered more polite to completely cover the body, arms and legs. The gamis is a type of loose-fitting, long-sleeved, round-collared shirt worn by santri men, often for formal religious occasions or for Friday Prayers where it is accompanied with a chequered sarung. The peci, though not traditionally associated with Javanese Islam, must nowadays be considered part of male santri dress, although abangan Muslims also frequently wear it.[25]

Santri will frequently pepper their speech with expressions of an Arabic flavour, even (perhaps especially) when communicating with non-Muslims or abangan. Bismillahirrohmannirrahim (‘In the name of God the All Merciful’) is an expression used before the commencement of any task, however large or small. This phrase precedes every surah within the Koran. The use of this phrase is, however, not limited to santri Muslims; abangan Muslims also frequently use it. Tasks such as starting a motorbike, driving a nail into a wall, sex, speeches, and the slaughtering of meat animals, will all be preceded with Bismillah as a remembrance that everything, every action and every word, should be done for God in the name of God.

Assalamwallaikum, along with its reply, Wallaikumsalam, is used when meeting, greeting and farewelling people, and is also frequently used as a formal opening greeting for speeches.[26] Strangely, use of this expression by public officials has declined dramatically since the fall of General (Ret.) HM Soeharto in May of 1998.

Santri consider any expression of certainty about the future to be slightly arrogant, and very often use the term Insyaallah (“God willing”) to prefix any statement of positive intent or prediction, or agreement to do something. This expression is also sometimes used as a polite way of saying ‘no’, or for expressing ambiguity in answer to a question pertaining to something to be done in the future. Insyaallah also expresses what some see as a rather negative fatalism, allowing Muslims to avoid personal responsibility.[27]

Contemporary santri Islam, in fact modernist Islam in general, is very much an ‘outward’ religion. The inner dimensions are generally not stressed, and when they are spoken of it is in terms of a very separate ‘compartment’ of Islam. The modernist aesthetic has had a big impact upon the more mystically-inclined traditionalist Islam, especially over the past two decades. Ritual, outward social behaviour, language and religious identity overshadow the inner dimensions. Sufism and the tarekat, although acknowledged, are now viewed with either suspicion or awe. For the vast majority of santri Muslims the only link to mystical dimensions and practices is at funeral ceremonies, where dhikir mediation is performed.

Santri Islam in general emphasises ritual, whilst mysticism, in whatever its form, stresses inner, spiritual, or the vertical axis of religion. Santri are thus often perceived as emphasising the material, literal, or the horizontal axis. The mystic aspires to direct experience with God rather than mere belief or mechanical ritual. Sufi texts make a distinction between lahir (outer aspects) and batin (inner aspects), and that the outer meaning of the Koran concerns the regulation of outward behaviour (lahir), whilst its inner meaning (batin) concerns the mystical path and the quest for knowledge about Allah.[28]

Mysticism and magic have always formed a basis of culture for all Javanese, irrespective of their professed outlook. Santri Muslims will often make reference to indigenous beliefs, even whilst at the same time invoking the superiority of Islamic belief. Many avowedly modernist Muslims sometimes ascribe matters to Islam that in fact have their basis within traditional beliefs. At the unconscious level many Javanese beliefs linger in the minds of the santri; Nyi Rorol Kidul, the Goddess of the Southern Sea, can still strike fear into their hearts, as can the power of Kejawen mystics. Many santri see no contradiction in consulting a dukun to cure their ailments, or in believing that guna-guna (“black magic”) is often used in matters concerning love relationships, or that manusia harimau, people who transform themselves into tigers, inhabit some villages. Indigenous beliefs may tend to fill some of the spiritual vacuum left behind by modernist Islam.

Javanese santri Islam is not monochromic; there is great variability in the way that it is expressed, and in the depth of commitment and knowledge of its adherants. However indigenous mystical beliefs persist in the subconscious of all Javanese, and many traditional practices and ceremonies are still performed,[29] albeit only in a formal manner. Javanese society has become increasingly ‘santrified’ over the past few decades, and the modernist expression of the religion has greatly influenced, outwardly at least, the more mystically-inclined traditionalist Islam. Despite this apparent modernity, however, Indonesian Islam needs to be considered on its own terms, and not just as a branch of Middle Eastern Islam.

[1] Keith Eames et al (1998), Social and Religious Trends in Asia Pacific Security,
[2] Eames et al (1998)
[3] Of course, there is ‘freedom of religion’ in Indonesia, unfortunately there is no freedom from religion.
[4] Robert J. Kyle (1995), Honors thesis ‘Rethinking Javanese Mysticism: A Case Study of Subud Mysticism’, Dept of Archaeology and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University, Canberra, 1995,
[5] Or muslimah when referring to females.
[6] Kyle (1995)
[7] Franz Magnis-Suseno (1997), Javanese Ethics and World-view: the Javanese Idea of the Good Life, PT Gramedia, Jakarta: 35
[8] Magnis-Suseno (1997): 35
[9] Kyle (1995)
[10] Magnis-Suseno (1997): 35
[11] Magnis-Suseno (1997): 37
[12] Magnis-Suseno (1997): 38
[13] Magnis-Suseno (1997): 38
[14] Magnis-Suseno (1997): 39
[15] MC Ricklefs (1993), A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300, McMillan, London: 308
[16] Some authors take a quite different view of this, claiming (like Ricklefs: 308) that the divisions between the aliran are now less clear, and that such terms as santri and abangan are now anachronisms. I don’t go along with this view; the recent elections should, I think, be proof enough that the aliran are alive and well in Javanese society.
[17] I use the word ‘orthodox’ here to indicate the Arabian rather than the traditionalist Javanese orthodoxy.
[18] A few modernist Muslim authors, in all seriousness, go as far to say that the Hadith should be completely abandoned. See Kassim Ahmad (1986), Hadith: A Re-Evaluation, Monotheist Productions International, Tucson
[19] Mohammed Rifa’I (1976), Risalah Tuntunan Shalat Lengkap, CV Toha Putra, Semarang: 9
[20] Koentzereningerat (1985), ‘Javanese Religion’ in Javanese Culture, OUP Singapore, ch 5: 370
[21] This last year the cost for an ordinary pilgrim was less than Rp20.000.000, covering air fares, accommodation, food, and guidance. Pilgrims usually stay in the Holy Land for a total of three months.
[22] Or aurat in Bahasa Indonesia.
[23] This too, is subject to wide interpretation. As a side note, in supposedly austere Malaysia the arms of Muslim (ie, Malay) women are nearly always left exposed, due almost certainly to a problem of language. In Malay, ‘hand’ and ‘arm’ are often not differentiated, being referred to singularly as ‘tangan’. This also extends through to Malaysian English, where the word ‘arm’ is rarely used, and the word ‘hand’ used to mean either the hand or the arm or both.
[24] For most Javanese women this does not present a great challenge.
[25] I think it would be difficult nowadays to find a non-Muslim wearing a peci, and indeed I personally know of some Javanese Christians who would not be caught dead in one, so strong is the Islamic identification. Strangely, I have known several santris who strongly deny the peci’s solely Islamic association, insisting that anyone can wear one regardless of their religion.
[26] Muslim boutiques in Java sell “Assalamwallaikum” doorbells. Even Islam has its kitsch.
[27] John Bousfield (1983), “Islamic Philosophy in Southeast Asia”, in MB Hoober ed, Islam in Southeast Asia, Brill, Leiden: 99
[28] Kyle (1995)
[29] One such example is the tingkeban ritual marking the passing of six months of pregnancy that is celebrated by many santri women


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

Teaching Morality: Javanese Islamic Education in a Globalizing Era[1]
As Indonesia strives to overcome its position as a periphery nation, its populations are faced with increasing challenges to traditional identity and morality. With economic development comes a great exposure to global consumer culture. This paper examines how traditionalist Muslims in Java, Indonesia, are facing the perceived impact of globalization through educational efforts and the re-invention of tradition. A key institution in this process is the Islamic boarding school called pesantren. Pesantren curriculum has become a focal point in the strategy of the traditionalist community to encounter globalization. By shaping curriculum, pesantren leaders are trying to mold future generations of Indonesian leaders and citizens. The goal is to create a society that is fully modern, fully globalized, fully Indonesian, and fully Islamic, one student at a time. In this process, both modernity and tradition are re-invented in such a way that one cannot exist without the other.

In July 1995, Yusuf Hashim, the eldest surviving son of Haidratus Syahk Hashim Ashari told me why he had led Tebu Ireng, the Islamic boarding “seminary” (J, I: pesantren) founded by his father, toward a more secular [27] curriculum. He likened these changes to those found in public transportation; the Ford Rose was replaced by the Mitsubishi Colt, which in turn was replaced by a Suzuki mini-van. Each was more competitive than its predecessor both in purchase price and in operation costs. He argued that non-competitive pesantren will likewise be driven out of the market; parents will not send their children to schools that do not help them obtain employment in an increasingly technologically and scientifically based society.

While acknowledging the need for pesantren to be competitive, Yusuf Hashim recounted the story of Harvard University as a cautionary tale. As he explains, Harvard began as a religious institution, but has since lost its religious character. He warns that such must not be allowed to happen with pesantren. While the schools add new subjects and adopt new forms of education, their religious character and that of their graduates must not be sacrificed. Yusuf Hashim’s concern with offering an education that is competitive in a modernizing and globalizing society while maintaining a solid religious base is mirrored in many of the 1,800 pesantren found in East Java and the other 2,200 found elsewhere in Indonesia. Yusuf Hashim and his counterparts are making assertions about the nature of society, Islam, and modernization, and acting on them.

This paper will place Yusuf Hashim’s concerns within the context of his peers and the Islamic community in Indonesia as well as in the context of wider social processes to explore issues surrounding globalization and modernization. In Java, and Indonesia in general, education has been a central component of modernization. John Bowen affirms that schools are important loci in the transformation of sentiments and loyalties in Southeast Asia. “Schools,” he argues, “have long been reckoned by political scientists to be a primary place for ‘modernization’; yet we know very little of what transpires in school.” While most of the learning is content oriented, the students learn new ways of interacting with others and with themselves, and develop “precisely those attitudes toward time, work, and society that led modernization theorists of the 1950s to hope that schools would ‘make men modern’” (Bowen 1996, 1058–59). However, Bowen overlooks schools like pesantren, which offer both state curricula and other lessons and thereby strive to make people modern, but in a particular mode.

Pesantren, which resemble the madrasa (A: religious school) elsewhere in the Islamic world, seem to have been of some interest to Western scholars (Anderson 1990, 64–65, 127–28, Denny 1995, Geertz 1960a, 180–87, 1960b, Jones 1991), certain works having been published in Indonesian (Steenbrink 1974, Van Bruinessen 1995). Indonesian scholars, on the other [28] hand, have produced an enormous literature on them, including countless books and scholarly theses. Most of this literature is firmly based on the work of Zamakhsyari Dhofier (1980, 1982, 1999) and Taufik Abdullah (1987), which remain good introductions to the study of these schools. A large number of these works assert that pesantren and modernity are not incompatible but can work together for the betterment of the nation (see especially, Galba 1991, Prasodjo et al. 1974, Yacub 1985). Others argue, perhaps more accurately, that the exact role of pesantren is still being debated (Abdullah 1987).

This paper uses ethnographic data to explore some of the ways in which the traditionalist Islamic community in Indonesia uses pesantren education as part of its strategy for encountering globalization and modernization. By shaping the curriculum in pesantren, pesantren people are shaping the identity of both the Indonesian Islamic community and Indonesia itself. They are inventing “modernity” and remaking it in an Islamic and an Indonesian mold. The data used here is placed in the theoretical context of globalization in general, and more specifically, in the context of Muslim encounters with it. After describing methodological approaches, this paper describes the broad contexts in which the data should be considered, and then, for the bulk of the paper, analyzes the data in detail.

Research Setting and Methods

The argument presented here is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 1994–95 which took a regional rather than a village-based approach. As Bowen has suggested, the texts and rituals of Islam take the believer, and should take the ethnographer, outside the village to a “worldwide confessional community” (1993, 185). A regional study allows us to explain processes beyond the boundaries of a single village. However, this is still a limited view and does not encompass the whole Islamic world. While such are the limitations of any fieldwork, the processes discussed here are part of larger processes in Indonesia and the Islamic world in general.

Whereas this research speaks to wider Indonesian society, and even to Muslim societies in general, it was conducted in East Java, which is the recognized center of the pesantren world; many prominent leaders of the Islamic community, both traditionalists and modernists come from East Java. Approximately 1,800 of the more than 4,000 pesantren in Indonesia are found in East Java (Ghofir et al., 1982, ii). The pesantren selected for research were typical of those that are engaged in the on-going process of defining and redefining pesantren education. Extended ethnographic research was conducted in three pesantren: Tebu Ireng in Jombang, An-Nur II in the Kabupaten (I: Regency) of Malang, and Al-Hikam in the city of [29] Malang.

Tebu Ireng has about 1,500 students, all male, but it is part of a complex of family pesantren that includes pesantren for female students, some of whom attend the government curriculum schools in Tebu Ireng. Tebu Ireng gives a slight emphasis to government curricula over traditional pesantren education. It has a rich history that is intertwined with that of the Republic of Indonesia. Tebu Ireng’s founder, Hasyim Asyari was a co-founder of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, and several of his descendants, including Abdurrahman Wahid (then Chair of Nahdlatul Ulama, now President of Indonesia), have played and continue to play important roles in the Indonesian public sphere. This national range of influence is reflected in the fact that Tebu Ireng’s students come from all over Indonesia. Further, the grave of its founder, in the heart of the school, is an important pilgrimage site that draws several thousand visitors each month. In addition to my own efforts, a number of Indonesian scholars have written about Tebu Ireng (e.g., Dhofier 1980, Arifin 1993).

An-Nur II has about 500 students, mostly from East Java and mostly male (it had 19 female students in 1995). However, it is also part of a larger complex of family run pesantren that includes another 1,000 students, 300 of whom are female. An-Nur has a history of less than 50 years and is run by the sons of the founder. While both government and religious education is offered at An-Nur, the focus is decidedly on the traditional pesantren curriculum. The range of influence of An-Nur and its leadership is mainly limited to the area around Malang, as evidenced by the fact that nearly half of its students come from this area.

Al-Hikam is the newest of the three pesantren discussed in this paper. In 1995, it was just three years old and had 60 male students. It differs from both Tebu Ireng and An-Nur in several ways. First, it did not grow out of a traditional pesantren, but was designed as a place where college students can engage in traditional pesantren education and mysticism while pursuing their college degrees. All of the students attend college in Malang and most are from East Java. The headmaster, Hasyim Muzadi is the head of NU East Java, and a khalif (A, I: deputy) in the Qadiri-Naqshibandiyah tarekat (I. Sufi Order; A. ṭarīqa).

Globalization Defined

Globalization is a term often used and seldom defined. For my purposes here, I use the term “globalization” as a cover term for the processes by which the “world capitalist system” becomes articulated with local systems. Others have looked at the articulation of global systems with local systems [30] (Smith 1984), but they have focused on the economic articulation, how the colonial structure of metropole-satellite (core-periphery) was reproduced in local settings. Globalization may affect technology, economics, politics, culture, and religion. Various authors have looked at aspects of globalization under the names modernization and Westernization (c.f., Ward and Rustow 1964, Inkeles and Smith 1974, Miller 1994). Westernization and modernization are labels for aspects of globalization. Because the terms are used in both Indonesian discourse and Western scholarship, their use here will reflect such usage. However, throughout they are understood to represent, at least part of, globalization, or the process by which local cultures become part of the flows of commodities, images, ideas, ideologies, and people that characterize late global capitalism. Anthony Giddens avers that capitalism is a driving force in globalization because it is primarily an economic order and secondarily involves cultural and political matters (1990).

Daniel Miller remarks that Jürgen Habermas sees modernity as a product of the juxtaposition of three events: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the discovery of the New World (1994, 61). The three key events mentioned above all occurred around the early sixteenth century, roughly the same time period to which Wallerstein attributes the beginning of the world capitalist system (1974). For this reason, modernity can be seen as part and parcel of globalization, that is, the process by which capitalism expands itself.

Modernity, to Habermas, is essentially a mode of thought that refuses to accept tradition without reflection and reevaluation. He states, “modernity can and will no longer borrow the criteria by which it takes its orientation from the models supplied by another epoch; it has to create its normativity out of itself” (1987, 7). Clearly this mode of thought is linked to scientific method and is precisely the mechanism by which the adoption of scientific technology may challenge other aspects of social and cultural life. Habermas seems to suggest that modernity necessarily challenges and ultimately replaces tradition. The material considered here suggests otherwise.

In discussing the cultural impacts of globalization on local cultures, Westernization refers to a particular kind of culture change that follows an imagined model of Western life. Westernization is often conflated with modernization:

To escape anomy (sic), Muslims have but one choice, for modernization requires Westernization. . . . Islam does not offer an alternative way to modernize. . . . Secularism cannot be avoided. Modern science and technology require an absorption of the thought processes which accompany them; so too with political institutions. Because content must be emulated no less than form, the predominance of Western civilization must be acknowledged so as to be able to learn from it. European language [31] and Western educational institutions cannot be avoided, even if the latter do encourage freethinking and easy living. Only when Muslims explicitly accept the Western model will they be in a position to technicalize and then to develop. (Pipes 1983, 197–98)

While Pipes’ cultural chauvinism is extraordinary, he does raise an important question: Can Muslims adopt the technology of the West and still hold fast to the teachings of the Prophet? Or are the values of the West (and Westernization itself) inseparable from Western technology and Western style education. The conflation of modernization and Westernization also occurs in Indonesian discourse. There are those who believe that modernization can only come about by imitating Western, particularly American, cultural practices. In short, some Indonesians, and even some Muslims, seem to agree with Pipes.

In his consideration of the modern movement of commodities and images, Arjun Appadurai argues:

Globalization does not necessarily or even frequently imply homogenization or Americanization, and to the extent that different societies appropriate the materials of modernity differently, there is still ample room for the deep study of specific geographies, histories, and languages. (1996, 17)

Hence, the major contribution of this paper is to explore the specificities of how the Indonesian traditionalist Muslim community appropriates the materials of modernity. In this appropriation, the leaders of this community are concerned with the deleterious effects of modernization, as they see them—egotism, materialism, social inequities. Further, it explores how, despite Appadurai’s claim above, these leaders see the negative aspects of modernity as essentially the Western, if not American, trimmings on the house of modernity. As part of their appropriation of the materials of modernity and their subsequent reinvention of modernity, these leaders have created an educational system both to address the educational needs of a modernizing society and, at the same time, to guard against perceived moral decay.

Globalization and Java

We will now turn to one local experience of globalization. Specifically, it concerns the perceived impact of late global capitalism on Indonesian religious values and education. Post-independence Indonesia has seen tremendous economic growth and with it an increasing trend towards the intrusion of American consumer culture, which Benjamin Barber argues will inevitably destroy all local culture and remake it into a Disneyesque theme park of [32] shopping malls (1995). Many young people wear blue jeans, go to discos, and get drunk because these things are seen as “modern,” “Western,” and hence desirable activities.

Appadurai reminds us that “particular conjunctures of commodity flow and trade can create unpredicted changes in value structures” (1996, 72). This is particularly true in the arena of what he calls “mediascapes,” the technologies to produce and disseminate information and the “images of the world created by these media” (1996, 35). In the early 1990s, the U.S. required Indonesia to import American films and television shows in order to continue to export textiles to the U.S. (Barber 1995, 91). Repeatedly I heard concerns from pesantren people about the American movie industry’s purported intention of destroying Islam and corrupting the values of Islamic societies such as Indonesia. Many were concerned with the portrayal of scantily clad women (with bare shoulders and knees). Such concerns persist even though Appadurai asserts that “the United States is no longer the puppeteer of a world system of images but is only one node of a complex transnational construction of imaginary landscapes” (1996, 31). Appadurai acknowledges, however, that international media “afford powerful resources for countermodes of identity that youth can project against parental wishes or desires” (1996, 45). If no longer puppeteers, certainly the American image makers still create images of, and models for, “modernity” that must be contended with in other nations.

Many pesantren people associate the processes of modernization and globalization with the loss of traditional values. One elderly ustadh (I: low ranking Islamic teacher) at Pesantren Mahasiswa Al-Hikam lamented that Indonesia had lost its own value system:

Indonesia once had established values, as can be seen in the successful establishment of the Republic of Indonesia. These values were the values of 1945. However in the 1980s these values began to be lost and are now completely lost. The problem is that these days, young people want to be like the United States or Japan as quickly as possible. But, they often forget that Japan has held on to its values tenaciously. The Koran can guarantee life in the future, the Koran can take us back to the values of 1945.

Many kyais (J, I: high ranking Islamic teachers), ustadhs, and other pesantren people agree with this basic sentiment, that the values upon which Indonesia was established have been eroded by modernization and Westernization. Nafik, another ustadh at Al-Hikam, attributes this to people who naively link Westernization and modernization, a linkage Howard Federspiel identifies in the writings of Siradjuddin Abbas (1996, 202). Nafik argued that much of what is done in Indonesia today is Westernization [33] without any real modernization. Education can overcome such naiveté and hence, he says, the goal of Al-Hikam is to train modern people (arts and sciences students) with traditional values. People so trained will be able to lead the nation so that it can engage in globalization and forge a new national identity consistent with an Islamic heritage.

Several people I interviewed asserted that giving up Islam is not necessary for modernization, but this claim itself assumes a modernity in which the spiritual is challenged. Indeed, Abdul Gani, an ustadh at pesantren An-Nur argued that “man-made religions” like Buddhism and Hinduism were incompatible with modernity. Islam on the other hand, as a revealed religion, is good for all times and can fit with modernity. However, elements of popular Islam need to be excised from the communal body of practice in order for Islamic countries to prosper. Abdul Gani identified these as aspects of popular mysticism (kepercayan) around ancestral spirits. Otherwise, he clearly supported the notion of the place of Sufism in modernity, as did many others.

Robert Bellah pointed out that modernity should be seen not ‘as a form of political or economic system, but as a spiritual phenomenon or a kind of mentality’ (1968). This is precisely the component of modernity with which pesantren people are most concerned. They want the technology and the political and economic dimensions of modernism, however, with respect to the mentality of modernism they wish to define an Islamic modernity. There are certain values and morals they wish to see underpin modernity. These values include Islamic brotherhood, selflessness (keikhlasan), simplicity in living (kesederhanaan), and self-sufficiency (kemandirian). Also included is a concern for social justice and serving the needs of the poor. Taken together, these values define a modernity quite different from that dominant in the West.

Bernard Lewis argues that since the sixteenth century, there have been three basic attitudes toward modernization[2] and Westernization (here considered part of globalization) that Muslims might take (1997). The first is that of a supermarket: Muslims may adopt what they find useful without adopting the religion or the values of the West. He argues that this view sometimes [34] comes in an extreme form “in the writings and utterances of the so-called Islamic fundamentalists, who see Western civilization, and particularly American popular culture, as immoral and dangerously corrupting” (Lewis 1997, 127). Lewis associates this position specifically with the Ayatollah Khomeini who decried the United States as the Great Satan, or the seducer of Islam. The second attitude is a hopeful one that seeks to marry the best elements of both civilizations. However, Lewis argues, more often than not the result is not a marriage of the best but “a promiscuous cohabitation of the worst” (Lewis 1997, 127). The third attitude was that that of Kemal Atatürk and the Young Turk movement; namely, that “the world has seen many civilizations. Each has grown and flourished in its day, then passed away. At this moment in history only one is still alive. We must join it or be uncivilized” (Lewis 1997, 127).

Most pesantren people are taking the second tack. However, they are doing more than simply trying to marry the best of both worlds, they are making an Islamic modernity. If modernity entails a set of attitudes about authority, time, society, politics, economics, and religion, then the leaders of the pesantren world are trying to shape those attitudes. The ultimate concern is still with salvation and the hereafter. Concerns about this world are fine as long as the hereafter is not forgotten. They are aware of the Enlightenment thesis that this world is all there is, and they consciously reject it. In the next section we will turn to specific strategies now exploited in the pesantren world. Pesantren people are redefining modernity, and because pesantren are educational institutions, a key way they are seeking to do so is through restructuring their curriculum and thereby restructuring the thoughts of approximately 30% of Indonesia’s school-age children.

Educational Responses to Globalization

The Islamic boarding schools known as pesantren traditionally taught an almost exclusively religious curriculum and were the training grounds for religious leaders. Because there is no organized priesthood in Indonesian Islam, the scholars (kyai) who own, run, and teach in these schools are the leaders of the traditionalist Islamic community in Indonesia. Prior to the twentieth century, pesantren were the only form of education found in Java (Abdullah 1987, Denny 1995, 298). The court poets of both the Yogyakarta and Surakarta courts were educated in pesantren (Florida 1995), as were some members of the ruling class (Pemberton 1994, 48–49, Adas 1979). In the late nineteenth century, the Dutch introduced secular education to the ruling elite. In response to this, various nationalist organizations started secular schools as part of their nation making strategy (Anderson 1990, 132, 243). After independence, Indonesia established, as part of its nation building [35] strategy, a national education system which could teach the national language and the national philosophy (Pancasila) as well as educate its new citizens in science and math.

Pesantren are associated with the traditionalist community in Indonesia. Traditionalists openly reject the claims of modernists to have established pesantren, stating that the modernists have done little more that create religious boarding houses and dormitories. Pesantren people declare that the critical components of mysticism, classical texts, and character development are missing from these upstart institutions. With this censure they condemn the modernist approach to modernity.

Clifford Geertz, when writing about pesantren, and their headmasters (kyai) nearly 40 years ago, predicted that they would be crushed by modernity:

Only through the creation of a school at once as religiously satisfying to the villager as the pesantren, and as instrumentally functional to the growth of the “new Indonesia” as the state-run secular schools can the kijaji [kyai] as the teacher of such a school, become a man once more competent to stand guard “over the crucial junctures of synapses of relationship which connect the local system with the larger whole. . . .” Failing this the kijaji’s days as a dominant force in pious Javanese villages are numbered, and the role of Islam in shaping the direction of political evolution in Indonesia is likely to be marginal at best.

Whether or not the men actually filling the kijaji role at present in Indonesia are up to a task of socio-cultural creativity of this magnitude remains to be seen—though neither the performance of NU . . . nor the slowing down of the modernist religious reform movement since 1945, gives much cause for optimism. (1960b, 249)

Geertz was not optimistic about the ability of kyai to be brokers between Indonesian cultures and modernity. Not only have kyai contradicted Geertz’s expectations, what they are engaging in is not mere brokerage; they are not just translating “modernity” to Indonesia, they are inventing an Indonesian Islamic modernity.

Although Geertz was wrong in his prognosis, his diagnosis could not have been more accurate. It was repeated more recently by a leading Indonesian scholar, Taufik Abdullah, who wrote:

Therefore the future of the pesantren will be determined by its ability to maintain its identity as an ulama dominated educational system while at the same time clarifying its role as a complementary feature of national education. (1987, 102)

Many contemporary pesantren are now doing exactly what both Geertz and Abdullah prescribed. They are engaging in both traditional pesantren education [36] and national education.

Today, there are two basic government recognized curricula, the National System (Sistem Negeri), which is mostly secular,[3] and the Madrasah[4] System (Sistem Madrasah). The Madrasah System was originally established because many Indonesian parents were leery of the mostly secular national schools and would not send their children to them.[5] Pesantren may have neither, either, or both types of schools within their grounds. All but the most conservative pesantren have at least one. The pattern in the more conservative pesantren is for the student to fulfill the minimum national requirement before starting at the pesantren. It should be noted that the adoption of national curricula was strongly encouraged by the former Suharto regime. Nonetheless, there are enough examples of pesantren that have not adopted them to suggest that the changes were not entirely externally imposed.

In addition to the government curricula, many kyai have found it useful and desirable to offer extra courses—English and computer skills being most popular—and job skills training, such as chauffeuring, automobile repair, sewing, small business management, and welding. In part, this is in response to government programs encouraging the improvement of human resources. However, skills training is also seen as a time-honored part of pesantren education. Traditionally students did not pay for their education or lodging but worked for the kyai in exchange for their expenses. Through this work they gained some skills that they could put to use after they returned home. However this tradition has been lost, because the addition of general education has meant fewer hours in the day for religious study. Hence it is now more common for students, or their parents, to pay directly for their expenses. The [37] addition of courses of immediate practical use is thus in part to compensate for the loss of apprenticeships within the pesantren. Between the Suharto regime’s Meningkatkan Kwalitas Sumber Daya Manusia (I: Improve the Quality of Human Resources) Campaign and the very real need for graduates to earn an income, a pesantren that did not address these issues, or at least claim to, quickly became unpopular.

Kyai Badruddin at An-Nur said that even with the addition of secular education, the main purpose of pesantren is to spread Islam. With the addition of secular subjects, pesantren graduates are not only able to spread and strengthen Islam, but also to take care of their own basic needs. He argued that in this time of development and change, if santri (pesantren students) are only given religious education, they will not succeed.

Besides religious education, general education, and job-oriented training, the santri receive other training, such as in budgeting their monthly allowances, which will allow them to become fiscally responsible adults. Another level of practical training is in simple living. For example, Kyai Baddrudin told me that an ascetic lifestyle in the pesantren prepares students for either prosperity or poverty. In the former, they will be compassionate; in the later, they will be content. He argued that this practical education supports Indonesian development because An-Nur graduates are self-sufficient, good citizens. They will contribute to, rather than burden, their local communities and their nation, if they: (1) have an education and therefore can support themselves; (2) can be content in poverty or in riches; (3) know and understand property ownership; and (4) will not disobey the law.

An ustadh at An-Nur, one some feel is destined to become a kyai, wrote a short essay[6] that summarizes some of the values taught in pesantren:

One good goal when someone has the dream of living under the protection of Allah is to have knowledge, for oneself as well as for one’s people, religion, and homeland. Therefore, Muslims must have Islamic knowledge and hold tightly to it and the bounds of religion. As the adage says,

Religion without science is blind.

Science without religion is lame.

