Posted by: Muhammad Wildan | 31 May 2010

Pondok Ngruki via-a-vis Modernity: A view from within

Muhammad Wildan[2]

Fundamentalisme Islam[3] bukanlah fenomena baru di dunia Muslim. Dalam konteks Indonesia, sejarah telah mencatat bahwa fundamentalisme Islam telah ada sejak pertama Muslim bersentuhan dengan budaya Barat, yaitu imperialisme Barat yang menggunakan bendera modernisasi. Sejarah mencatat bahwa mayoritas gerakan perlawanan (resistensi) terhadap imperialisme Barat di Indonesia (baca: modernisasi) dilakukan oleh umat Islam. Saat ini, bagi sejumlah umat Islam, modernitas lebih merupakan ancaman berat dan bukan tantangan yanag harus dihadapi. Oleh karena itu, tidak mengherankan bila masih banyak orang Islam yang menolak nilai-nilai modernitas seperti civil society, gender, pluralisme agama dll. Keterlibatan beberapa alumni Ngruki dalam gerakan-gerakan beberapa kasus radikalisme agama di Indonesia seperti bom Bali dan Marriot bagaikan old wine in a new bottle karena fenomena ini sudah ada sejak negara Indonesia ini berdiri, yaitu gerakan Darul Islam (DI/NII)-nya S.M. Kartosuwiryo. Dalam perspektif gerakan sosial, berbagai gerakan Islam radikal di Indonesia lebih merupakan kegagalan pemerintah dalam “menerjemahkan“ modernitas di Indonesia daripada sikap asli umat Islam. Modernitas ala Orde Baru telah mencabik-cabik struktur sosial dimana umat Islam merupakan bagian utuh daripadanya.

I believe that Pondok Ngruki has many and varied graduates. It seems still fresh in my mind when I studied some Islamic teachings at the same class with Fathurrahman Al-Ghozi[4] in the mid 1980s. I also still remember exactly the way how to go to Utomo Pamungkas’[5] house in Wertern part of Yogyakarta after we graduate our junior high school in 1986. I was jealous when they told me that they want to go to Pakistan after we completed our six-year study in this memorable boarding school. Some other graduates attended many diverse universities which would result different outcomes. I notice also several of the graduates continued their studies in Western countries. Regardless of the various universities we attended, however, we still have something in common; we hold Islamic values as taught by our teachers in the boarding school. Indeed, Ngruki has framed our mind to be good Muslims.

I do also believe that Ngruki had a problem in its relationship with the government especially during the New Order period. I do memorize well when, as a student of junior high school, I eagerly read Ar-Risalah[6] and other related books and brochures which mostly quite provocative and against the government policies. I still also remember when there are many military troops came to Ngruki in 1985 to seek (Alm.) Ust. Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’syir. But, they already fled to Malaysia. As far as I concerned, therefore, there are some incidents happened during the New Order period and afterwards in the form of Islamic radicalism which had to do with Ngruki, i.e., Usrah affairs (1985), Jamaah Islamiyah (2000s), Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI, 2000) etc.

Finally, I truly believe that all the above are simply phenomena from other immense and significant problem faced by our nation namely modernity. It means that the problems faced by people involved in these phenomena are also the problem faced by Indonesia nowadays. This paper is trying to elaborate some phenomena concerning to Islamic radicalism which has to do with Ngruki from the perspective of social movement. All the description I would explore in this paper is absolutely my recognition based on my own experiences and inquiry in the last few years.

Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia
Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia rooted since the first Indonesian Muslims’ encounter with Western values brought by Dutch colonialization, although in its minimum fashion. The rise and growth of various religious organizations as forms of indigenous resistances in many Muslim countries and especially in Indonesia at the end of 19th century also marked the beginning of Islamic fundamentalism. In other words, the spirit of Islam had been becoming the mainstream of Indonesian resistance against the West which ended with Indonesian’s independence in 1945. It is not surprising therefore, that Douglas E. Ramage asserts “the importance of Islamic contributions to the Indonesian independence struggle should not be overlooked” (Ramage, 1995: 15).

Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia, then, reached its peak in the form of rebellion of Darul Islam/Negara Islam Indonesia (DI/NII) led by S.M. Kartosuwirjo in 1949 when the founding fathers of this country neglected Muslims’ right wing political aspirations. The political effort of Kartosuwirjo was also supported by some other leading Muslim leaders such as Daud Beureueh in Aceh and also Kahar Mudzakar in South Sulawesi. On the political level, other Muslim fundamentalists such as M. Natsir and Amir Syarifuddin also took part in the political system and established Masyumi, the strongest Islamic party during the Old Order of Sukarno.

The DI/NII failure to overthrow the government and to get support from the society forced it to be an underground organization during the Old Order political system.[7] During the first 25 years of the New Order, the government tended to stick to the attitude of the Old Order political system which considered Muslims as obstacles of the state’s progress. The attitude of the state to Muslims ended with some hostilities either locally or nationally. The suspicious of the government to some Muslim communities and even named several of them as subversive did not slow down Muslims’ spirits. Even, the harder the government repress Muslims, the stronger they resist. Some incidents such as Komando Jihad (1970s), Woyla Hijacking (1981), Tanjung Priok massacre (1984), Teror Warman (1985), GPK Warsidi (1989) are among the result of the terrible relationship of Muslims and the state. Finally, the government issued the Asas Tunggal regulation to curb all Muslim’s powers. Finally, from that moment onwards the government tend to be more opened to Muslims and, on the other hand, Muslims also tend to cooperate with the government.[8] The fine relationship between Muslims and the state was marked by the establishment of Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim Indonesian (ICMI, Indonesian Intellectual Muslim Association) of B.J. Habibie in 1990.

In 1980s, however, the power of DI/NII weakened and split into several factions based on their own territories.[9] Among the factions is the group of Abdullah Sungkar (who together with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir as the founder of Pesantren Ngruki) which later known as the ex-leader of Jama’ah Islamiyah (JI).[10] Consequently, it can be asserted that Ngruki-base Islamic fundamentalism[11] is not the only Islamic fundamentalism movements in Indonesia which inherits the spirit of DI/NII; there are several other Islamic fundamentalism movements which prefer to make revolutionary (radical) changes rather than evolutionary one.

Nowadays, there are many Islamic fundamentalism movements in Indonesia. In general, they could be categorized into two types, traditional and moderate Islamic fundamentalism movement. I tend to assert that the traditional category of Islamic fundamentalism as social movement uses traditional method to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, the second category tends to employ moderate methods to accomplish their tasks. Some examples of the first category are Darul Islam, Jama’ah Islamiyah, Majelis Mujahidin, Front Pembela Islam, and Hizbut Tahrir whereas the second category is such as Partai Keadilan Sejahtera.

The phenomenon of Islamic radicalism related to Pondok Ngruki is quite different from Islamic fundamentalism movement in general. Although there are many graduates of Ngruki were involved in some Islamic radicalism in Indonesia in the last six years, Islamic radicalism is not the mainstream of Ngruki. I believe that most of Ngruki graduates could not answer clearly why their counterparts were involved in such radicalism. I tend to say that there are some internal people used Ngruki as their means to spread their beliefs. As far as I concerned and experienced, graduates of Ngruki have many things in common, i.e., Islamic teachings taught by our teachers (ustadz). Al-Ghozi, Pamungkas (Mubarok) and I spent almost the same years in Ngruki, and we graduate in the same year as well. I noticed that nothing special about them or me, although in the last 3 years we attended different units in the boarding school. I believe that it was higher education we attend which shape most of our minds.

Undeniably, however, that Islamic teachings taught in the boarding school is quite different from the school (madzhab) of Islamic teachings in Indonesia in general. We studied more on ideology and law verses rather than jurisprudence one. The notion of jihad was also widely discussed in many different occasions. For that reason, the graduates of Ngruki were well known of having stronger ideology rather than other pesantren’s graduates. From this point on, it is up to the graduates to “continue” their searching of identity. In other words, it is also up to any organizations or Islamic fundamentalism movements to involve them to their activities which may make up their minds. However, I believe that the politics and social circumstances also played a momentous role in making all those things possible. The attitude of Ngruki teachers and graduates can be viewed more as their resistance to the politics of the New Order rather than their own original attitude. As far as I concerned, most Ngruki graduates involved in some Islamic radicalism are graduates during the New Order period.

