The Metamorphosis of Pesantren

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  • Topic: Abdurrahman Wahid, Islam, Megawati Sukarnoputri
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  • Published : December 10, 2012
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THE METAMORPHOSIS OF PESANTREN:
Struggling with Pesantren Tradition, Local Culture, and Political Interest of Kyai

Marzuki Wahid
Fahmina Institute of Islamic Studies, Cirebon

I
Definition of pesantren, pesantrens may look uniform, but they are in fact immensely, they may appear conservative, but both quietly and openly, they are transforming themselves in accordance with the pulse of the times. Pesantrens are indeed unique and exclusive. In many ways, pesantrens present an ambidextrous face. They are a classical education institutions probably the most traditional in this country, they remain proud of their traditionalism and it is impossible to ignore the fact that they continue to survive and offer an alternative model of education. The pesantren leadership follows a traditional model that large extent depends on and makes use of the charisma of kyai. However, through its basis in classical Islamic literature, what we can see is that pesantrens display an extraordinarily high level of independence in what are very vast social relations. Indeed, in this respect, they exceed institutions that proclaim themselves to be independent in building social relations. Pesantrens can be read according to a number of aspects. They can be understood in their capacity as a system and institution of education, they can be categorized as a sub-culture of the santri community, they can be mapped as a mazhab, or school of traditional religious thinking, and they can be seen as an embodiment of the syncretism of Islam, which is universal. They wear these multidimensional faces will always be interesting and always significantly provide fresh discussions or evaluations. Aside from possessing specifications that are worthy of study, research and the creation of a discourse of self-determination, the basic values of pesantrens are also worthy of attention because they are naturally always in flow. This description emphasizes the fact that pesantrens are plural in character. One indicator of the plurality of pesantrens is the non-existence of uniform regulations related to management, administration, bureaucracy, structure, culture or curriculum, much less political alliances.

II
Martin van Bruinessen, a Dutch observer of pesantren and NU, argues that pesantrens possess important potential for the creation of civil society as a pillar of democratization in this country. Van Bruinessen still believes that traditional communities in developing countries. Pesantrens which are consistent in their tradition have access to a broad public sphere to carry out community empowerment, especially of oppressed and marginalized communities and those who do not benefit from the constellation that is the political in this country.

III
Pesantrens are have been recognized as playing an important and meaningful role in society. In their position as institutions for education of the people, as promoters of religious values and teachings and as advocates for the community, the role of pesantrens will always be valued positively and their strong self-preservation and self belief will allow them to weather the storms of modernism and nationalism. Although they must continually negotiate the ideologies of modernism and state interventionism, they can still display traditional colour and characteristics as non-governmental communities. However, the final role of pesantren that is they role in political arena requires separate consideration. On the political stage, which these days consumes enormous quantities of energy and concentration, the role and focus of pesantrens is far from clear. Pesantrens are soon identified as a “static culture”, a frozen culture of mechanical ritualism with no prophetic dynamic or social structural meaning within and outside itself. IV

In a general and simple portrait (one that is in many ways shameful to admit): a portrait of pesantren in this post-reformasi era it since reformasi, the political desire of the...
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