Religious Transmission - Buntet Pesantren Religious Transmission - Buntet Pesantren
  • Latest News

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Religious Transmission


    Before discussing the main issue, I feel that it is necessary to
    touch upon the general features of religious transmission in Cirebon. In
    general terms this transmission follows the same tradition of religious
    education which occurs among the Javanese at large. As Dhofier
    (1985:18–24) has sketched, every Javanese is  taught and formally
    utters the confession of faith (syahadat) at least once in his life time, that
    is, at marriage. In most cases however, the confession of faith among the
    Javanese is conveyed to the child as soon as he is born.


    In Cirebon, as
    well as in other parts of Java, when a mother is giving birth the father
    waits outside the room just in front of the door. Soon after the new baby
    is born, even before it is cleaned, the midwife (dukun bayi) puts the baby on a round bamboo tray
    called tampa, symbolising that its
    presence amongst the family is ditampa
    (meaning being accepted with warmth and welcome) as his presence really
    means adding to the number of potential believers. Immediately the midwife
    calls the father to enter the room to utter the adzan and iqamat (calls for prayer containing the
    confession of faith) at the baby's right and left ears respectively. When
    the father is unable to do so someone else, or the midwife herself, will
    do it, witnessed by both the father and the mother. This means that the
    first sound the child has ever heard in this world is the confession of
    the faith.[17]

    Although the formal utterance of the confession of faith comes
    later, that is at circumcision for a boy and at marriage for both boy and
    girl, the child undergoes both informal and formal religious education
    during his infancy. The informal education is attained through observation
    of and participation in the day to day village life of which, religious
    activities of both adat and ibadat are essential parts. Meanwhile in Cirebon,
    there are at least three forms of formal religious instruction known to
    the villagers: ngaji, mesantren and
    sekolah madrasah. The intensity of both
    informal and formal education of the village children, however, depends
    very much on the parents' knowledge of and commitment to religious

    Plate 30: Two Qur'anic learners at "khataman" ceremony to mark
    the completion of the whole Qur'an.

    Plate 30: Two Qur'anic learners at "khataman" ceremony to mark the completion of the whole Qur'an.

    Plate 31: Demonstrating the recital of the Qur'an.

    Plate 31: Demonstrating the recital of the Qur'an.


    One form of formal instruction almost everyone in Cirebon has
    experienced is ngaji (Qur'anic
    learning). It is a learning process carried on in the household when a
    child is around six years old. At this age the parents begin to teach
    their children to memorise step by step the short surah of the Holy Qur'an, and the incantations
    to be uttered in daily prayers. This is usually carried out in the
    evening after sunset prayer. When the parents are unable to do the
    teaching by themselves they send or let the children go to a
    neighbouring household, a tajug
    (prayer house) or the mosque, where such teaching (ngaji) is held.


    The instruction is basically on an individual basis in which the
    teacher first recites the short surah
    verse by verse and the child repeats again and again until he grasps it
    by memory. The recital is presented in melodious format so that the
    memorisation is made easier and more convenient. At this stage, neither
    meaning nor understanding of the material is introduced, probably
    because it is considered unnecessary as the main objective of this early
    instruction is to give the child an acquaintance with and a basic
    ability to conform to the minimum requirements for being a good Muslim,
    especially to be able to perform daily prayers or at least to follow
    congregational prayers. As all incantations uttered in prayers must be
    performed without reading any text, the memorisation is therefore
    crucial. Sometimes, accompanying this instruction, rules of conduct and
    other religious or ethical dimensions are also added through chants and
    story telling (dongeng) given by the
    teacher (ustadz). The story may be of
    a real occurrence or fictitious. In many cases, it is taken from a
    segment or an episode in the life story of the Messengers, Sufi, or other exemplary figures.


