Actualization of Neo-Sufism: A Case Study of the Tariqa Qadiriyya Naqshabandiyya Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya

Budi Budi Rahman Hakim

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The ‘New’ Neo-Sufism

This book presents the actualization of Neo-Sufism by studying one of the largest tariqas in Indonesia: The Tariqa Qadiriyya Naqshabandiyya Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya (TQN PP Suryalaya). This study was triggered by the fact that much literature on Muslim societies identify tariqas with the rural parts of society and illiterate people. In this view, tariqas represent a waning 'traditional' component in the modern socio-religious order. This image continues to influence general public opinion and scholarship in the Muslim World as well as the West. Encounters between tariqas and modernity are important but they are regrettably under-studied, especially with regard to the Sufi Orders’ resurgence among urban society, the best educated and most modern segments of the middle class.
My study on TQN PP Suryalaya shows that the tariqa managed to demonstrate its ability to exist, adapt and play a role in modern Indonesia. The murshids of the tariqa made gradual changes and improvements in the tariqa’s teachings and practices; and they continue to increase their social functions in Modern Muslim society. Because of its ability to adapt, to answer challenges and offer solutions to the people’s problems, the tariqa increasingly came to be noticed and even attracted the interest of the upper middle class, educated circles, and urban communities.
In conducting this study, I use the framework of Neo-Sufism to examine TQN PP Suryalaya in the leadership periods of its three murshids: Abah Sepuh (1935-1956), Abah Anom (1956-2011), and Abah Aos (2011-present). Aside from the pro and cons behind the use of the term, scholars still use Neo-Sufism to refer to and portray a reform movement within the tariqa world. The reformed tariqa teachings, its practices, and its actualizations that all fall under the authority of the sheikhs of the tariqa are examined. Some of the questions that are addressed for all three periods are: What was/is the socio-political context of each murshid, the style of their teachings and practice in the tariqa, what reforms in the teachings and practices have they made in the tariqa which can be considered as expressions of “Neo-Sufism”; and how, through socio and political activism, did they actualize the tariqa in each different period in terms of “Neo-Sufism” also with respect to Neo-Sufi orthodoxy? Other issues touched upon in the book include the strategies behind the changes in the tariqa’s leadership in the past and in present-day Indonesia and how the tariqa disseminates its teachings and puts them in practice in the modern world?
I did my research by using the participant-observation technique and did my fieldwork in three periods, from March to May 2016, November-December 2016, and March-April 2017. I did one additional fieldwork to rework the thesis from June to August 2018 but when I had the occasion to interview informants outside these periods I, of course, used it. During these periods, I held interviews with TQN PP Suryalaya disciples, talqin deputies, and tariqa leaders especially the current TQN PP Suryalaya sheikh. In this qualitative study, I also rely on literary sources.
I expect that my study will contribute to a more reliable and intimate understanding of the tariqa world and that of TQN PP Suryalaya in particular, in the following ways: First, it enhances our understanding of the actualization of Neo-Sufism through the revitalization of the tariqa teachings and practices. Second, it digs out the reasons behind TQN PP Suryalaya’s change of vision and outlook and what role its leaders played (and still play) in this process. Third, my study elucidates the important roles of educated and professional urban and middle-class Muslims in the promotion of changes in TQN PP Suryalaya’s vision and tradition. Forth, my study sheds light on the patterns behind the political behaviour of TQN PP Suryalaya’s leaders. Fifth, my study highlight the dramatic political changes that took place since the tariqa’s inception and how, at the Indonesian national level, these changes prepared the political setting for TQN PP Suryalaya in promoting its adjustments at all levels.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
  • Beck, Herman, Promotor
  • Blommaert, Jan, Promotor
  • van Beek, Wouter, Member PhD commission
  • van Bruinessen, M.M., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Nugteren, Tineke, Member PhD commission
  • Post, Paul, Member PhD commission
Award date8 Sept 2020
Place of PublicationS.l.
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


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