This paper categorizes Muslim beliefs and practices in postcolonial Indonesia— santri-abangan-priyayi , traditionalist-modernist, political-cultural, fundamentalist-liberal, great-little tradition, and global-local—and argues that, far from being fixed, they must be situated in context. Such a typology must consider contingency, diversity, and complexity, shaped by various factors. The terms santri and abangan are useful to identify fractions of the Muslim population in Java, but are not relevant in other islands. Santri , originally the students in religious schools pesantren , now encompasses the wider category of the pious Muslims, whereas abangan refers to nominal Muslims. The two groups have a dynamic relationship, including its politicization in contemporary Indonesia.

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This paper categorizes Muslim beliefs and practices in postcolonial Indonesia— santri-abangan-priyayi , traditionalist-modernist, political-cultural, fundamentalist-liberal, great-little tradition, and global-local—and argues that, far from being fixed, they must be situated in context.

Such a typology must consider contingency, diversity, and complexity, shaped by various factors. The terms santri and abangan are useful to identify fractions of the Muslim population in Java, but are not relevant in other islands.

Santri , originally the students in religious schools pesantren , now encompasses the wider category of the pious Muslims, whereas abangan refers to nominal Muslims. The two groups have a dynamic relationship, including its politicization in contemporary Indonesia.

The traditionalist vs. The political vs. The fundamentalist vs. The contrast of the great vs. Finally, the contrast of local vs. In these works, however, there is still a tendency to categorize Muslim beliefs and practices using terminologies that might not be used by Muslims themselves, or that have been used universally rather than contingently.

I argue that, while these categories and terminologies have been accepted and incorporated by some Muslim scholars and some segments of the ordinary people into their academic and conversational language in postcolonial Indonesia, they need to be understood as dynamic and contingent. The categories that I discuss are santri-abangan-priyayi , traditionalist vs. Geertz intended to demonstrate the complexity, depth, and richness of Javanese spiritual life, although his categorization was in several ways problematic Geertz 7.

He developed three sub-variants, or sub-traditions, within the general Javanese religious system: abangan , santri , and priyayi. Abangan was more closely associated with the Javanese village and santri with the commercial world, although there are some santri elements in the village; priyayi was linked to the court or bureaucracy.

Religiously, abangan were more animistic and santri more Islamic, whereas priyayi were more Hinduistic. Geertz claimed that these categories were not constructed types, but terms and divisions that the Javanese themselves applied ibid. According to Geertz, the core practice of abangan is the slametan , the communal feast, which symbolizes the social unity of the participants. The feast is held in various occasions, such as birth, circumcision, marriage, and death ibid.

The Javanese people celebrate Islamic holy days, but there are additional calendrical, village-level, and intermittent slametan ibid. Slametan is also held to protect the participants against the spirits ibid.

Belief in spirits provides them with a set of ready-made answers to the questions raised by unanswerable experiences. The abangan may also be involved in curing, sorcery, and magic ibid. The difference is that abangan has slametan by combining different cultural elements, whereas santri does it in simpler and more substantive ways. But even this difference is fluid and changing because some santri sometimes join in slametan held by abangan.

Geertz observed that, toward the middle of the nineteenth century, the isolation of Indonesian Muslims from Islamic centers in the Middle East began to recede.

This new interaction with the center of Islam contributed to the development of local orthodox learning. As a result, rural Islamic schools and mosques became centers of orthodox learning, and those who lived in this orthodox environment were called santri. This orthodoxy of the village is of the old santri santri kolot. It was in towns that merchant ethics, nationalism, and Islamic modernism combined to produce a greater militancy. The santri , he wrote, are more concerned about Islamic doctrine, especially its moral and social interpretation.

Urban santri are different from rural santri. In the countryside, the doctrinal aspect is less marked: there the santri ethics remain closer to the abangan. But rural santri , said Geertz, are different from the abangan in their self-declared religious superiority and their insistence that Islam is doctrinal. The abangan are fairly indifferent to doctrine, but are concerned about ritual details, while remaining tolerant toward different religious beliefs.

Another difference, said Geertz, lies in social organization. For the santri , religious organizations are important, as they view the sense of community ummat as primary, while the abangan are more focused on the household, the family.

