Sejumlah santri mengaji kitab kuning di pelataran halaman Pondok Pesantren Lirboyo, Kediri, Jawa Timur, Rabu (2/7). Ratusan santri kilat (santri tak menetap) dari berbagai daerah menghabiskan waktu satu bulan selama Ramadhan di Ponpes Lirboyo untuk mengaji Kitab Kuning (Kitab Salaf). ANTARA FOTO/Rudi Mulya/mes/ss/14

PCINU Maroko~ The word santri in Indonesia was famous since the 14th century. It appeared when Islam massively was developing in Indonesia. The word santri comes from cantrik which means the man who study religion in particular place. On the other hand, the place santri use to study is called pesantren which has three components, kiai (the abbot), mosque, and santri. Santri as the one of components of pesantren (monastery), have been playing fundamental role for civilization development in Indonesia. Their contribution through education and autonomy in every dimension, for instance in trade, agricultural, and agribusiness, was set as an example in the society. The existence of pesantren and santri in some region, however, do not erase the origin of tradition and culture in social order, even after santri advance to high government postions. It is because religion doctrins in the hand of santri does not make a new custom or replace tradition with a new one in the name of Islam.

At the same time, the world is going forth and times never go back which means santri have to face challenge of modernism. Modernism brings challenges, threats and opportunities to make a better life for human nowadays. Knowledge in modern time develops very fast. Information is spread everywhere with the help of the internet. In this case, santri need to flap wings using whether their mind, thought or feeling, to contribute to the people of the world. Santri can’t keep silent with their classical religion books and become passive people in the era of globalization.

Ibn ‘Arabi in his magnum opus al-Futuhatu al-Makiyyah said that, if you want to know the greatness of God, you have to look for 3 steps of knowledge, logic (‘ilmu ‘aql), astronomy (‘ilmu al-ahwal), and sacraments sciences (‘ulumu al-asrar) (‘Arabi, 2002: 163). It means cognition can’t stop only in religions field, because sanctuary of God is waiting to be explored and discovered. Moreover, santri is being demanded to possess many abilities in many different field of sciences. In this subject, santri still have three primary issues that must be done in the era of modernism; challenges from the West, threats from fundamentalism, and keeping faith with tradition.

Challenges from the West

Before we go to the West, it is now necessary to turn toward the Islamic world, particulary Islam in Indonesia. Islam in Indonesia is providing many issues from the advent of modernism and secularism which are also affecting many aspects in social behavior. In addition, pesantren as guardian of the faith in Indonesia is divided into two catagories; traditional (salaf), and modern custom. Despite the fact that there are plus and minus between them, all of pesantren deal with economic, politic, technology, industry, and natural science issues which were waiting to be addressed concretely.

It is true that the spirituality is connected with intense piety, and faith continues to be manifested throughout daily prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, and psalmody al-Qur’an. Notwithstanding, human being needs more than spirituality dimensions. They need education, development in their economy and sustenance quality in their life, yet it was impossible to rely only in government’s charity or help to achieve all of this. Science is the key of all of problems in this case, as Sayyidina ‘Ali said man arada dunya fa’alaihi bil’ilmi, wa man aradal akhirat fa’alaihi bil’ilmi, wa man aradahuma ma’an fa’alaihi bil’ilmi ‘Who wants the world, it can be reach by science, who wants the hereafter, it can be reach by science, and who wants both of them together, it can be reach by science too’. Science has many kinds of branches and usages, and as a man we can explore it whether it comes from East or West. All of the science belongs to God.

The West civilization has been influencing the entire world since post World War II. It was normal because the winner of the war is the creator of history of the world. The biggest impact was in economic sector that was linked to political and cultural issues such as industrial revolutions in many countries. It affected in capital system and exploitation in natural resources. However, this era was the beginning of renaissance in the West. Science evolved through research, experiment and observation which were being supported by the government. The West, therefore, became the central of science of the world, although some claimed that the West’s work was based on the East science or Islamic science. But even if those claimed were true, it means that Islam could not expand their own sciences and still could not keep the glory of it. The West can develop and spread it, and God is still in his mercy (ar-Rahman). From literature until medicine and technology field, the West is more distinguished than other parts of the world.

With this objection, santri have to be open-minded and learn more science as far as they can for the sake of humanity. All of science belong to God, so there are no West or East science. Challenges from the West must be used to improve our ability to compete in the globalization era. In my opinion, the most strategic position to empower and evolve sciencesis is the position of santri. It’s because santri have social bond and religious accomplishments which not only rise heart’s desire to reestabilish livelihood in society level, but also have piety and moral impact in every step that they have taken. Finally, the modern world is like a flower whose petals and husk are withering away and failing apart, while its golden kernel is becoming ever more manifest, recalling the perfection of that flower as it existed primordially and as it will be in the dawn that is to come.

Threats from Fundamentalism

Only during the past few decades, a new phenomenon of fundamentalism has been appearing in the Islamic world in Indonesia. Indonesia has two great social institutions, NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) and Muhamadiyah. Both of them have the same affair in fundamentalism, because it is spread through preaching people in the mosque and approaching young students in university’s organization. Fundamentalism in Indonesia was transmitted by JI (Jama’ahIslamiyah) and HTI (HizbutTahrir Indonesia), said Zuhairi Misrawi. These two organizations advance their doctrines in mosques and universities, since they cannot enter pesantren NU because it has its own teaching. Nonetheless, Din Syamsudin said that 1 percent of pesantren Muhamadiyah teaches radicalism (Schulze in Hansen, 2009: 64).

