The Role of Pesantren Buntet

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The Role of Pesantren Buntet

Rabu, 25 Juni 2008



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