THE RISE AND DEVELOPMENT OF PESANTREN BUNTET

According to the available sources Pesantren Buntet was first established in 1750 by Kyai Muqayim bin Abdul Hadi, known as Mbah Muqayim, Penghulu Kraton or Mufti (Court Religious Official) of the Kanoman royal house.[40] Opposing the Dutch intrusion into the internal affairs of the kraton, and seeing some kraton dignitaries subserviently fall into the embrace of the Dutch rule, some of them even exhibited behaviour which was against the syari'ah, such as dancing and drinking alcohol,[41] Mbah Muqayim left his position in the kraton in favour of living outside the kraton wall. He built a mosque and a hut in the village where he and his followers dwelt and began to teach religion. Bearing his former honourable position as Penghulu Kraton, along with his profound knowledge of religion and exemplary behaviour, he attracted many students and soon his hut was full of learners and they had to erect more huts. Finally, it became a learning centre and developed into a pesantren complex which evolves until this day.

The early period: Mbah Muqayim

The site where Mbah Muqayim started teaching for the first time was located at Blok Kedungmalang, a hamlet in Buntet. After a few years of operation however, the Dutch came and burned down all his pesantren complex. Ki Ardisela, a village  headman of Dawuan who knew about the Dutch manoeuvre immediately told Mbah Muqayim so that his family and his santir were able to flee to Pesawahan just before the Dutch reached and besieged the pesantren. The pesantren activities ceased and Mbah Muqayim wandered from one place to another to escape from being arrested. Some of the places where he took temporary refuge were Pesawahan hamlet in Lemahabang village, Tuk in Karangsuwung and Beji in Pemalang (Central Java). After a long adventure he came back to Buntet in 1758 and established a new pesantren at a site called Blok Gajah Ngambung, which has now become the santri cemetery (makam santri).[42] Before deciding on this new site to establish his pesantren, it is said that Mbah Muqayim fasted for a twelve months period, doing this in four stages. The merit of the first three months of the fasting was intended for the pesantren's welfare, safety and continuance; the second three months was for his descendant's well-being; the third was for his santri and faithful followers and the fourth, as he was old enough, was for his own personal merit in this world and the hereafter.

One of his santri at his newly built pesantren was Prince Khaeruddin, son of Sultan Kanoman (Khaeruddin I). When the Sultan passed away in 1798 the Dutch installed Tumenggung Surantaka and sent the actual heir, Prince Khaeruddin, Mbah Muqayim's student, into exile in Ambon. Mbah Muqayim opposed this instalment and was involved in civil unrest to force the Dutch to return Prince Khaeruddin to Cirebon. Partly due to the change within the Dutch administration and policy, Prince Khaeruddin was finally restored to his throne and became Sultan Khaeruddin II.

Mbah Muqayim is said to have married twice. One marriage was to Nyai Randulawang (Nyi Randu), daughter of Ki Enthol Rujitnala a village headman of Situpatok, whom Kyai Muqayim assisted in the construction of an irrigation dam (situ). Ki Enthol was a local noble, descendant of Pangeran Luwung. The second  marriage was to the daughter of Kyai Salamuddin of Pemalang. From the first marriage he obtained a daughter who married his brightest student, Raden Muhammad.[43] Upon his death he was buried at Tuk, side by side with Ki Ardisela. The date of his death is not told but his tomb at Tuk (30 km south-east of Cirebon) has become an object of visitation. Mbah Muqayim had no son, and after his death the pesantren again ceased its operation for some time until Kyai Mutta'ad came.

Kyai Mutta'ad (1785–1852)

Kyai Mutta'ad, son of Raden Muriddin, married Nyai Ratu ‘Aisyah, daughter of Raden Muhammad, the brightest student and son in law of Mbah Muqayim.[44] Thus, Kyai Mutta'ad is grandson-in-law of Mbah Muqayim, the founder of the pesantren. From this marriage Kyai Mutta'ad had nine descendants, the oldest one was a daughter, Nyai Ruhillah, who married a Sufi-ulama, Kyai Anwaruddin Kriyani al-Malebari, known as Ki Buyut Kriyan, whose contribution for development of Pesantren Buntet was considered instrumental.[45] Upon his death, Ki (Buyut) Kriyan as a revered figure was buried at ‘Jabang Bayi’ grave complex in the city of  Cirebon.[46] His tomb attracts visitors, some of whom, according to the Juru Kunci, come from Malaysia and Singapore.[47]