Therefore, we must not separate the two and hold tightly to both. We must carry both on our shoulders.

We must know that now is an era of “globalization.” What must we do to hold back the flood? To face that new era? We have already prepared our knowledge to [38] transform ourselves and to solve problems. Meanwhile, Western superstar performers, like Madonna, are always quickly coming forward to boast of their greatness through television, video, movies, and other amusements.

To face all this we must fight our desires because on our own we have no more restraint than a baby. One kitāb [religious text, commentary] explains that we should restrain our desire with piety. In a ḥadīth there is the additional commentary that states, “As bad as things may get, what I fear more for you is two things: that you will follow your desires and you will have fantasies, but more that you will have fantasies about this world.” It is an indignity for humans, who have reason, to become slaves to materialism. Therefore we can summarize that those who live under the protection of wealth, if they cannot set their priorities, will become slaves to that wealth.

This short epistle illustrates several key concerns. First, there is a concern that without science and technology the Islamic community will be impoverished. Of greater concern, however, is that in pursuing these things, the Indonesian Islamic community will lose its moral foundations, give into sinful desires, and becomes slaves to materialism rather than servants of God.

Pesantren values define a modernity quite different from that practiced in the West, or perhaps more properly, that which functions under the aegis of nationalism and the free-market economy. Arguably, the greatest concern pesantren people have about modernization is the threat of egoism, or the emphasis on individual gain over communal gain. The values of Islamic brotherhood and selflessness are seen as safeguards to heartless entrepreneurialism. “Simplicity in living” is a control mechanism for rampant consumerism and, with the emergence of credit cards, a way to avoid the financial morass in which many Europeans and Americans find themselves. “Self-sufficiency” gives both the individual and the nation continued independence. For individuals, it means that one should seek self-employment—the very entrepreneurialism that development requires, however, one controlled by Islamic values. For the nation, it means avoiding the kind of metropole-satellite relationship that André Gunder-Frank maintains creates underdevelopment (1966).

In a lesson about modernity, Gus[7] Ishom of Tebu Ireng taught one of his grandfather Hashim Ashari’s texts which stated that Muslims should not adapt the ways of the kāfir (A: unbelievers). In particular, one should avoid their clothing style. In part this is because the clothes (i.e., pants) may violate modesty laws, but also because wearing Western clothes symbolizes [39] agreement with all that is Western. In the lesson it was maintained that even that young children should not be allowed to wear kāfir clothes but should be trained to wear peci and sarong (I: cap and wrapped cloth, local Islamic garments). The concern, hence, is less with clothing per se, than with the construction of identity in the public sphere. In the colonial period, when the text was written, this teaching was important because it marked clear distinctions between the pesantren world and the Dutch colonizers and their collaborators. Today, Ishom’s concern continues to be with public statements of separation, and hence identity. This is seen in his allowance of wearing western clothing as lounge wear in the privacy of one’s home. Interestingly, this is the opposite of a common pattern in Indonesia today, the sarong and peci being worn at home while western garments are favored in public.

Gus Ishom’s selection of this particular Hashim Ashari text was a commentary on contemporary issues; it was a warning about how to deal with modernity and how to avoid being trapped in the ways of unbelief. Gus Ishom was not advocating the avoidance of modernity (as symbolized in the wearing of jeans and tee-shirts), but rather the use of caution regarding it. As his students emphasized, if one’s nīya (A: intention) is to be like the kāfir in thought, act, and deed, then adopting Western ways is wrong. If one’s nīya is pure then such cultural borrowings are not a problem.

It should be noted that Gus Ishom’s lesson on the dangers of modernity did not follow a purely traditional instructional method. After he read the text in Arabic and gave the makna (I: meaning) in Javanese, he explained it in Indonesian. The teacher’s use of Indonesian reveals that this lesson and this text were thought of not as provincial, but rather as national, in their scope and relevance.

Teaching Traditional Morality and Globalization

Pesantren leaders today are ultimately concerned with imparting “traditional morality” to students who will participate in, and even lead, Indonesia in modernization and globalization. This morality is taught in lessons called ngaji, which involve the teaching of an Arabic text. However, ngaji is the only the beginning of moral education. Many pesantren teachers (kyai and ustadh) that I talked with pointed out that students might be able to learn the same theoretical and theological material at religious day schools near their homes. However, pesantren teachers stress that while such day schools can teach students about religion and morality, they cannot teach them to be moral. Moral education, in the sense of teaching moral behavior, must have experience, or pengalaman, at its center. Pesantren strive to create an environment in which the morals of religion can be practiced as well as studied. [40] The students learn about them in ngaji and are given the opportunity to practice them. For example, communal sholat (I

Other values, such as ikhlāṣ (A, I: selflessness)[8] and kesederhanaan (I: modest living) are taught by Spartan and communal living arrangements (cf. 1995, 298). In most pesantren, the santri sleep on the floor in a room that may hold up to eighty other students. A room that one might judge to be adequate for one, perhaps two students, houses six to eight; the more popular the pesantren, the more crowded the space. The meals are meager: rice and vegetables. Further, while there is an acknowledgment of personal property, in practice, property is communal. Simple things such a sandals are borrowed freely. Other items, if not in use, should be lent if asked for. The santri who habitually refuses to lend his property will be sanctioned by his peers and sometimes by the pesantren staff. I was expected to follow these guidelines as well, and I often found my tape recorder and camera missing. They were always returned later, the camera with all of its film used and with a request to have the film developed. For the santri who does not share, sanctions may include teasing or a stern reminder about Islamic brotherhood and the importance of ikhlāṣ.

In many ways, the details of pesantren lifestyle have not changed much over time. Given the changes of lifestyle and standard of living in the general population, however, there is a greater gap between the two, and hence the pesantren lifestyle becomes more ascetic. In other words, the simple lifestyle was once a matter of necessity, neither student nor kyai could afford more. But now enforced poverty and austerity is part of an invented pesantren tradition (cf. Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). Indeed, many modernist schools calling themselves pesantren are criticized for being far too comfortable. As an invented, or re-invented, tradition, the ascetic lifestyle in pesantren has come to be an essential part of their character development strategy.

The value of kemandirian (self-sufficiency) is taught by having the santri take care of their own basic needs. The essential idea of this value (mandiri) is seen in a common joke. I was told repeatedly, in the presence of very young santri (six to seven years of age), that mandiri, the root of kemandirian, was an abbreviation for mandi sendiri (I: bathe on your own). [41] While this joke was always met with great hilarity, it communicates quite clearly, both to the young santri (who may still be used to bathing with older siblings) and to the foreign researcher, that taking care of oneself is an important value. In traditional pesantren, mandiri manifests itself in cooking arrangements; students cooked for themselves, or in small cooperative groups. Today, to regain time for ngaji lost to general education, many pesantren employ a cafeteria system. However, santri still learn self-sufficiency through doing their own washing, ironing, and housekeeping. Again, what was once necessity has become tradition. With mandiri, however, some of the practices of the invented tradition must be dropped for practical reasons (i.e., food preparation). Hence, core elements are extracted and emphasized in other ways.

Other rules in place in most pesantren have to do with non-attendance of lessons or communal prayer, sneaking out of the compound, watching movies, theft, and other activities deemed to be against pesantren values. Most violations result in the santri receiving stern advice (nasehat). Repeated violations may bring more stern discipline. One ustadh suggested that the punishment for minor offenses such as watching movies might include beatings or even being ordered to do push-ups in sewage runoff. If the violation is greater, the student’s hair may be shaved off, often just before a scheduled “parents’ day” event, which will humiliate the santri. Offending students may also be sent home. Ultimately, the form and force of the discipline is at the kyai’s discretion.

Gus Ishom of Tebu Ireng argues that in order to plant values (menanamkan nilai), instruction is not as important as setting a good example. In order to teach his santri the importance of sholat jamāʿa (communal worship) a kyai needs to lead the prayers (mengimam), not always, but often. Gus Ishom’s cousin, President Abdurrahman Wahid (then general chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama) agrees that the living example of the kyai is critical in teaching santri. In this regard, Wahid points to his uncle Yusuf Hashim, who never teaches classical texts, but who does teach his students the importance of science and technology by his activities outside the pesantren, which allow him to bring government ministers to visit (there is a place for helicopters to land next to the campus for this very purpose). However, he is just as concerned about the morality of his santri as was his father (Hashim Ashari); while Hashim Ashari was concerned over the impact of popular music, Yusuf Hashim is concerned about the influence of television on santri, and has curtailed viewing considerably.

Mustahin, also at Tebu Ireng, argued that like the Prophet, the kyai should [42] be an example to his students, so that pesantren education will inculcate not only religious knowledge but also moral character. Mustahin referred to the practice of the Companions in Medina, who lived together with the Prophet and witnessed the revelation of the Koran. In this context, they were able to study not only religious knowledge, but also how the Prophet actualized his faith. In like manner, a kyai must live in the pesantren so that he can set an example of an Islamic lifestyle. If he does not provide this example, then the education is instruction (pengajaran) only and not true teaching (pendidikan). In this way, Mustahin suggests, the personality and the character of the kyai himself is a central part of pesantren education.

Gus Ishom said that taṣawwuf (A: mysticism, Sufism) is central in moral education. He explained that in Islam there is a “triangle” of major “sciences”: tawḥīd (A: theology; especially as regards the nature of Allah), fiqh (A: religious law), and taṣawwuf. Each of these sciences makes different contributions. Tawḥīd establishes the basis of faith. Because faith is not enough and needs “good works” (aʿmāl) to actualize it, fiqh provides the believers with guidelines on how to live right and perform good works. Since because good works, alone, are empty if the motivation is impure, taṣawwuf is needed to instill moral and ethical values in believers. The association of Sufism and ethics as it appears in the Indonesian pesantren may be traced to a single highly influential Islamic thinker, namely al-Ghazālī. Al-Ghazālī is famous for his sober mysticism, which balanced theology and taṣawwuf, and for his extensive works on ethics (Abdul Quasem 1975). It is through the use and study of al-Ghazālī’s works that many in the pesantren world associate mysticism and ethics.

If schools make people modern, then pesantren leaders are seeking to make people modern in a distinctly Islamic way. The combination of religious training, character development, and secular education is designed to create people who can live and compete in a changing world and maintain traditional values.


In summary, pesantren in order to fulfill their role as educational institutions which aspire to complement secular education with madrasa subjects, offer in principle both the government curriculum and traditional religious topics. For most kyai, an additional component is critical, and that is character development. By providing secular education, religious instruction, and training aimed at character development, pesantren are creating a new type of modern Indonesian, one whose values are firmly rooted in Islamic teaching. Kyai are not merely changing the curriculum of their schools in order to compete. They are redefining modernity in an Islamic mode. Whereas our [43] current theories about globalization and modernization focus on response, and thereby depict non-Western cultures as passive or reactionary, the material considered here shows that we must consider that the “receiving” peoples themselves may be restructuring the global processes. That is to say, in each local setting it may not be just the response to modernity that is localized, but also that “modernity” is re-created differently in each setting.

Religious education, in any faith, has as a central goal the teaching of tradition, however invented, and the creation young men and women who will uphold that tradition in settings that may be antagonistic towards it. As I reflect on the material considered here, I am reminded of my personal encounters with religious education as a youth. Countless Sunday School teachers and a handful of Christian college educators all had broad hopes that their efforts would mold my character in their image and that I would uphold, perpetuate, and spread their version of Christian traditions. It is hard to evaluate the actual outcome of such educational efforts. I am neither the preacher nor the missionary that some of my teachers hoped for. Nor would some of them continue to count me as a member of their fold. However, it would be impossible either to negate or neglect their impact on my character. Likewise, when we think on the character development efforts of pesantren teachers, we must not limit our assessment of those efforts to the degree to which their graduates observe the pillars of Islam, or even to the degree to which they avoid particular sins. The impact of religious education on individuals, and hence on society as a whole, is uneven, varied, and fluctuating.

Schools that combine religious and secular instruction, whether they be at the primary, secondary, or tertiary level, all have similar goals and strategies. Like religious education in general, these institutions seek to create young men and women who will “keep the faith,” “walk the talk,” or as said in pesantren circles “menjalakan ibadah” (I: exercise the pillars of faith). Many pesantren and American Christian colleges had their beginnings as seminaries. Both types of institutions found a growing demand for a broader, secular, and scientific education, in addition to religious instruction. The goal of these schools is invariably to train people to work in their chosen profession and through that profession realize the founding goals of the institution, namely, to spread the ideals of the faith and thereby transform society.

The experiences of other Islamic countries seem to suggest that pesantren-like institutions (madrasas) that are unable to combine both religious and secular education will, as Geertz predicted, be relegated to the sidelines (1960b). One thing is clear, when madrasa schools fail to meet their educational [44] goals, for whatever reason, there are serious implications for society as a whole stemming from the resulting imbalance. In Turkey, a strong division between religious education and secular education has overtaxed the public education system leading to 27% of girls being uneducated (Mater 1996, 1997). Iran’s madrasa system, as described by Mottahedeh (1985), bears a strong resemblance to the traditional pesantren system. Iran, however like Turkey, has kept secular education and madrasa education separate. It is from an exclusively religious system that the Ayatollah Khomeini emerged (Mottahedeh 1985). In contrast to both Geertz’s (1960b) expectations and the examples just mentioned, the pesantren in Java have succeeded in creating a hybrid system of education combining religious instruction and scientific and technical training. This hybrid system is a reflection of a different Islamic model of interacting with modernity than that which is encountered many other places in the Islamic world.


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———. 1996. “The Forms Culture Takes: A State-of-the-Field Essay on the Anthropology of Southeast Asia.” The Journal of Asian Studies 54(4):1047–78.

Bruinessen, Martin van. 1995. Kitab kuning: pesantren dan tarekat: tradisi-tradisi Islam di Indonesia. Bandung: Mizan.

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Dhofier, Zamakhsyari. 1980. “The Pesantren Tradition: A Study of the Role of the Kyai in the Maintenance of the Traditional Ideology of Islam in Java.” Ph.D. dissertation, Anthropology, The Australian National University.

———. 1982 Tradisi Pesantren: Studi tentang Pandangan Hidup Kyai (The Pesantren Tradition: A Study of the Life View of Kyai). Jakarta: LP3ES

———. 1999 Pesantren Tradition: The Role of the Kyai in the Maintenance of

Traditional Islam in Java. Tempe: Arizona State University Program for Southeast Asian Studies.

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Friedman, Jonathan. 1994. Cultural Identity and Global Processes. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Galba, Sindu. 1991. Pesantren Sebagai Wasah Komunikasi (Pesantren as a Conduit of Communication). Jakarta: Departemen Pendikan dan Kebudayan.

Gardet, L. 1995. “Ikhlāṣ” Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition, 3:1059a–60b.

Geertz, Clifford. 1960a. Religion of Java. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

———. 1960b. “The Javanese Kijaji: The Changing Role of a Cultural Broker.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 2(2):228–49.

Ghofir, Abdul et al. 1982. Sketsa Pondok Pesantren: Laporan Hasil Studi and Eksperimentasi Pondok Pesantren di Jawa Timur (Sketch of Pesantren: Research Report on East Javanese Pesantren) Fakultas Tarbiyah IAIN Sunan Ampel: Malang.

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Lewis, Bernard. 1997. “The West and the Middle East.” Foreign Affairs 76(1):114–30.

Mater, Nadire. 1996. “Turkey: High Priced Private Schools No Answer to Education Crisis.” InterPress Service English New Wire, Oct. 9, 1996.

———. 1997. “Turkey: Religious Seminaries the Next Battleground for the Army.” InterPress Service English New Wire, March 12, 1997.

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Smith, Carol. 1984. “Local History in Global Context: Social and Economic Transitions in Western Guatemala.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26:109–33.

Steenbrink, Karel. 1974. Pesantren, Madrasah, Sekolah. Jakarta: LP3ES.

Ward, Robert E. and Dankwart A. Rustow. 1964. Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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Yacub, H. M. 1985. Pondok Pesantren dan Pembangunan Masyarakat Desa (Pesantren and Development for Rural Society). Bandung: Angkasa.

[1] This paper is based on research funded by an Henry Luce Foundation/Arizona State University Southeast Asia Dissertation Fellowship. An earlier version was presented at the 1998 American Anthropological Association Meetings in Philadelphia, PA. The author would also like to thank the following people for their insights and comments: Joseph Bell, Kenneth George, Susan Jungk, Katryne Lukens-Bull, and Mark Woodward.

Indonesian and Javanese words are spelled according to the official conventions set in 1972. The major changes were dj = j (as in John); j = y (as in yes); tj = c(as in choke); oe = u. The only exceptions to this are words within quotes, titles of books published before 1972, and the proper names of authors and major figures. Arabic words will be spelled according to accepted English transliteration, a modified version of the systems of the Library of Congress and the Encyclopaedia of Islam. Arabic names of Indonesian persons and organizations will be spelled according to Indonesian conventions. Where Indonesian usage differs markedly from the Arabic, I will use the Indonesian form.

[2] Lewis also reminds us that in an earlier period of “modernization” (in the late Middle Ages) Europeans may have well asked “Can we adopt the technology of the Muslims and still hold fast to the teachings of Christianity?” as they adopted the Muslim innovations of experimental science, algebra, and astronomy, as well as paper, the zero, and positional numbering, which Muslims brought from China and India respectively (1997, 129).

[3] Calling either of the two national curricula secular may be a bit confusing to readers who might expect a clear separation between church and state. The national curricula both require a minimum amount of religious training. However only 5–11% of these curricula are focused on religion. Further, the official texts for these courses favor modernist positions. Hence, in the minds of pesantren people, the distinction between pesantren education and national or “secular” education is clear.

[4] The Indonesian term “madrasah” is the local usage of the Arabic “madrasa” which differs from Arabic meaning. While madrasa are pesantren-like institutions, madrasah in Indonesia are day schools that follow a government curriculum that, since 1994, includes twelve percent religious instruction. Although it is uncomfortable to have two different meanings hinge on such a small difference in spelling, we have little choice when we follow the Indonesian usage.

[5] The madrasah system has three levels with decreasing levels of religious instruction (Denny 1995, 298). In 1994, the amount of religious instruction in the highest level was reduced to less than 12%

[6] Unpublished and undated, but typed on official pesantren letterhead. Viewed in early 1995.

[7] Gus is a Javanese title that indicates that a young man is the son of a kyai. Many famous kyai may continue to be called Gus as a friendly term. This also serves as a reminder of his pedigree.
[8] Reflecting the Arabic nuances of purity, devotion, and faithfulness. Cf. L. Gardet, Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 3, s.v. “ikhlāṣ.”

Ronald A. Lukens-Bull
University of North Florida, Jacksonville
Adopted from:

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

One of Indonesia’s great traditions is that of Muslim religious learning as embodied in the Javanese pesantren and similar institutions in the outer islands and the Malay peninsula. The raison d’être of these institutions is the transmission of traditional Islam as laid down in scripture, i.e., classical texts of the various Islamic disciplines, together with commentaries, glosses and supercommentaries on these basic texts written over the ages. These works are collectively known, in Indonesia, as kitab kuning, “yellow books”, a name that they owe to the tinted paper on which the first Middle Eastern editions reaching Indonesia were printed. The corpus of classical texts accepted in the pesantren tradition is – in theory at least – conceptually closed; the relevant knowledge is thought to be a finite and bounded body. Although new works within the tradition continue to be written, these have to remain within strict boundaries and cannot pretend to offer more than summaries, explications or rearrangements of the same, unchangeable, body of knowledge. Even radical reinterpreta­tions of the classical texts are not acceptable. The supposed rigidity of this tradition has come in for much criticism, both from unsympathetic foreign observers and from reformist and modernist Muslims themselves. In practice, however, the tradition appears to be much more flexible than the above sketch would suggest.

The pesantren (or pondok, surau, dayah, as it is called elsewhere) is not the only institution of Muslim religious education, and the tradition it embodies is only one out of several tendencies within Indonesian Islam. Modernist, reformist and fundamentalist currents emerged partly in opposition to it, and to some extent developed into rigid traditions themselves. My concern here is exclusively with the former, although a strict delimitation from the other currents – with which there has always been interaction – is not possible, and in recent years even a certain convergence is perceptible. Muhammadiyah, the major reformist organisation, for instance, now has its own pesantren, where besides its usual school curriculum, classical Arabic texts are also taught (although a different selection from the classical corpus is made than in the traditional pesantren).[1] In the average pesantren, on the other hand, there has been a shift of emphasis within the traditional corpus of texts, apparently under the influence of modernism. Different qur’anic exegeses (tafsir), the canonical collections of traditions (hadith)[2] and the principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) receive much more attention than a century ago, in a development parallel to (and perhaps responsive to) the modernist “return to the Qur’an and hadith”.

It seems best to delineate the Islamic tradition with which I am concerned here by enumerating its most important characteristics, while acknowledging that none of them represents a clear-cut and unambiguous criterium, and that the boundaries with other currents are often fuzzy.

Delineating the tradition

Key elements of the tradition are the institution of the pesantren itself (the school with its core of resident students), and the crucial personalistic and charismatic role of the kyai (or ajengan, tuan guru, etc.) – charismatic in the full Weberian sense of the term. An attitude of reverent respect for, and unquestioning obedience to the kyai is one of the first values installed in every santri. This reverend attitude is extended to earlier generations of `ulama and, a forteriori, to the authors of the texts studied. It might even seem to the outside observer that this attitude is deemed more important than the acquisition of knowledge; but to the kyai it is an integral part of the knowledge (ilmu) to be acquired. Hasyim Asy`ari, the founding father of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), is known to have been a great admirer of Muhammad `Abduh’s tafsir, but to have discouraged his students reading it; his objection was not to `Abduh’s rationalism but to the contempt `Abduh showed for traditional `ulama.

Although the material studied consists exclusively of written texts, their oral transmission is essential. These texts are read aloud by the kyai to a group of students, who have their own copies before them and may take notes on the proper vocalisation and the kyai’s explanations of grammatical niceties or the meanings of certain terms. Students may ask questions but these usually remain within the narrow context of the text itself; there are rarely if ever attempts to relate them to concrete, contemporary situations. The kyai rarely tries to discover whether the students actually understand the texts on any but the linguistic level; elementary texts are memorised, the more advanced ones simply read from beginning to end. (In a small circle of pesantren graduates, however, there is now much talk of understanding the kitab in their historical and cultural context, and to look for their contemporary relevance). Perhaps the majority of pesantren now operate on the madrasi system, with graded classes, fixed curricula and diplomas, but many important pesantren still use the more traditional method where the student reads a few specific texts under the guidance of the kyai (together with other students of various ages). For each text read he receives, after completion, an ijaza (usually oral only), after which he may move on to another pesantren to study other texts – many kyai are known as specialists of a number of specific kitab. Beside their more or less specialist teachings to the students in the pesantren, many kyai also hold weekly pengajian umum for the general public, in which they discuss relatively simple texts.

The central intellectual contents of the tradition are inscribed within the parameters of Ash`ari doctrine (as mediated especially by Sanusi’s works), the Shafi`i madhhab (with nominal acceptance of the other three Sunni madhhab), and the ethical and pietistic mysticism of Ghazali and related writers. The vast majority of the texts studied in the pesantren[3] – including the most recent works added to the tradition – fall within these three categories or that of the “instrumental science” of traditional Arabic grammar (nahw). In the last-named branch of learning, too, the cumbersome tradi­tional method (see Drewes 1971) continues to be preferred over more modern approaches. Modern currents of Islam partly defined themselves in opposition to the “petrified” madhhab and Ghazalian quietism, advocating the reopening of the gate of ijtihad (indepe­ndent judgment on the basis of the original sources, Qur’an and hadith) and social and political activism instead. While to the pesantren tradition Ghazali represents the ideal pinnacle of scholarly and spiritual achievement, the fundamentalists have chosen Ibn Taymiyya as their culture hero (significantly, the latter’s works are forbidden reading in many pesantren).[4] In practice, however, there is a considerable overlap of the texts read by “traditionalist” and other `ulama.

Most kyai content themselves with teaching existing kitab kuning, but not a few have added works of their own to the tradition. There is a remarkable formal difference with the writing modernist and reformist `ulama: the latter write their works in (romanized) Indonesian (the reformist public reads works by Arabic authors also usually in Indonesian translations). To the “traditionalist” `ulama, on the other hand, the Arabic language and script represent noble values in themselves; not only do they often write in Arabic,[5] but when they write or translate in vernacular languages, they almost exclusively use the Arabic script. The script is a badge of identity that, better than most criteria, differentiates the “traditionalists” from the other currents. Well over 500 different works by Indonesian traditional `ulama are currently in print, ranging from simple pious tracts through straightforward transla­tions to sophisticated commentaries on classical texts.

The pesantren tradition is pervaded by a highly devotional and mystical attitude. Supererogatory prayers and the recital of litanies (dhikr, wird, ratib) complement the canonical obligations. Many kyai are moreover affiliated with a mystical order (tariqa) and teach their followers its specific devotions and mystical exercises. A quarter of the literary output of the traditional `ulama consists of mystical and devotional texts. The Prophet is highly venerated and the object of numerous prayers; even the most undeserving of (those claiming to be) his descendants is deemed worthy of the highest respect. Saints are similarly venerated, and their intercession is frequently invoked. Visits to the graves of saints and lesser kyai are an essential part of the annual cycle; most Javanese pesantren hold annual celebrations (khaul, Ar. hawl) on the anniversaries of the deaths of their founding kyai.

A kyai’s charisma is based on the belief in his spiritual powers and ability to bestow blessing due to his contact with the world unseen; he is generally believed to retain this ability beyond the grave. It is this attitude towards the dead that most sharply distinguishes traditional Islam from the modernists and fundamen­talists, who hold that after death no communication is possible and who condemn all attempts to contact the dead as shirk, idolatry. To the traditionalists, on the other hand, it is an integral aspect of the essential concept of wasila, spiritual mediation. An unbroken chain from one’s teacher, living or dead, through previous teachers and saints to the Prophet and hence to God is deemed necessary for salvation. (The same reasoning is responsible for the curious fact that a kyai’s membership of NU is not considered to end upon his death, for that would imply that his wasila is cut off).[6]

The concept of an unbroken chain to the Prophet is central to the tradition, and is encountered in various aspects of it, as in the spiritual genealogy (silsila) of a tariqa[7] and the line of transmission (isnad) of hadith and of traditional texts in general.[8] The chain is a guarantee of the authenticity of the tradition. The numerous Hadrami sayyid (who have had a great influence on the formation of Indonesian traditional Islam) are the physical embodiments of such a chain; drops of the Prophet’s own blood are thought to flow in them, which makes them superior to the rest of mankind. In somewhat different form we recognize the same concept in the preoccupation of many kyai with their own genealogies and in their claims, spurious or correct, of descent from the great Javanese saints or ruling houses.[9] Modernists, of course, deny that heredity gives anyone claims to spiritual superiority.

The political “opportunism” for which NU is often criticised by other committed Muslims is, in the case of many kyai, a conscious emulation of the Sunni tradition’s political conservatism, which considers one hour of political chaos (fitna) worse than a century of tyranny. Political accommodation is almost a matter of principle in the Sunni tradition, not just one of expedience. All of NU’s important political moves in the past, legitimated if not actually initiated by its body of leading legal scholars, the Majlis Syuriah, are based on solid references to kitab kuning[10] – which proves that this theoretically closed corpus is not so rigid after all.

An Indonesian or a foreign tradition?

There is something paradoxical to the pesantren tradition. It is firmly rooted in the Indonesian soil; the pondok and pesantren may be called typical Indonesian institutions, in several respects unlike traditional schools elsewhere in the Muslim world. But at the same time this tradition is self-consciously international in orientation and continues to see not some place in the Archipelago but but Mecca as its focus or orientation.

The kitab kuning tradition is, obviously, of non-Indonesian origin. All classical texts studied in Indonesia are in Arabic, and were written well before Indonesia was islamicised; the same is true of many of the commentaries and glosses used, although there are increasing numbers of commentaries and adaptations written by Indonesian `ulama. Even shifts of emphasis within the tradition have in most cases followed earlier similar shifts in the major centres of the Islamic world. Numerous kitab studied at present in the pesantren are of relatively recent date but were written not in Indonesia but in Mecca or Madina (even in cases where the authors were Indonesians themselves).

The particular form of the pesantren as an educational institu­tion, too, reflects foreign influences if not origins (possibly superimposed upon older local traditions). It resembles the Middle Eastern or Indian madrasa, and I shall discuss below to what extent these may have provided its model. Foreign influences have, over the past centuries, become stronger rather than less. Most of the great kyai completed the highest stages of their education in the prestigious centres of learning of Arabia. They are best seen, perhaps, as mediators between the great international learned tradition of Islam and its more modest Indonesian variant(s).

This is not Indonesia’s only tradition that has unmistakably foreign origins; but unlike those of Chinese and Indian origins, which have become much more integrated into local culture and continue to develop independently of their foreign source,[11] the pesantren tradition tends to be wary of such syncretism and constantly seeks renewal at the source itself. The source par excellence, to Indonesia’s traditional Muslims, is the Holy City of Mecca, the qibla or centre of orientation of all the Muslim World, and secondarily Madina, where the Prophet himself established the first mosque and where he lies buried. These Arabian, and indirectly a few Indian centres, have provided the major impulses to the ongoing process of Indonesia’s islamisation.

Most of the early Indonesian authors of Islamic literature spent considerable periods in Mecca, Madina and other Middle Eastern centres of learning. Not only those with scholarly pretensions, also the early Indonesian Muslim rulers looked to Mecca, for legitimation if not also for useful ilmu, spiritual powers. It was from Mecca that, in the 1630’s, the fourth Muslim ruler of Banten, Abu’l-Mafakhir Mahmud, requested recognition as a sultan, as well as the explanation of certain kitab, and even the dispatch of an expert of the Law to enlighten Banten.[12] A decade later, in 1641, the ruler of Mataram too requested the title of “sultan” from the ruling Sharif of Mecca, as one of several efforts to reinforce his religious legitimation (de Graaf 1958:264-8). Although our knowledge of pre-17th century Indonesian Islam is extremely limited, it seems likely that this orientation towards Mecca had been established well before the cited events.