    At around seven years the child is taught the Arabic alphabet and,
    also step by step, to read the Holy Qur'an. The reading lesson usually
    starts from the first Surah of the
    Holy Qur'an (al-Fatihah) of the first juz (division), then jumps to the last
     (30th) juz. This procedure is
    taken partly because this juz
    contains short Surah (QS 78–114) and
    also because most of the Surah of
    this juz are frequently recited in
    the prescribed prayers. Learning this 30th juz proceeds in the reverse direction, from the
    shortest surah (QS 114) which
    consists of only a few short verses to the longer ones (QS 78). This
    procedure allows the child to gain an easy and gradual mastery. The
    standard text for this initial learning is called Turutan (literally meaning ‘something to


    This text is available in local book shops, containing
    elementary materials for learning to read the Arabic letters, al-Fatihah
    and Surah 114 through Surah 78 of the Holy Qur'an. The completion of
    this text is marked by a minor khataman (completion ceremony) in the form of
    syukuran or slametan. A du'a is uttered at this occasion and food is
    served. A bigger khataman is held
    upon the completion of the whole Qur'an. Further learning moves from
    Qur'an to Kitab (religious texts)
    dealing with jurisprudence (pekih or
    fiqh), theology (tauhid) and ethics (akhlaq, part of tasawuf). The kitab learned at ngaji varies considerably from village to
    village and from individual to individual, but the most commonly used
    are Safinah and Sullam at-Taufiq by Imam Nawawi of Banten,
    which contains a blend of jurisprudence, theology and ethics.


    As there is no binding rule, ngaji in the village is not so effective. The
    proportion of ‘drop-outs’ is high. Only a few children who follow from
    the start proceed consistently to the completion of a certain kitab; many of them do not even
    complete the Turutan. Some factors
    which contribute to this are that older children are busy with their
    school work, some teaching sessions are short-lived as the teachers are
    volunteers, and in addition, especially since the second half of the
    1960s, there has been the intrusion of television into village life.
    Quite often, children are tempted to watch an entertaining program on
    the television rather than going to the place where the Qur'anic
    teaching is held. When a child quits and drops out from ngaji however, it does not necessarily mean
    that his religious education in  the village terminates. Religion
    is still taught in public schools; informal education by observation and
    participation in the village religious activities is an unavoidable
    process because it is part of the village life. Parents who can afford
    to and who are more concerned with bettering their children's religious
    education prefer to send them to pesantren, while some others are satisfied with
    sending them to the nearby madrasah.



    The local term mesantren is
    synonymous with nyantri meaning ‘to
    go to,’ or ‘to learn in’ pesantren
    whose purpose is to become santri.[18] A young girl or boy who goes to a pesantren gets special treatment from the
    parents. For example, I found in Plered, a group of three boys and two
    girls with their suitcases going by becak being escorted by a mass of people
    walking behind them for a distance of seven kilometres from their
    village to the railway station. The escorting people were walking not
    because there was no means of transportation but they intentionally did
    this to express honour to the children going to pesantren.[19] The boys and girls were primary school graduates, who for
    the first time were leaving their village for Yogyakarta to start
    learning at Pesantren Krapyak.


    Pesantren in Indonesia are
    officially classified by The Ministry of Religious Affairs, into four
    types, A, B, C and D. Type-A is that which retains the most traditional
    characteristics where the students (santri) stay in a boarding house
     (pondok) around the kiyai’s house; there is no set curriculum and
    thus the kyai holds full authority
    over the teaching-learning process including the type and depth of the
    offered subject matter. The method of teaching is typically
    ‘traditional,’ relying on the sorogan
    (individualised instruction) and the bandungan (collective learning) methods. In
    either one the santri sits around the
    kyai who reads, translates and
    explains his lessons, which are repeated or followed by his students.
    The lessons consist only of religious subjects and Arabic language,
    usually taken from or using classical religious texts. Type-B pesantren includes those which, besides
    offering the traditional instructions in classical texts with sorogan and bandungan, have madrasah (modern religious schools) where both
    religion and secular subjects are taught.


    The madrasah has a curriculum of its own or adopts
    the curriculum set by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Type-C is a
    pesantren which, along with providing
    religious education of a type-B model with both traditional instruction
    (sorogan and bandungan) and madrasah system, has also an ordinary public
    school administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture such as a
    Primary (SD) and Secondary (SMP and SMA). Thus, a type-C pesantren is a
    type-B plus public school. Finally, a type-D pesantren is that which provides only boarding
    accommodation to students. These students go to either madrasah or public schools somewhere outside
    this boarding complex. No formal instruction is given in this type of
    pesantren. The function of the
    kyai is only as a counsellor and
    spiritual guide to create a religious atmosphere at the

    Currently, according to the statistical records issued by the
    Regional Office of Religious Affairs, there are 133 pesantren in the Regency (Kabupaten) and 7 in the city (Kotamadya) of Cirebon. Following the above
    classification there are 54 type-A's, 68 type-B's 16, type-C's and none
    of type-D. Three of the pesantren
    were  established in the 18th century, five in the 19th and the
    rest are of the 20th century stock. Thus, pesantren education in Cirebon has evolved for
    no less than two centuries.