Santri seek to apply Islamic law through organizations, primarily four types of social institutions: political parties, religious schools, the Ministry of Religion, and more informal congregational organizations ibid.

The conservative tends to be less concerned with the purity of his Islam and more willing to grant non-Islamic rites at least a minor place within the religious sphere, whereas the modern tends to be concerned with a purity of Islam. The conservative tends to rely on the detailed scholastic learning in traditional religious commentaries, whereas the modern tends to be pragmatic and rely on the general reference to the Koran and the Prophetic tradition Hadith ibid.

However, to essentialize that the kolot is always totalistic in his or her theology whereas the moderen is always theologically narrow is not fully true. In fact, the moderen believed that Islam is a total way of life even more than the kolot , and that secular science should be part of the Islamic worldview, which the kolot does not always believe.

In various ways, the moderen could be theologically more totalistic than the kolot. Geertz ignored the important dimension dividing the santri into moderen and kolot , that is, some of the ritualistic beliefs and practices that they considered as contested khilafiyya because they are merely branches furuiyyah rather than roots ushul of the religion.

So, one may wonder whether the kolot-moderen categories were as crucial as Geertz had believed during the time of his fieldwork. In addition, Geertz did not see the prevalence of interpenetration between Muslim groups in these ritualistic matters. Some religious organizations and schools of the santri often combined traditional kolot and modern elements. In other cases, the so-called moderen practiced the same rituals that the kolot did, and vice versa. Geertz also overlooked the religious practices of the Indonesian communities of Arab descent and of the followers of the tarekat Sufi orders.

Nonetheless, the abangan tradition serves to define the basic social interrelationships of the land-bound peasantry, whereas the priyayi live in the towns.

As aristocrats, they see themselves as superior to the non- priyayi because of wealth, lifestyle or, most importantly, descent. They conceive of life in terms of hierarchy, power, and privilege. The priyayi have three major foci of religious life: etiquette, art, and mystical practice. In terms of etiquette, the priyayi use the refined alus Javanese language, and tend to be indirect and avoid conflict. In terms of arts, they have the shadow puppet theater wayang , percussion orchestra gamelan , court dances joget , and textile decoration batik.

Although wayang and the gamelan music are also performed in the abangan and even santri contexts, it is largely the priyayi who regard wayang as an expression of their values ibid.

Priyayi mysticism holds to religious relativism that all religions are the same. The problem with the priyayi category is that it is not a religious one, but a socio-economic one. Java actually had santri coming from the priyayi socio-economic group.

Many santri wore batik and enjoyed wayang and many abangan did not like wayang or gamelan. Thus, my point is that, although the characteristics may be applied, these should not be essentialized as static and unchanging. First, he wrote, there is considerable antagonism between the adherents of these groups, which is increasing; second, despite these differences, the Javanese do share many common values; third, several factors tend to exacerbate the conflict among the three groups, while several others tend to moderate it.

Although Geertz acknowledged commonalities and integration, he remained trapped in his distinct and separate categories. What concerned him was what caused the groups to be in conflict or at peace, rather than what actually happened to them in terms of overlapping cultural traits. Geertz had divided the santri into the reformists s antri moderen and traditionalists santri kolot. According to him, the reformists displayed several particular characteristics: Theologically, they believed in ijtihad rational personal interpretation of Islam and the purification of tradition.

Organizationally, they were members of the Muhammadiyah founded in in Jogjakarta or other reformist organizations. Educationally, they were students of Muhammadiyah, either of the government or of the madrasah non-governmental Islamic schools. In contrast with the syncretists, the reformists had less belief in sacred relics, in messianic princes, in spirits, were less likely to participate in slametan communal feasts , and placed a higher priority on observance of the five daily prayers than on meditative communion with God ibid.

Thus, Peacock simply reinforced the categorization that Geertz had proposed. Unlike Geertz, who relied on qualitative sources, Peacock provided more quantitative material by drawing on psychological and statistical accounts of the modern santri variant. As Martin van Bruinessen has pointed out, the fear of being accused of atheism and, therefore, of communism made many abangan turn to Christianity, Hinduism, or Islam Van Bruinessen The political context shaped changes in categories of Islam.

