On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, I was invited to be a resource person in “Character Education Based on Pesantren Tradition” book discussion, representing the other authors. The theme of the event was First Century Anniversary of Bahrul Ulum Madrasah and 191th Anniversary of Bahrul Ulum Pesantren, Tambak Beras, Jombang, East Java. The event was also attended by Mbah (respected) K.H. Mustafa Bisri and Mbah K.H. Husein Muhammad, all of whom are Indonesian influential figures in the field of social and religious affairs.
The book discussion was conducted by Bahrul Ulum pesantren, initiated by its kyais and students, colliding with the First Century Commemoration of Bahrul Ulum Madrasah and 191 Years of Bahr Ulum Pesantren, Tambak Beras, Jombang, to learn from the kyais’ journey within pesantren in the development of flexible and in-depth religious education in Indonesia. The religious education is based on values exemplified by the kyais and nyais, in building students’ great personality.
Hundreds of kyais and gus, and ten thousand of students from Bahrul Ulum and its surrounding pesantrens were enthusiastic attending the event. Their extraordinary enthusiasm was perceived by the committee who were really prepared and helpful, led by KH. Fadlullah Malik, M.MPd. and Dr. Muhyiddin, Deputy President of Wahab Hasbullah University. The committee had prepared four main venues of the event; Main hall in which Gus Mus, Buya Husein, and I as resource persons gathered with four hundreds participants, all of whom were kyais, nyais, and students of Wahab Hasbullah University. Meanwhile, other participants attended the event in two other large buildings and a courtyard, in which dozens of television and high-amplified sound system were placed. The participants were highly enthusiastic following the event through television screen.
Indeed, this commemoration was exceptional, and I was grateful and blessed was able to be together with Gus Mus and Buya Husein, who attracted thousands of participants in the event “Character Education based on Pesantren Tradition” book discussion, written and published by Rumah KitaB in the early 2014.
The event was officially opened by K.H. Irfan M. Sholeh, M.MPd. as the Chairman of Yayasan Pondok Pesantren Bahrul Ulum, and the opening speech was delivered by the head of committee, K.H. Fadlullah Malik, M.Hi. and Dr. Muhyiddin. During the event, the resource persons congratulated the anniversary of Bahrul Ulum.
The book discussion was moderated by Dr. Muhyiddin, as the vice president of Wahab Hasbullah University. In the introduction, the moderator stated that the Character Education based on Pesantren Tradition book has successfully mapped and explored pesantren’s noble traditions and reminds the education practitioners to liven up the traditions in this modern era, whose values have eroded the ‘traditional’ living values of many young people in Indonesia.
The moderator invited Ahmad Hilmi as one of the authors to speak first. The author describes the profile of Rumah KitaB organization briefly, then explained the background of the writing, the purpose of the writing, and the methodology. Character Education Based on Pesantren Tradition book is a result of field research, conducted in various schools in Indonesia. The background to the writing is the unavailability of teaching materials that focus on character education in Indonesia. On the other hand, the character development of young people is losing its ground. The number of student’s fights which cause casualties is still high, as well as hates speech through social media that are often motivated by discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, race, and class. The students are losing of the spirit of learning; they prefer to hang out until late at night rather than study, becoming drug users, etc.
This situation shows that the school has no longer served as the central place for character building. It only serves as a means of regular formal learning; it starts at 07.00 a.m. in the morning, students do homeworks and tasks, study for the national exam, then return home later in the afternoon. The important thing is GRADUATED!
It therefore is alarming as the students are only taught to answer the questions during exam, but their characters are not fostered because specific book as a medium to learn values with student-friendly methodology used a primary handbook for teachers in the classroom has not yet been provided. On the other hand, our country has an abundant of educational values that come from pesantren’s noble traditions that have not been explored.
Thus, in the early 2014, Rumah KitaB had successfully written the book, as a result of field research in various pesantrens in Indonesia. The book contains fifteen main values, adopts many poems and stories of the former kyais in pesantren, and describes the values using rich interpretations of various verses in Al-Qur’an and Hadith, concluded from readings of a number of Yellow Books. Therefore, this book can be read for students from different background and educational institutions in Indonesia. Before in Jombang, Rumah KitaB has successfully held a series of training and book discussion in many cities, involving hundreds of teachers and students who represent their respective educational institutions.
After that, the next speaker is Gus Mus, a charismatic kyai figure in Indonesia. He explained that pesantrens in the past put forward the elements of education (tarbiyah) rather than teaching (ta’lim). When this condition is reversed 180 degrees, the pesantren buildings are more luxurious and towered, but the kyais are losing their roles and ”have nothing to do”, because the existing management and organizational structure do not ensure kyai’s involvement in pesantren.
If we want to restore the dignity of pesantren back to the glorious era, today’s kyais need to strive to achieve the level of sincerity like kyais in the past, who never needed anything from the others. Gus Mus greatly appreciated the views of Buya Kyai Husein in one of his works that stated ascetic (juhud) must be encouraged for kyais in the present. However, it is too heavy to be implemented in today’s current situation that, arguably, is too extreme. We can start from the concept of ”simplicity” because simplicity would bring us to “peaceful from within” as the opposite of ”peaceful from the outside”.
According to Gus Mus, characteristic that has been missing from the preachers (mubaligh), educators, and dai now is the spirit of ad-da’wah that reassuring and refreshing. Da’wah spirit spread by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Wali Songo, and Salaf scholars, is eroded by threatening and intimidating behaviors in da’wah. This kind of da’wah is not inviting, but dismissing people. Basically, there is a sharp distinction between the meaning of da’wah (invitation) and amar (command). However, nowadays the meaning of both terms is confused, so it creates an ambiguous concept.
Most kyais in the past did not know the “nationalism” term, but they acknowledged that Indonesia was their homeland, and it must be preserved and must not be destructed or colonized. Therefore, students who did not love their country will be bombarded by the advice of Mbah Wahab, Mbah Hasyim Ashari, and other kyais, who loved Indonesia with their body and soul.
According to Gus Mus, today’s serious concern is that people put forward their interests and search for the verses later. It is inversely proportional to the scientific tradition in pesantren which have responsibility until doomsday. Gus Mus Appreciating the book “Character Education Based Pesantren Tradition” that elevates the stories and inspiring stories in conveying the message, because the methods of the story was not threatening but pervasive.
On the other hand, Buya Husein emphasized on the importance of building awareness to contemplate various shortcomings and social problems that exist, as well as to contemplate the required exit strategy. Social problems are always closely linked to the failure of educational institutions in developing its students’ characters. Therefore, schools should return to its roots therefore the nobleness of the schools, as it has been successfully established in the past, can be restored in the present. Buya Hussein appreciated to the existence of Character Education Based on Pesantren Tradition to remind us the importance of values-based education that has been established by the scholars in the past. After that, Buya Hussein recited a poetry and sang Arabic poetry that rich in values.
The event was closed by a poetry recital by Gus Mus about hubb al-wathan (nationalism) titled “I Still Remember that Melody”, created by Gus Mus himself, and can be found in Character Education Based on Pesantren Tradition book page 38 – 40. In the end, an anthem titled ”Syubbanul Wathon” was sung by all participants. The song was created by Mbah Wahab Hasbullah, famous ulama from Jombang, a colleague of Mbah Hasyim Asy’ari, the founding father of NU.