During the last six years, pondok Ngruki has been becoming a hot issue especially for journalists. Sidney John even released at least 3 huge reports about it, especially on the allegation of the involvement of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir in Al-Qaeda networks. Many scholars from various universities both in Indonesia and abroad also studied in-dept about this phenomenon. Some accusation that Ngruki is a nest of terrorists and bombers maker has been spreading widely. However, the aspiration of the society to send their children to this very boarding school does not decrease.

To address more on Islamic fundamentalism movement, I’d rather assert that each Islamic fundamentalism organization has its own belief which may distinct from the others. In general, however, most Islamic fundamentalism belief views something in limited perspectives, rather than in many different angles. Several Islamic fundamentalism movements do not acknowledge the government as a legitimate one. Rather, they want to establish their “own world”, an Islamic State. Since they see recent condition in Indonesia as da>r al-harb (war state), they regard everything as hala>l (allowed). This explanation addresses the question why they always tend to destroy the existing order such as robbery, bombing etc. Meanwhile, other Islamic fundamentalism movements such as Hizbut Tahrir (HT) and Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) have different views and attitude upon the government. Although HT shares common view with Jama’ah Islamiyah (JI) upon the existing government, it does not consider the recent condition of Indonesia as da>r al- harb. Different from the other Islamic fundamentalism organizations, PKS accepts the existing political system and even it involved itself in it.

Islamic Fundamentalism vis-à-vis Modernity
In the perspective of social movement, the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism can be viewed as symptom of social resistance. According to many social movement theories such as relative deprivation theory, a social movement could emerge due to social changes which influence the social structure of a society. The social changes were as the result of globalization and modernization. Globalized world as a result of modern technology has shrunk the world into a global village. The rapid mainstream of information and technology has marginalized the role of religion in the society. Conventional Islamic preaching no longer could restrain the mainstream of modernization from the West. Among the influence of modernization and globalization is the widely spread of secularism as a part of gazwul fikri. Finally, the social structure changed in unprecedented and unnecessary directions.

Unnecessary changes in society could raise social discontent and then incite the rise of a social movement. The emergence of several of Islamic radicalism most recently were could be categorized as part of social movements in the society. In Islamic fundamentalism perspectives, modernization is viewed as an immense threat for Muslims since it is not only a concept but it is a social process which produces social products. Traditional and Islamic values is being marginalized, swept out, and even replaced by Western values. The confrontation of Islamic fundamentalism to modernization also due to the fact that modernization has many disadvantages such as violence, terrorism, free sex, and various new diseases such as HIV, SARS, avian flu etc. Therefore, Islamic fundamentalism resists changes completed by modernization and generates a social movement namely Islamic radicalism to offer a new order of life.

In the view of Islamic fundamentalism, modernization and also globalization are considered as Westernization, even McDonalization. The hegemonic power of the West allows them to introduce any regulation which would enable them to gain much benefit for themselves. In turn, the Western political hegemony in the world order is believed that is has exceeded human rights such as the invasion of Palestine and Iraq. Therefore, Muslim fundamentalists regard their radical attitude as a way to fight against another terrorist (the West) as Imam Samudra has composed Aku Melawan Teroris (2004). Since it is difficult to fight against the unlimited and enormous power of the West, some Muslim fundamentalists found that such Bali bombings is a way to attack the West and considered this action as martyr. The powerless of Muslim fundamentalists has compelled them to do at least any small things to make any trivial changes on the world order or at least to show to the hegemonic power of the West that Islam also has a power.[12]

Although it is difficult to conclude that Islamic fundamentalism is anti-modernization since to some extend Islam also obtained some benefits of it, it is also difficult to unite modern values without eliminating/marginalizing traditional (religious) values. Besides, it is also based on the belief among Islamic fundamentalists that (1) Islam has a concept to establish an ideal (Islamic) society; (2) the ideal society could only be achieved by Islam (Awwas, 2001). In turn, the above convictions made Islamic fundamentalists believe that other concepts came along with modernization are not good for Muslims.[13] Finally, they reject other ideas such as civil society, democracy, pluralism, gender equity etc.