Kyai Mutta'ad also married another woman, Nyai Kidul from whom he had five descendants, the oldest one and the fourth were daughters, Nyai Saudah and Nyai Hamidah; the others were sons, namely Kyai Abdul Mun'im, Kyai Tarmidzi and Kyai Abdul Mu'thi. All the descendants from the two wives were kyai or married kyai. One of his students and also son in law was Kyai Sa'id, the founder of Pesantren Gedongan, another big pesantren adjacent to Buntet.[48]

Kyai Mutta'ad is said to have studied with Kyai Musta'in (Jepara, Central Java) and then to have gone to Pesantren Siwalan (Surabaya) for further learning. Soon after taking leadership of Buntet he applied much effort to renew the pesantren. With the help of his sons, especially his son-in-law, Ki (Buyut) Kriyan, he left the old pesantren at Gajah Ngambung built by Mbah Muqayim to build a new one at Blok Manis in the same village (Buntet) where it remains until now. He translated a number of books into Javanese and rewrote some others including the Holy  Qur'an.[49] Meanwhile Ki Kriyan taught Tarekat Syattariyah at the pesantren and attracted many followers. The number of santri and the Syattariyah followers increased considerably from tens to hundreds. Later, Ki Kriyan was appointed a religious official (penghulu) at Kraton Kesepuhan. After his wife, Nyai Ruhillah passed away, Ki Kriyan married another woman, Nyai Lontangjaya of Arjawinangun (30 km Western Cirebon) and had a daughter, Nyai Sa'diyah. He then stayed at the Kesepuhan court house and took with him his brother-in-law who was still a young boy, Abdul Jamil who later succeeded Kyai Mutta'ad to lead the pesantren. Kyai Mutta'ad died when he was 67 years old and was buried at Tuk adjacent to the graves of Mbah Muqayim and Ki Ardisela.

Kyai Abdul Jamil (1842–1919)

The successor of Kyai Mutta'ad was his fourth oldest son, Kyai Abdul Jamil who replaced his elder brothers who were unable to succeed Kyai Mutta'ad because they married out.[50] During his stay with Ki Kriyan, Kyai Abdul Jamil is said to have completed many books. He also studied at other pesantren, one of which was Pondok Mayong (Jepara) with Kyai Murtadlo. He went to Mecca on pilgrimage and stayed there for some years. He learned among other things the Qur'anic science (the arts of reciting the Qur'an). Upon his return from Mecca he married Nyai Sa'diyah, Ki Kriyan's daughter. When Kyai Abdul Jamil succeeded Kyai Mutta'ad, Nyai Sa'diyah, his wife, was still a very young girl and Ki Kriyan gave him another wife, Nyai Qari'ah, daughter of Kyai Syathori, religious official of the Dutch administration (Penghulu Landraad). From this marriage he had eight children: Kyai Abbas, Kyai Anas, Kyai Ilyas, Nyai Zamrud (Qisthinthoniyah), Kyai Akyas, Nyai  Ya'qut, Nyai Mu'minah and Nyai Nadroh. Later, from Nyai Sa'diyah he had five children, one of whom was a son, Kyai Ahmad Zahid.[51]

Kyai Abdul Jamil made many attempts to develop the pesantren both in managerial and academic aspects. For this, he maximised the intellectual potency available at the pesantren by recruiting all kyai, mostly relatives, who stayed within the pesantren complex, and senior students for active participation in various development tasks. To overcome the scarcity of text books, efforts were made to reproduce a number of advanced religious texts by handwriting. Among the reproduced texts were Fath al-Wahhab, Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Suzur al-Zahhab, Alfiyah, etc.[52] Academic activities were expanded. Along with the traditional sorogan and bandungan classes, he set up a halaqah (seminar) class attended by advanced students. Ngaji pasaran (open lecture) was also held at least every fasting month using well known quality references such as I'anah al-Talibin, Fath al-Wahhab, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, Tafsir Ibn Katsir, etc. A takhassus (specialisation) on religious subjects to be studied by advanced santri was set out and divided into six branches: Ilmu Kalam (theology),[53] Ilmu Tafsir dan Hadith (exegeses), Fiqh (jurisprudence), Nahwu-Sharaf (Arabic grammar and word derivatives), Tasawuf (Sufism) and Ilmu al-Qur'an (Qur'anic science).