This is not to deny that Indonesian Islam, especially during the first centuries, had a distinctly Indian flavour, noticeable for instance in the preponderance of the tariqa Shattariyya[13] and the popularity of various adaptations of Ibn `Arabi’s wahdat al-wujud metaphysics,[14] as well as, perhaps, the choice of religious texts studied during the first centuries (see below). This Indian flavour, however, was also mediated through the Holy Cities of the Hijaz, where several great Indian `ulama (and their non-Indian disciples) taught. The Indian-born Arab, Nuruddin ar-Raniri, represents one of the very few known direct links between India and Indonesia.

Because of this continuing foreign orientation of the pesantren tradition, it cannot be studied in isolation; in order to under­stand its dynamics, we have to take developments in Arabia (and secondarily India) as much into account as those in Indonesia itself. Snouck Hurgronje’s pathbreaking studies of Islamic education in Mecca (1887a, 1889) still rank among the few essential works on the pesantren tradition. In the century that has since passed, scholarship on Indonesian Islam has almost entirely neglected Mecca and the other foreign centres, or contented itself with a few highly superficial observations.[15]

Beginnings of the pesantren tradition

We know very little of the precise origins of the pesantren, not even when the institution made its first appearance. Much that has been said about early pesantren seems to be based on an extrapola­tion into the past of the 19th-century institution and on much speculation. Pigeaud and de Graaf speak of pesantren as a second type of important religious centres, beside the mosques, for a period as early as the 16th century: independent communities, often located far away in the mountains, and having their their origins in the pre-Islamic mandala and ashrama (Pigeaud 1967:76ff; de Graaf & Pigeaud 1974:246-7). There are indications that monastic communities of the pre-Islamic type existed well into the Islamic period and that new ones continued to be established,[16] but it is not at all clear whether these were ever educational institutions where textual learning was transmitted. To call them “pesantren” (a term that, to my knowledge, does not occur until much later) is begging the question.

Some authors have wished to see in the desa perdikan (Fokkens 1886) the vehicle of continuity linking the pesantren with pre-Islamic religious institutions. There is no doubt that the perdikan as an institution is of respectable age (Schrieke 1919), and several of the 19th-century perdikan villages may in fact have enjoyed that status since pre-Islamic times. However, it would seem that the existence of a pesantren in a perdikan village is quite incidental to the latter’s status. Out of 211 perdikan villages listed in a late 19th-century survey (Anon. 1888), there were only four where (a part of) the revenue was explicitly reserved for the upkeep of pesantren. There were pesantren in several other perdikan villages, but these did not receive a share of the revenue and were therefore clearly not the reasons of the villages’ perdikan status. The most common rationale for this status (apart from the rulers’ political reasons for establishing perdikan in the periphery, on which Schrieke has commented) was the existence of important graves. The maintenance of spiritually potent graves has traditionally been a respected religious function, irrespective of what the official religion was. The families to whom the perdikan were entrusted thus enjoyed a certain religious authority, and it is not surprising to see some of their members emerge as influental religious teachers (teaching, one would surmise, magical-mystical practices initially, and only much later also bookish Islamic learning). In due time the teaching roles of some of these men became institutionalized in the form of a pesantren with resident santri, a process that has been perceptively sketched for the case of Tegalsari by Guillot (1985). It should be stressed, however, that only a small minority of Javanese pesantren has such a background, and even these are not very old. The pesantren of Tegalsari, the oldest that still functioned until recently, was established in 1742. The first Dutch survey of indigenous education, made in 1819, suggests that pesantren proper did not yet exist all over Java. Institutions recognizable as pesantren were reported from Priangan, Pekalongan, Rembang, Kedu, Surabaya, Madiun and Ponorogo; in other districts there was hardly any education at all, or it took place in private homes and mosques. Madiun and Ponorogo (in which Tegalsari is located) then boasted the best pesantren; it was here that children from the north coast went for education beyond the elementary level (van der Chijs 1864:215-9). There is, as far as I am aware, no unambiguous evidence for the existence of pesantren (in their 19th-century form) much before that of Tegalsari.

It should be borne in mind that there were no pesantren-type institutions in Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Lombok before the 20th century. The transmission of Islamic learning there was highly informal. Children and adults received rudimentary lessons in reading and reciting the Qur’an from a co-villager who had more or less mastered these skills; a passing haji or Arab trader would stay a few days and read, after prayers in the mosque, a kitab to those willing to learn. Where there was an local ulama of some renown, he would similarly read and explain kitab to the general public assembled in the mosque (in the way of the extracurricular pengajian umum given by kyai to those outside the pesantren). The most interested students would visit the ulama at home and even stay there, and the really ambitious would seek more learning in Java or, when possible, Mecca. It seems highly likely to me that this was also the situation in Java and Sumatra during the first centuries of islamisation, and that the first pesantren proper were not established before the 18th century.

The “pesantren” of Karang

One dubious case is the “well-known pesantren” of Karang in Banten (presumably on the mountain Karang to the west of Pan­deglang), that is occasionally referred to, primarily on the basis of its occurrence in the Serat Centini (e.g. Drewes 1969:11). One of the characters in this work, the ascetic Danadarma, relates that he studied three years in Karang under a certain Seh Kadir Jalena (which perhaps means that he studied there the mystical and occult sciences associated with the great saint `Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani).[17] The Centini’s chief protagonist, Jayengresmi or Seh Among Raga, also studied at the “school” (paguron) of Karang, under a guru of Arab origin, a certain Seh Ibrahim bin Abu Bakar, known by the title of Ki Ageng Karang. From there he later travelled to another great school, in the East Javanese village of Wanamarta, led by Ki Baji Panurta, where he showed himself highly competent in orthodox bookish learning.[18]

A teacher on the Karang is also mentioned in a Javanese primbon from the Banyumas district, of unclear date. It refers to a certain Seh Bari of Karang (Seh Bari ing Kawis), who is said to have taught doctrines first propagated by the saints of Java. Drewes (1969:11) suggests that he may perhaps be identified with the Seh Bari whose teachings are laid down in one of the two oldest (16th-century) Javanese Islamic manuscripts still extant. If this identification is correct, this would mean that some time between 1527 (formal introduction of Islam in Banten) and the end of the century, Karang became a well-known centre of orthodox Islamic learning – for the “admonitions of Seh Bari” are definitely orthodox and not of the syncretistic kind as are often attributed to the saints of Java. But even if Drewes is correct in making this identification (which I find rather speculative), I would hesitate to speak of a pesantren; the presence of a well-known teacher or lineage of teachers does not yet make a school in the sense conveyed by that term. The Banyumas manuscript does not speak of a school but only mentions the shaykh. (The Centini, incidentally, which does speak of schools, does not call them “pesantren” but “paguron” or “padepokan”).

The Centini’s Jayengresmi was a contemporary of Sultan Agung of Mataram and must therefore have lived in the first half of the 17th century. The Centini, however, was compiled in the early 19th century (although partly from older materials), and it would be naive to consider it as a reliable source on anything but contem­porary matters. The Sajarah Banten (Djajadiningrat 1913), which is in date of composition close to Jayengresmi’s supposed lifetimes, does not mention a paguron on the Karang (or elsewhere, for that matter) but suggests that it was a favourite spot for tapa, meditational practices.[19] The only religious instruction[20] mentioned in this text consists of the private education of a prince at the hands of a Kyai Dukuh and of the kali (qadi) of the sultanate (ibid.:37). This seems to confirm my suggestion above, that there were, in the 16th and 17th centuries, both individual teachers of the Islamic scholarly disciplines, teaching mainly in mosques or at the court, and masters of the mystical-magical sciences based mainly (but not exclusively) in hermitages or near sacred graves. Pesantren as we know them may partly have developed out of these various locations, but not until a later period.

The kitab studied in the 16th-19th centuries

My suggestion that the institution of the pesantren did not emerge before the 18th century of course does not mean that kitab kuning were not studied before that time. Classical Arabic texts were definitely known and studied (although we can only guess how widely) by ca. 1600. A few works had already been translated into Javanese and Malay, while several Indonesian authors had written works in these languages that in style and content belonged to the orthodox kitab tradition. Around 1600, the first Indonesian manuscripts, in Malay, Javanese and Arabic, made their way to Europe. They give us a precious, though very incomplete, impression of the aspects of the Islamic scriptural tradition then known in the Archipelago.

The Malay manuscripts (van Ronkel 1896) contain, among other things, commentaries on two important chapters of the Qur’an, two hikayat with Islamic themes, a text on Muslim marriage law (in Arabic, with interlineary translation) and a translation of a celebrated devotional poem in praise of the Prophet (Busiri’s Qasidat al-burda, edited by Drewes 1955). The two major Javanese Islamic manuscripts, also (re-)edited by Drewes (1954, 1969) show little of the metaphysical speculation and syncretism so often thought to be typical of Javanese Islam. They are firmly within the orthodox tradition (of Shafi`i fiqh, Ash`ari doctrine and Ghazalian ethics), without any traces of local influence. They refer, moreover, to various Arabic kitab, which gives a clearer idea of how these authors relate to the Middle Eastern tradition.

Of the various Arabic works mentioned in the “Admonitions of Seh Bari” (Drewes 1969, previously known as “the Book of Bonang”), only two titles are recognizable: Ghazali’s magnum opus Ihya `ulum ad-din and a work called Tamhid, which is probably Abu Shukur al-Kashshi as-Salimi’s at-Tamhid fi bayan at-tawhid, of which a Javanese interlinear translation exists (Kraemer 1921:6). The latter work was, interestingly, especially popular in India.[21] The same two works are mentioned in the other early Javanese Muslim text (Kraemer 1921, Drewes 1954), along with a Talkhis al-minhaj (“summary of the Minhaj”, probably referring to Ghazali’s Minhaj al-`abidin), a Sharh fi’l daqa’iq (possibly a commentary on the popular text on cosmology and eschatology, Daqa’iq al-akhbar).[22] The other two titles, al-Kanz al-khafi (“the hidden treasure”) and Ma`rifat al-`alam (“Gnosis of the world”) suggest works on mysticism and metaphysics, although they could not be identified.

This short list would suggest that the emphasis in teaching was on doctrine and mysticism. The existence of several (younger) manuscripts, in Arabic as well as Javanese translations, of Burhanpuri’s well-known wahdat al-wujud text at-Tuhfat al-mursala (Johns 1965) suggests that there was a strong predilectance for “pantheist” mysticism.[23] However, among the said few manuscripts brought to Europe from Jawa around 1600, there are also two Arabic works on fiqh, Abu Shuja’ al-Isfahani’s still widely used at-Taqrib fi’l-fiqh (with an interlineary Javanese translation) and an anonymous (and now virtually unknown) al-Idah fi’l-fiqh. These form clear proof that fiqh was also studied in Java in the late 16th century at the latest (and perhaps much earlier).

Those Indonesians studying in Arabia became acquainted with a much wider range of texts, but what was taught in Indonesia itself must, initially at least, have been a rather limited and poor selection from the rich classical tradition. The knowledgeable Mahmud Yunus (1979:223-6) gives — it remains unclear from what sources, but presumably from oral tradition — rather detailed information on the “pesantren” in (18th-century?) Mataram and mentions three kitab studied at the lower levels: Taqrib (the said fiqh work), Bidayat al-hidaya (Ghazali’s work on sufi morality, excerpted from his Ihya) and a text known as Usul 6 Bis,[24] which must have been Abu’l-Layth as-Samarqandi’s little work on doctrine, also known as Asmarakandi.[25]

The Serat Centini, as first shown by Soebardi (1971), contains more detailed information on the works studied in the “pesantren”, but it would be rash to assume that this is valid for a period much earlier than that when the Centini was composed. In the discussions of its protagonists, twenty different kitab are mentioned, six of which are major fiqh texts (including the ones mentioned already, Taqrib and Idah),[26] nine works on doctrine (including Samarqandi’s introductory text and Sanusi’s two well-known works on `aqida with various commentaries), two tafsir (the near-ubiquitous Jalalayn and that of Baydawi) and three works on sufism. This last group includes Ghazali’s Ihya and also the only work in the list that is of disputed orthodoxy, `Abd al-Karim al-Jili’s al-Insan al-kamil, a systematic presentation of Ibn al-`Arabi’s wahdat al-wujud metaphys­ics.[27]

The first hesitant Dutch observations on pesantren education confirm the impression given by the above sources. In the first survey of indigenous education, in 1819, the district authorities of Rembang listed the kitab studied in pesantren there (van der Chijs 1864:217). The santri learned the basics of Arabic grammar through well-known works as Jurjani’s `Amil (or `Awamil) and the Jurumiyya (still used in virtually every pesantren), and then read selected parts of the Qur’an and elementary works on fiqh (Sittin) and doctrine (Asmarakandi and Sanusi’s small work ad-Durra), that were also mentioned in the earlier Javanese sources.

Towards the end of the century, L.W.C. van den Berg visited a number of important pesantren in Java and Madura and compiled, on the basis of interviews with the kyai, a list of the Arabic works commonly studied (1886). His explicit mentioning of the word “Arabic” suggests that works in other languages (presumably Javanese) were in also use but deliberately not taken notice of. (As I shall show below, around that time there was at least one famous Javanese ulama, Kyai Saleh Darat of Semarang, who wrote several works in Javanese, that were later widely used). Van den Berg’s list shows a clear continuity with the earlier ones, in the sense that both the introductory works used and the prestigious texts mentioned remained the same, and that the additional titles basically represent elaborations upon subject matter already well circumscribed, no new orientations. Striking is the absence of a few dimensions of the classical tradition: while many fiqh works were studied, not a single one on its theoretical principles (usul al-fiqh) was listed; as tafsir, we only find those by the two Jalaladdin (Jalalayn: Suyuti and Mahalli) and by Baydawi; and although Bukhari’s canonical hadith collection was read by some kyai, no work of hadith was actually taught in the pesantren. In these three subjects, pesantren education has become considerably richer since the 1880’s (van Bruinessen 1990). Other dimensions of the classical intellectual tradition, however, continued to remain absent from the pesantren, notably philosophy and metaphysics,[28] Van den Berg lists no works on wahdat al-wujud; these may have been taught in a number of pesantren, but less conspicuously and only to selected students, as is still the case at a few places.

The range of these works studied in pre-20th century Java is particularly narrow if one compares it with the intellectual horizons of the early Muslim authors from the outer islands. In the works of Nuruddin Raniri, Yusuf Makassar and Abdurra’uf Singkel, we find references to a much more varied and intellectual­ly interesting range of texts. To some extent this was, no doubt, mere name-dropping but they must have acquired at least a superfi­cial (and in Raniri’s case even profound) knowledge and understand­ing of the rich intellectual tradition then flourishing in the Hijaz and India. Al-Attas has culled from Raniri’s works an impressive list of highly sophisticated sufi and philosophical books referred to by this author (1986:15-24). Even if one may remain sceptical towards Al-Attas’ conclusion that Raniri had actually read all of these works, it is obvious that the man was highly cultured. Yusuf, in the course of his many years in Arabia, studied with many a master and mastered no doubt more than the tariqa for which he remains known. He too refers in several risala to works well beyond the narrow range studied in Java.[29] And Abdurra’uf lists in his `Umdat al-muhtajin dozens of Meccan and Madinan teachers with whom he studied or was acquainted. He remains silent on what exactly he studied with these masters, but from his own works it is evident that he covered the major Islamic sciences, and given the identity of his major teacher, Ibrahim al-Kurani, he must have been immersed in metaphysics as well as hadith studies too.

The classical learned tradition and its impact in Indonesia

The works that constitute the central core of the Islamic learned tradition were written during the 10th through 15th centuries. A few important works were written before that period, and new works in the same vein continue to be written, but by the end of the 15th century Arabic thought had reached it most consummate form, and no significant further development of the tradition took place. The modes of thought, at least in the Islamic sciences, remained the same (in the other sciences, mathematics, physics, medicine, the paradigms changed under European influence).[30] In this medieval tradition, all the sciences were considered as essentially finite systems of knowledge. The very idea of making significant additions to the body of knowledge was therefore absurd and even heretical. This view strictly limits the nature of works that can be written within the tradition. Aziz Al-Azmeh, whose recent work (1986) is an excellent analysis of the metaphysical bases of medieval Arabic thought, neatly sums up what sort of works medieval scholars and scientists wrote: “Thus dissertation of any topic falls into seven types: the completion of the incomplete, the correction of the mistaken, the exegesis of the obscure, the epitome of a long text, the assembly of disparate but connected writings (and this seems understood in terms of a spatial metaphor, without the implication of synthesis), the organisation of disorganised writing and the extraction of what had not previously been extracted, presumably from a given body of premises” (1986:152, after Ibn Hazm and Hajji Khalifa). This is still valid as a description of kitab kuning after the classical period. If we add translation into local languages as an eighth type, this summary covers virtually all kitab written by Indonesian ulama during the past century.

Finite and unchangeable though it was believed to be, the tradition was very rich. And it remained flexible because there had never been attempts to make it consistent. Each of the sciences was a closed system, in which propositions were possible that contradicted those in other sciences. Philosophers and theologians, sufis and metaphysicians, scholars of fiqh and of hadith, each had their own discourse, sometimes at odds with the others (although there was an underlying unity of patterns of thought).[31] Even within the major discipline of fiqh, four schools (the survivors of an initially much larger number) were considered as equally orthodox although they differed on many points. On almost any subject, different views existed (and exist) next to each other. Such development as took place, usually under the influence of political developments, often took the form of a shift of emphasis in favour of one discipline against another. Many reformist movements within the tradition, for instance, are associated with a firm insistence on hadith as against kalam (theology) or even the established schools of fiqh. We often perceive an element of populism or anti-elite sentiment among the strong proponents of hadith. The learned elite lays claims to special privileges on the basis of its oligopolistic possession of sophisticated knowledge; hadith are relatively straightforward and can be understood without special training, and have moreover the stamp of Prohetic authority. They can therefore be used to declare the validity of the intellectual disciplines null and void.[32] Overall, the rational (`aqliyya) sciences (logic, philosophy, metaphysics, kalam, medicine, etc.) have since the classical period gradually had to cede field to the religious sciences in the narrow sense, the `ulum naqliyya (“traditional” sciences: hadith, tafsir and other Qur’anic sciences, etc.), which means a considerable impoverishment of the tradition.

The first generations of Indonesians studying in Arabia assimi­lated only a fraction of the tradition as it still existed, initially those to which their own culture made them most receptive (notably metaphysical mysticism, cosmology, the tariqa and associated occult sciences, but also the central science of fiqh). In the course of time, more and more dimensions of the tradition became accepted into Indonesia’s own Islamic tradition, which thus gradually became richer, in spite of the progressive impoverishment of what the Arabian centres had to offer.[33]

Foreign models for the pesantren

The transmission of learning in Islam did not become formalized and institutionalised in the madrasa until the 10th century. Initially, it was primarily fiqh (the most essential science from the state’s point of view) that was taught in the madrasa; the other sciences continued to be transmitted more informally, in mosques (Makdisi 1981:9). By the time of the first documented intensive contacts of Indonesia with the central Muslim lands, the late 17th and 18th centuries, the two great Sunni empires (the Ottoman Empire, which included most of Arabia, and Mughal India) had centrally controlled networks of great madrasa (beside numerous schools of lower levels) with more or less standardized curricula.[34] The Ottoman madrasa was typically built by one of the sultans or a high official, and was endowed with waqf (“pious foundations”, usually in the form of land) that brought enough revenue for its upkeep and for allowances of food and candles to the students. Its director, the mudarris, received a government stipend. In Mughal India, state patronage was less pervasive, the learned establish­ment somewhat more amorphous and less close to the court. The subjects taught in the two empires differed little; they included the Qur’an, with much attention to its proper pronunciation (tajwid) and style of reciting (qira’a); Arabic grammar and rhetoric (sarf, nahw, balagha), (Hanafi) fiqh[35] and its principles, tafsir, kalam, hadith (mostly non-canonical collections, but in the Ottoman Empire also Bukhari), as well as logic, arithmetics, astronomy, adab (literature) and hikma (philosophy and metaphysics).[36]

The Turkish traveller Evliya elebi, who visited Mecca and Madina in 1671, reports that there were then forty madrasa in Mecca, of which he mentions twenty-two by name (1935:771-2); he also mentions four in Madina and claims that there were many more (ibid.:640). His descriptions of them are, however, very meagre compared with those he gives at other places, and one gathers that they were not exactly flourishing (two centuries later, Snouck Hurgronje found the major madrasa in Mecca converted into private mansions). Significantly perhaps, Evliya has more to say of the numerous convents (tekye or zawiya) of sufi orders in Mecca, several of which lodged numerous residents (ibid.:772-3).

When looking for Middle Eastern models for the pesantren, we should perhaps, besides the madrasa, think of the zawiya as another likely candidate. It even seems improbable that the Indonesians staying in the Hijaz had at this stage much contact with the madrasa there, which were more geared to careers in the Ottoman Empire, and where moreover the Hanafi madhhab predominated. There is not much overlap between the books known to Indonesians in the 16th-18th centuries and those of the madrasa curriculum: the only common works are the two tafsir by the Jalalayn and Baydawi, and the Tamhid, studied in India but not the Ottoman Empire. The scholar and sufi who had the greatest impact on Indonesians studying in the Hijaz in the 17th century, Ibrahim al-Kurani (significantly a Shafi`i), seems to have had more interaction with Indian than Ottoman `ulama (we find more references to him in Indian than in Ottoman sources), and seems to have stood outside the Ottoman learned hierarchy. He taught also subjects that were not part of the official madrasa curriculum.[37]

During the 18th and early 19th centuries, madrasa education in Arabia seems only to have further declined. Little is known of the form and content of education received by the Indonesians studying in Mecca and Madina during this period. Even the biographies of the greatest among them, Muhammad Arshad al-Banjari, `Abd as-Samad al-Palimbani and Da’ud bin `Abdallah al-Patani list only the names of some of their teachers (most conspicuously the sufi Muhammad bin `Abd al-Karim as-Samman and the shaykh al-islam of Egypt, Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Kurdi) and the titles of some of the works they read.[38] They did not study in madrasa but apparently attended the informal lecture circles (halqa) given by independent `ulama in various mosques; with some teachers they had apparently no more than a few private sessions.

Snouck Hurgronje’s path-breaking work on Mecca has shown how by the late 19th century, education in the Hijaz was dominated by Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram, which was then (and may well have been for some time) a veritable university, supervised by a government-appointed rector (shaykh al-`ulama), who allowed only selected `ulama to have their lecturing circles (halqa) there (1887; 1889:235-56). Less favoured `ulama taught at various other places in the city. The system on which the “university” was run differed from the madrasa in that there was no established curriculum; it was up to the individual teacher and his students to decide which text was read, and the students did not live together in a college. The madrasa that had existed in the past, as Snouck Hurgronje remarked, no longer functioned.

This short historical survey, then, suggests that the Indonesians studying in the Hijaz never had significant direct contacts with Ottoman-type madrasa, and it is therefore not very likely that these formed the model on which the Javanese pesantren, with its resident santri and more or less fixed curriculum, were based. Two important experiences with madrasa-type education, however, seem to have been overlooked by previous research. In studies of Indonesian Islam, I have never seen references to Indonesians studying at Cairo’s Azhar university before the 20th century. These must nevertheless have been quite numerous from the first half of the 19th century on, and possibly earlier. By the mid-19th century, the Azhar had around 30 colleges (riwaq), in which the students lived; one of these was reserved for “Jawa”, i.e. Muslims from the Archipelago. Turks, Kurds and Iraqi Arabs also had only one riwaq each, which suggests that the “Jawa” must have been more than a handful (Vollers 1913; cf. Heyworth-Dunne 1938:25-6). The kitab studied at the Azhar (where fiqh of all four madhhab was taught) in the 18th and 19th centuries show moreover a much closer correspondence with the 19th-century pesantren curriculum than the syllabus of the earlier Ottoman and Mughal madrasa. Most of the works listed by van den Berg (1888) also occur in the Azhar syllabus as culled from Egyptian sources by Heyworth-Dunne (1938:43-65). The importance of this finding should not be overrated, for the same works were also read in Meccan halqa; but it allows at least the possibility of an Azhari influence on the early pesan­tren. Perhaps the number of Indonesian students at the Azhar decreased in the second half of the 19th century because of its relative loss of status vis a vis Mecca due to Egypt’s westernisa­tion, but until then it had long been considered as “the Athens of Shafi`i learning” (cf. Snouck Hurgronje 1889:255).

The other relevant madrasa was founded more recently in Mecca by Indian Muslims, a decade before Snouck’s stay there but apparently overlooked by him. In 1874, an Indian lady by the name of Sawlat an-Nisa endowed a waqf in Mecca for a madrasa (the Sawlatiyya), to be led by the celebrated and militant Indian scholar Rahmat Allah bin Khalil al-`Uthmani (`Abd al-Jabbar 1385:121-7). Rahmat Allah had gained renown in India and abroad through his sophisticated (and successful) polemic with the German missionary Pfander, and had been one of the leaders of the anti-British Mutiny of 1857.[39] After the defeat of this rebellion, he had taken refuge in Mecca, where he became one of the leading `ulama, and one of those most firmly committed to the defence of Islam against colonialism and westernisation. The Sawlatiyya was part of the movement of educational reform in Indian Islam that had given rise to the Deoband school (Darul `Ulum, established in 1867) and numerous affiliated madrasa (Metcalf 1982). Like at Deoband, the curriculum was probably traditional, though with a heavier emphasis on hadith;[40] what made it modern was its institutional form, with classrooms, a fixed course of study and examinations. Many of its teachers, incidentally, were drawn from the among the `ulama teaching at the Masjid al-Haram.[41]

In the early 20th century, and perhaps earlier as well,[42] the Sawlatiyya had a great influence on Indonesia’s pesantren world. Many Indonesians studied at this school and founded pesantren or madrasah (in the Indonesian sense of the term) upon their return, more or less modelling these on the Sawlatiyya. There was then yet another, similar madrasa in Mecca, also established by Indians, the Madrasat al-Falah (mentioned by Gobée 1921:199-200 and in the biographies in `Abd al-Jabbar 1385), but this seems to have had no Indonesian students. In 1934, a third madrasa of this type, named Dar al-`Ulum ad-Diniyya, was established in Mecca, this time by Indonesians, who walked out of the Sawlatiyya because of a conflict over the use of the Indonesian language that had become a matter of national pride.[43] The Indonesians resident in Mecca collected the money necessary to establish their own school. Over a hundred Indonesian students, most of whom had been at the Sawlatiyya, at once enrolled; Muhsin al-Musawwa, a sayyid born in Palembang, who was already a teacher at the Sawlatiyya, became its first rector.

To summarize, then, I would suggest that the riwaq at the Azhar university may have provided one of the models for the organisation of pesantren founded in the late 18th and 19th centuries, as well as for their curricula, and that around the turn of the century the Indian educational reform movement began to exert its influence through the Sawlatiyya. With the establishment in Mecca of the Indonesian Dar al-`Ulum, which imitated the Sawlatiyya in most respects, and which in its name echoes the reformist colleges of Deoband and Cairo,[44] the reformed madrasa became the dominant model to be emulated throughout the Archipelago. It was the Sawlatiyya and the Dar al-`Ulum that were the major influences in the development of traditional Islamic education in Indonesia (di­scussed extensively in Steenbrink 1974 and Yunus 1979).

Indonesian `ulama in Mecca

The existence of these madrasa in Mecca has been little noticed so far, largely because of the tremendous prestige of the Masjid al-Haram (and because of the towering place of Snouck Hurgronje’s work on the latter in western scholarship). The great teachers at the Sawlatiyya, moreover, also taught in the Mosque. Because of the importance attributed to the isnad (chain of transmission of a text), students were more likely to refer to the names of their teachers than to the institution where they studied. Changes in intellectual discourse, such as took place in the beginning of the century, were therefore commonly attributed to individual teachers rather than to institutional and wider socio-economic developments.

In retrospect, the decades around the last turn of century stand out as a decisive phase. Three Indonesian `ulama then teaching in the Masjid al-Haram (and not in the Sawlatiyya) exerted a great influence on their compatriots and, through their disciples and their writings, on the following generations. Nawawi of Banten (d. 1896-7), praised by Snouck as the most learned and modest of the Indonesians (1889:362-7) was the most prolific author of them. Beside his well-known tafsir (Johns 1984, 1988), he wrote works on virtually every discipline studied in the pesantren. Unlike earlier Indonesian authors, he did so in Arabic. Several of his works are commentaries (sharh) on kitab that were already used in the pesantren, explaining, supplementing and sometimes also correcting them (see the example in Steenbrink 1984:133-4). These commentaries virtually came to supersede the original texts. Others are commentaries on works that, due to him, have become part of the pesantren curriculum. No less than 22 of his works (he wrote at least twice that number) are still in print, and 11 of them figure among the 100 kitab that are most frequently used (van Bruinessen 1990). Nawawi stands, as it were, on a watershed between two periods in the pesantren tradition. He acknowledged and reinter­preted its intellectual heritage and enriched it with adaptations from material hitherto neglected. All contemporary kyai consider him as their intellectual ancestor, but also Ahmad Khatib Minangkabau, the “father” of Indonesian Islamic reformism, was his student.

Ahmad Khatib (d. 1915) is best known for his polemics against the matrilineal adat of his native region and against the tariqa Naqshbandiyya (which had more followers in West Sumatra than elsewhere), but his role in Mecca was wider than that. He was one of the first Indonesians to acquire a licence to teach in the Masjid al-haram, and was made one of the Shafi`i imam there, a privilege usually reserved for the Mecca-born.[45] Both contributed much to his influence among the entire Indonesian community in Mecca. His reformist attitude is apparent from his writing a commentary on an early text on usul al-fiqh, Juwayni’s Waraqat, but it would be wrong to perceive him as a rebel against the tradition as such, in which he was deeply steeped. His students included both reformists and traditionalists (some of them even became tariqa shaykhs!), and two of his works are still used in several pesantren.[46]

The third great figure was Kyai Mahfuz Termas (d.1919-20), of whom the Javanese kyai speak with even more respect than of Nawawi. He was the venerated teacher of several of the founders of the NU, which no doubt added to his reputation. He had completed his education at the feet of the greatest Arab teachers in the Masjid al-Haram and also became an expert in Qur’an recitation (on which he wrote several books). His major work is a four-volume commentary on a fiqh work that used to be popular in Indonesia,[47] and he seems to have been the first Indonesian scholar to teach the canonical hadith collection of Bukhari. His favourite student, Hasyim Asy`ari took this tradition to Indonesia, where his pesantren at Tebuireng (Jombang) became the most renowned pondok hadits.

