Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Mlangi in Ramadhan: A city that never sleeps

Features - September 14, 2007

Bambang Muryanto, Contributor, Yogyakarta

On Monday afternoon, just days ahead of the Islamic fasting month, the call to prayer echoed throughout Mlangi, one of the oldest villages in Sleman, Yogyakarta.

Men wearing sarongs and caps hurried to the biggest mosque in the village, Jami' Mlangi, to attend the prayer gathering.

Across the village, people were also letting off firecrackers -- which sounded like gunshots -- to welcome the fasting month.

In Ramadhan, Mlangi is a village that never sleeps. The mosque loudspeakers broadcast fiery sermons and congregation information from right after the morning prayer at around 4.20 a.m.

Also, Koran study and recital groups meet in mosques and private homes from morning until night.

"Ramadhan means surviving on less sleep," said Nasiruddin, a student of Mlangi Assalafiyah Islamic boarding school.

Located some seven kilometers from downtown Yogyakarta, the people of Mlangi have embraced Islam and made it their way of life. Most members of the community are farmers or run their own businesses. The men usually wear sarongs and caps and the women headscarves.

Covering an area of some 24 hectares and surrounded by green rice fields, Mlangi has nine Islamic boarding schools, each of which has hundreds of students from all sorts of backgrounds.

The schools have built reputations for outstanding student achievement in different areas. The students of Al-Falakiyyah, for example, are said to be able to recite the Koran from heart.

The history of the boarding school is inseparable from the life story of cleric Nur Iman, whose real name was Kanjeng Bandara Pangeran Hangabehi (KBPH) Sandiyo.

Nur Iman was the son of Susuhunan Amangkurat IV of the Surakarta Kingdom and a stepbrother of Prince Mangkubumi, who was later crowned Sultan Hamengkubuwono I (HB I).

A royal family member who was born and grew up in Gedangan Islamic boarding school in Pasuruhan, East Java, Nur Iman eventually chose to study more about Islam and become a preacher.

"In 1756, Sultan HB gave a perdikan (or tax-free region) to KBPH Sandiyo," said the 71-year-old Sri Pujo, who is a "seventh generation" descendant of Nur Iman.

A few years later Nur Iman established an Islamic boarding school in the tax-free area, becoming a teacher there. Because of the school's reputation for excellence, the village became known as Mulangi (which literally means teaching).

In 1770, Sultan HB II instructed that four mosques be built in the four directions of north, west, south and east. The Jami' Mlangi Mosque is the mosque that was built in the west.

The building has undergone major renovation work but its gate, pulpit and minaret are all original.

Bambang Setia Budi -- a Phd student at Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan -- wrote in his paper A Study on the History and Development of the Javanese Mosque that the mosque did not function just as a place for preaching and praying but also as a political and religious pillar to support the authorities.

"During the Diponegoro War (1825-1830), for example, many of the Mlangi ulema, who had been Nur Iman's pupils, joined the fight against the Dutch," Sri Pujo said.

When the war ended with the capture of Prince Diponegoro, many of the ulema never returned to Yogyakarta. They dispersed to regions including Kebumen, Gombong and Purworedjo in Central Java, and thus helped spread Islam, Sri Pudjo said.

At the same time, the offspring of Nur Iman who stayed in Mlangi also established their own boarding schools. The oldest, An-Nawawi, was named after Nur Iman's son.

The boarding school, however, is no longer there because it was neglected after Nawawi left for Malaysia.

Aside from the students who come to study in the village's nine boarding schools, many Muslims travel to Mlangi, particularly on Thursday evenings, to visit the grave of Nur Iman.

"Visitor numbers peak on the evenings leading up to Ramadhan," said Sri Pudjo, who inherited Nur Iman's kris.

Sri Pudjo said many people also stayed in Mlangi during the fasting month, arriving on the fifth day of Ramadhan and leaving on the 25th.

He said villagers, visitors and students would come together at Jami' Mlangi mosque to perform prayers and recite the Koran as they waited to eat the pre-dawn meal known as sahur, before resuming their fast.


Source: The Jakarta Post - The Journal of Indonesia Today Oct 9, 2007

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