To accommodate the increasing number of santri, new buildings were erected including a large mosque (masjid jami’) whose cost was paid by donors especially  well to do ex-santri. As the pesantren was surrounded by two rivers, it was felt to be rather isolated from the rest of the village. To remove this isolation a bridge was constructed and more santri began coming. Under his leadership, the number of santri reached around 700, coming from various parts of Java, Sumatera, Sulawesi and Singapore. At the same time, he was also authorised by his brother, Kyai Soleh Zamzami, to be a mursyid (tarekat leader) to teach and recruit members of Tarekat Syattariyah.[54] Under his leadership by the end of 19th century, this tarekat sprang up tremendously attracting thousands of followers. Along with the kraton and Benda Kerep, Buntet became another centre (zawiyah) of Syattariyah order. This caused the reputation of Kyai Abdul Jamil and his pesantren to transcend the local geographic boundary. In 1900, when he was 58 years old he was invited by Hadratus Syeikh K.H. Hasyim Asy'ari to teach at Pesantren Tebuireng in Jombang. He came there with his brother, Kyai Sholeh Zamzami of Pesantren Benda, Kyai Abdullah of Panguragan and Kyai Syamsuri of Wanantara (8 km south-west of Cirebon). They stayed and taught in Jombang for about 8 months.

Kyai Abdul Jamil was also concerned with both short and long term pesantren development. For the short term he himself managed the development efforts. For the long term, upon his return from teaching in Jombang, he sent a number of able students, including his sons, Abbas, Anas and Akyas, to study at various pesantren throughout Java. Special attention was made to develop the Qur'anic science by sending a number of able santri to Yogyakarta and to Banten. Among those who were sent for this purpose were Zainal Abidin (Kyai Zen), Kyai Yusuf and Kyai  Murtadlo to study from Kyai Munawir at Krapyak (Yogyakarta), whereas Kyai Hasyim and Kyai Abdul Rauf studied with Kyai Tb.Mansur Ma'mun in Banten.[55]

In the political sphere he was known as a figure who consistently maintained the non-cooperation principle with the Dutch. He had close contact with his ex-student, H. Samanhudi, a successful batik trader of Surakarta, who in 1911 founded the “Syarekat Dagang Islam” (literally meaning Union of Islamic Trade), a Javanese batik traders's cooperative.[56] In this organisation Kyai Abdul Jamil was active on the religious advisory board (Syuriah) until he died in 1919. According to Kyai Hisyam, Kyai Abdul Jamil passed away when the pesantren was embarking on its remarkable institutional development. His success, to a large extent, was due to both his intellectual and managerial skills and the full support from his assistants such as Kyai Abdul Mun'im, Kyai Abdul Mu'thi, Kyai Tarmidzi, Kyai Muktamil and Kyai Abdullah.[57] Whilst his cousins, Kyai Sa'id and his brother Kyai Sholeh Zamzami, respectively established Pesantren Gedongan at Desa Ender, Astanajapura, and Pesantren Benda at Benda Kerep in the municipality of Cirebon. Upon his death, Kyai Abdul Jamil was buried at the pesantren cemetery (Makam Santri).

Kyai Abbas (1879–1946)

When Kyai Abdul Jamil passed away, his oldest son from Nyai Qari'ah, Kyai Abbas, seemed to have been quite prepared to take over the pesantren leadership. Along with his broad and high intellectual quality, he is described as inheriting his father's leadership competence. He succeeded in marshalling the intellectual  potential of other kyai who had been sent by his father to study at various pesantren and then returned with high intellectual achievement. It is under Kyai Abbas' leadership that Pesantren Buntet is said to have reached its golden age despite the fact that during this period the pesantren education encountered nation-wide instability due to the break out of the World War II and its aftermath. Kyai Abbas experienced different phases of political turmoil, pre-war Dutch colonialism, Japanese Fascism, postwar Dutch aggression, and the Indonesian revolutionary struggle for independence. During this course of history both the Dutch and the Japanese military threats and aggression are said as the major sources of unbearable hindrance for the development of the pesantren. Several times Buntet became the target of Dutch military raids, which caused damage and unbearable suffering among the people. Many of them fled to the pesantren for safety.[58] As a result, Kyai Abbas needed to open up a free public catering (dapur umum) to feed the starving people for some period of time. This even established the kyai's charisma among the local people. This period was deeply imprinted in the people's memory. For them Kyai Abbas seemed to have been a legendary saviour and unforgettable figure.[59]