I have observed above that one of the conspicuous developments in the pesantren curriculum since the 1880’s is the appearance of usul al-fiqh and hadith, and the greater variety in tafsir studied. One would be tempted to credit this to these three `ulama, who made their marks in precisely these fields. There is probably some truth in this, but only a partial one; the pattern of intellectual influences must have been highly diffuse. The reorientation towards these subjects was a general trend in the Islamic world, that had begun earlier and was also reflected in the new madrasa.

After these three `ulama, there have been no Indonesians of comparable standing teaching in Mecca. `Umar `Abd al-Jabbar’s work on the `ulama in the Masjid al-Haram in the 14th century of the hijra mentions three later Indonesians (or rather two Indonesians and a Mecca-born Malay), but these never achieved the same renown: Muhsin bin `Ali Musawwa (the first rector of the Dar al-`Ulum, d. 1935), Muhammad Nur al-Patani (a grandson of Da’ud bin `Abdallah, d. 1944) and `Ali Banjar (d. 1951). Apart from the first, they do not even seem to have had very numerous Indonesian students. The Indonesians studied at the Sawlatiyya and the Dar al-`Ulum or, when in the Mosque, with the more reputed Arab teachers. These different institutions are represented by the two contemporary `ulama in Mecca who stand out as the major authorities for Indonesians, the kyai’s kyai. One is Shaykh Yasin of Padang, the rector of the Dar al-`ulum, the other Sayyid Muhammad bin `Alwi al-Maliki, whose father and grandfather also, in spite of their belonging to the Maliki madhhab, taught numerous Indonesians in the Masjid al-Haram. Both teach not only the entire range of subjects studied in the pesantren, but are also shaykhs of various tariqa.[48]

Mecca is no longer the most important place where contemporary Indonesians of pesantren backgrounds seek higher learning, and those who still do so usually stay for much shorter periods than in the past. I have the impression, although I cannot back it up with statistical data, that the Azhar has become much more important again,[49] while also the school of the Nadwat al-`ulama in Lucknow (see Metcalf 1982:335-47) has been attracting students from “traditional” circles in various parts of Indonesia. Many more santri now continue their studies at the Indonesian state in­stitutes of Islamic learning (IAIN), which probably offer a better education than that received in Mecca by the average student of previous generations. But an IAIN diploma still lacks the prestige and charisma bestowed by ijaza given by famous teachers with proper isnad in the major foreign centres, and the pesantren world is not likely to give up its Arabian (and Indian) orientation.

APPENDIX: Kitab by Indonesian `ulama currently used

A final short look at the works by Indonesian `ulama that are currently in print will give an impression of their lasting contributions to the Indonesian pesantren tradition. The early Sumatran mystics have virtually disappeared from sight. Hamzah and Syamsuddin are only accessible in foreign scholarly editions, and of Raniri’s works only his short fiqh work, as-Sirat al-mustaqim is still widely available in the Malay world, and that only because it is printed in the margin of M. Arshad al-Banjari’s more substantial Sabil al-muhtadin.[50] `Abd ar-Ra’uf’s Malay translation and adaptation of the Tafsir Jalalayn, at-Tarjuman al-mustafid, is still regularly reprinted, as is one other short work, Kitab al-fara’id (on inheritance law).

The earliest author of whom more numerous works are available is Da’ud bin `Abdallah al-Patani. At least eighteen of his works, all in Malay, have been printed but several of these have long been out of print. His works are mainly used in Malaysia and Patani, and to some extent also in Sumatra. They include several works on fiqh and doctrine, a work on tasawwuf (after Ghazali’s Minhaj al-`abidin) and a hadith collection (see also Matheson & Hooker 1988; van Bruinessen 1990). His contemporary `Abd as-Samad al-Palimbani is represented by his widely available Sayr as-salikin and Hidayat as-salikin, adaptations of Ghazali’s Ihya and Bidaya, respectively. An anonymous fiqh work still read in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, Fath ar-raghibin, is also attributed to `Abd as-Samad by some authorities (Quzwain 1985), while others believe it to be by the third great Malay author of that period, M. Arshad al-Banjari, whose larger fiqh work Sabil al-muhtadin is still found all over the Malay-speaking world but rarely taught in pondok. A widely popular guide for worship, Perukunan besar Melayu, was compiled by his descendants from the master’s teachings. Another descendant, `Abd ar-Rahman Siddiq, who migrated to mainland Riau, became there a well-known author, but the three of his works that are in print can only be found in the Banjar area.

Nawawi Banten and his impressive contributions have already been mentioned. Two of his contempories, living in Indonesia, were also prolific authors and are still read. Sayyid `Uthman (Snouck Hurgronje 1887b, 1894) wrote numerous tracts in Malay, twelve of which are still found to be used in Jakarta and West Java. Several deal with fiqh, doctrine, and morals; there is a mawlid, a collection of litanies (awrad) and a work on Qur’an recital (qira’a). Kyai Saleh Darat (d.1903) wrote in Javanese. He trans­lated and adapted major sufi texts (Ibn `Ata’illah’s Hikam, parts of the Ihya) and a popular work on doctrine (Jawharat at-tawhid), and wrote on fiqh, Arabic grammar and tajwid. Several of the seven printed works that I have seen are no longer available, which shows that their popularity has been decreasing.

A younger Javanese author of great repute was Kyai Ihsan of Jampes (Kediri). His two-volume Siraj at-talibin (in Arabic), a commentary on Ghazali’s Minhaj al-`abidin, is considered as the most important work recently written by an Indonesian, and studied in various pesantren by the more advanced students. The most prolific contemporary Javanese author is Mustofa Bisri of Rembang, who wrote well over twenty books, including a three-volume translation of the Qur’an, his best-known work.

Most of the kitab written in this century fall within three categories. The first consists of translations, usually with extensive commentaries, of classical works already widely used in the pesantren. Ahmad Subki Masyhadi of Pekalongan, Asrari Ahmad and the said Mustofa Bisri have made numerous such translations into Javanese, of works on fiqh, doctrine, and morality, as well as of hadith collections (the first two both translated Riyad as-salihin, the most “devotional” collection of hadith) and books of prayers and litanies. Similar works were translated into Madurese by Abdul Majid Tamim of Pamekasan.

The second category, partially overlapping with the first, consists of books with largely devotional purposes, such as texts in praise of the Prophet or the saints, litanies and prayers, and introductions to the various tariqa. These works are usually not part of the pesantren curriculum, but widely used by both santri and the general population. Many kyai wrote works of these types or translated Arabic devotional texts; among the most outstanding among them is Kyai Muslikh of Mranggen near Semarang (d. 1986), one of the great masters of the Qadiriyya wa Naqshbandiyya, known especially for his translation of Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir’s hagiog­raphy[51] and related works, and the somewhat earlier Ahmad bin Abdul Hamid of Kendal, who translated and adapted the same hagiography as well as several works on the Prophet.

The third and largest category is that of simple introductory texts for use in the pesantren or by the general public, without any scholarly pretention. Numerous `ulama, all over the Archipelago, have produced such texts. Most of these books or booklets are in the vernacular languages, except where their object is the teaching of Arabic. A distinct subgroup consists of the textbooks especially written for the (reformed) madrasah, which often deviate from the traditional way of presenting the material. Two major authors of this type of textbooks are, not accidentally, of West Sumatran origins, and wrote in Malay as well as simple Arabic: Abdul Hamid Hakim and Mahmud Yunus.[52]


‘Abbas, K.H. Siradjuddin

1975 Ulama Syafi’i dan kitab-kitabnya dari abad ke abad. Jakarta: Pustaka Tarbiyah.

`Abd al-Jabbar, `Umar

1385/1965-6 Siyar wa tarajim ba`d `ulama’ina fi ‘l-qarn ar-rabi` `ashar li ‘l-hijra. Makka: Mu’assasa Makka li ‘t-taba`a wa ‘l-i`lam.

Abdullah, H.W. Muhd. Shaghir

1985 Perkembangan ilmu fiqih dan tokoh-tokohnya di Asia Tenggara (I). Solo: Ramadhani.

1987 Syeikh Daud bin Abdullah Al Fathani: Penulis Islam produktif Asia Tenggara. Solo: Ramadhani.

Abdurrahman, Moeslim

1981 Mengenal ciri pesantren di Jawa Timur: kearah menyusun tipologi. In Pesantren: Profil Kyai, Pesantren dan Madrasah [=Warta-PDIA no.2]. Jakarta: Badan Litbang Agama, 9-38.

Aboebakar, H.

1957 Sedjarah hidup K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim dan karangan tersiar. Djakarta: Panitya Buku Peringatan Alm. K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim.

Abu Daudi

1980 Maulana Syekh Moh. Arsyad Al Banjari (Tuan Haji Besar). Dalampagar, Martapura: Madrasah Sullamul `Ulum.

Ahmad, Mohammad Akhlaq

1985 Traditional education among Muslims: A study of some aspects in modern India. Delhi: B.R. Publish­ing Corporation.

Ahmad, Mohiuddin

1975 Saiyid Ahmad Shahid: His life and mission. Lucknow: Academy of Islamic Research and Publications.


1888 Register betreffende de vrijstellingen welke door de bevolking der perdikan-, pakoentjen- en midjen-desa’s worden genoten, en de diensten en leveringen, waartoe zij verplicht is. Batavia: Landsdrukkerij.

Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naquib

1986 A commentary on the Hujjat al-siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri. Kuala Lumpur: Minstry of Culture, Malaysia.

Atay, Hüseyin

1983 Osmanlılarda yüksek din eğitimi. Istanbul: Dergah yayınları.

Al-Azmeh, Aziz

1986 Arabic thought and Islamic societies. London: Croom Helm.

Baltacı, Cahid

1976 XV-XVI. asırlarda Osmanlı medreseleri: teşkilat, tarih. Istanbul.

van den Berg, L.W.C.

1886 Het Mohammedaansche godsdienstonderwijs op Java en Madoera en de daarbij gebruikte Arabische boeken. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 31, 519-555.

Brockelmann, Carl

1937-1947 Geschichte der arabischen Literatur I-II, zweite den Supplementsbnden angepasste Auflage. Leiden: Brill, 1943-1947; Supplementsbnde I-III. Leiden: Brill, 1937-1942. (referred to as GAL and GAL S)

van Bruinessen, Martin

1989 Penggunaan kitab fiqh di pesantren Indonesia dan Malaysia. Pesantren No.1/Vol. VI, 36-51.

1990 Kitab Kuning: Books in Arabic script used in the pesantren milieu. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 146, 226-69.

Castles, Lance

1965 Notes on the Islamic school at Gontor. Indonesia no.1, 30-45.

van der Chijs, J.A.

1864 Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van het inlandsch onderwijs. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 14, 212-323.

Dhofier, Zamakhsyari

1982 Tradisi pesantren: Studi tentang pandangan hidup kyai. Jakarta: LP3ES.

Djajadiningrat, Hoesein

1913 Critische beschouwing van de Sadjarah Banten. Haarlem: Johan Enschede en Zonen.

Dohaish, A.A. & Young, M.J.L.

1975 An unpublished educational document from the Hijaz (A.H. 1299). Annali dell’ Istituto Orientali di Napoli 35, 133-7.

Drewes, G.W.J.

1954 Een Javaanse primbon uit de zestiende eeuw. Leiden: Brill.

1955 Een 16e eeuwse vertaling van de Burda van al-Busiri (Arabisch lofdicht op Mohammad). `s Gravenhage: Nijhoff.

1969 The admonitions of Seh Bari. The Hague: Nijhoff.

1971 The study of Arabic grammar in Indonesia. Acta Orientalia Neerlandica, 61-70.

1978 An early Javanese code of Muslim ethics. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Eickelman, Dale F.

1978 The art of memory: Islamic education and its social reproducion, Comparative Studies in Society and History 20, 485-516.

Evliya Çelebi

1935 Seyahatnamesi. Vol. IX. Istanbul: Devlet Matbaası.

Fokkens, F.

1886 Vrije desa’s op Java en Madoera. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 31, 477-518.

Gobée, E.

1921 Indrukken over het schoolwezen in de Hidjaz. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 60, 187-206.

de Graaf, H.J.

1958 De regering van Sultan Agung, vorst van Mataram, 1630-1645, en die van zijn voorganger, Panembahan Seda-ing-Krapyak, 1601-1613. ‘s Gravenhage: Nijhoff.

de Graaf, H.J. & Pigeaud, Th.G.Th.

1974 De eerste Moslimse vorstendommen op Java. ‘s Gravenhage: Nijhoff.

Hadidjaja, Tardjan & Kamajaya (eds)

1979 Serat Centhini (Ensiklopedi Kebudayaan Jawa) dituturkan dalam bahasa Indonesia. Jilid I-B. Yogyakarta: U.P. Indonesia.

Heer, Nicholas

1979 The precious pearl. Al-Jami’s al-Durrah al-Fakhirah. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Heyworth-Dunne, J.

1938 An introduction to the history of education in modern Egypt. London: Luzac & Co.

Jandra, Mifedwil

1985-1986 Asmarakandi (Sebuah tinjauan dari aspek tasawuf). Yogyakarta: Dep. P dan K, Proyek Penelitian dan Pangkajian Kebudayaan Nusantara (Javanologi).

Johns, A.H.

1965 The gift addressed to the spirit of the Prophet. Canberra: ANU.

1978 Friends in grace. Ibrahim al-Kurani and `Abd ar-Ra’uf al-Singkeli. In Spectrum. Essays presented to Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana (ed.) S. Udin. Jakarta: Dian Rakyat, 469-85.

1984 Islam in the Malay world. An explanatory survey with some reference to Quranic exegesis. In Islam in Asia, vol.II: Southeast and East Asia (eds.) Raphael Israeli and Anthony H. Johns. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 115-161.

1988 Quranic exegesis in the Malay world: In search of a profile. In: Approaches to the history of the Qur’an (ed.) Andrew Rippin. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 257-287.

Jones, Sidney

1981 Arabic instruction and literacy in Javanese Muslim schools. Prisma, The Indonesian Indicator no. 21, 70-81.

Kraemer, H.

1921 Een Javaansche primbon uit de zestiende eeuw. Dissertation, Leiden.

Madjid, Nurcholish (ed.)

1984 Khazanah intelektual Islam. Jakarta: Bulan Bintang.

Makdisi, George

1981 The rise of colleges: Institutions of learning in Islam and the West. Edinburgh: University Press.

Matheson, Virginia & Hooker, H.B.

1988 Jawi literature in Patani: The maintenance of an Islamic tradition, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 61 pt.1, 1-86.

Metcalf, Barbara Daly

1982 Islamic revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Mottahedeh, Roy

1985 The mantle of the Prophet. Religion and politics in Iran. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Mujeeb, M.

1967 The Indian Muslims. London: Allen & Unwin.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein

1987 The traditional texts used in the Persian madrasahs. In Traditional Islam in the modern world (by) S.H. Nasr. London: KPI, 165-182.

Nor bin Ngah, Mohd.

1983 Kitab Jawi: Islamic thought of the Malay Muslim scholars. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

al-Padani, M. Yasin bin M. `Isa

1402/1982 Ittihaf al-mustafid bi-ghurar al-asanid. 3rd printing. Jakarta: At­tahiriyah. [first edition: 1370/1951].

Pigeaud, Th.G.Th.

1967 Literature of Java. Vol. I. Synopsis of Javanese literature 900-1900 A.D.. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Powell, A.A.

1976 Maulana Rahmat Allah Kairanawi and Muslim-Christian controversy in India in the mid-19th century. J. Roy. Asiatic Soc., 42-63.

Pusat Penelitian dan Pengembangan Lektur Agama

1978/1979 Laporan penulisan biografi tokoh Islam di Indonesia. Jakarta: Departemen Agama R.I.

Quzwain, M. Chatib

1985 Mengenal Allah. Suatu studi mengenai ajaran tasawwuf Syaikh ‘Abdus-Samad al-Palimbani. Jakarta: Bulan Bintang.

Repp, Richard

1972 Some observations on the development of the Ottoman learned hierarchy. In Scholars, saints, and sufis: Muslim religious institutions since 1500 (ed. by) Nikki R. Keddie. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 17-32.

Ricklefs, M.C.

1974 Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi, 1749-1792. A history of the division of Java. London: Oxford U.P.

Rizvi, S.A.A.

1978-83 A history of sufism in India. 2 vols. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.

Roff, William R.

1970 Indonesian and Malay students in Cairo in the 1920’s. Indonesia no. 9, 73-88.

van Ronkel, Ph.S.

1896 Account of six Malay manuscripts of the Cambridge University Library. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 6e volgreeks, 2, 1-53.

Schrieke, B.J.O.

1919 Iets over het perdikan-instituut. Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 58, 391-423.


1982 Mistik Islam Kejawen Raden Ngabehi Ranggawarsita (Suatu studi terhadap Serat Wirid Hidayat Jati). Jakarta: Penerbit Universitas Indonesia.

Sivan, Emmanuel

1985 Radical islam. Medieval theology and modern politics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Snouck Hurgronje, C.

1887a Een rector der Mekkaansche universiteit. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 36, 344-395.

1887b Een Arabische bondgenoot der Neder­landsch-Indische regeering. Mededeelingen vanwege het Nederlandsche Zendelinggenootschap 31, 41-63 [repr. in Verspreide Geschriften 4/1, 69-85].

1889 Mekka, Bd.II: Aus dem heutigen Leben. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.

1893-4 De Atjehers. 2 vols. Batavia: Landsdrukkerij/ Leiden: Brill.

1894 Sajjid Oethman’s gids voor de priesterraden. Indisch Tijdschrift van het Recht 63, 722-744 [repr. in Verspreide Geschriften 4/1, 283-303].

1957-1965 Ambtelijke adviezen (ed. by) E. Gobée and C. Adriaanse. 3 vols. ‘s Gravenhage: Nijhoff.


1971 Santri-religious elements as reflected in the book of Tjentini. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 127, 331-349.

Steenbrink, K.A.

1974 Pesantren, madrasah, sekolah: recente ontwikkelingen in Indonesisch Islamonderricht. Diss. Nijmegen.

1984 Beberapa aspek tentang Islam di Indonesia abad ke-19. Jakarta: Bulan Bintang.

Uzunçarşılı, İ.H.

1965 Osmanlı devletinin ilmiye teşkilatı. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu.

Vajda, Georges

1983 La transmission du savoir en Islam (VIIe-XVIIIe siècles). London: Variorum Reprints.

Vollers, K.

1913 Azhar. Enzyklopädie des Islam, I, 553-61.

Yunus, H. Mahmud

1979 Sejarah pendidikan Islam di Indonesia. Cetakan ke-2. Jakarta: Mutiara.

Zamzam, Zafry

1979 Syekh Muhammad Arsyad al-Banjary: ulama besar juru dakwah. Banjarmasin: Penerbit Karya.

[1] Before Muhammadiyah’s own pesantren, there were already several others with a definitely reformist orientation. The best known, but not the only one, is that of Gontor (Castles 1965). A summary survey of types of pesantren in East Java in the 1970’s is given by Abdurrahman 1981.

[2] Notably those of Bukhari and Muslim; the other four collections of “authentic” (sahih) hadith are much less used. Non-canonical collections such as the Riyad as-salihin and the Bulugh al-maram, with their much heavier emphasis on devotional than on legalistic matters, are still more popular in the traditional milieu, but these too were hardly studied a century ago.

[3] A detailed survey of these works is given in van Bruinessen 1990.

[4] On Ibn Taymiyya’s place in the late medieval tradition and his engagement with Ash`arism, philosophy, mysticism and political theory, see Al-Azmeh 1986, passim; Hourani 1962:18-22; on his impact on later fundamentalism Sivan 1985. A generation ago, the NU still had a body of censors; they placed Ibn Taymiyya’s works high on the index. Many kyai, in fact, own copies of some of his works, notably his Fatawa, but keep them locked away to protect their pupils from their influence. Like elsewhere, such a ban only acts as an invitation to the more intelligent santri to read these works in secret.

[5] Out of the 500-odd kitab by Indonesian (and Malay) `ulama presently in print, almost 100 are in Arabic. Over 200 are in Malay and 150 in Javanese; the remainder are in Sundanese, Madurese and Acehnese.

[6] Abdurrahman Wahid, personal communication.

[7] In this case, there may be shortcuts in the chain. Numerous mystics have claimed spiritual initiation, in a dream or vision, by a predecessor long dead or even by the Prophet himself. The latter was the claim, for instance, of Ahmad Tijani, the North African founder of the tariqa Tijaniyya; it is a highly con­troversial claim, and is rejected by many traditionalists. The former claim is more common (also among contemporary Javanese kyai); even the silsila of the quite orthodox Naqshbandiyya contains several “jumps” across the generations due to such ruhani initiations.

[8] Indicative of the importance attached to isnad is a book by the leading Indonesian ulama in Mecca, Shaykh Yasin of Padang (the director of the traditionalist school Dar al-`Ulum there), which lists nothing but the classical kitab he is allowed to teach, with for each the name of the master under which he studied it and the entire preceding isnad up to the author (al-Padani 1402). For earlier examples of this sort of work see Vajda 1983.

[9] The well-known Madurese Kyai As’ad Syamsul Arifin of Situbondo (East Java), NU’s minence grise, has recently constructed an intricate family tree showing most Madurese kyai to be descen­dants of the wali Sunan Giri. Hasyim Asy’ari and Wahab Hasbullah, two of the founders of NU, traced their pedigree to Jaka Tingkir, who according to tradition was a son of Brawijaya VI and became the first Muslim ruler of Pajang (Aboebakar 1957:41-2).

[10] Important decisions by the Majlis Syuriah are laid down in a series of volumes titled Ahkam al-fuqaha (“Rulings of the legal experts”), usually with the relevant references to authoritative fiqh works.

[11] With the partial exception of sections of the Chinese com­munities and Bali’s Hindu reformists, but even here contacts with the foreign source are quite ephemeral.

[12] This mission is mentioned in the Sajarah Banten (Djajadiningr­at 1913:49-52, 174-8). The titles of the kitab that the ruler wished to have explained are given as Marqum, Muntahi and Wujudi­yah, by which no specific work can be identified. Djajadiningrat believes these titles to be pure phantasy, but we may, for instance, read the last as kitab wujudiyah, i.e. book[s] on [the metaphysical doctrine of] wahdat al-wujud, which would make perfect sense in this context. In some cases, after all, this doctrine proved extremely useful for the legitimation of the ruler as insan kamil, perfect man.

[13] The Shattariyya, which was first introduced into Indonesia in the mid-17th century, is a tariqa of Indian origins, that never gained much of a following in the Middle East. See Rizvi 1983 and T. Yazici, attariye, Islam Ansiklopedisi 11, 355-6. The ear­liest Indonesian branches of the Qadiriyya and the Naqshbandiyya, too, were of Indian rather than Middle Eastern affiliation.

[14] The concept of emanation in seven stages (martabat tujuh), instead of Ibn `Arabi’s five, is to my knowledge only encountered in Indian and Indonesian mystical-metaphysical treatises.

[15] A rare exception is Roff’s study of Indonesian students in Egypt (1970), but this is only marginally relevant to the pesan­tren tradition since most of these students belonged to other social and cultural environments.

[16] According to the Sejarah Banten, Maulana Hasanuddin, Banten’s first Muslim ruler, founded a new petapan on the moun­tain Pinang at the instigation of his “father”, the saint Sunan Gunung Jati (Djajadiningrat 1913:34).

[17] Popular tradition in Cirebon still holds that the saint himself came to Java and took part in its islamisation; his grave is even shown on Gunung Jati. Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir is, not only in Indonesia, believed to have taught his disciples invulnerability, an ilmu highly desirable to many Indonesians. The Bantenese invulnerability cult of debus is strongly associated with `Abd al-Qadir.

[18] Soebardi 1971. See Hadidjaja & Kamajaya 1979, 11 and 49-53.

[19] The Karang is mentioned as one of three mountains on which Maulana Hasanuddin, the first ruler of Banten and the bringer of Islam, practised tapa (Djajadiningrat 1913:38).

[20] Apart from Maulana Hasanuddin’s initiation in ilmu Islam by two jinn at a deserted petapan (ibid.:32).

[21] As-Salimi lived in the first half of the 5th/11th century. His Tamhid surveys doctrine, paying especial attention to the views of the Mu`tazila and the philosophers. It is known to have been widely used in religious education in India during the 13th through 16th centuries (Mujeeb 1967:406), and seems to have been less popular elsewhere, since most of the mss. mentioned by Brockelmann are in Indian collections (GAL I:419; S I:744).

[22] This work is now quite popular throughout the Archipelago, the Arabic original as well as Malay, Javanese, Sundanese and Madu­rese translations being printed locally. Raniri refers several times to another(?), so far unidentified, work with a similar title, Daqa’iq al-haqa’iq.

[23] The great Madinan teacher, Ibrahim al-Kurani, wrote a commen­tary on this work especially for his Indonesian students, ap­parently to correct the heterodox interpretations to which it gave rise. As Simuh has shown (1982:295-6), Ronggowarsito’s Wirid Hidayat Jati shows a clear influence of this work, with which he may have become acquainted in the pesantren of Tegalsari, where he studied.

[24] I.e., a work on usul ad-din (doctrine), consisting of six chapters (each beginning with the opening “bismillah”).

[25] In the 19th century, this was usually the first text on doc­trine studied (van den Berg 1886:537). Javanese translations (of indeterminate date) are extant in manuscript, and one was recent­ly edited in Latin transcription (Jandra 1985-1986). This Javan­ese Asmarakandi also contains a section on elementary Shafi`i fiqh added by the anonymous translator (Abu’l-Layth himself was a Hanafi). The text is presently best known through a commentary written by Nawawi Banten, Qatr al-ghayth, and a Javanese transla­tion by Ahmad Subki of Pekalongan entitled Fath al-mughith, both of which are widely used.

[26] The other four being the prestigious standard works of Shafi`i fiqh, Rafi`i’s al-Muharrar and Ibn Hajar Haytami’s Tuhfat al-muhtaj (that were more often respectfully mentioned than actually used), the introductory Sittin by Abu’l-`Abbas Ahmad Misri (now little used but still available) and a work not satisfactorily identifiable (Soebardi 1971:335-6).

[27] The third tasawwuf text is Zayn ad-Din Malibari’s Hidayat al-adhkiya’, a simple work that is still widely used, together with various commentaries and translations. See for more detailed comments on these and other works also: van Bruinessen 1990.

[28] These two subjects, however, have since the 17th century virtually disappeared from Islamic education throughout the Sunni world. Only in Iran, and to some extent in India, have they remained an important part of the intellectual tradition (see Nasr 1987).

[29] He quotes, for instance, numerous sufi anecdotes, some of which are attributed to Jami’s Nafahat al-uns, while others must be culled from unmentioned other works or heard from a range of teachers. There are also quotations from Ibn `Arabi, Muhammad Fadlillah Burhanpuri and other wahdat al-wujud sufis, that seem based on actual reading of their works, etc. Two copies that he made of Jami’s ad-Durrat al-fakhira, which he apparently studied under supervision of Ibrahim al-Kurani in Madina, are still preserved (Heer 1979:13, 15; this reference was kindly brought to my attention by Professor Anthony Johns)

[30] Albert Hourani’s excellent work on modern Arabic thought (1962) shows how even the thought of those who consciously departed from the tradition was still influenced by it. It pays, however, no attention to the thinkers who remained within the tradition and were not interested in a dialogue with western thought.

[31] Brought out beautifully in Al-Azmeh’s important work (1986).

[32] This populist strain runs through Islamic history, from Ahmad ibn Hanbal, through Ibn Taymiyya and Muhammad bin `Abd al-Wahhab to the neo-fundamentalists. In Indonesia, the modernist attack against traditional `ulama, with the call for reopening the gate of ijtihad, had a great impact in the first half of this century. In 18th-century Iran it took the form of a struggle between pro- and anti-`ulama currents, known as usuli and akhbari (after the intellectual discipline of usul al-fiqh and akhbar, a term almost synonymous with hadith). Perceptive observations on this conflict (which ended in a victory of the usuli) in Mottahedeh 1985.

[33] Some dimensions of the classical tradition, Mu`tazili ration­alism and philosophy, became only known in Indonesia (apart from the summary presentation in the Tamhid, see note 21) in the past two decades, through modernist Muslims who studied in North America, notably Harun Nasution and Nurcholish Madjid. The latter published an important collection of classical philosophical and theological texts in translation (1984); significantly, he is much closer to the pesantren world than earlier generations of modernists. There are now students of pesantren backgrounds working on theses on previously neglected Islamic intellectual currents.

[34] On the Ottoman madrasa and their curricula: Uzunçarşılı 1965; Baltacı 1976; Atay 1983. These works are rich mines of source materials but somewhat ahistorical in their approach; Repp 1972 gives a more systematic treatment of the development of the hierarchy of the madrasa and the scholarly careers of Ottoman `ulama. On the Mughal madrasa (whose curriculum still continued to expand and reached its most comprehensive form, the Dars-i Nizami, only in the early 18th century): Mujeeb 1967:389-414; Ahmad 1985; Metcalf 1982:16-45.

[35] The Hanafi madhhab was the official one in both empires, and official sources mention only works on Hanafi fiqh. Shafi`i fiqh was presumably studied mostly in mosques, in the districts with a Shafi`i population such as Kurdistan and parts of Egypt. The relatively independent Azhar mosque and university was perhaps the major centre of Shafi`i learning.