Modernization is only one way of changes of the world. Therefore, according to Islamic perspective, changes are necessity, sunnatullah. Although modernization has many disadvantages, many Muslims could take the benefits of modernization by filtering the good out of the evil one. No one could escape from and reject changes in the society since modernization is not an optional. In this case, I disagree with Oliver Roy’s statement saying that “Islam cannot escape the New Age of religions or choose the form of its own modernity”. Indeed, since modernization has been becoming an integral part of life, it is not necessary for Muslims to avoid modernization. Instead, modernization can be considered as a challenge for Muslims to sustain and enhance their ways of preaching. The task of Muslims is how to alter and shift the changes to meet their needs. According to Mamdani, there should be such kind of culture talk to meet pre-modern (traditional and religious values) and modern culture (Mamdani, 2004). Therefore, I believe that Indonesian Muslims could choose their own type modernity, i.e., modernity with local and religious values.

On the other hand, it is the task of the government to “translate” modernity into Indonesian context; to adapt does not mean to adopt. It is not necessary for the government to keep the way how the New Order has treated Indonesian Muslims. History recorded that such oppressed attitude would even counterproductive. Beside political aspects which likely to produce some radical movements, there are some other factors which contribute to such radicalism such as religious diversity, education, and economics. In my view religious diversity should be considered as challenge and even blessing (rahmah). The introduction of the term SARA (Suku, Ras, Agama dan Golongan/Ethnicity, Race, Religion, and Group) tend to ovoid any talk and discussion concerning to the above issues which even evoked the rise of social conflicts. Since the touchy issues were not well-discussed among the communities, the problem was not address yet. Rather, it lies on the heart of society and becomes a timer-bomb which sometimes could explode if something triggers it. Consequently, the current political system, should promote more on the issue, not only external but also internal religious diversity.

Education and economic status also played a significant role in developing the way how the society think and behave. Records confirmed that most activists of any social radicalism including Islamic fundamentalism are from decent family with low level educational background. Indeed, I do not want to simply conclude that poverty and low level educational background would incite the rise of social radicalism, but I tend to assert that poverty and uneducated society would bring them in a very vulnerable situation. Eventually, it would give them more chance to be influenced by others especially by religious rewards such as jihad and martyrdom. It is such kind of short cut to alter their way of life to the better one. Undeniably, it is the task of the government to make all those things possible.

Therefore, Islamic fundamentalism movements should learn from other Islamic fundamentalism movements on how they should interact with modernity. The social changes made by modernity should not be countered with radicalism and violence. Rather, the threat of modernization could be responded positively, such as to organize the way how they preach Islam in more modern and sophisticated ways. If modernity is regarded and responded positively, I do believe that modernization would not mean Westernization or even McDonalisation.

In my view, to struggle in politics is also a good means to achieve the goals of Muslims. The involvement of Muslims in politics such as PKS party would influence the development of the country in the near future. For me, radicalism in the form of violence would not offer any advantages for Islam, except the bad image of Islam, even worse. Indeed, there are many Western people studying Islam after 9/11 attack, but they tend to start from the bad sides of Islam. I believe, if there is no such kind of Islamic radicalisms many people would be attracted not only to study Islam, but also to convert to Islam.[14] Nowadays, when Islam has many various stigmas, Muslims all over the world should present the very nature of Islam, a good image of Islam, i.e., Islam as rahmatan li al-‘alamin (kindness for all mankind). Wallahu a’lamu bissawab.

