Monday, August 15, 2011

Jihad, ‘pesantren’ and terrorist encounters

The Jakarta Post recently reported that the bombing in Umar bin Khattab Islamic boarding school (pesantren) in Sonolo, near the West Nusa Tenggara town of Bima, was related to Umar Patek, a wanted terrorist suspect arrested in Pakistan (The Jakarta Post, July 25, 2011).

Bima came to the police’s attention late last June, when a 16-year-old student was arrested for allegedly stabbing a policeman to death. The police believe the young boy was a member of an Islamic militant group and that the boy insisted he killed the officer as a reprisal for the police manhunt for jihadists.

This pesantren became increasingly notorious following an explosion occurred on July 11, that left one man dead. According to the minister of religious affairs, this pesantren, founded in 2004, is exclusive and is not yet regarded as a type of pesantren (, 07/3/2011).

Pesantren teachers do teach their pupils (santri) about jihad (bab al-jihaad), but only in a moderate way. Jihad is the Arabic word for what can be variously translated as “struggle”, “effort”, “strive”, “exert” or “fight”, depending on the context. The root of the word jihad is juhd which means “effort”. Another related word is ijtihad which means “working hard or diligently”.

Contrary to common interpretations, the word jihad does not necessarily imply any violent effort, let alone “war” (harb) or “killing” (qital) and such instances of extreme violence. It is a general term, and jihad can mean violent as well as peaceful action, depending on the context in which it is used.

There is no command to murder or massacre as far as jihad is concerned. There is not one word in the Holy Koran to justify murder or massacre under any circumstances whatsoever (Al Baqarah 2:11-12). Therefore, the entire Muslim community all the over the world should condemn brutal murder.

Umar Patek and his followers have been abusing the meaning of jihad by referring to it as a holy war, whereby Muslims unreasonably kill non-believers.

As a result, some Muslims have begun to adopt this misleading meaning of jihad. The use of pesantren in further disseminating this misleading meaning of jihad has further discredited Islam as a whole.

Pesantren through their association and brotherhood (e.g., Rabithah Ma’ahid al Islamiyyah, the association of pesantren) should emphasize that acts of terrorism against innocent civilians, whether through aggression or suicidal means, is under no circumstances permissible in Islam. Terrorism is fasad (mischief) and against the teachings of Islam.

The presence of pesantren in Indonesia is worth mentioning in the spread of well-equipped graduates of the Islamic principles throughout the country. Such traditional Islamic boarding schools are also seen as cultural brokers, to quote the late former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, in the sense that pesantren have been playing a vital role in incorporating local culture as an effective tool in the dissemination of Islamic teachings among local peoples.

Pesantren aim to deepen the knowledge of the Koran, particularly through the study of Arabic, traditions of exegesis and the traditions of the Prophet (Sunnah). These institutions emphasize the core values of sincerity, simplicity, individual autonomy, solidarity and self-control.

Indonesia is home to more than 14,000 pesantren, the majority of which teach a moderate understanding of Islam. Only five pesantren are closely linked to terror group Jamaah Islamiah (JI) of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. These are al-Mukmin in Ngruki, Sukohardjo in Central Java, Al-Multaquien in Jepara, Central Java, Dar-us-Syahadh in Boyolali, Central Java and al-Islam in Lamongan in East Java (Sharif Shuja – Terrorism Monitor April 2005 of The Jamestown Foundation).

The alleged link between Umar bin Khattab pesantren in Bima to Umar Patek has put Indonesian pesantren under the microscope and public suspicion.

Pesantren are traditionally owned by a number of Muslim organizations, the most popular and the largest one being Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). According to local statistics, the number of pesantren in Bima municipality now stands at 19, with 108 clerics (kyai) and 2.828 students (santri), while in neighboring Bima regency there are 44 pesantren with 823 kyai and 4,945 santri. Most of the pesantren in Bima fall under NU auspices.

Considering the crucial role of pesantren in Indonesia, a continuous effort to combat the infiltration of Muslim militancy and suicide bombers into the Islamic boarding schools should top the priority of the NU and other Muslim organizations. At the same time, these Muslim organizations should work side by side with the government (i.e., Religious Affairs Ministry) in disseminating moderate interpretations of jihad.

Previously, pesantren were reluctant to cooperate with the government for fear of losing their traditional curricula. But now they should act, or else everything will be too late. Clerics and Muslim leaders in Indonesia have to openly condemn acts of terrorism and suicide bombings as being un-Islamic. Such heinous acts have never been taught in Islamic literatures or at pesantren.

Muhammad Adlin Sila, Canberra researcher at the Religious Affairs Ministry Research and Development Body, and is a doctoral degree candidate in anthropology at the Australian National University, Canberra.

No comments:

Post a Comment