[36] In Mughal India, philosophy and metaphysics, and the rational sciences in general, were more prominent parts of the learned tradition than in the Ottoman Empire. The Dars-i Nizami even included a work by Mulla Sadra Shirazi, who seems not to have been known elsewhere outside Iran (Mujeeb 1967:407).

[37] On Ibrahim, see Johns 1978 and the same author’s article “al-Kurani” in the Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.); also Rizvi 1983, passim. Of great interest is his intel­lectual autobiography, al-Amam li-iqaz al-himam, which was, significantly, printed in India (Haidarabad in the Deccan) in the beginning of this century (1328/1910).

[38] The most complete list of teachers in Abdullah 1987 (on Da’ud, who was the most wide-ranging scholar of the three). On the others, see Abu Daudi 1980, Zamzam 1979 and Quzwain 1985. Arshad studied especially fiqh, and his own work Sabil al-muhtadin is primarily based on two great classics, Malibari’s Fath al-mu`in and Ansari’s Manhaj at-tullab; `Abd as-Samad’s chief topic was sufism, and his major works are adaptations of Gha­zali’s Ihya `ulum ad-din and Bidayat al-hidaya.

[39] See Powell 1976. Rahmat Allah’s refutation of Christianity was based on a deeper understanding than that of most other polemi­cists, and on an acquaintance with recent Biblical criticism. His arguments were set out in several books, and he con­vincingly defeated Pfander in a public debate. He was one of the signat­ories of the fatwa calling for jihad against the British in 1857 (ibid.:59-60), and led the movement in Muzaffarpur in Bihar (Ahmad 1975:328).

[40] “The [Deoband] school taught basically the dars-i nizami (…) The Deobandis, however, reversed the emphasis on “rational” studies in favor of an emphasis on hadis, which was to be the basis of their popular teaching (…) The most influential teacher at the school was the shaikhu’l-hadis; and only good students were encouraged to study the subject.” (Metcalf 1982:100-1).

[41] This is evident from the biographies of these `ulama in `Abd al-Jabbar 1385.

[42] The school occurs in the biographies of `ulama studying in Mecca in the 1920’s and 1930’s; there are insufficient detailed biographies of earlier students to determine since when there were Indonesians at the Sawlatiyya.

[43] One account of the conflict (Aboebakar 1957:88-90) has it begin because one of the teachers tore up an Indonesian newspaper that a few students were reading; other reading than the Arabic textbooks was forbidden in the school. One participant (Shaykh Yasin al-Padani, presently rector of Dar al-`Ulum, interviewed 6-3-1988) adds that the teacher mocked Indonesian nationalist aspirations, saying that such a stupid people would never attain independence. (Given the radical attitudes of its founder, the teachers at the Sawlatiyya may well have mocked the Indonesians for their lack of firmness vis a` vis their Dutch colonisers). Others have suggested that the Indonesians’ wish to be able to speak to their teachers in Indonesian rather than Arabic lay at the roots of the conflict.

[44] The Dar al-`ulum in Cairo was established in 1872 as a teacher training college, whose students were recruited from al-Azhar; the curriculum included the Islamic as well as modern “western” sciences. One of the teachers was Muhammad `Abduh (Heyworth-Dunne 1938:377-9).

[45] Snouck Hurgronje, who strongly disliked Ahmad Khatib, claims that he owed these positions not to his learning but to the fact that his father-in-law, the bookseller and “usurer” Salih al-Kurdi, intervened for his son-in-law with the Sharif `Awn, who owed him a favour (Adviezen III, 1846, 1853, 1914, 1928). Even Snouck, however, had to admit that Ahmad Khatib was “highly learned by Malay standards” (ibid., 1846).

[46] These are the said usul al-fiqh work, an-Nafahat `ala sharh al-waraqat, and a short Malay work on doctrine, Fath al-mubin. He wrote much more (`Abd al-Jabbar 1385:37-44 lists no fewer than 46 works), but only these two are still in print in Indonesia.

[47] His Mawhaba dhawi ‘l-fadl is a sharh on `Abdallah Ba-Fadl’s al-Muqaddimat al hadramiyya, known as “Bapadal” in the pesantren. It was printed in Egypt in 1315/1897-8 but is no longer avail­able. His only work currently in print is a difficult text on Arabic grammar, Minhaj dhawi ‘n-nazar (a commentary on Ibn Malik’s Alfiyya). `Abd al-Jabbar lists 12 other works (1385:323-4).

[48] Shaykh Yasin studied in his youth at the Sawlatiyya, which he left, with the other Indonesians, for the Dar al-`ulum, of which he finally became the most prominent teacher. In his intellectual autobiography (al-Padani 1402), he lists his teach­ers and the books that he is himself authorised to teach. On Sayyid Muhammad bin `Alwi see Tempo 2-1-1988, on his grandfather `Abbas al-Maliki, `Abd al-Jabbar 1385:163-5. I heard that Muhammad bin `Alwi is no longer allowed to teach in the Masjid al-Haram because of his open support of, and instruction in, various sufi orders, including the Tijaniyya and the Naqshbandiyya.

[49] Al-Azhar is often, incorrectly, considered as a haven of Islamic modernism (mainly because `Abduh was once associated with it). The Indonesians studying there now are almost invariably of “traditional” backgrounds, and even among these I have heard complaints of its “old-fashioned” methods of education.

[50] Another short text, al-Fawa’id al-bahiyya, has similarly survived in the margin of Da’ud al-Patani’s Jam` al-fawa’id. This work, however, is only very rarely used.

[51] an-Nur al-burhani, after Ja`far Barzinji’s al-Lujayn ad-dani.

[52] Abdul Hamid Hakim wrote textbooks on fiqh (al-Mu`in al-mubin) and usul al-fiqh (as-Sullam, al-Bayan); Mahmud Yunus also on fiqh (the widely used al-Fiqh al-wadih), on the science of hadith and on comparative religion.

Martin van Bruinessen
Adopted from:

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

Kitab Kuning: Books in Arabic Script Used in the Pesantren Milieu(Comments on a New Collection in the KITLV Library)[1]

Martin van Bruinessen

A research project on the Indonesian ulama gave me the opportunity to visit pesantren in various parts of the Archipelago and put together a sizeable collection of books used in and around the pesantren, the so-called kitab kuning. Taken together, this collection offers a clear overview of the texts used in Indonesian pesantren and madrasah, a century after L.W.C. van den Berg’s pioneering study of the Javanese (and Madurese) pesantren curriculum (1886). Van den Berg compiled, on the basis of interviews with kyais, a list of the major textbooks studied in the pesantren of his day. He mentioned fifty titles and gave on each some general information and short summaries of the more important ones. Most of these books are still being reprinted and used in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, but many other works have come into use beside them. The present collection contains around nine hundred different titles, most of which are used as textbooks. I shall first make some general observations on these books and on the composition of the collection. In the second part of this article I shall discuss a list of ‘most popular kitab’ that I compiled from other sources. All of the books listed there are, however, part of the collection.[2]

Criteria and representativeness
In order to judge how representative this collection is, a few words on my method of collecting are necessary. I visited the major publishers and toko kitab (bookshops specializing in this type of religious literature) in Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Purwokerto, Semarang, Surabaya, Banda Aceh, Medan, Pontianak, Banjarmasin, Amuntai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown (Penang), Kota Bharu and Patani (Southern Thailand), and bought there all available Islamic books in Arabic script printed in Southeast Asia. The last two criteria may at first sight seem rather arbitrary, but I found them to be sociologically significant besides being the most convenient ones. It is true, most toko kitab also sell limited numbers of Arabic books printed in Egypt and Lebanon (an agent representing the Lebanese publishing house Dar al-Fikr has special shops for these books in Jakarta and Surabaya), but the price differential between such books and Southeast Asian editions guarantees that they are bought by a relatively small minority only. They include works of reference for the advanced scholar and works by modern authors that have not yet been accepted by the mainstream of Indonesian Islam. Any book for which there is a sizeable demand will sooner or later be (re)printed by one of the regional publishers.[3]

Similarly, the script in which a book is printed carries symbolic meaning and differentiates rather neatly between two different types of reading public. Indonesian Muslims use even different words for books in romanized script (‘buku’) and those in Arabic script, irrespective of the language (‘kitab’). Up to the 1960’s a well-defined line divided the Muslim community in ‘traditionalists’ and ‘modernists’ (with as their major socio-religious organizations the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah, respectively). The former used to study religion exclusively through kitab kuning (called kuning, ‘yellow,’ after the tinted paper of books brought from the Middle East in the early twentieth century), while the latter read only buku putih, ‘white’ books in romanized Indonesian. The authors of the latter usually rejected most of the scholastic tradition in favour of a return to, and in some cases new interpretation of, the original sources, the Qur’an and the hadith. This may have contributed to the negative attitude towards buku putih that long existed in the pesantren milieu. In a few old-fashioned pesantren such books are not allowed until this day. Traditionalist ulama writing books or brochures, whether in Arabic or in one of the vernacular languages, always used Arabic script, and many continue to do so. Nowadays, however, the dividing line between ‘modernists’ and ‘traditionalists’ is not so sharp and clear anymore, and many of the old antagonisms have worn off. The ‘modernists’ have generally become less radical in their rejection of tradition — significantly, there are now several Muhammadiyah pesantren offering a combination of the traditional curriculum (kitab kuning) and that of the modern school. Not only have most ‘traditionalist’ kyai, on the other hand, become more catholic in their reading, many of them write now in Indonesian as well as in Arabic, Malay or Javanese. The Arabic script, though still the most unambiguous symbol of a traditionalist orientation, is no longer a sine qua non for it. I have therefore not applied the criterion of script too rigidly, and have included in the present collection a number of works in (romanized) Indonesian, that logically belong to the kitab tradition: annotated translations of, or commentaries on, classical texts by ‘traditionalist’ ulama.

The criterion of Arabic script has excluded one category of texts otherwise quite similar to those collected. Ulama in South Sulawesi (the most prolific of whom are Yunus Maratan and Abdul Rahman Ambo Dalle) have written religious texts in Buginese for use in madrasah and schools, employing not, as earlier generations of scholars did, the Arabic but the Buginese alphabet. A good number of these works are already in the KITLV library, and several bibliographies exist (Departemen Agama 1981/1982, 1983/1984).

The collection could, for a number of reasons, not be complete. Most publishers have very limited storage facilities, and only a fraction of the books published by them are actually available at their sales departments. When a kitab is (re)printed, almost the entire edition is immediately sent off to toko kitab throughout the country. It is only through visiting many such shops and patiently combing the shelves that one can collect at least most of the important works from major publishers. Virtually all works mentioned in published sources or heard about have been collected, some even in several editions, in various translations or with different glosses. But some of the less important works were simply out of print and sold out in all shops visited.

Furthermore, there are numerous minor local publishers bringing out works of secondary importance, often by local ulama. There are not a few of such works in the collection, but it is likely that many others were overlooked. In spite of these limitations, however, the collection represents a fair cross-section of the study materials used in Indonesian (and Malaysian) pesantren and madrasah, as well as of the intellectual output of Indonesian ulama.

Out of some nine hundred different works, almost five hundred, or just over half, were written or translated by Southeast Asian ulama. Many of these Indonesian ulama wrote in Arabic: almost 100 titles, or around 10%, are Arabic works by Southeast Asians (or Arabs resident in the region). Those in Indonesian languages were, of course, all written by Southeast Asians (including some of Arab descent). If we count translations as separate works, the approximate numbers of kitab in the various languages are as follows :

Language Approximate number of kitab Percentage of total number
Arabic 500 55 % Malay 200 22 % Javanese 120 13 % Sundanese 35 4 % Madurese 25 2.5 % Acehnese 5 0.5 % Indonesian 20 2 %

These works can be roughly classified according to subject matter. The largest categories are:

jurisprudence (fiqh) 20 % doctrine (`aqida, usul al-din) 17 % traditional Arabic grammar (nahw, sarf, balagha) 12 % hadith collections 8 % mysticism (tasawwuf, tariqa) 7 % morality (akhlaq) 6 % collections of prayers and invocations, Islamic magic (du`a, wird, mujarrabat) 5 % texts in praise of the prophets and saints (qisas al-anbiya’, mawlid, manaqib, etc.) 6 %

A few important changes have taken place in the composition of the pesantren curriculum, and these are only partly reflected in the table above. A century ago, the Qur’an and the traditions were rarely studied directly but mainly in the ‘processed’ form of scholastic works on jurisprudence and doctrine. According to van den Berg, only one tafsir, the Jalalayn, was studied in the pesantren, and no hadith collections at all. In this respect, a significant change has taken place during the past century. There are no less than ten different Qur’anic commentaries (in Arabic, Malay, Javanese and Indonesian) in the collection beside straightforward translations (also called tafsir) into Javanese and Sundanese. The number of compilations of hadith is even more striking. There is almost no pesantren now where hadith is not taught as a separate subject. The major emphasis in instruction remains, however, on fiqh, the Islamic science par excellence. There have been no remarkable changes in the fiqh texts studied, but the discipline of usul al-fiqh (the foundations or bases of fiqh) has been added to the curriculum of many pesantren, allowing a more flexible and dynamic view of fiqh.These and other categories of kitab kuning will be discussed in greater detail in the second part of this article, where the most popular of each are listed. But here are first some observations on kitab publishing and major authors.

The publishing of kitab kuning in the Archipelago
Printed books are a relative novelty in the pesantren. In van den Berg’s time, many of the kitab in the pesantren were still in manuscript, and were copied by the santri in longhand. But it was precisely in this period that printed books from the Middle East began entering Indonesia in significant numbers, one of the side effects of the increased participation in the haj (due in turn to the arrival of the steamship). There had, by then, been a century of bookprinting in the Middle East already, but of particular relevance for Indonesians was the establishment of a government press in Mecca in 1884, which printed not only books in Arabic but also in Malay. The latter part of its activities was placed under the supervision of the learned Ahmad b. Muhammad Zayn al-Patani, who is also the author of several treatises himself.[4] (the present collection contains seven of them in recent reprints). His selection of books was rather biased in favour of those by compatriots, and it is partly due to him that many works of Da’ud b. `Abdallah al-Patani and Muhammad b. Isma`il Da’ud al-Patani are still widely available, in reprints of his original editions. In these and other reprints, the imprint of the original publisher has been replaced, but many of the works published by Ahmad b. M. Zayn may still be recognized by the verses that he wrote as introductions and placed on the title pages.[5]This was not the very first Malay press, although the first one of importance. Zayn al-Din al-Sumbawi, another Jawi scholar resident in Mecca, had a short treatise lithographed as early as 1876 (Snouck Hurgronje 1889: 385) and several of Da’ud b. `Abdallah al-Patani’s works were printed in Bombay before the 1880s too. Bombay was also the major source of printed (lithographed) Qur’ans entering Indonesia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[6] Publishers in Istanbul and Cairo soon followed the Meccan press in establishing Malay sections. It was especially Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi of Cairo who, in the course of time, was to publish many a Malay kitab. Two studies by Mohd. Nor bin Ngah (1980, 1983) discuss a more or less representative sample of these Malay kitab and of the worldview that is reflected in them.

These publishing activities in the Middle East, as well as the example of British and Dutch lithograph presses, stimulated Islamic publishing efforts in the Archipelago too. The first presses there that printed in vernacular languages were operated by government and missionary organisations.[7] They were soon followed by the first enterprising Muslim publishers. One of the pioneers was Sayyid Usman of Batavia, that prolific ‘Arab ally of the Dutch Indies government,’ many of whose simple works are still in use, primarily among the Betawi and Sundanese. He had a first version of his Al-qawanin al-shar`iyya lithographed in 1881; by 1886, at least four other booklets of his hand were mentioned and many more were to follow.[8]
Even Sayyid Usman was not the first Islamic publisher in the Indies; that title probably belongs to Kemas Haji Muhammad Azhari of Palembang, who in 1854 made his first lithograph prints of the Qur’an, calligraphed by himself. He had bought a press in Singapore a few years earlier, on the return journey from the hajj, and taught himself to operate it. His Qur’ans — to which he had written a 14-page Malay introduction on pronunciation and style of reading — found ready buyers.[9] In Singapore too, there must have been lithograph presses occasionally printing in Malay by that time, but very little is known about them as yet. In the 1880s and 1890s, several presses published Malay newspapers and occasionally books, but it remains unclear whether these included more than one or two small religious tracts.[10]

In 1894, the junior ruler of Riau, Muhammad Yusuf, established a printing press, the Matba`at al-Ahmadiyya, on the island of Penyengat in 1894, which in the following years printed several religious treatises by the contemporary Naqshbandi shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Zawawi, the spiritual preceptor of Muhammad Yusuf and his relatives.[11]

These promising beginnings found little follow-up. Many books and journals were published in the Archipelago in the first half of the 20th century, but very few of them were kitab (in the wide sense defined above) and almost none were texts of the classical kind. West Sumatra was probably the only region where a significant number of kitab (written by local `ulama) were printed during the first decades of the century. Some of these were simple textbooks, in Malay and Arabic, for the then new madrasah, meant to replace the rather difficult classical works on Arabic grammar, doctrine and fiqh. Several of these books are still widely used.[12] Others were polemical writings, weapons in the religious debates between kaum muda and kaum tua then raging in West Sumatra.[13]

Here as elsewhere, most of the modernists, who were by far the more prolific writers and publishers, soon adopted the romanized script, which brought them closer to the secular nationalists but reinforced their social separation from the kaum tua. They did write religious textbooks, but in style and contents these differed rather much from traditional kitab.It was only after Indonesia’s independence that kitab began to be printed on any serious scale there. As the present major publishers remember, before the Second World War there were only booksellers, no actual publishers of kitab in the Archipelago (the largest being Sulayman Mar`i in Singapore, `Abdullah bin `Afif in Cirebon, and Salim bin Sa`d Nabhan in Surabaya, all three of them Arabs).[14] They ordered virtually all books – including works in Malay – from Egypt, where book production was then considerably cheaper than in Indonesia. There was one exception, but it had only local significance: the (Malay-owned) Patani Press as well as Nahdi (Arab) in southern Thailand began printing Malay kitab in the late 1930s, for use in the pondok of Patani and the contiguous Malay states.

In the first half of the century, Indonesian demand was still low, and the only commercially interesting kitab was the Qur’an itself. Both Mar`i and bin `Afif made their first attempts to have it printed locally in the 1930s; they were later followed by Al-Ma`arif of Bandung, established late in 1948 by Muhammad bin `Umar Bahartha, a former employee of `Abdullah bin `Afif. By mid-century, Mar`i had several kitab kuning printed as well; one of the more conspicuous was `Abd al-Ra’uf al-Fansuri (al-Singkili)’s Malay adaptation of the tafsir Jalalayn, published in 1951. In the course of the 1950s, Al-Ma`arif followed suit with cheap prints of oft-used kitab, and so did `Abdullah bin `Afif and various relatives of Salim Nabhan. (Larger and therefore more expensive works, such as the four-volume I`anat al-talibin by Sayyid Bakri b. M. Shatta’, the latest great compendium of Shafi`i fiqh, were only published from the 1970s on, reflecting a growing affluence in santri circles). In the course of the 1960s Toha Putra of Semarang also ventured onto the kitab market. Still later, the publishing house Menara of Kudus joined the competition: the first non-Arab publisher of this type of literature in Indonesia. Both Toha Putra and Menara have published numerous classical texts together with Javanese or Indonesian translations, as well as original works by Javanese `ulama. In 1978, a former associate of Al-Ma`arif established the house Al-Haramayn in Singapore, which in a few years put out a wide range of classical Arabic texts, many Malay and even a few Sundanese works. Singapore was apparently no longer an advantageous location to serve the Southeast Asian kitab market from, for Al-Haramayn closed shop after a few years (although its books could still be found all over the Archipelago in 1987), and the owner established a new house in Surabaya, called Bungkul Indah.[15] In number of titles, al-Haramayn and its successor Bungkul Indah are the largest publishers of kitab; in sheer volume of sales, however, they lag far behind Al-Ma`arif. Another new publisher with a wide range of (exclusively Arabic) titles is Dar Ihya’ al-Kutub al-`Arabiyya in Surabaya.[16]

There are no signs yet of strong centralization in the publishing of kitab kuning. Surabaya boasts the largest number of publishers; the most conspicuous, beside those already mentioned, are the houses of Sa`d bin Nasir bin Nabhan and Ahmad bin Sa`d Nabhan (ten other members of the same family also publish kitab). On Java’s north coast we find further publishers (besides those mentioned) in Semarang (Al-Munawwara), Pekalongan (Raja Murah), Cirebon (Misriyya, the old establishment of `Abdallah bin `Afif) and Jakarta (Al-Shafi`iyya and Al-Tahiriyya, belonging to the large Betawi pesantrens of these names, and putting out textbooks used there besides simple books by authors beloved to the Betawi community). `Arafat in Bogor mainly produces works on Arabic grammar (over twenty titles); Toko Kairo in the small West Javanese town of Tasikmalaya publishes both Arabic classics and simple Sundanese kitab.

In Sumatra there are at present, surprisingly, no important publishers of kitab. The public there is served by publishers in Java, Singapore and Malaysia. Publishing in Singapore has, as said, declined; in Malaysia too, publishing of kitab is on the wane (in contrast to the publishing of modern books, in which the country’s output is above that of its ten times more populous southern neighbour). Georgetown (on the island of Penang) still has three active publishers, of which Dar al-Ma`arif and Nahdi are the most productive. In Kota Bharu (Kelantan), the Pustaka Aman Press is very active, but it publishes mostly modern Malay books, not classics.[17] There are also several publishers in Patani (Southern Thailand), the eldest of which, Patani Press, began publishing the works of Patani `ulama in the late 1930s.[18] At present their books do not receive a wider distribution than Patani and the contiguous Malay states. One of the other publishers here, Nahdi, has moved most of its activities to Penang, where the political climate is more favourable to Islamic publishing, and whence the books receive a wider distribution. Besides these, there are a large number of small local publishers putting out religious tracts, brochures and books for strictly local markets.

A high proportion of the books printed by these Southeast Asian publishers are photomechanical reprints of works first published in Mecca or Cairo around the turn of the century. Many even still carry the imprint of the original publisher on the title page. In other cases, this imprint has been replaced by that of the new publisher. Borrowing continues freely meanwhile. Thus it can happen that a book originally published by Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi of Cairo appears with the name of the most recent publisher, Bungkul Indah, on the jacket while the title page still bears the imprint of the previous publisher, Al-Ma`arif. Some cheap reprints of more recent Egyptian or Lebanese books are only distinguishable from the original by the quality of the paper and the binding: a nightmare for the bibliographer. Thus Bungkul Indah has recently brought out a series of modern works with the imprint of Beyrut publisher Dar al-Thaqafa still on the cover and title page.

The common format of kitab kuning
Most of the classical Arabic kitab studied in the pesantren are commentaries (sharh, Ind/Jav: syarah), or glosses (hashiya, hasyiyah) upon commentaries on older original texts (matn, matan). The printed editions of these classical works usually have the text that is commented or glossed upon printed in the margin, so that both may be studied together. This has perhaps been the reason of occasional confusions between related texts. The name Taqrib, for instance, is used both for this short and simple fiqh text itself and for the Fath al-qarib, a more substantial commentary on it (van den Berg, in fact, believed these two works to be identical). If one asks for the Mahalli, a popular advanced fiqh work, one is given the voluminous super-commentary on it by Qalyubi and `Umayra, that has Mahalli’s Kanz al-raghibin in a modest position in the margin, etc.

Many of the basic texts are manzum, i.e. written in rhymed verse (nazm, nadham), to facilitate memorization.[19] Perhaps the longest manzum text is the Alfiyya, a text on Arabic grammar so called because it consists of thousand (alf) bayt. Many generations of santri have, patiently chanting, committed this entire work to memory, along with a whole range of other texts. Commentaries of such manzum works commonly incorporate the original verse in the (prose) commentary rather than placing it separately in the margin.

A small fraction of the (Javanese, Madurese and Sundanese) translations simply consists of word-by-word, interlineary translations – written obliquely in a finer hand under each word of the bold Arabic text, and therefore graphically dubbed jenggotan, ‘bearded.’[20] In most cases, however, there is in addition a freer translation and/or commentary, usually printed on the lower half of the page. Malay translations sometimes follow another pattern: the Arabic text is broken up into small semantic units, each of which is then followed by a rather literal Malay translation between brackets. But more often the Malay translation and/or commentary is printed separately, without the Arabic.

The most common format of the classical kitab for pesantren use is just below quarto size (26 cm), and not bound. The quires (koras) lie loose in the jacket, so that the santri may take out any single page that he happens to be studying. This is another physical characteristic that seems to have largely symbolic value: it makes the kitab look more classical. Kitab by modern authors, translators or commentators are never in this format. Many users of classical kitab are strongly attached to it, and the publishers oblige. Some even print kitab on orange-tinted (‘kuning’) paper (produced especially for them by Indonesian factories) because this too is more ‘classical’ in the users’ minds.

Popular authors of kitab
As might be expected, there have been no great shifts in the popularity of classical authors during the past century. Virtually all kitab mentioned by van den Berg are still available in Indonesia, in recent reprints. But there has been a noticeable increase in relatively recent commentaries on these works. A few authors stand out, in that numerous works by them are widely available and have been generally accepted into the pesantren curriculum. The most influential of them flourished in Mecca in the late 19th century.

Ahmad b. Zayni Dahlan, the Shafi`i mufti of Mecca during Snouck Hurgronje’s stay there, is represented by seven works in this collection, and his younger contemporary Sayyid Bakri b. Muhammad Shatta’ al-Dimyati by four, that are very widely used.[21]

The most ubiquitous presence, however, is that of the Indonesian author Muhammad b. `Umar Nawawi al-Jawi al-Bantani (Nawawi Banten), who has twenty-two titles in the collection, all of them in Arabic.[22] Eleven of them occur in the list of most frequently used kitab below — he has more titles among these top hundred than any other author. Nawawi wrote on virtually every aspect of Islamic learning. Most of his works are comments on well-known texts, explaining them in simple terms. He is perhaps best regarded as a popularizer of, rather than a contributor to, learned discourse.

Another commentator comparable to Nawawi Banten in scope and popularity is the earlier Egyptian author Ibrahim al-Bajuri (or Bayjuri, d. 1277/1861), several of whose works were already widely used in van den Berg’s time. The collection contains six of works of his hand, on fiqh, doctrine and logic.[23]

Besides Nawawi, several other southeast Asian authors have acquired lasting places in the pesantren or madrasah curriculum. An earlier, very prolific author is the said Da’ud b. `Abdallah al-Patani (d. ca. 1845), who also wrote on a wide range of subjects, always in Malay.[24] Fourteen of his works were found in recent reprints. They are widely used in Patani, Malaysia and parts of Sumatra. The major works of his contemporaries Muhammad Arshad al-Banjari and `Abd al-Samad al-Palimbani (who wrote in Malay too) are also regularly reprinted. Another author of still popular Malay works is the said Sayyid Usman (`Uthman b. `Abdallah b. `Aqil b. Yahya al-`Alawi).

An important Javanese author of the late 19th century is Saleh Darat (Salih b. `Umar al-Samarani, d. 1321/1903). He wrote commentaries (in Javanese) on several important works of fiqh, doctrine and tasawwuf.[25]

K.H. Mahfudz of Termas (Mahfuz b. `Abdallah al-Tarmasi), who lived and taught in Mecca around the turn of the century (he died in 1919), wrote a few highly regarded works (in Arabic) on fiqh and the science of hadith.[26]

Another highly respected `alim is the late K.H. Ihsan b. Muhammad Dahlan of Jampes, Kediri, who wrote (in Arabic) a much admired commentary on Ghazali’s Minhaj al-`abidin, titled Siraj al-talibin. The names of all these authors (except Kyai Mahfudz) occur in the list of most popular kitab below.

A more recent, and highly prolific Javanese author is Bisri Mustofa of Rembang (Bishri Mustafa al-Rambani), represented in the collection by over twenty works, including a three-volume tafsir (a translation of rather than commentary on the Qur’an).

Misbah b. Zayn al-Mustafa of Bangilan, Ahmad Subki Masyhadi of Pekalongan and Asrori Ahmad of Wonosari translated numerous classical texts into Javanese; the first moreover wrote a voluminous Javanese tafsir.

Other productive Javanese authors include Kyai Muslikh of Mranggen (Muslih b. `Abd al-Rahman al-Maraqi, d. 1986), who wrote several treatises on his tariqa, the Qadiriyya wa Naqshbandiyya, and related matters, and Ahmad `Abd al-Hamid al-Qandali of Kendal, who wrote various treatises on doctrine and religious obligations as well as texts of practical use (methods of da`wa, NU affairs).

In the 19th century, pesantren in Madura and West Java did not use their own regional languages but Javanese as a medium: when Arabic texts were translated it was into Javanese. This too has changed, there are now kitab kuning in Madurese and Sundanese as well. `Abd al-Majid Tamim of Pamekasan translated over ten books into Madurese, covering almost all branches of learning.

There is a wider range of Sundanese kitab, and more of them are original works rather than simply translations. Three authors stand out in the collection: Ahmad Sanusi of Sukabumi (founder of the organization Al Ittihadiyatul Islamiyah, which which merged into the Persatuan Ummat Islam in 1952) wrote a translation/tafsir of the Qur’an; Rd. Ma’mun Nawawi b. Rd. Anwar various edifying booklets, and the great `alim and poet `Abdallah b. Nuh of Bogor works of sufi piety, based on Ghazali. Besides their books, there are numerous simple booklets in Sundanese, for use in the lower grades of the pesantren, published by the bookstore Toko Cairo in Tasikmalaya.

Of the Minangkabau authors, whose polemics in the beginning of this century have drawn some attention (Schrieke 1921), almost no works are still in print. Even the once influential Ahmad Khatib seems hardly to be read anymore; only two of his works were found in print and these are not generally available. Two other Minangkabau, however, who were associated with Sumatera Thawalib, have reached the top hundred, and are well represented in the collection: Mahmud Yunus and Abdul Hamid Hakim. Both have written numerous textbooks, in Malay and Arabic, for use in the madrasah, and several of these are very widely used, also in pesantren.[27]

A top 100 of pesantren literature
The present collection represents to date the most complete overview of literature used in and around the pesantren and madrasah. But it cannot, of course, by itself tell us which works are the ones most frequently used, at which levels, and where. The curriculum of the madrasah, especially those owned or subsidized by the state, is more or less standardized, and is not so strongly oriented towards the classics as that of the pesantren. The collection contains a fair number of modern books written for the Egyptian madrasah, that are also used in the similar Indonesian institutions, besides books especially written by Indonesian authors, in simple Arabic.

The pesantren differ from the madrasah, among other things, in the lack of uniformity in curriculum.[28] Many kyais specialize in one particular branch of learning, or even in one particular text,[29] and many santris move for this reason from one pesantren to another in order to study a certain range of texts thoroughly. No single pesantren offers a ‘representative’ curriculum all by itself. We have to take a number of pesantrens together in order to establish with which works the average santri is confronted in the course of his studies.

I have the strong impression (based on what I found in stock in toko kitab in the various regions) that the ‘average’ curriculum in Sumatra, Kalimantan and on the mainland still differs to some extent from that in Java. Kitab originally written in Malay, by such ulama as M. Arshad al-Banjari, Da’ud bin `Abdallah al-Patani and `Abd al-Samad al-Palimbani long had, and to some extent still have, precedence over the classical Arabic works and their 19th century Arabic commentaries that constitute the bulk of the Javanese curriculum. The establishment all over Sumatra and Kalimantan, from the 1920’s on, of pondok pesantren on the Javanese model and madrasah of the West Sumatran type has resulted, however, in the gradual displacement of these Malay kitab in favour of standard Arabic works.

Van den Berg’s study (1886), although dated, is still the most detailed survey of kitab commonly used in Javanese pesantren. The catalogues of Arabic, Malay and Javanese manuscripts in the Jakarta and Leiden libraries also give an elaborate impression of what was in use in the 19th century, although it remains doubtful how representative these collections are for the pesantren milieu. The Serat Centini, probably compiled in the early 19th century, refers to a large number of kitab; there is a close correspondence with van den Berg’s list (see Soebardi 1971). For an earlier period, Drewes (1972, appendix) has compiled an interesting list of works in use in 18th century Palembang.

There are a few more recent surveys claiming a degree of generality, but these are still far from satisfactory.[30] We learn more, in fact, from an anecdotal autobiography such as that of K.H. Saifuddin Zuhri (who was NU’s minister of religion under Guided Democracy), with its glimpses of the texts he read (or had read to him) in the pesantren, the way these were studied and the impact they had on him.[31]

There exist now a good number of monographs on individual pesantrens, most of which contain shorter or longer lists of the texts studied there.[32] These lists, compiled by different researchers, vary in length and quality, and none of them is complete; well-known works are undoubtedly over-represented in them at the expense of less popular texts equally studied. Taken together, however, they give a reasonable indication of which are at present the most frequently used kitab. I have added to these a small number of similar lists compiled by Indonesian researchers in the course of a recent research project on the Indonesian `ulama,[33] and thus compiled aggregate data on 42 pesantren, of which 18 are in East Java, 12 in Central and 9 in West Java, and 3 in South Kalimantan. I add some data on Sumatra, although these are not really comparable because they do not refer to individual but to four idealized, ‘average’ pesantren. They consist of two aggregate lists of kitab used in pesantren and by traditional `ulama in Riau and Palembang, respectively; the curriculum of an ‘average’ PERTI madrasah in West Sumatra; and the curriculum of one conservative surau in Pariaman, West Sumatra.[34]

The number of Kalimantan pesantren on which data has been gathered is unfortunately too low to lay claims to being representative. These data confirm the general impression of the Banjarese pesantren as old-fashioned.[35] The Sumatra and Kalimantan columns in the tables give an indication, but not more than that, of minor but systematic differences in curriculum with Javanese pesantren; the differences between the Sundanese and Javanese parts of Java are, because of better data, brought out more clearly.

I have lumped together texts (matan) and untitled commentaries on them; only commentaries generally known by a different title were listed separately. Even so, the total number of texts mentioned is well over 350; the tables below list only those that occur most frequently, grouped according to subject. Within each table, genealogically related works (i.e. those based on a common original text) are placed together; otherwise the titles are roughly in order of popularity, not in the order in which they are studied. The latter is vaguely indicated by notes in the final column on the level of education at which the books are usually studied. Ibtida’i, tsanawi and `ali (‘primary’, ‘secondary’ and ‘high’) are really the names of the three levels of madrasah education (of three years each), and not always adequate to describe traditional pesantren. Khawass (‘the special ones’) indicates a more advanced level.The tables give the titles of kitab in their commonly used short form, transliterated in Indonesian style; in the text the full names are given, in a transliteration closer to English usage.

The instrumental sciences (Table I)
The instrumental sciences, ilmu alat, are in the first place the various branches of traditional Arabic grammar: nahw (syntax), sarf (inflection), balagha (rhetoric), etc. There is a bewildering array of different texts on these subjects. We can, in this case, compare our entire collection and the list of most popular titles not only with van den Berg’s list but also with a list of the manuscripts of such grammatical texts in the Leiden and Jakarta libraries compiled by Drewes (1971). Although Drewes has more titles than van den Berg, the latter’s list corresponds in fact more closely with ours.[36] This is another indication that the manuscript collections are certainly not representative of what was actually used, and that one should be careful in drawing conclusions on the bases of these collections alone.

In the traditional system, the student usually began with the basics of sarf, which meant that he had to commit the first tables of verbal and nominal inflection to memory. The simplest work of this category is the Bina (Al-bina’ wa’l-asas, by a certain Mulla al-Danqari); having mastered this, the student would turn to the Izzi (Al-tasrif li’l-`izzi, by `Izzaddin Ibrahim al-Zanjani, see GAL I, 283; S I, 497) or to the Maqshud (Al-maqsud fi’l-sarf, an anonymous work often attributed to Abu Hanifa). Having arrived at this stage, the student would turn to the first works on nahw before going on to more difficult sarf works (if he ever got so far). One of the simplest, and most widely popular works of this kind was the Awamil (Al-`awamil al-mi’a, by `Abd al-Qahir b. `Abd al-Rahman al-Jurjani, d. 471 AH), a list of the situations determining the case endings of nouns and the vowel following the final consonant of verbs. After this, the student was likely to proceed to the Jurumiyah (Al-muqaddima al-ajurrumiyya, by Abu `Abdallah Muhammad b. Da’ud al-Sanhaji b. Ajurrum, d. 723 AH).

This introductory curriculum was accepted in regions wide apart; the same texts were studied, in this order, in traditional madrasa in Kurdistan (apart from the last named work, which is not known there), in 19th century Javanese pesantren and West Sumatran surau.[37] The same works are still in use, but a certain shift has taken place. The Bina and the Izzi are most certainly under-reported in the curriculum lists in favour of more advanced works, but they seem to have retained their place better in West Java and Sumatra than in Java proper. A recent (but also traditional) introductory work quite popular in Javanese pesantren is Amtsilatut Tashrifiyah (Al-amthilat al-tasrifiyya li ‘l-madaris al-salafiyya, consisting of inflection tables), by the Javanese author Muhammad Ma`sum b. `Ali of Jombang. Other introductory texts are also widely available.[38]

In the next stage, instead of, or together with, the Maqshud, one studies the sharh written by the Egyptian Muhammad `Ullaysh (d. 1881), Hall al-ma`qud min nazm al-maqsud (see GAL S II, 738). This is commonly followed by an extensive commentary on the Izzi, the Kailani (named after its author, `Ali b. Hisham al-Kaylani, about whom no further details are known to me), which is now the most frequently used work on sarf.

A common order in which nahw texts are studied is, after the Jurumiyah, the Imrithi (a manzum version of the Jurumiyah) and next the more elaborate commentary Mutammimah or directly the Alfiyah, usually together with a commentary. The Imrithi (Al-durra al-bahiyya, by Sharaf b. Yahya al-Ansari al-`Imriti), the Mutammimah (of Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Ru`ayni al-Hattab), and the Alfiyah (of Ibn Malik) with its best known commentary Ibnu Aqil (so called after the author, `Abdallah b. `Abd al-Rahman al-`Aqil) have long been in common use and are described by van den Berg and Drewes, together with various commentaries that are still available but apparently less popular. Not mentioned by them, but frequently encountered, is the Asymawi, a commentary on the Jurumiyah by a certain `Abdallah b. `Ashmawi (no further details known), while a popular late 19th century commentary on the Alfiyah is that by the Shafi`i mufti of Mecca, Ahmad b. Zayni Dahlan, commonly called Dahlan Alfiyah.

Qatr al-Nada’ [wa ball al-sada’], by Ibn Hisham[39] (d.761/ 1360), which was very popular in the 19th century, is also still widely used. The same author’s Qawa`id al-i`rab is mainly used in a versified (manzum) Javanese translation (by Yusuf bin Abdul Qadir Barnawi); there exists also a Madurese translation.

To some extent, these classical works are giving way to more modern teaching methods. In 1921, the Dutch consul in Jeddah, E. Gobée, observed that in government schools in the Hijaz the Alfiyah was no longer part of the language curriculum but had been replaced by the modern Qawa`id al-lugha al-`arabiyya, a series of textbooks by the Egyptian author Hafni Bak Nasif et al. (Gobée 1921). In the 1930s, these books were in use in the more modern madrasah of Sumatera Thawalib in West Sumatra, along with other modern Egyptian textbooks and books by local `ulama who had studied in Egypt (see Yunus 1979: 77). These textbooks are now widely used in madrasah and the state schools for religion teachers (PGA); growing numbers of pesantren are following suit, which is reflected in Table I.

The other modern grammar textbook appearing here is Nahwu Wadlih (Al-nahw al-wadih fi qawa`id al-lughat al-`arabiyya), written by two Arab authors, `Ali Jarim and Mustafa Amin (widely available in photomechanical reprints of Lebanese and Egyptian editions). This too already was used in West Sumatra in the 1930s, along with Al-balagha al-wadiha by the same authors.

This brings us to the final major branch of Arabic grammar, rhetoric (balagha, with its subdivisions of bayan, ma`ani, and badi`). Two classical kitab dominate this part of the curriculum:Jauharul Maknun (Al-jawhar al-maknun / Al-jawahir al-maknuna fi al-ma`ani wa al-bayan wa al-badi`), written by `Abd al-Rahman al-Akhdari (b. 920/1514, see GAL S II, 706). The same title often refers to a sharh on this work by Ahmad al-Damanhuri (1101-1177/1689-1763, see GAL II, 371) and further glosses by Makhluf al-Minyawi, widely available in Indonesia (also called Makhluf). The Jawhar was translated into Javanese by K.H. Bisri Mustofa of Rembang.

Uqudul Juman (Al-murshidi `ala `uqud al-juman fi `ilm al-ma`ani wa al-bayan), finally, is a manzum text on rhetoric by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, based on Siraj al-Din al-Sakkaki’s `Ilm al-ma`ani wa al-bayan (GAL I, 294-6). The only other balagha text widely available, with various commentaries, is Abu al-Qasim al-Samarqandi’s Al-risala al-samarqandiyya, which, however, does not score high on our list.

The total number of texts in our collection, of course, far exceeds that of those mentioned here. It should perhaps be mentioned that three of the texts listed by van den Berg were not found in print: ‘Innola’ (an untitled commentary on the Awamil), Ibn al-Hajib’s Kafiya, and Burhan al-Din Abu Fath Nasir al-Din’s Al-misbah.

A different auxiliary ‘science’ (although not commonly subsumed under the label of ilmu alat but rather under that of the Qur’anic sciences) is that of tajwid, the proper articulation and intonation of Qur’anic Arabic. It is among the very first subjects to be studied (as the titles of the listed texts, meaning ‘Gift for children’ and ‘Guidance for little boys’, emphasize). The Tuhfat al-atfal by Sulayman Jumzuri and the anonymous Hidayat al-sibyan both are short elementary texts on this subject. They are both available in several collections of short texts, usually together.

The third auxiliary science is mantiq, Aristotelian logic (which will prove its usefulness when the student proceeds to fiqh, jurisprudence). The most widely used textbook is Sullamul Munauraq (Al-sullam al-munawraq[40] fi `ilm al-mantiq), written by al-Akhdari (the author of Al-jawhar al-maknun, see GAL S II, pp.705-6). Ahmad al-Damanhuri (who also annotated Akhdari’s Jawhar) wrote a commentary on it, that is also well-known in Indonesia: Idah al-mubham min ma`ani al-sullam. In the margin of the printed edition we find another sharh on the Sullam, by al-Akhdari himself. The latter sharh is also available together with the glosses written by Ibrahim al-Bajuri. Two other, untitled, commentaries often encountered are those by Hasan Darwish al-Quwaysini (c. 1210/1795) and by the Azhar scholar Ahmad b. `Abd al-Fattah al-Mullawi (d. 1181/1767), with glosses by M. b. `Ali al-Sabban. There is also a manzum Javanese translation by Bisri Mustofa.

Widely available, too, is another fundamental manual of logic, Isaghuji, by Athir al-Din Mufaddal al-Abhari (d. 663/1264; see GAL I, 464-5; S I, 839-41). Despite its title, this work is not a translation of Porphyry’s Isagoge, as had often been assumed (see Arminjon 1907: 215-7 and the summary by Calverley 1933).

Jurisprudence (fiqh) and its principles (Table II)
Fiqh is still considered as the Islamic science par excellence. It has the most concrete implications for everyday behaviour, for it tells us what things are forbidden and which actions recommended. Works on fiqh form the real substance of the pesantren education, and this is reflected in the composition of the top 100 list.

The fiqh work mentioned by van den Berg as the most important work of reference, the Tuhfa (Ibn Hajar’s Tuhfat al-muhtaj) does not occur in this list, and an Indonesian edition of this text does not even exist. Nevertheless, leading (traditional) `ulama agree that this is the ultimate work of reference to which they have recourse in difficult cases. For everyday use, however, more easily accessible works are preferred, such as the Fath al-wahhab (said to be more systematic in its approach than most other works) and the I`anat al-talibin, which, being the most recent of the great traditional fiqh works, is often found the most adequate to contemporary concerns. For educational purposes, the introductory Sullam al-tawfiq, the Taqrib / Fath al-qarib and the Fath al-mu`in are preferred.

Under modernist influence, fiqh works of a different genre are coming into use in the pesantren as well. There are several pesantren now where Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-mujtahid is taught beside or instead of the Shafi`i classics (recently also printed in Indonesia, which indicates a growing interest). The multi-volume Fiqh al-sunna by the modern Egyptian author Sayyid Sabiq is rapidly gaining a wider acceptance too (so far, only an Indonesian translation is locally printed, suggesting that the work appeals primarily to a modernist audience). These works have, however, not yet reached the list of most popular works, all of which are squarely within the Shafi`i tradition.

The relations between the major works of traditional Shafi`i fiqh can be represented in the form of genealogical trees. Three ‘families’ of kitab stand out, descending from respectively Rafi`i’s Muharrar, Abu Shuja’ al-Isfahani’s Taqrib (or Mukhtasar) and Malibari’s Qurrat al-`ayn. In the accompanying graphs showing these family trees, bold print indicates the works of which Indonesian printings exist (and have been collected).

The first of these families is the one with greatest prestige. Indonesian `ulama confirm Snouck Hurgronje’s observation (1899: 142) that Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s and Shams al-Din al-Ramli’s commentaries on Abu Zakariya’ Yahya al-Nawawi’s Minhaj [al-talibin] are considered as the most authoritative, and that in cases of differences between these authorities, the Indonesians prefer Ibn Hajar.[41] Important fatwas frequently refer to these works for their authority, especially the Tuhfa. In everyday practice, however, the Tuhfa is not all that often consulted, and it is very hard even to find a copy in the shops. The senior kyai no doubt own copies of it, but they too have more frequently recourse to other books. The only printed version I have ever seen is in the margin of the ten-volume commentary by `Abd al-Hamid Shirwani (who taught in Mecca in the mid-nineteenth century). An abridged Javanese translation must have been around in the early 19th century but has apparently fallen into disuse with the improved availability of other texts.[42] Ramli’s Nihayat al-muhtaj is also occasionally encountered, in an eight-volume edition with the glosses by `Ali Shabramalisi and Ahmad al-Maghribi al-Rashidi in the margin. Some younger `ulama, especially such as have studied in Egypt, claim to use the Mughni’l-muhtaj, by Khatib Sharbini, as well besides Ramli and Ibn Hajar.

The only works of this family that are universally available are Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli’s commentary (commonly known as ‘the’ Mahalli) in an edition with extensive glosses by Qalyubi and `Umayra, and the Fath al-wahhab, a commentary by Zakariya’ Ansari on his own Manhaj al-tullab, which is a summary of the Minhaj. An early Malay translation of the Fath al-wahhab, titled Mir’at al-tullab, was made by `Abd al-Ra’uf of Singkel (edited in part in Meursinge 1844), but it is no longer used or even known.

Muharrar(Rafi`i, d. 623/1226)

Minhaj al-talibin(Nawawi, d. 676/1277-8)

Kanz al-raghibin(Mahalli, d. 864/1460) Manhaj al-tullab(Ansari, d. 926/1520) Tuhfat al-muhtaj(Ibn Hajar, d. 973/1565-6)

Mughni’l-muhtaj(Sharbini, d. 977/1569-70)

Nihayat al-muhtaj(Ramli, d. 1004/1595-6

[sharh](Qalyubi & `Umayra) Fath al-wahhab(Ansari) [hashiya](Shirwani) [hashiya](Shabramalisi, d. 1087/1676) [hashiya](Maghribi)

[hashiya](Bujayrimi, d. 1221/1806) [hashiya](Jamal, d. 1204/1789-90)

The second family derives from the highly popular fiqh works Taqrib (Al-ghaya wa’l-taqrib, also known as Mukhtasar, by Abu Shuja` al-Isfahani) and its commentary Fath al-qarib (by Ibn Qasim al-Ghazzi). There is hardly a pesantren where not at least one of these texts is studied. Both have been translated into various Indonesian languages. Other works of the same family are also widely used in Indonesia. The Kifayat al-akhyar, by Taqi al-Din Dimashqi (GAL I, 392), which was not yet mentioned by van den Berg’s informants, now ranks second only to the Fath al-qarib among the commentaries. A more difficult text is Khatib Sharbini’s Iqna’, which is printed together with the commentary Taqrir by a certain `Awwad, on whom I have found no further information. Bajuri’s glosses, much used a century ago (see Snouck Hurgronje 1899), appear to have lost their attraction nowadays.

Taqrib = Mukhtasar(Abu Shuja`, d. 593/1197) Sundanese trl
numerous Indonesian trl.

Iqna’(Sharbini, d. 977/1569-70) Kifayat al-akhyar(Dimashqi, d. 829/1426) Fath al-qarib(Ibn Qasim, d. 918/1512) Madurese trl.Indonesian trl.Javanese trl. Taqrir(`Awwad) Tuhfat al-habib(Bujayrimi, c.1100/1688) [hashiya](Bajuri, d. 1277/1860-1)

The central text of the third family is Fath al-mu`in, which has long been popular in Indonesia (as well as in Kurdistan).[43] It was written by the sixteenth-century South Indian scholar Zayn al-Din al-Malibari, a student of Ibn Hajar. This work is a commentary on, or a reworking of, an earlier text by the same author, Qurrat al-`ayn; neither is directly based upon Ibn Hajar’s Tuhfa. The Qurra itself never became popular in Indonesia, but in the 19th century, Nawawi Banten wrote another commentary on it, titled Nihayat al-zayn, that is widely used. Two of Nawawi’s younger contemporaries in Mecca wrote extensive glosses on the Fath al-mu`in. Sayyid Bakri b. Muhammad Shatta’ al-Dimyati’s I`anat al-talibin is a four-volume work, that incorporates the author’s notes on many subjects, as well as a number of fatwa by the contemporary Shafi`i mufti Ahmad b. Zayni Dahlan. In the author’s lifetime it already became the most frequently consulted work of Shafi`i fiqh (cf. Snouck Hurgronje 1887: 346), and it has maintained its position as a major work of reference. Tarshih al-mustafidin is a more modest and less well-known work (2 vols), whose first Indonesian reprint has only recently appeared. The author, `Alwi al-Saqqaf, was a younger contemporary and colleague of Sayyid Bakri in Mecca (GAL S II, 743; `Abd al-Jabbar 1385: 156).

Qurrat al-`ayn(Malibari, c. 975/1567)

Fath al-mu`in(Malibari, c. 975/1567) Indonesian trl.Javanese trl.

Nihayat al-zayn(Nawawi Banten) I`anat al-talibin(Sayyid Bakri, d.1893) Tarshih al-mustafidin(`Alwi al-Saqqaf, d.1916)

Van den Berg mentions a fourth family of fiqh works, which used to be quite popular but is now represented in our present top 100 by only one text, Minhaj al-qawim. It derives from the 9th/15th century elementary work known in Java as Bapadal, i.e. `Abdallah b. `Abd al-Karim Ba-Fadl’s Al-muqaddima al-hadramiyya (GAL S II, 555). None less than Ibn Hajar al-Haytami wrote a commentary, Minhaj al-qawim, on which the late 18th century Shafi`i mufti of Madina, Sulayman al-Kurdi, wrote extensive glosses, Al-hawashi’l-madaniyya. Ibn Hajar’s Minhaj is used all over Java; the Hawashi, long hard to find, were very recently reprinted in Surabaya. These fiqh works differ from the first three families in that they only deal with fiqh al-`ubudiyya, the prescriptions concerning worship (i.e., ritual cleanliness, prayer, zakat, the fast and the hajj), and not with mu`amalat (economic transactions), family and inheritance law, penal law, etc., which make up some 60% of the other texts.

Two other commentaries on Ba-Fadl’s Muqaddima, which are not listed in GAL, deserve mention. The first of these sharh was written (in Arabic) by the great East Javanese `alim Mahfudz bin Abdullah of Termas (d. 1338/1919-20; see `Abbas 1975: 460). This work is highly praised but it is not available in print now. Another commentary on Ba-Fadl’s text is, however: Bushra’l-karim [bi-sharh masa’il al-ta`lim `ala muqaddimat al-hadramiyya], by a certain Sa`id b. M. Ba`shin (no further information known).

Al-muqaddima al-hadramiyya(`Abdallah Ba-Fadl, 10th/16th century)

Minhaj al-qawim(Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, d.973/1565-6) sharh `ala Ba-fadl(Mahfuz al-Tarmasi, d.1338/1919-20) Bushra’l-karim(Sa`id b. M. Ba`shin)
Al-hawashi-l-madaniyya(Sulayman al-Kurdi, d.1194/1780)

Two of the remaining works that are high on the list are the short introductory texts Sullam al-tawfiq (by `Abdallah b. Husayn b. Tahir Ba`alawi, d. 1272/1855), and the Safina[t al-naja’], by Salim b. `Abdallah b. Samir, a Hadrami `alim resident in Batavia in the mid-19th century. Two much-used commentaries on the Sullam are Mirqat su`ud al-tasdiq by Nawawi Banten and Is`ad al-rafiq by his contemporary and colleague in Mecca, M. Sa`id Ba-Basil. Nawawi Banten also wrote an Arabic commentary on the last-named very popular text, called Kashifat al-saja’, which is available in several editions. The Kashifa has also been translated into Javanese. Besides this, there are several other adaptations and commentaries by Indonesian `ulama.[44]
I shall only give only a few short explanatory notes on the remaining titles in the list, in the order of frequency in which they occur.

The Tahrir (Tahrir tanqih li’l-lubab fi fiqh al-imam al-Shafi`i) is a work by Zakariya’ al-Ansari, based on al-Mahamili’s (d. 415/1024) Lubab al-fiqh. Ansari himself wrote a commentary on his Tahrir, titled Tuhfat al-tullab; the two are usually printed together. Further glosses on this Tuhfa were written by `Abdallah al-Sharqawi (d. 1127/1812, see GAL II, 479-80): Hashiya `ala sharh al-tahrir. This text too (colloquially known as Syarqawi ala Tahrir) is widely available in Indonesia.

The Riyadlul Badiah is one of the texts introduced to Indonesian Muslims by Nawawi Banten that are little known elsewhere. As its title, Al-riyad al-badi`a fi usul al-din wa ba`d furu` al-shari`a, indicates, it deals with selected points of doctrine and religious obligations. The author is a certain Muhammad Hasballah, perhaps an older contemporary of Nawawi; the work has only been printed in the margin of the sharh that Nawawi wrote, Al-thamar al-yani`a (cf. GAL II, 501; S II, 813).

Sullam al-munajat is another work by Nawawi Banten, a commentary on the guide for worship Safinat al-salah by `Abdallah b. `Umar al-Hadrami.

Uqudul Lujain (`Uqud al-lujjayn fi huquq al-zawjayn) is another work by Nawawi Banten, on the rights and especially duties of the married woman. Two Javanese translations and commentaries are in circulation: Hidayat al-`arisin by Abu Muhammad Hasanuddin of Pekalongan, and Su`ud al-kawnayn by Sibt al-`Uthmani Ahdari al-Janqalani al-Qudusi.

The Sittin (in full: Al-masa’il al-sittin), by Abu al-`Abbas Ahmad al-Misri (d. 818/1415), a short text of the perukunan type (i.e. dealing with basic doctrine and the five pillars), was very popular in 19th-century Java; it receives mention in the Serat Centini (Soebardi 1971, p. 336). By now it has gradually fallen in disuse, and many santri do not even recognize its name. Muhadzab (Al-muhadhdhab) is a work of Shafi`i fiqh by Ibrahim b. `Ali al-Shirazi al-Firuzabadi (d. 476/1083; see GAL I, 387-8; S I, 669).

Bughyat al-mustarshidin is a collection of fatwa by 19th/20th century `ulama, compiled by the mufti of Hadramawt, `Abd al-Rahman b. M. b. Husayn Ba`alawi.

The following two are recent texts in simple Arabic, specially written (by Indonesian authors) for madrasah: Al-mabadi al-fiqhiyya `ala madhhab al-imam al-Shafi`i (4 tiny volumes) was written by `Umar `Abd al-Jabbar; Al-fiqh al-wadih by the well-known Minangkabau scholar Mahmud Yunus.
I add one important Malay text in spite of its low rating in the present frequency list with its heavy Javanese bias: the Sabil al-muhtadin. This is Muhammad Arshad al-Banjari’s major opus and the most important Malay work of fiqh (although dealing with fiqh `ubudiyya only). It was written, the author says, because the earlier Malay fiqh handbook Sirat al-mustaqim by al-Raniri (printed in the margin) contained too many regionalisms and was therefore hard to use. Chief sources of the Sabil are Malibari’s Fath al-mu`in and Zakariya’ Ansari’s Manhaj al-tullab. Al-Banjari’s work is rarely found in Java but still quite popular in the Malay-speaking zone, and several recent editions (including an Egyptian one) are available.

usul al-fiqh
Van den Berg mentions no works at all on the principles of fiqh. This may be due to oversight, for van Ronkel’s catalogue of the Jakarta library (1913) mentions several copies of commentaries on the Waraqat and the Jam` al-jawami` (see below), which suggests that these works must have been relatively well-known, at least around the turn of the century. They were, however, probably not part of the ordinary pesantren curriculum. K.H. Mahfudz of Termas (d. 1919) was probably the first Indonesian scholar who was an expert on the subject and taught it to his advanced students in Mecca. In Indonesia itself, usul fiqh first received serious attention from the kaum muda, who often had recourse to it in their struggle against alleged bid`a. In the 1920s, the reformist journal Al-ittifaq wa al-iftiraq wrote much about usul fiqh, quoting from Suyuti’s Al-ashbah wa al-naza’ir, Shafi`i’s Risala and especially Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-mujtahid, which compares the different schools of jurisprudence.[45]

At present, usul fiqh is an obligatory subject in almost all pesantren for santri at the middle and higher levels. The range of works used is not very wide, however. The collection contains fourteen different titles, many of which are related to one another (as commentaries or glosses). Only eight of these are sufficiently popular to warrant inclusion in the list.

Jam` al-Jawami`, by Taj al-din `Abd al-Wahhab al-Subki, is one of the major texts on the foundations of Muslim law. The current printed edition contains besides this text also the sharh by Jalaladdin al-Mahalli, glosses thereon by Bannani and further glosses (taqrir) by `Abd al-Rahman Sharbini. Zakariya’ Ansari summarized the Jam` in his Lubb al-usul, also used in Indonesia.

Al-waraqat fi usul al-fiqh by the imam al-haramayn `Abd al-Malik al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085, see GAL I, 388-9) is one of the other major works on the subject. Various commentaries on this work are generally available in Indonesia (the collection contains five different ones, one of which is by the Minangkabau reformist Ahmad Khatib: Al-nafahat `ala sharh al-waraqat). The Lata’if al-isharat, by `Abd al-Hamid b. M. `Ali al-Qudsi (from Kudus in Central Java, d. 1334/1916, see al-`Attas 1979, vol. II, pp. 619-26) is a further commentary on one of these, Sharafaddin Yahya al-`Imriti’s Tashil al-turuqat.[46]

Al-ashbah wa al-naza’ir fi al-furu` is a compendium by the prolific Jalaladdin Suyuti (see GAL II, 152).

Al-luma` [fi usul al-fiqh] was written by Ibrahim b. `Ali al-Shirazi al-Firuzabadi, the author of the Muhadhdhab (see GAL S I, 670).

Al-bayan is the last in a series of three simple textbooks on usul al-fiqh (titled Mabadi Awwaliyya, Al-sullam and Al-bayan) for use in madrasah, written by the Minangkabau author Abdul Hamid Hakim.

Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-mujtahid, which compares the rulings of the four ‘orthodox’ and various other madhhab, was again first used by the Minangkabau kaum muda. It is actually taught in very few pesantren, but many of the more learned kyai use it as a work of reference.

