Forword by Prof. Dr. Azyumardi Azra, MA, MPhil
The Publishment of the Betawi Ulama Intellectual Genealogy book: Tracing the Network of Betawi Scholars from the beginning of the 19th Century to the 21st Century (2017), is certainly a very important contribution in the history of Islamic scholars from the Betawi ethnic group. Before the publication of the book, there were not works which comprehensively discussed the Betawi Islamic scholars from generation to generation, particularly since the 17th century, as this book covered. Indeed, there have been many books and articles that discussed one or two Betawi Islamic scholars, but unfortunately the discussion is separated. As a result, the books do not provide a comprehensive frame of Betawi Scholarship.
This work strengthens the development of Islamic teaching dynamics in Indonesia, a genre of literature which in Arabic historiography term is known as tarjamah (Arabic plural: jamak, tarajim which means: translation). This kind is known in Western historiography as bibliographical dictionary. This kind of literature even has a very long history, since the early days of Islam, this genre even has existed in the form of the genre of tabaqat (generation) of ulama or other figures; and even asma ‘al-rijal— al-rijal – the name and biography of the narrators of the hadith which certainly are needed to know the authority of the people in the chain or sanad and hadith narrators. Indeed, this kind of historiographic tradition resulted from the need to ascertain the quality of the hadith — whether the hadith is valid, or dha’if (weak) and so on.
In Indonesia, the genre of literature of tarajim ulama (Ulama biography) is still rare; whereas it is badly required not only to know the biography of scholars, but also to reconstruct the social history of Islamic intellectuals. One of the pioneers of the ulema tarajim (Ulama biography) genre in the archipelago is Sirajuddin Abbas who wrote Tabaqat Syafi’iyah. Recently, the writing phenomenon of the “biography dictionary of the scholars of the Archipelago since the 17th century is emerging. Unfortunately, that works does not cover the Betawi scholars. The writer himself has once edited two Tarajim Siyasi (political biographies) of Indonesian religious ministers since the early days of independence; and that of the intellectual social biography of Indonesian female scholars. However, by the publication of this work then the book on the ulama biography from the particular ethnic group in Indonesia in this case the Betawi Ulama becomes available. Therefore, this work is hoped to be able to encourage or to inspire the writing of tarajim ulama (biography of ulama) in other regions. In addition to that, the book is also hoped to be able to enrich the horizon and knowledge of the history of Islam in certain localities in order to increase the knowledge, appreciation and pride of Indonesian Muslims to their scholars, who have contributed greatly to the strengthening and dynamics of Indonesian Islam in various aspects of life.
The Network of Betawi Ulama
The writer himself has done any specific research on the ‘network of Betawi Ulama in the study of the Nusantara Ulama Network and other Muslim Worlds, not only in the areas that we know today as the Middle East, but also they also cover the areas such as Africa, South Asia and Central Asia. Therefore, the writer argues that Indonesian Islam is very cosmopolitan in relations to the dynamics and development of Islam in other regions of the Muslim World. As a consequence of this, it can be said that Indonesian Islam does not develop separately and becomes a mere Indonesian local reality only, but more than that, Indonesian Islam becomes part of dynamics of Islamic world.
The history of Betawi Islam clearly shows such development. Islamic Scholars who introduced Islam to the Sunda Kelapa, Jayakarta, Batavia (from which the Betawi term emerged), (and now becomes Jakarta)- is also very cosmopolitan. As this work reveals, the scholars came directly from various regions from Arab, Champa, China and also from other regions in the archipelago. The Betawi ulama potrayed in this work are clearly involved in a network of ulama being centered primarily in Mecca. For example, Shaykh Junaid al-Betawi who studied and lived (mastauthin) in Makkah had teachers and students in this holy city. This ‘perfectly’ describes the network of scholars; as what is known the ulama network involves relationships and networks between students and teachers, teachers and teachers, then students and students. Therefore, the ulama network involves very complex relationships and linkages; there are complex and overlapping relationship between those being involved in the ulama network.
