The Role of Pesantren Buntet - Buntet Pesantren The Role of Pesantren Buntet - Buntet Pesantren
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    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    The Role of Pesantren Buntet



    To demonstrate how pesantren in
    Cirebon have evolved and functioned in the transmission role, I shall
    present in the following section, the case of Pesantren Buntet.[27] Scholarly work devoted to study this pesantren, historically or otherwise is
     scanty. Siddique (1977:120–123) touches upon it only briefly when
    she takes Pesantren Buntet as a ready example to support her argument.



    Despite the fact that the political significance has disappeared, the
    symbolic universe of Sunan Gunung Jati is still maintained by his
    descendant groups through organisational structure especially the
    kraton and a number of pesantren and tarekat (Sufi
    orders). Siddique suggests that the fact that there are many pesantren and tarekat (Sufi
    orders), not only in Cirebon but also in West Java, led by the descendants
    of Sunan Gunung Jati who have prestige as a result of being descendants of
    Sunan Gunung Jati, clearly substantiates this tradition.[28]

    The work which fully recounts the story of Pesantren Buntet is Zaini
    Hasan's study (1970), which comes with an historical account giving
    information about the chronological development of the pesantren since it was built until around the end
    of 1960s.[29] Another study is Amidjaja, R., et al (1985), which is a
    survey study on the life of the santri
    and which, along with providing the background of pesantren in general and Pesantren Buntet in
    particular, gives special emphasis to presenting quantitative
    illustrations about santri who studied
    there around 1984, with such details as their home origin, socio-economic
    and parental background, the santri's
     attitudes in relation to their daily routine of the pesantren life.[30] Still another one is that by Hisjam Mansur, a staff member
    of the pesantren from 1958 to 1975. In
    this work Mansur provides both scriptural and ethical reasons for the
    haul (commemorating the death of the
    founder of the pesantren) annually held
    at the pesantren.



    Then he proceeds to
    present biographical accounts of the kyai who led the pesantren and the institutional development of
    the pesantren. By and large Mansur's
    historical narration tells about the same thing discussed by Zaini
    Hasan.[31] My subsequent discussion on this pesantren relies on these works, together with my
    own field notes from a short stay at this pesantren between July and September 1992 and
    various visits before and after the stay.

    The location and setting

    ‘Pesantren Buntet’ is located at ‘Buntet Pesantren’ (Blok Manis),
    the northern part of Desa Mertapada
    Kulon, District of (Kecamatan)
    Astanajapura, about 14 km south-eastern of the city of Cirebon.[32] Access to this 127.43 hectares desa is possible by taking a bus or mini bus
    from Cirebon to Ciledug via Sindanglaut. The pesantren complex is only 700 metres from the
    Cirebon-Ciledug main road where the Desa Office lies.


    The complex is
    connected with the main road by a paved road (jalan desa). Becak and passenger motor-bikes (ojeg) are available, ready to transport both
    visitors and residents going in and out of the pesantren complex, day and night. Their
    terminal lies at the junction where the desa and the Cirebon-Ciledug main  roads
    meet. In 1992, nearly one third of the 3890 desa inhabitants (excluding the santri) made their living as labourers; the
    rest were engaged in trades, clerical work, agriculture, and crafts.
    Within the pesantren complex itself,
    there are both kyai and non-kyai families. The majority are the
    kyai families who are of either the
    sohibul wilayah (the rightful
    pesantren leadership) or keluarga biasa (common family who have no
    rights to leadership).[33]


    Some of the minority non-kyai families are indigenous people who
    were already there at the time when the pesantren was founded, some others are
    immigrants. Some non-kyai families
    are pager sari, (literally meaning
    ‘fence of the core’) who work in the service of a kyai or the pesantren. Some pager
    descendants still retain their patronage from the
    present kyai, some others live
    independently. As the mobility of the population is high their life
    style is urbanised. Some private and public telephones are available,
    possession of motor bike, radio and television sets is quite common,
    there are some parabolic antennas, including some of the kyai's possessions in the pesantren complex.