    Sekolah Madrasah

    In Cirebonese vernacular, the word sekolah (which literally means ‘school’), can
    either be a verb or a noun. Used as a verb it means to go to school; as
    a noun it means the type of schooling (primary, secondary, general,
    vocational, state owned, private owned, etc). To refer to a school
    building, the word is sekolahan or
    sekolan. Thus, sekolah SD and SMP means respectively going to
    primary school (Sekolah Dasar) and
    Junior High School (Sekolah Menengah
    ), whereas sekolahan or sekolan SD means the primary school building.
    The term sekolah madrasah therefore,
    refers to going to Madrasah (modern
    religious school), which can either be madrasah
    (which gives religious subjects) or public madrasah where both secular and religious
    subjects are given. Each type of madrasah consists of three levels, the primary
    (six years), junior secondary (three years) and senior secondary (three


    The three levels of madrasah
    are called Awaliyah,
    and ‘Ulya, whereas
    the three levels of public madrasah
    are called Ibtidaiyah, Tsanawiyah and
    Aliyah. The proportion for the
    secular and religious subjects in public madrasah varies from one madrasah to another but the Ministry of
    Religious Affairs sets a standard of 70 per cent secular and 30 per cent
    religious subjects. Any private madrasah wishing to follow the Ministry's
    accreditation should prove that it has fully adopted this standard. The
    students of a standard madrasah are
    entitled to sit for the national examination and those who pass this
    examination receive the state issued certificate. This leads to an
    easier way to continue their education within the  educational
    system and finally to attend an IAIN (The State Institute of Islamic


    According to the 1990 official record, throughout the Kabupaten and Kotamadya Cirebon, there are 373 Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (MI) accommodating 66,504
    students, 51 Madrasah Tsanawiyah
    accommodating 9543 students and 20 Madrasah
    accommodating 5466 students. Most of them follow the
    curriculum set by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.[22] Only 21 of the schools are Madrasah Diniyah, one of which is Madrasah
    “Budi Tresna” whose song was cited early in this Chapter.


    At present, madrasah undeniably
    play an important role in the transmission of religious knowledge both
    in the urban and rural areas. Their presence in the Islamic educational
    arena in Indonesia, especially on Java, has involved a long and complex
    process, but certainly, the madrasah
    system is quite a recent (20th century) development.[23] Madrasah, however,
    stands as complementary to and not as a substitute for the older form of
    religious learning institute, the pesantren. Along with the development of
    madrasah, some pesantren may have disappeared but some others
    have flourished. Although there has been a changing attitude and more
    and more people rely on madrasah,
    people do not expect too much from it beyond the  acquirement of a
    basic knowledge of religion.[24]


    Until now it is the pesantren rather than the madrasah that is considered to be the real
    place for acquiring advanced knowledge of religion especially when the
    student intends to ‘know religious rules’ (kanggo ngerti ning hukum). The people regard
    the expected result from going to madrasah, without learning at pesantren, is only fair (lumayan), a little better than not knowing
    anything at all (tenimbang bli ngerti babar
    ).[25] Thus, although madrasah
    is important, its depth and intellectual level are considered inferior
    to the pesantren. Even among the IAIN
    graduates, those who have prior pesantren education have more potential depth
    in their religious knowledge and understanding compared to those who do
    not.[26] Institutionally too, madrasah are also said to be the offspring of


    In the next section I wish
    to concentrate my discussion on the role of pesantren in the transmission of religious



    Adobted from the Book

    The Islamic Traditions of

    Ibadat and Adat Among Javanese Muslims


    • Blogger Comments
    • Facebook Comments


    Post a Comment

    Item Reviewed: Religious Transmission Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
    Scroll to Top