Kyai Abbas learned religion firstly with his father Kyai Abdul Jamil, and Kyai Kriyan. Then he went mesantren to learn with Kyai Nasuha at Pesantren Sukunsari in Plered, Kyai Hasan at Jatisari in Weru, Kyai Ubaidah in Tegal (Central Java). He was summoned for marriage and after that he went to Mecca on pilgrimage and stayed there for some years for further study. Staying at Syeikh Zabidi's in Mecca, he studied with a number of teachers, one of whom was Kyai Mahfudz of Termas  (East Java).[60] Among his Javanese fellow students in Mecca were Kyai Bakir of Yogyakarta, Kyai Abdillah of Surabaya and Kyai Wahab Hasbullah. In Mecca Kyai Abbas also taught and had students, among whom were some from Cirebon such as Kyai Kholil of Pesantren Balerante and Kyai Sulaeman from Babakan Ciwaringin. From Mecca he then went to Jombang (East Java) to learn with Kyai Hasyim Asy'ari at Pesantren Tebuireng.[61] When he was at Tebuireng he worked with Kyai Wahab Hasbullah and with Kyai Manaf and was involved in the establishment of Pesantren Lirboyo in Kediri (East Java).

Under Kyai Abbas' leadership, the pesantren management was further improved, academic activities were intensified and facilities were extended. Old buildings were renovated and new ones were erected.[62] But the most notable step Kyai Abbas took was the introduction and inclusion of the madrasah system into the pesantren. While sorogan, bandungan and ngaji pasaran were retained, in 1928 he founded Madrasah Abnaul Wathan Ibtidaiyah where secular subjects were taught.[63] Kyai Abbas' revolutionary steps are said to have been inspired by Imam Syafi'i who says: 

Keep the old values which are good and, take (only) the new ones which are better.”[64]

The curriculum offered by the madrasah contained eighty-five per cent religious and fifteen per cent secular subjects. Among the latter were ‘ilmu'l-hisab (arithmetic), al-Jughrofiyah (geography), allughatul wathaniyah (national language or Indonesian), ‘ilmutthabi'iyah (natural science) and tarihul wathaniyah (national history). Later he changed the madrasah's name from a patriotic flavour to a more academic one to become Madrasah Salafiyah Syafi'iyah (School of the early Syafi'ite studies) consisting of two levels, the preparatory and the Ibtidaiyah proper, each of which took 3 years to complete. The three years at the preparatory level were called Tahdhiri, Sifir Awal and Sifir Tsani, whereas the years in Ibtidaiyah were called grades one, two and three.[65] Thus, since Kyai Abbas took the leadership, there have been five different types of educational system applied simultaneously at the pesantren: sorogan, bandungan, halaqah (seminar), madrasi (madrasah system) and ngaji pasaran. The sorogan method was open to beginners, whereas the bandungan was given to those who passed the sorogan and was divided into Awaliyah (elementary), Wustha (intermediate) and ‘Ulya (advanced). Each level had to complete a certain set of standard texts used in madrasah. The first year of elementary bandungan, for example, which was equal to grade-IV of madrasah had to complete Safinah al-Najah (fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence), Qatr-al Ghaits (theology), Nasa'ih al-‘Ibad (ethics/tasawuf), al-Ajrumiyah and al-Kailani (Arabic); the second year which was equal to grade-V had to complete Minhaj al-Qawim  (fiqh), al-Bajuri (theology), Bidayah al-Hidayah (ethics/tasawuf), Syarh Amriti and Lamiyah al-A‘fal (Arabic). The third year which was equal to grade-VI had to complete Tawshih (fiqh), Syu‘ab al-Iman (theology), Sullam at-Taufiq (ethics/tasawuf), Millah al-I‘rab and Syarh Nazhom (Arabic), and Tafsir Yasin (exegeses). The intermediate and the advanced levels also had a number of texts to master. Al-Ghazali's Ihya, for example, was given at the second year of the ‘ulya level.