Abas, Nasir, Membongkar JI: Pengakuan Mantan Anggota JI. Jakarta, 2005.
Abduh, Umar, Pesantren Al-Zaitun Sesat?: Investasi Mega Proyek dalam Gerakan NII. Jakarta: Darul Falah, 2001/1422 H).
Awwas, Irfan S. (ed.), Mengenal Majelis Mujahidin: Untuk Penegakan Syariah Islam. Yogyakarta: Markaz Pusat Majelis Mujahidin, 2001.
Awwas, Irfan S., Perjalanan Hukum di Indonesia, (Yogyakarta: Ar-Risalah, 1982).
Chaidar, Al, Pemikiran Politik Proklamator Negara Islam Indonesia S.M. Kartosoewirjo: Fakta dan Data Sejarah Darul Islam. Jakarta: Darul Falah, 1999.
Chaidar, Al, Sepak Terjang KW IX: Abu Toto Syekh AS Gumilang Menyelewengkan NKA-NII Pasca SM Kartosuwirjo. Jakarta: Madani Press, 2000.
Dijk, C. Van, Darul Islam: Sebuah Pemberontakan. Jakarta: Gramedia, 1989.
Effendy, Bahtiar, Islam and the State: The Transformation of Islamic Political Ideas and Practices in Indonesia. (Michigan: UMI Dissertation Services, 1994).
Karim, M. Rusli, Dinamika Islam di Indonesia: Suatu Tinjauan Sosial dan Politik. (Yogyakarta: Hanindita, 1985).
Mamdani, Mahmood, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold war, and the Roots of Terror. Malaysia: Forum Publication, 2004.
Nursalim, Muh, Faksi Abdullah Sungkar dalam Gerakan NII Era Orde Baru. (Thesis at the Magister Program of Islamic Studies in Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta, 2001)
Roy, Oliver, Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah. London: Hurst & Company: 2004. Santosa, June Chandra, Modernization, Utopia and the Rise of Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia, (Dissertation in Boston University, 1996).
Tapol, Indonesia: Muslims on Trial, London: Tapol, 1987.

[1] The paper is presented at the Ngruki International Conference conducted by IKAPPIM on 20-22 January 2006 in Solo.
[2] The writer is a graduate of Ngruki in 1989. Currently is a lecturer at The State Islamic University (UIN) of Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. After having accomplished MA in Leiden University in 1999, he is now is pursuing PhD at National University of Malaysia (UKM).
[3] Although the term is Western-made, I tend to use this term since it is already common term used by either Western or Muslim scholars to categorize the various social movements in Muslim societies.
[4] He was dead-shot in 2003 in his escape from the prison in the Philippine.
[5] Well known as Mubarok, he was in life-sentenced due to his involvement in Bali bombing I.
[6] The tabloid was published by activists of Sudirman mosque in Kolombo Yogyakarta. Due to its severe critics of this bulletin to the government, the periodical was banned. The periodical resurfaced again as Al-Ikhwan, but in 1985, the periodical which had its circulation about 20.000 was banned by the New Order government. June Chandra Santosa, Modernization, Utopia and the Rise of Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia, (Dissertation in Boston University, 1996), p. 453.
[7] Further, see Dijk, C. Van, Darul Islam: Sebuah Pemberontakan. Jakarta: Gramedia, 1989.
[8] Further on this issue, see Bahtiar Effendy, Islam and the State: The Transformation of Islamic Political Ideas and Practices in Indonesia. (Michigan: UMI Dissertation Services, 1994); M. Rusli Karim, Dinamika Islam di Indonesia: Suatu Tinjauan Sosial dan Politik. (Yogyakarta: Hanindita, 1985).
[9] Further on this issue see Chaidar, Al, Sepak Terjang KW IX: Abu Toto Syekh AS Gumilang Menyelewengkan NKA-NII Pasca SM Kartosuwirjo. Jakarta: Madani Press, 2000.
[10] Further, see Nursalim, Muh, Faksi Abdullah Sungkar dalam Gerakan NII Era Orde Baru. (Thesis pada Program Magister Islamic Studies di Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta, 2001)
[11] I tend to use this tem since the phenomena of Islamic radicalism related to Ngruki is different from Pondok Ngruki as an educational institutional. Sidney John tends to name it as the Ngruki networks.
[12] A fundamentalist Muslim asserts that Bali bombings are such kind of turhibuna bihi ‘aduwallah wa ‘aduwwakum.
[13] June Chandra Santosa, Modernization, Utopia and the Rise of Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia, (Dissertation in Boston University, 1996), hlm. 17.
[14] Rasulullah has given a good example during fath al-Makkah. Consequently, many infidels convers to Islam as stated in QS. Al-Nashr (110): 2.


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