The vertical axis defines social class, with several major classifications and infinite minor gradations. At the top is the elite, priyayi.

The third axis is within the ranks of the santri : the old-fashioned kolot and the modernist moderen. Thus, according to Ricklefs, there are a number of combinations of categories: priyayi-santri , wong cilik-abangan-kolot , priyayi-abangan-kolot , priyayi-abangan-modern , wong cilik-santri-kolot , wong-cilik-abangan , and so forth Ricklefs Theses categories show how religious identity can be mixed with social class and the tradition-vs.

In other words, Ricklefs argued against a tendency towards a simple universalization of the binary categorization. He agreed with Geertz in defining the abangan as nominal or non-practicing Muslims, but he suggested that the term did not emerge before the mid-nineteenth century. The anthropological study by Geertz seemed to ignore the historical, contingent dimension of any social category. From around the s, Javanese society began to divide into the majority abangan nominal Muslim and the minority putihan pious Muslims.

This polarization became politicized during the anti-colonial movements of the first half of the twentieth century Ricklefs a: In the s Beatty observed that much of rural Java was populated by heterogeneous communities, in which many individuals were neither clearly santri nor abangan ; many were located in-between. Santri , for example, intermingled with abangan. According to Beatty, this zone is that of compromise, inconsistency, and ambivalence, which cannot be captured by a categorical opposition of santri vs.

He argued that the complexity of Javanese civilization resides not just in plurality but in interrelation, in the dynamics of religious adaptation and change Beatty The three variants santri-abangan-priyayi have some applicability in the Javanese case.

These categories are most widely cited in scholarly studies, not only of Javanese religion, but also, unfortunately, of Indonesia in general. The basic distinction between santri and abangan continues to be one of the most widely invoked categories for analyzing Javanese society, politics, and religion, as well as Indonesian religion and politics.

Thus, for example, the distinction between santri and abangan has been used to explain patterns of elite competition in the pre-War, Japanese, and early Independence periods Benda a , party mobilization and voting patterns in the s Feith , Mortimer , Jay , Lyon , the failure of the Indonesian Communist Party PKI to build an effective class alliance of the rural poor Mortimer , Wertheim , and the intensity of violence that accompanied the destruction of the PKI in Jay Developments under the New Order government have been explained with similar reference to this primordial socio-religious distinction between santri and abangan.

Likewise, a journalist, Adam Schwarz, attempted to explain Indonesian politics throughout the twentieth century in terms of santri-abangan differences. Schwarz suggests that Muslim religious movements and political parties reflect the intra- santri debate and the santri-abangan differences Schwarz In the absence of any better way of describing Muslim society in Indonesia, Greg Barton also recognized that the terms had become an established usage in Indonesian politics and society Barton n 1.

These scholars saw interactions between santri and abangan as the main feature in the development of not only the Javanese community but also all Indonesians Hefner As time passes, categories of santri and abangan may not have been used as they were in the s, or the definitions and connotations have changed.

For some recent scholars, santri and abangan seem to be static categories and closed worldviews in which neither a person nor a group can change and adapt to new circumstances.


Abangan, santri, priyayi : dalam masyarakat Jawa

The Santri are people in Javanese who practice a more orthodox version of Islam , in contrast to the more syncretic abangan. The American sociologist, Clifford Geertz , identified three main cultural streams aliran in Indonesian in Javanese society. Namely, the santri , abangan , and priyayi. In contrast, the abangan tend to be from village backgrounds and absorb both Hindu and Muslim elements, forming a culture of animist and folk traditions, it is also claimed that this particular class originated from Sindhi sailors, who had settled in Java. The priyayi stream are the traditional bureaucratic elite and were strongly driven by hierarchical Hindu-Javanese tradition. Initially court officials in pre-colonial kingdoms, the stream moved into the colonial civil service , and then on to administrators of the modern Indonesian republic. The santri played a key role in Indonesian Nationalist movements, and formed the strongest opposition to President Suharto 's New Order army-based administration.


Bachtiar, Harsja W. Baswedan, Anies R. Beatty, Andrew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,


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