Figure 7.2: Intellectual Network of Kyai Abbas
Figure 7.2: Intellectual Network of Kyai Abbas

Some advanced students of both bandungan and madrasah, who were bright enough according to the individual assessment made by the kyai, were allowed to  attend the seminar class. It is understandable that among about 3000 santri coming from various places only a few were fortunate enough to gain admission to this distinguished group. Among those who showed high achievement was Kyai Wahib Wahab (son of Kyai Wahab Hasbullah), former Minister of Religious Affairs who founded IAIN.[66]

The next was Tb. Mansur Ma'mun, a distinguished Qur'an reciter of national calibre of his time. He was then appointed to a high official position at the Jakarta Regional Administration. Another one was H. Amin Iskandar, the former Indonesian Ambassador to Iraq. Still another one was Professor K.H. Ibrahim Husein, the former Rector of IAIN Raden Fatah in Palembang (South Sumatera), the former Rector of Higher Learning Institute of Qur'anic Science (PTIQ), the Rector of the Institute of Qur'anic Science (IIQ) in Jakarta and currently, a member of Indonesian Council of Ulama (Majelis Ulama). The others are Kyai Ayatullah (Jakarta), Kyai Zuhri (Banten), Kyai Sholeh (Banten), Kyai Abdul Hamid (Banten) and Mahbub Bajuri, the former Regent (Bupati) of Cirebon.

Figure 7.2 depicts Kyai Abbas’ involvement in an extensive intellectual network. First, he, personally, exhibited himself as a true wanderer of knowledge seeker who had learned from many teachers including the distinguished Kyai Mahfudz of Termas.[67] Then he had students consisting of a wide range of individual; some of whom became ulama, leaders of pesantren and/or Sufi orders; some others became politicians and administrators. His close contact with various pesantren, and colleguial relationship with other kyai (Hasyim Asy'ari, Wahab Hasbullah, Manaf and others), helped the foundation of new pesantren (such as Lirboyo) and  strengthened the sense of inter-pesantren brotherhood. The latter was something which was instrumental for the success of his involvement in the struggle against colonialism, wherein he proved himself to be a figure not only concerned with educational affairs satisfied by his achievement in pesantren. Due partly to the political condition of his time, Kyai Abbas was also concerned with national movements.

Figure 7.3: Military Network of Pesantren Buntet under Kyai Abbas.
Figure 7.3: Military Network of Pesantren Buntet under Kyai Abbas.

During the Japanese occupation he was a member of the People's Congress (Sangikai). Benefiting from the military training provided by the Japanese under the Pembela Tanah Air (PETA) or The Country's Defence Corps scheme, he was directly involved in the fight against the Dutch who, after the World War II, returned to Indonesia under the Allied Forces umbrella, undermining the Indonesian independence proclaimed by Soekarno-Hatta on August 17, 1945. Kyai Abbas was  himself a commander of Sabilillah (Fighter in God's path) and then Hisbullah (Forces of God), both of which were Islamic wings of the Indonesian revolutionary Defence Corps.[68] He led a contingent consisting of a number of kyai and trained santri at Surabaya for involvement in the patriotic war against the Allied Forces on November 10, 1945. His contingent came to Jombang early in the morning on November 9, 1945.

Earlier, he had been involved in the assembly responsible for the issuance of the Holy War Declaration (Deklarasi Jihad) made by the Indonesian ulama. This declaration necessitated every Muslim to fight against the infidel (Dutch) and that the war in defence of fatherland was a Holy War (jihad). Kyai Abbas was also involved in the ulama assembly deciding the D-date (10 November 1945) to launch the raid against the allied forces head quarters in Surabaya. The raid is always commemorated as the Heroes's Day (Hari Pahlawan).[69] The relative standing of Kyai Abbas in the eyes of Kyai Hasyim Asy'ari at that moment is recounted in the following episode:

When Bung Tomo, the then Commander of the Republican (Indonesian) army, impatiently urged Kyai Hasyim Asy'ari to decide a D-date to launch a raid against the allied forces Head Quarters in Surabaya the kyai answered: “…please be patient, we are still waiting for the arrival of a group of kyai from Cirebon…”[70]

Pesantren Bunten Complex
Pesantren Bunten Complex

To the end of his life Kyai Abbas was active in both socio-religious and political movements. His involvement in various activities and networks can partly be enumerated as follows: 1) Leader of pesantren, 2) Syattariyah mursyid, 3) Tijaniyah muqaddam 4) Religious adviser of the “Syarekat Dagang Islam” (SDI), 5) Member of the Central Board of Muhtasyar (Religious Assembly) of the NU, 6) Rais ‘Am (Head) of the West Java Provincial Religious Board (Syuriah) of the NU, 7) Member of Sangikai (Regional People's Congress) and Sangi-in (National People's Congress) during the Japanese occupation, 8) Commander of Sabilillah and Hizbullah, 9) Representative of the West Javanese ulama at the Central Indonesian National Committee or the Komite Nasional Indonesia Pusat (KNIP).

Figure 7.4: Political Network of Pesantren Buntet under Kyai Abbas.
Figure 7.4: Political Network of Pesantren Buntet under Kyai Abbas.

Like his father, Kyai Abbas also married twice. His first wife was Nyai Hafidzoh, with whom he had three sons and one daughter. They were Kyai Mustahdi Abbas, Kyai Abdul Rozak, Kyai Mustamid Abbas and Nyai Sumaryam. With his second wife, Nyai ‘Inayah, he had six children, the first and the fifth were sons, namely Kyai Abdullah Abbas (Ki Dulah), who now leads the pesantren as Sesepuh  pemangku and Nahduddin Royandi Abbas who lives in London. The other are daughters (Nyai Hismatul Maula, Nyai Sukainah, Nyai Maimunah and Nyai Munawarah).

With very few exceptions like Nahduddin Royandi Abbas, who first married a French woman then divorced and married a Javanese from Solo, the pesantren family practices endogamous marriage. The present generations of kyai families at Buntet mostly have multiple familial ties due to both lineality and affinity. Figure 7.5 depicts a set of examples for the occurrences of endogamous marriage where descendants of Kyai Mutta'ad from the first and the second wives intermarried.

 Figure 7.5: Sample of endogamous Marriage in Pesantren Buntet.
Figure 7.5: Sample of endogamous Marriage in Pesantren Buntet.

The endogamous marriage, according to informants of pesantren circle in Buntet, is advantageous in enabling the pesantren to preserve continuous supply of kyai. It is said that the offspring resulting from this type of marriage, more often than not, will be raised and educated, at least at their childhood, within the pesantren  atmosphere. It is hoped, therefore, that even when the child's further education is a secular one, and involves in an occupation which has little relation with pesantren life, he or she will be motivated, sooner or later, to participate directly or indirectly in the preservation of pesantren tradition.

Kyai Mustahdi Abbas (1913–1975)

Kyai Abbas died in 1946 and was buried at the Buntet Pesantren grave complex (Makam Santri). His oldest son, Kyai Mustahdi Abbas was appointed his successor. Kyai Mustahdi learned religion with his father Kyai Abbas and his uncles, Kyai Anas, Kyai Ilyas and Kyai Akyas. He then went to Pesantren Babakan Ciwaringin to study with Kyai Amin, to Termas (East Java) with Kyai Dimyati, to Tebuireng in Jombang with Kyai Hasyim Asy'ari, to Lirboyo in Kediri with Kyai Abdul Manaf and to Lasem to study with Kyai Ma'mun and Kyai Baidlowi. He is said to have been such a genius that once when he was 15 years old, his father, Kyai Abbas, tested him with an assignment to put syakl (vowel signs) on the reproduced volumes of al-Ghazali's Ihya so that it would become readable to the beginners. The result was amazingly very neat and without a mistake. As a reward Kyai Abbas gave him a wrist watch which, at that time, was a very precious gift.