    Although there is no wall
    which separates the pesantren from
    the rest of the village, two rivers, Kali Kanci at the north and west,
    and Kali Ciwado at the east, form buffers against unexpected security
    disturbances rather than separating the complex from the entire village
    life. Over Kali Ciwado there is a permanent stone bridge providing a
    crossing for pedestrians and vehicles going in and out of the pesantren complex. For security purposes, heavy
    trucks and coaches are not allowed to pass over the bridge.


    The main buildings within the pesantren complex are a two storey main
    santri-dormitory (pondok), and an antique public mosque
    (masjid jami’) equipped with a high
    capacity water pump provided by General Benny Murdani in 1987, upon
    which  the mosque and pondok
    rely for their water supply.[34]


    This main pondok
    accommodates 150 santri, mostly the
    seniors. The other buildings are five madrasah buildings with a book shop and a
    cooperative, and a two storey building used for the pesantren office and the small pesantren library. Those buildings are
    maximally utilised all day long with two shifts of schooling. The first
    shift is from 7.30 a.m through 12.30 p.m, the other from 1.00 p.m
    through 6.00 p.m. All these buildings stand around a wide multipurpose
    square, used as a play ground, as a parking ground, for ceremonial
    undertakings, and for other activities.


    Table 7.1: Number of Students/Santri at Buntet (1992)

    School/Madrasah Student
    Kindergarten 63
    Ibtidaiyah (boys)
    Ibtidaiyah (girls)
    Tsanawiyah (Mts: boys)
    Tsanawiyah (MTS: girls
    Aliyah (MA: boys)
    Aliyah (MA: girls)
    State owned ‘Aliyah (MAN)
    Dirosah Diniyah (boys)
    Dirosah Diniyah (Girls)
    Other santri 1706[a]
    Total 4197

    [a] Includes those who go to public school, mature
    santri who work while
    studying, university students and santri kalong (bat

    Map of Desa Mertapada Kulon Kec. Astanajapura Kab.

    Map of Desa Mertapada Kulon Kec. Astanajapura Kab. Cirebon


    Junior santri are required to
    stay at the many pondok scattered
    throughout the pesantren complex
    owned by the kyai. There are
    currently no less than 40 kyai houses
    with their annexed pondok each of
    which provides accommodation for between 50 to 200 male or female
    santri separately. In 1992 there were
    4760 santri, about 120 of whom were
    santri kalong (literally meaning ‘bat
    santri’, who came to the pesantren only at night).


    Most of them are
    involved in one or a combination of learning activities: ngaji Qur'an (Qur'anic learning), ngaji kitab (religious texts studies) and
    sekolah (going to public
    school/madrasah). Ngaji Qur'an was handled by 64 kyai and nyai (female kyai) whereas ngaji
    was handled by 70 kyai and nyai. The madrasah school system involved 183
    teachers, male and female, about 40 per cent of whom are on government
    subsidy. Except kindergarten the madrasah education in Buntet is
    non-co-educational where boys and girls study separately.
    Cross-pondok ngaji” especially ngaji kitab is common practice in which a
    student staying at a pondok goes to
    another pondok to study certain
    kitab with another kyai.


    Because most santri are
    outsiders, the revenue produced by the pesantren from the incoming cash, in turn,
    helps animate the market economy of the district. With few exceptions,
    in 1992 each santri spends at least
    around Rp.30,000.00 (about A$ 20.00) a month for food and other daily
    necessities.[36] This means, the pesantren injects no less than Rp.
    120,000,000.00 (about A$ 80,000.00) cash into the local region each
    month which, by local standards, is a substantial contribution to the
    district market economy.


    Administration and Leadership

    The overall educational activity throughout the pesantren is coordinated by the Lembaga Pendidikan Islam (LPI) or Islamic
    Educational Board. The LPI consists of  a Majelis Syuriah (Steering Assembly) and
    Majelis Tanfidziyah (Executive
    Assembly). The former is headed by Sesepuh (elder), Pengasuh (Counsellor) and Anggota (Members of Executive Board). The
    latter is headed by a Chairman, three vice-chairmen, a Secretary
    General, two other secretaries, a Treasurer and some assistants. Crucial
    to this organisational structure is the appointment of the Sesepuh, the spiritual leader and symbol of the
    unity for the whole pesantren.