Doctrine (tawhid, `aqida, usul al-din) (Table III)
Compared to the number and sophistication of fiqh works studied in the pesantren, doctrine is given a much less prominent place in the curriculum. Whereas earlier generations of Indonesian Muslims showed great interest in cosmology, eschatology and metaphysical speculation – witness the writings of Raniri, `Abd al-Ra’uf of Singkel and `Abd al-Samad of Palembang – these subjects are now largely kept out of the pesantren curriculum. Perhaps this is because of the old adagium that to great an interest in matters of doctrine can only lead to unbelief?

Be that as it may, the works on `aqida in Table III are, without exception, straightforward expositions of Ash`ari doctrine on the attributes (sifat) of God and the prophets. The most popular group of texts is that based on Sanusi’s two famous works on doctrine. (It is remarkable that Nasafi’s work and Taftazani’s commentary, equally if not more influential elsewhere, seem to be unknown in Indonesia was among the first works to be translated into Malay. A sixteenth-century manuscript with interlineary Malay translation is still extant (Al-Attas 1988). The basic text of this group is Umm al-barahin (also called Al-durra) by Abu `Abdallah M. b. Yusuf al-Sanusi (d. 895/1490, see GAL II, 250, S II, 352-3). The text commonly called ‘the’ Sanusi[yah] is a somewhat more substantial commentary written by Sanusi himself. In the most frequently encountered edition it is printed in the margin of the highly popular hashiya by Ibrahim al-Bajuri, which is, by extension, also known as Sanusi[yah]. Other frequently used commentaries are the hashiya on the Sanusi by Muhammad al-Dasuqi (d.1230/1815, see GAL II, 353), and a more substantial text by `Abdallah al-Sharqawi (d. 1127/1812, see GAL II, 479-80), which is itself a hashiya on an 11th century commentary by a Muhammad b. Mansur al-Hudhudi (in Indonesian editions, it is printed together with Hudhudi’s text). All these texts are commonly known by the names of their authors.

Another work partially based on the Sanusi is the Kifayat al-`awamm, by M.b.M. al-Faddali (d. 1236/1821, see GAL II, 489), which is highly popular in Indonesia.[47] Our collection contains also a version of this work with an interlinear Madurese translation (by H.M. Nur Munir b.H. Isma`il). Faddali’s pupil Ibrahim Bajuri (d. 1277/1861) wrote a commentary on it, Tahqiq al-maqam `ala kifayat al-`awamm (printed together with the Kifaya in the Indonesian editions), and this was glossed upon by Nawawi Banten in his widely read Tijan al-durari.

`Aqidat al-`awamm is a simple, versified text for the very young, memorized long before the santri even begins to understand Arabic. Its author, Ahmad al-Marzuqi al-Maliki al-Makki, flourished around 1864. Brockelmann (GAL S II, 990) mentions a Malay version by Hamza b. M. al-Qadahi (i.e., of Kedah); our collection contains translations in Javanese (by Bisri Mustofa of Rembang) and Madurese (by Abdul Majid Tamim of Pamekasan). Nawawi Banten, who must have known the author, wrote a well-known commentary on it, titled Nurudh Dhulam (Nur al-zalam).

Jawharat al-tawhid, the concise versified text by Ibrahim al-Laqani (d. 1041/1631), is still highly popular. Santris commit the entire matan to memory and study various commentaries on it. One of these is Ibrahim al-Bajuri’s Tuhfat al-murid. An anonymous Malay scholar and two Javanese `ulama, Saleh Darat of Semarang and Ahmad Subki Masyhadi of Pekalongan, wrote extensive commentaries in their regional languages, that are commonly known by the same title of Jauharatut Tauhid. Saleh Darat’s Javanese commentary, especially, is interesting in that it reflects contemporary Javanese views and concerns.

Fath al-majid is yet another text by Nawawi Banten, a commentary on the Durr al-farid fi `ilm al-tawhid (printed in the margin) by a certain Ahmad al-Nahrawi, on whom I have found no further information.

The remaining three titles are modern works, that were first adopted by the Egyptian-influenced madrasah and from there are gradually penetrating the pesantren world. Jawahir al-kalamiyya [fi idah al-`aqida al-islamiyya] was written by the Syrian Tahir b. Salih al-Jaza’iri, who died in Damascus in 1919.

Husunul Hamidiyah (Al-husun al-hamidiyya li al-muhafaza `ala al-`aqa’id al-islamiyya) is a work by the moderate modernist and rationalist Husayn [b. M. al-Jasr] Efendi al-Tarabulusi (d. 1909) on sifat, prophecy, miracles of the prophets, the angels and life after death. The author was renowned as the editor of a journal, in which he attempted to reconcile Islam with modern science and philosophy (GAL S II, 776; see also the remarks in Hourani 1962: 222-3). This book was first used in Indonesia in the 1930s, in Sumatera Thawalib madrasah (Yunus 1979: 77).

Aqidatul Islamiyah, finally, is a modern question-and-answer catechism for pupils of the lowest grades of madrasah, by Basri b. H. Marghubi (no further details known).
The subject of tawhid gradually shades into what is usually classified as tasawwuf in Indonesia. Ghazali’s Ihya, which is by far the most popular tasawwuf text here, could with equal (or perhaps greater) right be listed among the works on doctrine.

There is yet another, quite popular, category of books that should be mentioned here, although they are rarely part of the official pesantren curriculum. This is the works on traditional (and often quite fantastic) cosmology and eschatology.[48] A typical (and widely popular) example is Daqa’iq al-akhbar fi dhikr al-janna wa al-nar, by `Abd al-Rahim al-Qadi (see GAL S I, 346), which is available in Arabic as well as in Malay, Sundanese and Madurese translations; another is Al-durar al-hisan, attributed to Suyuti. Indonesian authors have contributed a number of simpler texts similarly designed to inspire in the reader a wholesome fear of the hereafter. These works are not used as textbooks, but they constitute popular reading in the santri environment.

Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) (Table IV)
Van den Berg lists only one tafsir as part of the regular curriculum, the ubiquitous Jalalayn. Baydawi’s tafsir was also known by name, but it was highly exceptional to find a kyai explaining this text (van den Berg 1886: 555). A few minor additions may be made: In the Malay-speaking part of the Archipelago the Tarjuman al-mustafid, a Malay translation by `Abd al-Ra’uf of Singkel of the Jalalayn, with some interposed material from other tafsir, must have been rather well known (it is still available in various editions).[49] Nawawi Banten, moreover, had already written his Al-tafsir al-munir li ma`alim al-tanzil, but this, like his other works, had perhaps not yet come into use because of the general conservatism of the pesantren curriculum.

Van den Berg’s impression is probably generally correct: in the late 19th century, tafsir was not yet considered a very important part of the curriculum. Under the impact of modernism, with its slogan of return to the Qur’an and the hadith, the interpretation of the Qur’an obviously assumed a more central importance. Many traditionalist `ulama simply felt forced to follow suit and began taking tafsir more seriously. Our list shows, however, that the range of tafsir studied in the pesantren is still very narrow. Two classics, Tabari and Ibn Kathir, have been added to the list, along with Nawawi’s Tafsir al-munir. The two modern tafsir, the Tafsir al-manar by Muhammad `Abduh and Rashid Rida and Ahmad Mustafa al-Maraghi’s Tafsir al-Maraghi, occur in our list only because of two modernist-oriented pesantren in West Java; they are not yet widely accepted in the pesantren milieu.[50] (It is not a coincidence that there are no Indonesian editions of the Arabic texts of these two works, although the latter has very recently appeared in translation.) The last tafsir on the list is a 10-vol. Translation of the Qur’an in Indonesian, prepared under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs by a committee of Indonesian scholars.[51]

Five other tafsir in our collection, by Indonesian and Malaysian authors, deserve mention here although they have not gained wide popularity. Ahmad Sanusi b. Abdurrahim of Sukabumi wrote a tafsir (a rather straightforward translation) of the Qur’an in Sundanese, Rawdat al-`irfan fi ma`rifat al-Qur’an, and Bisri Mustofa of Rembang a three-volume (2250-page) Javanese tafsir, Al-ibriz li ma`rifat tafsir al-Qur’an al-`aziz. The latter, too, is more a translation than an exegesis proper; since translations of the Qur’an necessarily involve a certain amount of interpretation they are usually called tafsir too. The amount of commentary is greater in another Javanese tafsir, Al-iklil fi ma`ani al-tanzil by Misbah b. Zayn al-Mustafa (30 volumes, 4800 pp.) and in the three-volume (950-page) tafsir in Malay, Tafsir nur al-ihsan, by Muhammad Sa`id b. `Umar Qadi al-Qadahi (of Kedah, Malaysia). The most recent is an Indonesian commentary in six volumes, Adz Dzikraa: terjemah & tafsir Alqur’an, by Bachtiar Surin.

The interest in tafsir is markedly increasing. Several other tafsir have very recently been printed in Indonesia in Arabic; others again (modernist ones, as one might expect, such as Sayyid Qutb’s Fi zilal al-Qur’an and Maraghi) in Indonesian translation. Imports nevertheless go on increasing; in several toko kitab in Surabaya and Bandung I found no less than twenty different tafsir in stock, imported from Egypt and Lebanon.Of the works on the principles of tafsir, only two classics are listed, both by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti: Itmam al-diraya li qurra` al-nuqaya and Al-itqan fi `ulum al-Qur’an. The collection contains various simple introductions to this subject.

Hadith (Table V)
Even more than tafsir, the hadith are a relatively new subject matter in the pesantren. Van den Berg does not even mention hadith at all. The santri did encounter many hadith in the course of his studies – no work of fiqh is thinkable without hadith supporting its argument – but these were, as it were, already processed, selected and quoted according to the needs of the author. Collections of hadith as such – either the six canonical collections or popular compilations like the Masabih al-sunna, which was very popular in India – seem hardly to have been used in the Archipelago of a century ago.[52]

An exception should perhaps be made for the small collections of the ‘Forty Hadith’ type, of which Abu Zakariya’ Yahya al-Nawawi’s Arba`in is one of the models. Various Indonesian ulama have, from the 19th century, compiled or translated such collections of forty, and Djohan Effendi has shown how the contents of these collections changed according to the needs of the times.[53] The present wider interest in hadith – now an obligatory subject in most pesantren – is probably again due to the impact of modernism.[54]

The two great collections of ‘authentic’ (sahih) hadith by Bukhari and Muslim are now standard reference works in many pesantren. The teaching curriculum often includes selections from these works, usually with a commentary. Two popular selections from Bukhari are Al-tajrid al-sarih by Shihabaddin Ahmad al-Sharji al-Zabidi (d. 893/1488) and Jawahir al-Bukhari by Mustafa M. `Imara (GAL S I, 264). The most popular and ubiquitous hadith collections are, however, the Bulugh al-maram and the Riyad al-salihin.

Bulugh al-maram [min adillat al-ahkam], a collection compiled by Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani (d. 852/1449, see GAL II, 67-70), has been translated into Javanese (by A. Subki Masyhadi of Pekalongan) and Indonesian (by Bisri Mustofa of Rembang), and partially also into Malay. Subul al-salam, by Muhammad b. Isma`il al-Kahlani (d. 1182/1769) is a commentary on the Bulugh.

Riyad al-salihin [min kalam sayyid al-mursalin] is a larger collection of hadith, mainly dealing with devotional matters, collected by Yahya b. Sharafaddin al-Nawawi, the compiler of the most famous ‘Forty’. Two different Javanese translations (by Asrori Ahmad and Ahmad Subki Masyhadi), as well as Malay and Indonesian translations exist. This may well be the most popular collection of hadith worldwide.

Nawawi’s Arba`in are used in many pesantren for the less advanced santri, and they are also popular as non-curricular religious literature, in Arabic as well as in Indonesian translation. A rather well-known commentary on these Forty is Al-majalis al-saniyya, by Ahmad b. Hijazi al-Fashani.

Durrat al-nasihin [fi’l-wa`z wa’l-irshad] was compiled by `Uthman b. Hasan al-Khubuwi (d.1224/1804, see GAL II, 489).

Tanqih al-qawl [al-hathith fi sharh lubab al-hadith] is another work by Nawawi Banten, a commentary on Suyuti’s collection Lubab al-hadith (which is printed in the margin of Nawawi’s work).

Mukhtar al-ahadith is a selection compiled by the modern Egyptian author, Ahmad al-Hashimi Bak.

The Ushfuriyah, finally (named after its author, Muhammad b. Abu Bakr al-`Usfuri), is another popular ‘Forty hadith’ collection, with edifying stories added to each hadith.[55]

Critical study of the hadith is as yet almost unknown in Indonesia, certainly in the pesantren environment. Understandably, the Indonesian modernists have shown a greater interest in the (traditional) science of distinguishing false from authentic, ‘weak’ from ‘strong’ traditions (`ilm dirayat al-hadith) than the traditionalists. The two titles occurring in our list (with a few derivatives of the first one) are in fact the only ones to be found in toko kitab.

Minhat al-mughith is a modern text by an Azhar scholar, Hafiz Hasan Mas`udi, and was apparently written for use in Egyptian state-supervised madrasa.

The name Baiquniyah, as usual, refers both to an original work (matan), an untitled short versified text by Taha b. Muhammad al-Fattuh al-Bayquni (d. after 1080/1669, see GAL II, 307), and to various commentaries on it. Most popular among the latter is that by `Atiya al-Ajhuri (d. 1190/1776, see GAL II, 328); this is the work one usually gets when asking for ‘the’ Baiquniyah. Another much encountered commentary is the Taqrirat al-saniyya, by Hasan Muhammad al-Mashshat, who taught in Mecca’s Masjid al-haram in the nineteen thirties and forties, and had many Indonesian students.

Morality and mysticism (Table VI)
The borderline between the subjects of akhlaq and tasawwuf as taught in the pesantren is extremely fuzzy. The same work may be studied under the heading of tasawwuf in one pesantren, and under that of akhlaq in another. The subject of akhlaq also shades into tarbiya, ‘[the imparting of] good manners’; it has connotations of proper, respectful behaviour and unostentatious piety. As the titles in Table VI show, the works on mysticism studied in the pesantren all belong to the orthodox school that also stresses these attitudes. We find here no works of wahdat al-wujud Sufism or other less domesticated brands of mysticism and metaphysics. This may at first sight seem surprising, given the strong mystical strain in traditional Indonesian Islam, and the penchant for metaphysical speculation especially among Javanese. On the other hand, it was not only speculative cosmogonic and mystical theories that appealed to earlier generations of Indonesian ulama, but also rules of proper conduct and hierarchy. Shaykh Yusuf of Makassar, one of the 17th century propounders of wahdat al-wujud, not only describes various dhikr techniques and obliquely refers to mystical doctrines but also, and with greater insistence, stresses unquestioning and unconditional obedience to the teacher as the single most important step on the mystical path.[56] He thus foreshadowed the ‘good manners’ strain of present Indonesian mysticism.

Wahdat al-wujud texts and other ‘heterodox’ works may not be taught in many pesantren anymore, that does not mean that they are not read at all. In several places I found `Abd al-Karim al-Jili’s Al-insan al-kamil (still part of the curriculum of several West Javanese pesantren half a century ago), in Surabaya even Al-futuhat al-makkiyya. These rather difficult Arabic works are at best read by a small elite, but the case is different with some Malay works, such as M. Nafis al-Banjari’s Al-durr al-nafis, which expounds a popular version of wahdat al-wujud and is found in great numbers in the bookshops of South Kalimantan, Aceh and Malaysia.[57]

Similarly, Ghazali may have replaced the more adventurous mystics, but `Abd al-Samad Palimbani seems to have smuggled some of the rejected doctrines into his Malay adaptations of Ghazali’s major works (see below). These Malay works are read in West Java as well as on the outer islands. In contradiction to common assumptions about the religious attitudes of Javanese and non-Javanese Indonesians, it is the Javanese pesantren that is the locus of orthodoxy, while other, speculative mystical doctrines still persist in the outer regions.

The collection contains almost hundred different titles on akhlaq and tasawwuf, but the basic texts that are widely used are relatively few:

Ta`lim al-muta`allim [li tariq al-ta`allum], by Burhan al-Islam al-Zarnuji is a famous (some would say: notorious) work on the proper obedient attitude of the student towards his teacher. For many kyai, this work is one of the very pillars of pesantren education; at a recent discussion of kitab organized by the NU, one of the participants suggested that this is the sort of book that should really be banned because of the passive and uncritical attitudes it inculcates. The reactions give reasons to believe that this work will long remain part of the curriculum. Also available with Javanese and with Madurese translation.

Wasaya [al-aba’ li’l-ibna’], by the Egyptian author Muhammad Shakir (shaykh `ulama al-Iskandariyya, according to the frontispiece), and with a Javanese translation by Bisri Mustofa, is a short text explaining how nice boys wash themselves well, take care of sick relatives, repair their own bicycle tyres, etc.)

Al-akhlaq li’l-banat and Al-akhlaq l’l-banin, in three thin volumes each, are moral lessons for girls and boys, meant to be read at (state) madrasah, written by a `Umar b. Ahmad Barja. I have rather arbitrarily placed the following three texts also into this category, although they are sometimes labeled as works of fiqh `ubudiyya (i.e., concerning the obligations of worship) or (the first) as a hadith collection.

Irshad al-`ubbad [ila sabil al-rashad] is a work by Zayn al-Din b. `Abd al-`Aziz al-Malibari (the grandfather of the author of Fath al-mu`in). Various printed editions of the Arabic text exist, and there is a recent Javanese translation by Misbah b. Zayn al-Mustafa.

Nasa’ih al-`ubbad is yet another work by Nawawi Banten, a sharh of Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani’s Al-nabahat `ala isti`dad. It focuses on the rules for personal conduct, and is often used as an introductory work, for the younger santri, on akhlaq.

Al-adhkar [al-muntakhab min kalam sayyid al-abrar] by Abu Zakariya’ Yahya al-Nawawi contains prescriptions for worship and pious conduct. A Javanese, and recently also an Indonesian translation are available.

The section on tasawwuf is strongly dominated by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Ihya, Bidayat al-hidaya and Minhaj al-`abidin. There are various pesantren that specialize in the teaching of the Ihya; all three works mentioned have been translated, at least in part, into several Indonesian languages.

`Abd al-Samad al-Palimbani, who flourished in the mid-18th century, wrote well-known Malay adaptations of the first two, entitled Sayr al-salikin and Hidayat al-salikin, respectively. Without any noticeable awareness of conflict, `Abd al-Samad admitted into these works, especially the Sayr, elements of wahdat al-wujud doctrine from other sources, that seem quite alien to Ghazali’s Sunni mysticism.[58] These works remain popular especially in Sumatra and West Java.

Nawawi Banten wrote an (Arabic) commentary on the Bidaya, entitled Maraqi’l-`ubudiyya, which, judging from the numerous editions existing, is more popular than is suggested by its low score in our list.The Siraj al-talibin is a two-volume Arabic commentary on the Minhaj, by Ihsan b. Muhammad Dahlan of Jampes, Kediri (d. 1952). This work has a high reputation in East Java, despite its low score on the list.

Beside these books, the Sundanese translations of important parts of Ghazali’s works by the great scholar `Abdullah bin Nuh of Bogor (d. 1987) deserve mention.

The Hikam is the well-known collection of Sufi aphorisms by Ibn `Ata’illah al-Iskandari. Numerous translations and commentaries exist in Indonesia: the Hikam Melayu (anonymous), the Syarah Hikam (by M. Ibrahim al-Nafidhi al-Rindi) and the Taj al-`arus by `Usman al-Pontiani in Malay; a Javanese Hikam by Saleh Darat of Semarang, and various modern Indonesian versions, among which the four-volume commentary by the Achehnese K.H. Muhibbuddin Waly deserves mention.

Hidayat al-adhkiya’ [ila tariq al-awliya’], a didactic versified text on practical mysticism by Zayn al-Din al-Malibari, written in 914/1508-9, has long been popular in Java; it is mentioned in the Serat Centini, for instance. Many commentaries are in use in Indonesia. One of the better known is Kifayat al-atqiya’ wa minhaj al-asfiya’ by Sayyid Bakri b. M. Shatta’ al-Dimyati. The prolific Nawawi Banten also wrote a commentary, Salalim al-fudala’, which is printed in the margin of Sayyid Bakri’s Kifaya. There are also Javanese translations and commentaries by Saleh Darat (Minhaj al-atqiya’) and by `Abd al-Jalil Hamid al-Qandali (Tuhfat al-asfiya’), as well as an interlineary Madurese translation (by `Abd al-Majid Tamim of Pamekasan).

The final two works are both by the pious Hadrami author and mystic `Abdallah b. `Alwi al-Haddad, well known in Indonesia as the composer of the ratib Haddad and other pious formulas (d. 1132/1720, see GAL II, 408; S II, 566). He wrote around ten books, mostly on Sufi piety, several of which have come to enjoy popularity in the Archipelago. His Al-risala al-mu`awana [wa’l-muzahara wa’l-muwazara] has for some time been one of the standard texts on proper behaviour and devotional attitude used in Javanese pesantren. It has been translated into Javanese (by Asrori Ahmad) and Malay (by Idris al-Khayat al-Patani), and more recently into Indonesian (by Muhammad al-Baqir, under the title Thariqah menuju kebahagiaan). His other popular work, Al-nasa’ih al-diniyya [wa’l-wasaya’ al-imaniyya], contains further pious admonitions. It has been translated into Malay by one of his descendants, `Alwi b. M. b. Tahir al-Haddad, under the title of Al-silat al-islamiyya.

There is a marked revival of interest in `Abdallah al-Haddad, both in Egypt and, more recently, in Indonesia.[59] Al-risalat al-mu`awana was printed in Egypt in 1930 (and presumably became known in Indonesia in the following decades), while other works were published in the 1970s due to the efforts of the former chief mufti of Egypt, Hasanayn M. Makhluf. In Indonesia, al-Haddad and his works are actively propagated by his fellow Hadrami sayyid, notably the learned Muhammad al-Baqir, who translated several of his works into Indonesian. These books sold surprisingly well, and saw several reprints within the first years after appearance.[60] Recent translations of several works by Ghazali also were a commercial success. Quietist, orthodox Sufism apparently has a wide appeal beyond the pesantren milieu as well — which seems to be a response to the political decline of Indonesian Islam over the past decades.

History of Islam / Texts in praise of the Prophet (Table VII)
The history of Islam is a new subject, not often taught in pesantren, and the range of kitab available is still very limited. Most santri derive their knowledge and awareness of the history of Islam largely from devotional works on the prophet and saints. Of the titles in Table VII, only Nur al-yaqin is a textbook proper; this and the abbreviated Khulasat nur al-yaqin are almost the only serious works of sira (biography of the Prophet) used in the pesantren. The author of the original work is the modern Egyptian Muhammad Hadari Bak; the Khulasa was prepared by `Umar `Abd al-Jabbar, the Meccan author of many madrasah textbooks. These books were at first typical madrasah literature, but are now also studied in quite a few pesantren as well. Two other historical works by the same Muhammad Hadari Bak have been printed in Indonesia and are gaining in popularity: Itmam al-wafa’ fi sirat al-khulafa’, a history of Muhammad’s successors, and Ta’rikh al-tashri` al-islami, a substantial history of the development of Islamic law.

The other two texts listed are well-known devotional works having the Prophet’s birth and ascension to heaven as their topics. The Barzanji, Ja`far al-Barzinji’s Mawlid, is in Indonesia perhaps the most beloved text after the Qur’an itself; the Dardir is Ahmad al-Dardir’s commentary on Najm al-Din al-Ghayti’s version of the Mi`raj. Besides their ritual uses (see the next section), these texts also serve in a number of pesantren as teaching materials. The range of such devotional texts on the Prophet found in the bookshops is much wider than the two listed here: the collection contains over twenty-five of them.[61]The primary use of these books is not educational but devotional and ritual: they are read privately as an act of piety or, more typically, recited communally or at least in public at various ritual occasions. There are other kitab too that serve such non-educational purposes; to conclude our survey, a few words need to be said about the various types and uses of such extra-curricular kitab.

Extra-curricular kitab: devotion, ritual, magic
Not all kitab in the collection belong to the official pesantren curriculum. A considerable number (well over 10%) serve other purposes, which may be roughly lumped together as devotional, ritual and magical: collections of prayers and other pious formulas (wird, pl. awrad) to be recited at particular occasions, guides to the spiritual exercises of various mystical orders, texts in praise of the Prophet or one of the saints to be recited at particular occasions, books for divination, magical handbooks. Such books are extremely popular and are sold in larger numbers than most others.

In many Javanese villages the weekly communal recital of the Burda, the Diba`i or the Barzanji, poems in praise of the Prophet, constitutes one of the major social occasions. The Barzanji and other similar texts are also read at certain life cycle rituals, in fulfillment of vows or to ward off danger. The various manaqib (hagiographies) of `Abd al-Qadir Jilani are used for similar ritual and sometimes exorcistic purposes.[62]

This is not to say that these texts are not used as pious reading matter too; but even when read privately, the emphasis is often upon the merit accumulated or spiritual and material benefits to be gained through this private act rather than on the information contents of the texts. For these purposes, a full understanding of the texts is of course not essential; they are usually recited in Arabic only.[63] Several of the texts have, however, long been available in translations beside the Arabic originals. Busiri’s Burda received a Malay translation as early as the 16th century (Drewes 1955). Javanese, Malay and Sundanese translations of manaqib of `Abd al-Qadir were in use at least from the 19th century on (Drewes & Poerbatjaraka 1938), along with similar Malay texts on the Prophet and on such saints as [M. b. `Abd al-Karim] Samman.[64] These are all still available, and in addition there are many new translations and commentaries by Indonesian `ulama on the better known Mawlid and Manaqib.[65]

Another important category consists of the books of ‘Islamic magic’. According to close observers, the number of people seeking supernatural support to overcome spiritual, psychological or material problems has increased rather than decreased over the past two decades. The number of dukun seems to have grown, and so has that of kyai and others offering Islamic variants of magical healing and supernatural assistance. Whereas one part of the Muslim community strongly opposes such ‘superstitions’, the mystical-magical remains to perhaps the majority an integral part of the Islamic heritage.

Santris commonly make a strict distinction between tibb (‘medicine’) and hikma (‘occult sciences’), although to most modernists both are magic and unacceptable. Hikma contains explicitly pre-Islamic elements, such as magical squares (wafaq), whereas the amulets of tibb only employ Qur’anic texts. Defenders of tibb proudly argue against modernists that it was one of Ibn Taymiyya’s chief disciples, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, who wrote a major work of this discipline, Al-tibb al-nabawi. And even hikma is not so far from the orthodox mainstream as modernists would have it: the great Ghazali wrote a book on magical squares, Al-awfaq, that is still widely used in Indonesia, and the prolific Jalal al-Din Suyuti wrote Al-rahma fi’l-tibb wa’l-hikma. The most influential works of hikma, however, are those by the 12th/13th century North African Shaykh Ahmad b. `Ali al-Buni: Shams al-ma`arif al-kubra and Manba` usul al-hikma. These and similar works (available in local editions) are widely used in Javanese pesantren, although they are not part of the formal curriculum and are rarely taught by the kyai himself. They take a central place in peer learning, however. Older santris experiment together in the various magical techniques set out in these books.

Popular booklets based on these works of hikma, called mujarrabat (‘traditional wisdom’, lit. ‘what has proven effective’), are available in growing numbers and in various languages. They offer prayers, magical formulas and amulets for a long and heterogeneous list of different purposes: health, love, career, protection from evil spirits and traffic accidents. Related popular works list the specific beneficial effects of reciting certain Qur’anic verses and prayers. There is no clear line dividing mujarrabat booklets from the primbon, collections of ‘useful knowledge’, which may consist of the same sort of magical formulas, beside lists of auspicious days and hours, rules of thumb for divination (from dreams, the day on which a woman’s period begins, etc.), lists of supererogatory prayers, etc. Books of these types, catering for a simple and uneducated public, are printed in enormous numbers. Some are in romanized Indonesian now, but the majority are in Malay, Javanese or Sundanese with Arabic characters and seem to target, therefore, the periphery of the pesantren world, the people who have some knowledge of the Arabic script. These simple texts may be of greater influence in shaping popular religious attitudes than the more serious works studied in the pesantren.