The relationship that formed the network of scholars is intertwined first through the isnad ilmiyah – (scientific sanad), when a student learns from his teacher then again the teacher from the grand teacher again and so on to the above linkage. This scientific isnad (chain) is important as proof of the authority and validity of the knowledge learned by a student. So, the knowledge learned by a student is not from any random source.
Second, through the genealogy of Sufism and tarekat.
Again, the lineage of the tarekat is very important to show the validity of the tarekat, so that it is truly mu’tabarah — in accordance with the provisions of Shari’ah (Islamic law). At the same time, the muttashil lineage of the tarekat (continuous without interruption) is the second condition for the mu’tabarah of a tarekat.
To understand the ins and outs of relations and networks, it is necessary to further tracing the names of teachers and friends of the students mentioned by certain Betawi scholars such as Syaikh Junaid al-Betawi. This tracing can be done to the tarajim of the Makkah ulama in his time. Actually, the tarajim of the scholars of Makkah and Madinah (Haramayn) had been available since the 19th century; and the more are available afterward up to the present time. If this can be done, the more information will be revealed in terms of the network of Betawi scholars both with their teachers and fellow students in Makkah and Madinah, as well as with other regional scholars in the Archipelago studing in The holy land, Mecca.
Regeneration: Definition of ‘Betawi Ulama’
This book of the Betawi Ulama Network which covers Betawi scholars from the 17th to the 21st centuries is basically still uses ‘conventional’ definition of ulama. In this conventional definition, muslim scholars are defined as those who study Islamic knowledge and sciences, whether directly learned from certain scholars or indirectly learned from traditional Islamic educational institutions, such as halaqah, madrasa or even pesantren. Those who later have sufficient knowledge and even become experts in Islamic religious sciences such as fiqh, tafsir or tasawuf and subsequently then devoted themselves to Muslim society. Those Islamic experts then are called as Muslim scholars or Ulama.
It is from the definition above that almost all Betawi scholars are included in this book. The only one of Betawi scholars mentioned above such as Nahrawi Abdussalam al-Indunisi who does not use nickname (laqab) al-Batawi), is not included in the framework. This is because he got his tertiary education in an established educational institution —a formal institution— from Al-Azhar University, where he earned a doctorate in comparison of Islamic Jurisprudence schools (muqaranah al-madzahib), a comparison of school of thought.
In fact, in the last half century there have been socio-religious changes which should have been able to encourage people to review the definition of scholar. Due to the expansion of Islamic higher education since the 1960s and the increasing number of Betawi students who studied in various Middle Eastern universities, especially al-Azhar University, the new generation of Betawi scholars continued to emerge. However, because this work still uses the conventional definition of the Islamic scholar, they are eventually not included in the Betawi Ulama Network. In short, they can in one way or another be included in the network of those particular scholars.
Among the new generation of Betawi scholars who are still very active in the 21st century are Zainuddin MZ, Tutty Alawiyah or Suryani Tahir. Zainuddin MZ, who obtained a BA from the Ushuluddin Faculty, IAIN Jakarta, is known as ‘dai of a million people’. Likewise, Tutty Alawiyah who graduated from the Ushuluddin Faculty of IAIN Jakarta is a female ulama who is active in da’wah, majelis taklim and tertiary education, is also active in social assistance for the orphans. Both of them have even crossed the limits of the ‘betawiness’ da’wah, thus they become national and even international scholars – as in the case of Tutty Alawiyah.
The following generation of Betawi scholars also still emerges; most of them are graduates of IAIN / UIN and al-Azhar University and other universities in the Middle East. Many of them became lecturers at IAIN / UIN, and also active in da’wah and madrasa or pesantren education. This last generation is still awaiting social recognition as scholars from the Betawi people themselves and Indonesian Muslims in general.
To be seen from the appearance of the Betawi Ulama from one generation to the following generation, there is no reason to be pessimistic about their future. They continue to be born and they appear from time to time. What is needed is a change and adjustment of the conceptual and social paradigms about the definition of ulama itself.
This work is clearly a very important pilot project, which can drive further research and writing. Therefore, people can get more comprehensive knowledge about Betawi scholars and their roles in the religious life of the Betawi community in particular and that of the Archipelago in general.