Kyai Mustahdi married Nyai Asiah, daughter of Kyai Anas, his uncle, and had three daughters and a son. He went to Mecca on pilgrimage and stayed there for some time with (Professor Dr) Kyai Anwar Musyaddad, former Rector of IAIN in Bandung. He worked with Sayid ‘Alawy to complete a number of books, one of which was a book on tasawuf, Riyadh as-Salihin.

In leading the pesantren, Kyai Mustahdi paid special attention to developing the madrasah system. One part of his ambitious activity was to make Pesantren Buntet an integral part of national education. In 1950 he changed the 3 year madrasah established by his father into a 6 year Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (MI). Influenced by his  strong NU mindedness, in 1958 he added to the pesantren junior secondary education by establishing a 4 year NU Teacher Training (PGA 4 Tahun NU). In 1960 it became two separate Institutes, each a 6 year Religious Teacher Training Centre, one for boys and one for girls (PGA 6 Tahun NU Putra and the PGA 6 Tahun NU Putri). In 1965 he also established Madrasah Tsanawiyah NU, and in 1968 Madrasah Aliyah NU. Finally in 1970 he established The Islamic University of Cakrabuana with two Faculties, Tarbiyah (Education) and Ushuluddin (Theology). Later, these faculties became affiliated with the State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) “Sunan Gunung Jati” of Bandung (West Java). Inspired by the success of his santri, Fu'ad Zen, who won the National prize in the competition for the Recital of the Qur'an held on the occasion of the 1965 Afro-Asian Islamic Conference in Jakarta, Kyai Mustahdi established a Qur'anic Science Academy (Akademi Al-Qur'an). This academy involved 3 years of tertiary education specialising in Qur'anic Studies.[71]

Kyai Mustahdi also paid attention to developing the pesantren management and laid down an organisational structure under which all madrasah within the pesantren were integrated. The present LPI (Lembaga Pendidikan Islam or Islamic Educational Body) is attributed to him. It was firstly established in August 17, 1958. In 1967 he called for all Pesantren Buntet alumni to hold a congress to discuss contemporary issues, especially those which were related to Islamic education. Various issues were raised and an alumni organisation, the Ikatan Keluarga Buntet Pesantren (IKBP) or Buntet Pesantren Alumni Union, was set up.

The development of the madrasah, although in itself quite an achievement, was not the only thing Kyai Mustahdi was concerned with. As a pesantren leader and member of the Syuriah of the West Java regional NU, he was a Mursyid of the  Syattariyah order who frequently travelled throughout Java, especially to Central and East Java, visiting the zawiyah, and this, also added to the reputation of his pesantren. He worked hard for his pesantren until he died in 1975.

Figure 7.6: Genealogy of Some Kyai in Buntet.
Figure 7.6: Genealogy of Some Kyai in Buntet.
 Plate 32: Kyai Abbas.
Plate 32: Kyai Abbas.

Plate 33: Kyai Abdullah Abbas (in sarong and white cap) before "Haul" ceremony.
Plate 33: Kyai Abdullah Abbas (in sarong and white cap) before "Haul" ceremony.

Kyai Mustamid Abbas (1975–1988) and Kyai Abdullah Abbas (1988–…)

When Kyai Mustahdi passed away, his son, Abbas Shobih, was still a young child, and thus his brother, Kyai Mustamid Abbas, was appointed his successor. Kyai Mustamid was already 60 years old when he took over the pesantren leadership and was already busy enough. He was the Rais Syuriah of the West Java Provincial Board of the NU, member of the National People's Congress (MPR), President of Cirebon Branch of the ‘Indonesian Pondok Pesantren Union.’ His educational experience began at the Madrasah Wathoniyah Buntet Pesantren. He then went to Termas, Lasem, Lirboyo (Madrasah Muballighin) and Kulliyatul Muballighin at Tebuireng, Jombang. Rather than setting up a new policy, he chose to continue his brother's policies. In the meantime the Ministry of Religious Affairs reorganised its religious educational system. This policy had a considerable impact on the overall number and organisational structure of religious education in Indonesia, especially in regard to the PGA (Religious Teacher Training) and tertiary religious education (IAIN). Under the new scheme PGA was transformed into an ordinary public madrasah, thence the madrasah education operating in Buntet became: (1) Madrasah Wathoniyah Ibtidaiyah Puteri (2) Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Wathoniyah Putera (3) Madrasah Tsanawiyah NU Putera-I (4) Madrasah Tsanawiyah NU Putra-II (5) Madrasah Tsanawiyah NU Puteri (6) Madrasah ‘Aliyah NU Putera (7) Madrasah Aliyah NU Puteri and (8) Madrasah Aliyah Negeri (state owned Madrasah Aliyah). The Islamic University of Cakrabuana, including the Qur'anic Science Academy, ceased its operation.

When Kyai Mustamid died in 1988, Abbas Shobih, son of Kyai Mustahdi to whom the leadership should have returned, was still very young and announced his unpreparedness to take over the leadership as Sesepuh (pesantren elder). A consensus among the sohibul wilayah was reached on the 7th day ceremony of Kyai Mustamid passing away and appointed Kyai Abdullah Abbas, son of Kyai Abbas,  who is referred to as Ki Dulah, to take over H. Abbas Shobih's position as sesepuh pemangku (acting elder). This position is still retained until now (1995).

In his sixties Ki Dulah has not made significant change to the pesantren educational structure, but a draft of a ten year (1990–2000) pesantren development plan has been produced to build a new complex on a two hectare piece of land alongside the connecting road between the present pesantren complex and the Cirebon-Sindanglaut main road.[72]

So far, the relationship between Ki Dulah, Abas Shobih (Kang Obih) and other kyai has been good. Recently however, especially facing the 1992 general elections, an internal friction between the kyai arose. Following the nation-wide friction, there arose a division within the NU circle concerning the political support of the NU for the competing parties. Some of the kyai favoured GOLKAR, the government party, while the others preferred to keep their traditional support for the former Islamic party, the PPP.[73] In Indonesia, as seen in Buntet and elsewhere, support for political parties is not considered merely as a practical undertaking. It transcends the pragmatic level into the ideological one. Some kyai in Buntet, like Ki Dulah, Ki Fu'ad, Kang Obih, Ki Hisyam and others supported GOLKAR in the 1992 elections, whereas Ki Nu'man, Ki Syifa, Ki Izzuddin and others supported PPP despite the fact that this party no longer claimed Islam as its ideological basis. With few exceptions, it happened GOLKAR supporters resided mainly in the east wing of the pesantren complex, that is, from the pesantren mosque eastward and thus they were referred to as golongan wetan (the eastern group). On the other hand, PPP supporters resided in  the west and thus they were called golongan kulon (the western group).[74] The golongan kulon argued that although currently the PPP no longer declared Islam as an ideological basis, this party was still uncontaminated by non-Islamic elements. All its leaders were Muslims and still struggling for Islamic ideals, at least outwardly. It was, they said, therefore a moral obligation for the Muslims to support this party. This group, or at least some of them, became extreme and vocal in accusing the golongan wetan of betraying the Islamic ideals and therefore easily forgetting the sufferings and trauma caused by 1971 and the subsequent general elections.[75] The western group claimed that the eastern group needed to renew their testimony (kudu syahadat maning). Probably, due in part in the security of standing for the government, the eastern group exhibited a calm and more mature attitude. They argued that they did suffer the 1971 trauma and that the government and GOLKAR's hard measures against Islam especially in 1971 were, to a large extent, due to the key figures of the military personnel who led GOLKAR and the government at that time. Now, they argued, the situation had changed; there were no more such persons as Sukawati, Ali Murtopo and Amir Mahmud.[76] To be fair, they said, the present (GOLKAR) government had been relatively good to the Muslims and Islam, and they could expect even better in the future. Thus, there was room for the Muslims to respond positively to the changed situation and abandon their irrational oppositional  stance. In addition, experience had shown that supporting the PPP had brought nothing except trauma and disappointment to many people. PPP could do nothing for its supporters who sacrificed themselves, being in custody and becoming the victims of election abuse.[77]

Despite this internal friction, the NU was still functioning as a binding force, at least on the surface. This appeared for example, at the occasion when the Cirebon regional branch of NU held an annual congress on November 1992. On this occasion, the kyai of Buntet from both sides, the golongan wetan and golongan kulon, were present, sitting together side by side amidst other kyai from other pesantren to take part in the proceedings.