    Acknowledging the pesantren's
    possessions such as lands, buildings and equipments have come from
    various sources, no one in the pesantren is entitled to claim any individual
    rights of ownership over the pesantren. It is envisaged that the pesantren will become a public trust (amanah) and adopt the principle of so-called
    “trustee leadership” (kepemimpinan


    The leader bears a community trust that is to be
    passed on hereditarily from the Sesepuh along the male line to his oldest son.
    If, under certain circumstances, it cannot be achieved because the
    Sesepuh has no son, or the son is
    still an infant, for example, or unable to carry out the function for
    any other reasons, a Sesepuh pemangku
    (caretaker) is appointed by consensus among the ‘sohibul wilayah’ (rightful individuals for the
    pesantren leadership), the male
    descendants of the founders of the pesantren along the male line (see figure 7.1).

    Figure 7.1: Genealogy of Sesepuh and Sohibul Wilayah

    Figure 7.1: Genealogy of Sesepuh and Sohibul Wilayah


    When Kyai Mutta'ad (number 3) led the pesantren, all his sons from both wives
    automatically became the sohibul
    . His oldest son born by the first wife, Kyai Barwi
    (number 4) however, married out and stayed in East Java, whereas the
    second oldest, Kyai Soleh Zamzami (number 5) established a new pesantren at Benda Kerep. When Kyai Mutta'ad
    passed away, Kyai Abdul Jamil (number 6) took the leadership as he was
    the oldest son staying at Buntet because Abdul Jamil's elder brothers,
    Kyai Sulaeman (number 7) and another brother, died earlier preceding
    Kyai Mutta'ad.

    In the next generation, upon the death of Kyai Abdul Jamil, the
    sohibul wilayah were his sons from
    his two wives (numbers 12 through 16), Kyai Abdul Jamil's  brothers
    (numbers 7 through 11) who were still alive and their grown up sons. The
    pesantren leadership in this
    generation, however, fell onto Kyai Abbas (number 13) because he was
    Kyai Abdul Jamil's oldest son (born by the second wife). The above
    principle follows upon Kyai Abbas death whence Kyai Mustahdi (number 17)
    took the leadership. Upon Kyai Mustahdi's passing away, Kyai Mustamid
    was appointed sesepuh pemangku and
    then, after Kyai Mustamid passed away, Kyai Abdullah Abbas (Ki Dulah)
    became the sesepuh pemangku.[37] Abbas Sobih (number 21), son of Kyai Mustahdi, shall
    retake the position of sesepuh after
    Ki Dulah.

    The trustee leadership principle adopted in Buntet, according to
    Kyai Fu'ad Hasyim, finds its root in the Prophetic era, which is
    especially exemplified by the tradition of key bearer of the Ka'bah in Mecca.[38] When the Prophet defeated Mecca and wished to enter the
    Ka'bah, the key was held by ‘Utsman
    bin Thalhah, a Meccan unbeliever. The Prophet asked Ali to take over the
    key from ‘Utsman but the latter refused to pass it on to Ali. ‘Utsman
    argued that by any means he was obliged to keep his traditional right as
    the key bearer which, since Abraham, was supposed to be passed on
    hereditarily from one generation to the next.


    A quarrel between ‘Utsman
    and Ali was unavoidable. When the argumentation was going on, a verse of
    the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet saying: “God commands you to hand
    back your trust to their rightful owners and, when you pass judgement
    among men, you are to judge with fairness” (QS 4:58). After having this
    revelation the Prophet approached the quarrelling parties to stop the
    argument and the Prophet said: “‘Utsman, keep the key with you for an
    undecided duration.” On hearing the  Prophet's words, which to him
    were unthinkable, ‘Utsman's heart was so touched by surprise and
    astonishment, that as his tears fell ‘Utsman embraced Islam.[39]

    The principle of sohibul
    as practiced in Buntet therefore, does not include
    female descendants and their heirs into leadership account. This,
    according to my informants in Buntet, is because in theory, upon
    marriage, women are taken  by and under the auspice and
    responsibility of their husbands, whereas their descendants inherit
    their father's heirs.



    Adobted from the Book

    The Islamic Traditions of

    Ibadat and Adat Among Javanese Muslims


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