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Appendix: The top 100 kitab kuning

Table I. Arabic grammar, tajwid, logic
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level sarf Kailani/Syarah Kailani 2 1 7 0 4 14 `ali Maqshud/Syarah Maqshud 0 1 2 3 5 11 Amtsilatut Tashrifiyah 0 0 0 3 4 7 tsanawi Bina’ 1 0 4 1 0 6 ibtida’i nahw Jurumiyah/Syarah Jurumiyah 3 1 8 9 16 37 tsanawi Imriti/Syarah Imriti 0 0 3 6 12 21 tsanawi Mutammimah 0 1 5 0 7 13 tsanawi Asymawi 0 0 1 0 2 3 Alfiyah 0 0 8 11 11 30 `ali Ibnu Aqil 1 0 0 3 10 14 `ali Dahlan Alfiyah 0 0 1 0 3 4 `ali Qathrun Nada 3 1 0 0 0 4 tsanawi Awamil 1 0 1 1 1 4 ibtida’i/tsanawi Qawaidul I`rab 0 0 0 1 2 3 tsanawi Nahwu Wadlih 0 0 0 2 3 5 tsanawi Qawaidul Lughat 0 0 0 2 2 4 balagha Jauharul Maknun 2 0 4 5 7 18 `ali Uqudul Juman 0 0 3 0 4 7 `ali tajwid Tuhfatul Athfal 0 0 1 1 4 6 tsanawi Hidayatus Shibyan 0 0 0 1 4 5 tsanawi mantiq Sullamul Munauraq 1 0 3 1 5 10 `ali Idlahul Mubham 2 0 1 1 3 7 `ali

Table II. Fiqh and usul al-fiqh
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level fiqh Fathul Muin 2 1 7 6 16 32 `ali Ianatut Thalibin 2 2 0 0 0 4 `ali Taqrib 2 0 6 5 7 20 tsanawi Fathul Qarib 2 1 4 7 9 23 `ali Kifayatul Akhyar 1 0 6 4 7 18 tsanawi/`ali Baijuri 1 0 1 0 1 3 Iqna’ 0 1 1 0 5 7 Minhajuth Thalibin 2 0 2 0 1 5 `ali Manhajuth Thullab 0 0 0 0 1 1 Fathul Wahhab 0 1 5 4 10 20 `ali Mahalli 4 1 1 2 1 9 `ali Minhajul Qawim 0 0 2 2 3 7 Safinah 1 0 6 7 7 21 tsanawi Kasyifatus Saja 0 0 1 0 3 4 Sullamut Taufiq/Syarah Sullam 0 1 5 2 13 21 tsanawi Tahrir 0 1 2 1 5 9 `ali Riyadlul Badiah 0 0 2 1 3 6 Sullamul Munajat 0 0 2 1 2 5 Uqudul Lujain 0 0 1 1 2 4 tsanawi Sittin/Syarah Sittin 0 1 2 0 0 3 Muhadzab 0 0 0 1 2 3 Bughyatul Mustarsyidin 0 0 1 0 2 3 Mabadi Fiqhiyah 0 0 1 2 5 8 tsanawi Fiqih Wadlih 0 0 0 1 3 4 tsanawi Sabilal Muhtadin 0 1 0 0 0 1 usul al-fiqh Waraqat/Syarhul Waraqat 2 1 6 1 2 12 `ali/khawass Lathaiful Isyarat 1 0 3 0 6 10 Jam`ul Jawami` 1 0 2 1 3 7 khawass Luma` 1 0 2 1 3 7 `ali/khawass Asybah wan Nadhair 0 0 1 0 4 5 khawass Bayan 0 0 1 0 2 3 tsanawi/`ali Bidayatul Mujtahid 0 0 2 0 0 1 khawass

Table III. Doctrine (usul al-din, tawhid)
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level tawhid Ummul Barahin 2 0 2 0 1 5 `ali Sanusi 2 0 3 3 3 11 tsanawi Dasuqi 0 1 1 0 5 7 `ali/khawass Syarqawi 1 1 0 0 1 3 Kifayatul Awam 4 1 2 2 8 17 tsanawi/`ali Tijanud Durari 1 0 5 2 3 11 tsanawi Aqidatul Awam 0 0 0 4 9 13 ibtida’i/tsanawi Nurudh Dhulam 0 1 1 0 1 3 tsanawi Jauharut Tauhid 1 0 3 2 1 7 tsanawi Tuhfatul Murid 0 1 0 0 2 3 tsanawi Fathul Majid 2 1 1 2 2 8 khawass Jawahirul Kalamiyah 0 0 1 3 5 9 tsanawi Husnul Hamidiyah 0 0 1 5 2 8 tsanawi Aqidatul Islamiyah 1 0 0 1 2 4 tsanawi

Table IV. Qur’anic exegesis
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level tafsir Jalalain 4 1 9 9 16 39 `ali Tafsirul Munir 0 1 3 2 5 11 `ali Tafsir Ibn Katsir 1 0 3 0 3 7 `ali Tafsir Baidlawi 1 0 1 2 0 4 `ali Jamiul Bayan (Tabari) 0 0 2 0 0 3 khawass Maraghi 0 0 2 1 0 3 `ali/khawass Tafsirul Manar 0 0 2 0 1 3 khawass Tafsir Dep. Agama 0 0 0 1 1 2 tsanawi `ilm tafsir Itqan 0 0 2 0 1 3 `ali Itmamud Dirayah 0 0 0 0 2 2

Table V. Hadith and the science of hadith
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level hadith Bulughul Maram 1 0 6 5 12 24 tsanawi Subulus Salam 1 1 0 0 1 3 Riyadlus Shalihin 1 0 7 6 9 23 `ali/khawass Shahih Bukhari 2 1 6 7 5 21 khawass Tajridush Sharih 0 0 1 1 4 6 `ali Jawahir Bukhari 1 0 0 1 2 6 Shahih Muslim/Syarah Muslim 1 0 7 2 7 17 khawass Arbain Nawawi 3 0 5 1 6 15 tsanawi Majalisus Saniyah 1 0 0 0 2 3 Durratun Nashihin 1 1 2 3 4 11 `ali Tanqihul Qaul 0 1 2 1 1 5 Mukhtarul Ahadits 1 0 2 0 2 5 tsanawi Ushfuriyah 0 1 0 0 2 3 `ilm dirayat al-hadith Baiquniyah/Syarah 2 0 2 1 2 7 tsanawi Minhatul Mughits 0 0 2 1 0 3 `ali

Table VI. Piety and appropriate behaviour (akhlaq, tarbiya) and Sufism (tasawwuf)
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level akhlaq Talimul Mutaallim 0 1 5 4 9 19 tsanawi Wasaya 0 0 1 6 2 9 ibtida’i/tsanawi Akhlaq lil Banat 0 0 1 1 2 4 tsanawi Akhlaq lil Banin 0 0 1 1 1 3 tsanawi Irsyadul Ibad 0 1 1 0 5 7 Nashaihul Ibad 0 0 2 0 4 6 `ali tasawwuf Ihya Ulumiddin 1 2 4 5 12 24 `ali Sairus Salikin 1 1 1 0 0 3 Bidayatul Hidayah 0 0 2 2 8 12 tsanawi Maraqil Ubudiyah 0 1 0 0 1 2 Hidayatus Salikin 1 0 1 0 0 2 Minhajul Abidin 0 3 3 1 3 10 Sirajut Thalibin 0 2 1 0 0 3 Hikam/Syarah Hikam 2 0 1 0 6 9 tsanawi/`ali Hidayatul Adzkiya 0 0 0 1 4 5 `ali Kifayatul Atqiya 0 1 0 0 1 2 Risalatul Muawanah 0 1 1 0 4 6 `ali Nashaihud Diniyah 0 0 1 0 3 4 Adzkar 0 1 1 0 1 3

Table VII. Life histories of the Prophet (sira) and works in praise of the Prophet
region: Sumatra KalSel JaBar JaTeng JaTim total number of pesantren 4 3 9 12 18 46 level tarikh Nurul Yaqin/Khulashah 2 1 2 3 2 19 tsanawi Barzanji 0 1 1 1 0 3 Dardir 0 1 1 0 1 3

[1]Earlier versions of this article were read and commented upon by Abdurrahman Wahid, G.W.J. Drewes, J. Noorduyn and Karel Steenbrink, and numerous others helped me with bits of information. They are not, of course, to be blamed for any mistakes or shortcomings.
[2]These books are kept together as a separate collection in the KITLV library in Leiden. Handlists of these book listed by author’s name, short title or popular appellation (as apart from the full title), subject matter and language have been prepared to give the user easy access and insight into the composition of this collection.
[3]The said agent of Dar al-Fikr has recently (early 1988) started reprinting a few titles in Indonesia as well, under the name of Dar al-Fikr Indonesia.
[4] See Snouck Hurgronje 1889: 386-7, where also a list of the first titles printed is given.
[5]Most of these verses are in Malay, but a few in Arabic, maintaining the pedestrian style of the Malay syair. An example is his verse to introduce the anonymous Malay translation of Ibn `Ata’illah’s Hikam:
Kitab inilah yang patut mengajinya * dan upamanya mas sudah diujinyadan upama pula makanan diidang * dan yang lain itu tudung sajinyadan upama pula buah buahan * isinya dan minyak dalam bijinyakerana iyalah yang menyampai kepada Tuhan * lagi besar pahalanya dan gajinyadan yang dapat ilmunya dan meamalkan * orang itulah sinar dan pujiansyurga itulah kediaman yang kekal * ilmu ini pintunya dan bajinyadan yang jahil dengandia api neraka * selar sangat tikamnya gergajinyaya rabbi kurniakan patuh engkau * bagi tiap tiap hamba mengajinya.
[6]Photomechanical reprints of this Bombay Qur’an are still published in large numbers (by Al-Ma`arif). Clearly legible with its large letters, its format still one of the most popular in the Indonesian book market.
[7]Mission and government-sponsored printing in Malay (of non-Islamic materials) had begun on a moderate scale, in Singapore as well as the Dutch Indies, before mid-century. In Singapore the Arabic script was used, in the Indies initially mostly the Latin alphabet. See Roff 1988: 44 and Hoffmann 1979, esp. pp. 76-89.
[8]On Sayyid Usman, see Snouck Hurgronje 1887b and 1894. Twelve of his numerous works (including the one reviewed in the latter article) are still available in recent reprints published in Jakarta and Surabaya.
[9]Von Dewall 1857. The author had from hearsay that there existed a second native press in Surabaya, but I have not yet seen this confirmed.
[10]See Roff 1980: 44-5; Hamidy 1983; Proudfoot 1986.
[11]Hamidy 1983, p. 69; Abdullah 1985, p. 3. On Zawawi, see Snouck Hurgronje 1889, p. 253.
[12]Yunus 1979, pp. 66-7 gives titles of textbooks written in the 1920s and 1930s by authors associated with Sumatera Thawalib. Several of those by Mahmud Yunus himself and Abdul Hamid Hakim are still used in madrasah all over Indonesia. A four-volume fiqh work in Arabic by the latter author, Al-mu`in al-mubin, was also translated in Malay and is still being used in Malaysia and southern Thailand.
[13]In this connection Schrieke 1921 mentions some ten books that were locally printed (at Dutch presses) in Padang, Fort De Cock (Bukittinggi) and Padang Panjang, and several journals. Other participants in the polemics published in Mecca and Cairo. During the 1920s and 1930s, more than 10 different Muslim publishers operated in various towns of West Sumatra (Sanusi Latief of Padang, personal communication).
[14]These paragraphs are based on interviews with the doyen of kitab publishing, Muhammad bin `Umar Bahartha (who founded in 1948 and still directs Al-Ma`arif of Bandung, the largest house), Usman bin Salim Nabhan of Surabaya, and several younger publishers.
[15]In the first half of the twentieth century, the Netherlands Indies government levied import duties on paper but not on printed books, which gave Singapore publisher Sulayman Mar`i an edge over his competitors established in the Indies. Indonesia now produces high-quality paper itself, and labour costs and overhead are very high in Singapore. Not only Al-Haramayn, but also the old house of Sulayman Mar`i was closed down in the early 1980s.
[16]Not to be confused with the Egyptian publisher of the same name, with which there are no formal relations.
[17]In Kelantan, the script commonly used is the Arabic not the Latin; it is therefore less easy to distinguish kitab from other books there.
[18]Detailed information on kitab published in Patani in Matheson and Hooker 1988.
[19]In some traditional pesantren in East Java, the santri “study” such manzum works by rhythmically reciting them together, to the accompaniment of tambourines and clapping hands – which has developed into a typically Muslim art form.
[20]This is in imitation of what the santri’s handwritten textbooks used to look like: having copied the Arabic text, they would listen to the kyai’s explanations and scribble their translations between the lines.
[21]On Dahlan see Snouck Hurgronje 1887, al-`Attas 1979, II, pp. 700-12; on Sayyid Bakri and his major work I`anat al-talibin, Snouck Hurgronje 1889, pp. 253, 259-60.
[22]On Nawawi Banten, see Snouck Hurgronje 1889, pp. 362-7; Chaidar 1978. Sarkis (1928) lists 38 printed works by Nawawi. On his major work, Al-tafsir al-munir, see Johns 1984 and 1988.
[23]A brief biographical sketch of Bajuri, who was shaykh al-islam of Cairo, in Snouck Hurgronje’s Verspreide Geschriften, vol. II, p. 417; an extensive discussion of his widely used work on fiqh in Snouck Hurgronje 1899.
[24]His biographer Abdullah (1987, pp. 45-6) mentions 38 works, several of which seem however to be lost.
[25]See Danuwijoto 1977. Most of Saleh’s major works (Danuwijoto lists 12) are out of print and could not be collected.
[26]K.H. Mahfudz has, among present-day kyai, the reputation of having been one of the most learned Javanese `ulama ever. He was the highly respected teacher of several of NU’s founding `ulama (including Hasyim Asy’ari). Little has been written about his life; there are short notices in `Abbas 1975: 460 and `Abd al-Jabbar 1385: 321-2.
[27]On Mahmud Yunus, who was the first Indonesian graduate of Egypt’s Dar al-`ulum and a passionate educationalist, see Abdullah 1971: 141-2, 151-4, 213-4, and Yunus 1979, passim.
[28]For the differences between these institutions of Islamic education, see Steenbrink 1974; remarks on the curriculum of both in Yunus 1979, passim.
[29]See Zarkasyi 1985 for a few examples.
[30]E.g. Departemen Agama 1977; Prasodjo et al. 1978: 51-68; Yunus 1979, passim; Zarkasyi 1985.
[31]Zuhri 1974, esp. pp. 30-43, and Zuhri 1987: 30-32, 95-105, 120-130.
[32]On West Javanese pesantren: notably Prasodjo et al.1978: 51-68; Amidjaja et al. 1985: 41-43; on Central and East Javanese pesantrens, there is a series of monographs prepared by the Research and Development Desk of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, prepared during the years 1980-1983.
[33] “Sikap dan pandangan hidup ulama Indonesia”, a LIPI-IPSK research project carried out in 1986-88. The present author took part in this project as a consultant for research methods.
[34]Riau and Palembang data are based on interviews with various local `ulama, those on Pariaman on interviews and observation in loco, all in the context of the said research project. Data on the PERTI curriculum are taken from Yunus 1979: 100.
[35]There are as yet few pondok pesantren in Kalimantan; they are a recent development, following the East Javanese example. The level of teaching is still relatively low. Before these pesantren existed, one studied privately with a teacher, using mainly Malay kitab (especially M. Arshad al-Banjari’s works).
[36]Almost all works mentioned by van den Berg are still in use and are among the more popular texts. Drewes, on the other hand, lists many titles that are not used now, and the books that are most frequently used now do not stand out among his list. In library collections, the relatively rare generally tends to be over-, the common under-represented (the rare appears, after all, much more worth collecting). Neither van den Berg nor Drewes mentions the Kailani and the Maqshud with their commentaries, the Amtsilah, and Bina, by Asymawi; Drewes mentions Dahlan’s work as a commentary on the Jurumiyah rather than the Alfiyah. Neither author mentions any work on balagha; it is unclear whether there are no manuscript works on the subject in the libraries or that Drewes does not consider this as part of grammar.
[37]I owe information on the curriculum of traditional Kurdish madrasa to my friends M.E. Bozarslan and M. Tayfun, both from northern Kurdistan, and Fadil Ahmad Karim from southern Kurdistan. Snouck Hurgronje (1883) describes a West Sumatran manuscript textbook containing, in order, a list of grammatical expressions, inflection tables, an untitled text that seems to be (part of) the Izzi, the Awamil and a commentary on the Jurumiyah (by Shaykh Khalid b. `Abdallah al-Azhari. The last work is still popular all over Sumatra, under the name of Syekh Khalid or Azhari, or by its proper title, Tamrin al-tullab.
[38]In several editions, the Bina and Izzi are printed together with other introductory works on sarf: Al-maqsud and Al-shafiya (by Jamal al-Din b. al-Hajib, d. 646/1249, see GAL I, 303-6), and two anonymous texts, Al-marah and Amthila mukhtalifa. All these texts are quite short: the entire collection is no more than 72 pages long.
[39]Van den Berg and Drewes give Ibn Hisham’s full name as [Abu] `Abdallah [Muhammad] b. Yusuf b. Hisham, but the title page of Indonesian editions of his work call him Jamal al-Din b. Hisham al-Ansari. Commentaries on this work available in Indonesia are Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Fakihi’s Mujid al-nida’ and Ahmad al-Sija’i’s hashiya upon the latter, with further glosses by Shams al-Din al-Anbabi.
[40]Not murawniq as Brockelmann (S II, 705) has it.
[41]Thus Shaykh Yasin bin `Isa al-Padani, mudir of the Indonesian madrasa Darul Ulum in Mecca (who was considered as the doyen of Indonesia’s traditional `ulama because of this position) in interview, 6-3-1988; similarly K.H. Sahal Mahfudz, Abdurrahman Wahid and other leading `ulama. These preferences are not the same among all Shafi`i Muslims; among the Kurds, for instance, Sharbini’s Mughni’l-muhtaj is the ultimate work of reference, besides the Minhaj itself.
[42]A very much abridged translation of the Tuhfa, in Javanese characters, was edited by S. Keijzer in 1853 and reprinted by Roorda (1874).
[43]According to knowledgeable Kurdish informants, Fath al-mu`in is the most popular textbook, and the extensive commentary on it, I`anat al-talibin, the most often used work of reference in the Kurdish madrasa.
[44]I found one Madurese and two different Javanese interlinear translations of the Safina, and two versified versions. Ahmad b. Siddiq of Lasem, Pasuruan (East Java) wrote the nazm version Tanwir al-hija’, of which a Madurese translation exists, and which received a further commentary by Muhammad `Ali b. Husayn al-Makki al-Maliki entitled Anarat al-duja’. Kyai Sahal Mahfudz of Kajen (Central Java) wrote a commentary Fayd al-haja’ on the other nazm version, Nayl al-raja’.
[45] As attested by Schrieke 1921: 298-300. The interest in usul fiqh was also fed by the emerging conviction that the gate of ijtihad was not necessarily closed and that taqlid is unworthy of the intellectually adult person.
[46]Brockelmann incorrectly compounds the latter two authors into one (GAL S I, 672 no.9).
[47]Translated into English in MacDonald 1903: 315-351.
[48]For a discussion of the contents of some texts of this kind, see Nor bin Ngah 1983: 13-18.
[49]Peter Riddell (1984) has shown that the Tarjuman (or at least those sections of it that he has studied) is not, as was taken for granted by both orientalists and many Muslims (including the Tarjuman’s publishers), an adaptation of Baydawi’s tafsir but largely a straightforward translation of that by the two Jalal, with interpolations taken from Baydawi and from Khazin.
[50]On these two tafsir see Jansen 1980. `Abduh’s tafsir, later completed by Rida, was an original work of modernist exegesis. Jansen call’s Maraghi’s work ‘an elaborate, complete, mainly philological Koran commentary […] a lucid but not original work’ (1980: 77).
[51]Critical comments on this work, especially because of the poverty of sources consulted, in Johns 1984: 158.
[52]It is perhaps significant that in Snouck Hurgronje’s Adviezen there is only one reference to hadith, which moreover does not concern Indonesia but Arabia.
[53]Djohan Effendi, “Tilikan singkat terhadap berbagai kumpulan hadits Nabi Muhammad”, paper presented at the seminar “Pandangan dan Sikap Hidup Ulama Indonesia”, LIPI, Jakarta, 24-25 February 1988.
[54]Cf. similar observations in Steenbrink 1974, p. 166.
[55]The journalist Syu’bah Asa published an Indonesian translation of this collection, intending it to show other Indonesians something of pesantren culture.
[56]Almost all Sufi anecdotes and sayings of great shaykhs that he quotes come down to the same moral of complete surrender to the teacher. Some of Yusuf’s works are summarized in Tudjimah CS 1987.
[57]Short summary of the contents in Abdullah 1980, 107-121; analysis in Mansur 1982.
[58]For a good survey, see Quzwain 1985, esp. 37-51.
[59]See, for instance, Panji Masyarakat no.556 (1-11-1987), pp. 50-51 and no. 562 (1-1-1988), pp. 71-2. A biographical notice on al-Haddad, by his editor Hasanayn M. Makhluf, in the preface of his Al-da`wa al-tamma (in the collection).
[60]Published by Mizan in Bandung (directed by al-Baqir’s son, Haidar Bagir), which also publishes the Iranian thinkers Shari`ati and Mutahhari and in general targets on a public of young, well educated and committed Muslims. A few minor texts by al-Haddad were brought out in Indonesian translation by other publishers.
[61]These include mawlid by Barzinji, `Azb, Diba`i, Jamal al-Din al-Jawzi, `Ali b. M. al-Habshi and Sayyid Usman, the Qasidat al-burda by Busiri, Isra’-mi`raj narrations by Najm al-Din Ghayti and by Da’ud b. `Abdallah al-Patani, and various commentaries and translations of these works (four different Javanese translations of the Barzanji alone).
[62]There exist also manaqib of Baha’ al-Din Naqshband, Muhammad [b. `Abd al-Karim] Samman and Ahmad al-Tijani, but their use is largely (though not entirely) restricted to the mystical orders associated with these shaykhs, whereas `Abd al-Qadir is almost universally venerated. Drewes & Poerbatjaraka 1938 is still the most important study of `Abd al-Qadir’s manaqib; the Hikayat Seh (based on Yafi`i’s Khulasat al-mafakhir) to which they devote most attention, is now, however, far surpassed in popularity by Barzinji’s Lujjayn al-dani and `Abd al-Qadir al-Arbili’s Tafrih al-khatir and commentaries on these two texts.
[63]See however Drewes & Poerbatjaraka 1938: 31-3, on the recitation of the Hikayat Seh in regional languages.
[64] Such popular tales on the life of the Prophet include well-known stories as Hikayat nur Muhammad, Nabi bercukur, Nabi wafat; the Hikayat Samman narrates miracles of Shaykh Samman.
[65]The collection contains no less than four different Javanese translations of the Barzanji. For a list of 20th century commentaries on and translations of the Barzanji and of a manaqib by the same author (not all represented in the collection) see van Bruinessen 1987: 48-9.

Dipublikasikan Oleh:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Pd
Pendidik di Malang


I mostly feel lucky to be a researcher on manuscripts (if I may to say as it), who graduated from madrasa and pesantren. Both, especially what is called as salaf pesantren, facilitate those who study there to be familiar with the exceedingly rich tradition of classical Islamic literatures and various Islamic living traditions, and of course educate them a reading skill of Arabic texts.

As the Arabic Archipelago’s manuscripts have been found in a huge number (look at here for an insight), in particular those relate to religious issues, the competence of this language will be highly functional to reveal the worth of knowledge kept within those manuscripts. Even the competence will help a philolog to read manuscripts written in any local languages, such as Malay, Javanese, Sundanese, Minangkabaunese, Acehnese, and others, for these languages typically use a modified Arabic script called Jawi or Pegon.

The composition of manuscripts stored in Ali Hasjmy’s collection in Banda Aceh could be a good example to show how large roughly the Arabic Indonesian manuscripts among the other categories of languages. As we discussed in our recently published catalogue, the 45 % of the manuscripts preserved here are in Arabic, 45 % of them are in Malay, and the rest (10 %) are in Acehnese. This is presumably a kind of composition of Indonesian religious manuscripts stretched in other regions in Indonesia.

Moreover, the experiences of learning classical Islamic literatures in madrasa and pesantren frequently make me easier to identify a non-complete manuscript in terms of classification, even title and authorship, something be usually tricky for those who are not familiar with the tradition and discourse of classical Islamic literatures.

In the case of Arabic grammatical (nahw and sarf) manuscripts, for instance, I repeatedly find some pages of spilled out anonym manuscripts, both in poem and prose form. Fortunately, I used to study, or even memorize, some kinds of those works, such as al-Ajurumiyya, Sarf al-Kaylani, Nazm al-Maqsud, and Alfiyya Ibn Malik. The later is a famous Arabic grammatical treatise composed in thousand-line poem by Jamal al-Din Ibn Malik (d.1274).

Another example, once a friend of mine, who was cataloguing manuscripts, found a fragmented only one page Arabic text, which, according to him, was too hard to identify. Then I tried to look at the page, and immediately recognized it as a prayer commonly recited by some Muslims in a night of Nisfu-Sha’ban, a Muslim festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month, Sha’ban, of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims believe that on this night, God decides who will be born, who will die and how much provision is set aside for each person in the coming year. The knowledge of this kind of Islamic living traditions is so familiar, especially for those who used to be in madrasa or pesantren.

What I suppose to say with the illustrations above? I am thinking about how to encourage those who have experienced in studying classical Islamic literatures, especially in madrasa and pesantren, and of course are interested to involve in this ‘world’, to dedicate their knowledge to do research on old manuscripts.

Currently, there are only few persons, who have these qualifications, interested to engage in this field, even though we actually have great and potential resources in madrasas, pesantrens, and in Islamic higher education institutions, such as Islamic State Universities (UIN, IAIN, and STAIN) excessively found in Indonesia. I have mentioned about this phenomena here.

I am indebted to my kyais, ustadhs, and colleagues in Pesantren Cipasung Singaparna, Pesantren Miftahul Huda, and Pesantren Haurkuning Salopa, all are in Tasikmalaya, West Java, who have transferred their valuable knowledge during my ‘adventures’ there in 1984 until 1988…Jazakumullah khair al-jaza.

The writer is researcher at the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) UIN Jakarta, and Chairperson of the Indonesian Association for Nusantara Manuscripts (Manassa).

Dipublikasikan Oleh:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Pd
Pendidik di Malang


Back five years ago in a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in the small city of Jombang, East Java, amidst a tranquil crack of dawn a congregation of male santris (students of pesantren) was performing their morning prayer in the mosque. While they were absorbed in the rituals, a Dutch Catholic priest who had spent the previous night at the pesantren was observing them from behind. Sitting cross-legged at the outer part of the mosque, he was attentively watching them perform the rituals and patiently waiting for a dialogue with some santris to be scheduled after the prayer. Later on that day, after a dialogue with santris, the priest had a warm, friendly conversation in the Arabic language with the kyai (leader of pesantren) on various religious and humanitarian issues. The Catholic priest, upon returning to his country, wrote that his stay at the pesantren and dialogues with the santris and kyai was one of the most beautiful moments in his life. He thanked the kyai and santris for their hospitality and warm welcome.

Three years later, the pesantren hosted a multi-religious delegation from a Norway-based inter-faith organization that came to Indonesia to see how religious pluralism is internalized and practiced here. The dialogue between the delegation and the santris was warm, open and sometimes filled with bursts of laughter. The santris enjoyed not only stories about far away life especially among its teenagers, but also the opportunity to practice their English. They had no prejudice at all to the delegation, moreover because one of them who happened to be the leader was a Norwegian Muslim lady with a headgear. The santris and the European guests exchanged views and perspectives on different topics especially relating to the lives of Muslims and Christians in Europe.

The above stories are just two ‘episodes’ in the activities of many pesantrens in Indonesia, including Jombang which is known as a city of thousand pesantrens. Countless Western and non-Muslim researchers and activists have visited and even lived in pesantren for different purposes. Some of them conducted anthropological studies using the popular method of participant observation; some others taught English, while others were interested in learning deeper about Islam. These direct encounters with ‘outsiders’ have been an invaluable experience for santris which has nurtured awareness and appreciation of differences and diversities. It is not surprising, therefore, that pesantrens in Indonesia have produced broad-minded and tolerant personalities and alumni such as Abdurrahman Wahid or Nurcholis Madjid, two out of quite a few Muslim intellectuals and scholars widely reputed for their integrity in religious pluralism.

When asked about religious justification on their openness to outsiders, including non-Muslims, some santris immediately referred to the Prophet Muhammad’s saying that whoever believes in God and in the hereafter, s/he has to respect her/his guest. This prophetic saying (hadith) is a strong religious basis for santris to be confident in respecting their non-Muslim guests. There is no limitation in this hadith as to whom the respect should be addressed in terms of religion, for example to Muslim guests only. The limitation applies in terms of time, which is three days. To a visitor of more than three days, the host is not obligated to give a special treatment.

Another santri refers to the teaching on brotherhood that is prevalent among members or followers of Nahdlatul Ulama or NU (Resurgence of Ulemas), the so-called largest Muslim organization in Indonesia. The teaching advocates three levels of brotherhood that need to be uplifted in pursuing peaceful coexistence of all humankind. First, is brotherhood among Muslims (ukhuwwah Islamiyah); second, is brotherhood among people of the same nation (ukhuwwah wathoniyah), and third, brotherhood among all human beings (ukhuwwah basyariyah) regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion and nationality.

The above illustration of tolerance and pluralism in pesantren might sound ‘awkward’ amongst the emerging stigmatization against pesantren in the aftermath of the JW Marriot bombing. The suicide bomber, Amsar, reportedly was an alumnus of a pesantren, the Al-Mukmin in Ngruki, which is led by the alleged cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. This association of pesantren with a suicide bomber can obviously ruin the image of moderate and tolerant santris in thousands of pesantrens who have demonstrated these traits as their built-in characters as illustrated in the examples above. From outside, judged from the names or physical appearance, these two types of pesantren may look alike. But in terms of teachings and moral values nurtured they are completely contradictory, just like night and day. In a pesantren like Ngruki, a dialogue with ‘the other’ (people with different interpretations of Islam or those who are non Muslim) would not be possible. These people are regarded as ‘kafir’ or infidels and there is no point in dialoguing with them. Their blood is even considered ‘halal,’ meaning that it is allowable to shed their blood. So, one should never make any generalization when talking about pesantren. There are thousands of moderate pesantrens, but there are radical pesantrens, as few as five according to Sidney Jones, that appear like, to borrow the term used by Bassam Tibi in his book The Challenge of Fundamentalism, ‘a horse of another colour.’

One unique characteristic of moderate pesantrens which has enabled them to produce tolerant and pluralistic people is their balance in teaching Islamic legal aspects (Fikih) and the spirituality (Sufism). This approach can be traced back to derive from the nine saints (wali songo) who spread Islam on the island of Java peacefully. This spirituality dimension is what probably missing in radical pesantrens, who prefer to stand in a binary position: right/wrong, halal/haram, me/the other, heaven/hell, etc. As a result, they produce people with an exclusionary stance who see the world as black and white and who lack the beauty and inner meaning of the religion: peace, tolerance, respect, love and care for others, and other esoteric and humanitarian traits.

This type of Islam is not typical Indonesian. Islam in Indonesia has been known as tolerant, pluralistic and adaptable to local cultures. But the last three decades have witnessed the growing phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism that tends to practice religious teachings in a rigid and exclusive way. Moderate pesantrens should be alert of this and enhance their teachings on pluralism to their santris.

From The Jakarta Post, 5 September 2003

Dipublikasikan Oleh:
M. Asrori Ardiansyah, M.Pd
Pendidik di Malang



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