Indonesia does not have fundamentalism background in any historical or cultural affair. Fundamentalism came from the outside, and yet it has a lot of followers. This movement is threatening Islamic community and nations, because it does not respect national ideology and even wants to make an Islamic country in Indonesia using abstract concepts and systems. In addition, the government is not seriously addressing this matter. Instead of responding to this issue, the government stays silent until the violence is over. The same tension and conflict observed in the domain of ideas and treated as mentioned earlier can also be seen after bomb tragedy in several regions in Indonesia.

What transformation has overcome contemporary Muslim, and who is responsible for the prevailing fundamentalism in this case? Perhaps, such question should not be directed to contemporary Muslim, but only to the small number of Muslim who learn about religion (santri). Santri have to embrace not just grassroots but also academic to provide doctrine and improve experience to be the people of the world. Their understanding about religion and national ideology needs to be spread widely in every element in social dimension. Santri should not bea bashful figure to show coexistence between religion and national ideology in the aim of baldatun thayyibatun wa rabbun ghafur ‘the great country which is in God forgiveness’. To sum up, pesantren NU and Muhamadiyah also have to equate agenda not just in dogmatic field, but also in economic sector which is to cover human-based needs including protecting people from fundamentalism. People need the existence of santri in every way they step forward, and that is our responsbility to walk together with God’s mercy.

Keeping Faith with Tradition

Tradition needs to be described generally now precisely because of the onslaught of modernism and more recently the appearance upon the scene of that caricature of tradition called “fundamentalism”. Tradition, therefore, is like a tree: the roots of which are sunk through revelation in the Divine Nature and the trunk and branches of which were grown over the ages. At the heart of the tree of tradition resides religion, and the sap of this tree consist of that grace, or barakah, that, originating with the revelation makes possible the continuity of the life of the tree (Nasr, 2010: 3-4).

Tradition implies the sacred, the perennial wisdom as well as the continuous application of its immutable principles to various conditions of space and time (Nasr, 2010: 4). There is always a room for tradition believers in Indonesian society. As mentioned earlier, santri make tradition and culture exist together. Santri traditions include ngaji sorogan and bandongan (in learning doctrine religion), tahlilan and maulidan (in several ceremonies), wearing sarung and peci (in cultural behavior), trade and iuran (in economic sector), and pilgrimage (in sacramental field). They keep those traditions continuously for centuries, while the entire world changes.

Although santri preserve their customs, they have doctrine of al-muhafazatu ‘ala al-qadimi ash-shalih wa al-akhdhu bi al-jadidi al-ashlah ‘preserve old good tradition and take new tradition which is better than before’, so they are not strict in the process to express their faith. Yet, santri have not been following that doctrine completely. Some of them still have antipathy with western idea. Ultimately, it is not easy to keep carrying tradition in the middle of modernity and globalization, while the world needs to change.


Santri is a social entity which everyone live, eat and work with society, even becoming soul keeper of mind and faith of member of the society. It demands of moving forward to empower civilization and to face globalization. They have to take all of sciences that God give to a man, as in KH. Abdurahman Wahid (Gus Dur) poetry told, duh bolo konco prio wanito, ojo mung ngaji syari’at bloko, gur pinter dongeng, nulis lan moco, tembe mburine bakal sengsoro ‘O guys man and women, don’t just learn syari’at, you only can tell story, write and read, and you will have regrets someday’. If santri just take religious science without learning anything else, they can’t be decision makers and would always stand back without making a great decision. However, santri are playing a fundamental role to create a great system in economics, politics, culture, and even in education for the next generation.

Fundamentalism has always existed in almost all civilizations and religions. Moreover, religious institutions and government have to stick together to decline fundamentalism in the name of national harmony. In this field, santri have a duty to grasp every element of society and government to make a condusive and save enviroment for public interest. Again, santri are demanded to become open-minded character to contribute in ghazwu al-fikr (war of thought) not just in one belief but in other sects and faiths to make effort of understanding ideas. It is easy to convince someone in one faith, but it would be extraordinary to make someone believe or at least respect each other with reasonable reasons in several ideologies and faiths.

Tradition and culture disable person from annihilating their identity as human with nation and religious symbol. However, it should not be expressed in a stiff approach because we do not live in the past and everyone has a right to make their own decisions. After all, there is a verse of poetry from Sayyidina ‘Ali: Wa ma talaba al-ma’isyah bi at-tamanni, wa lakin alqi dalwaka fi ad-dila’i. Taji’ka bi mil’iha yauman wa yauman. Taji’ka bi ham’atin wa qalili ma’i. Wa la taq’ud ‘ala kulli at-tamanni. Tahilu ‘ala al-muqaddari wa al-qada’i, (Farhat, 1995: 19) ‘Seeking for livelihood is not with daydream,but throw your bucket in the well. Sometime your bucket full of water, and sometime your bucket full of mud and little water. You shouldn’t sit by your daydream, and hope that your condition is decided by God’s Will. To sum up, santri have to seek unfinished enlighten in this world. Santri are also part of Indonesian soul. In this domain more than in all others, one can best conclude with the traditional Islamic dictum that God knows best. Wallahu a’lam bi muradih.

‘Arabi, Ibn. al-Futuhatu al-Makiyyah. 2002. Daru al-Fikr: Beirut, Lebanon.
Arkoun, Mohammed. The Unthought In Contemporary Islamic Thought. 2002. Saqi Books: London.
Dakhil, Muhammad ‘Ali. 2001. ‘Asyratu al-Afin Hikmah li al-Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Beirut: Darul Murtada.
Farhat, Yusuf. 1995. Diwan al-Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib. Beirut: Daru al-Kitab al-‘Arabiyyi.
Hansen, Stig Jarle. The Border of Islam. 2009. Oxford University Press: England.
Nasr, Hossein. Islam In The Modern World. 2010. Harper One: United State of America.


Penulis: M. Laudza’i Wafa, Mahasiswa S2 di Al-Akhwayn University Ifrane.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *