5.3 Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati

The tradition of pengajian is as common in Sundanese West Java as in other parts of Indonesia. Horikoshi (1976) noted that pengajian is part of the Islamic tradition in Garut. In Bandung this tradition is no less common. Though the term pengajian originally refers to any learning activity, religious or secular, it is now becoming more specific and refers to learning religious instructions in a social gathering (Horikoshi 1976:133) held at a mosque, pesantren, house, or any public building. Here tens, hundreds, or even thousands of Muslims listen to a religious talk delivered by a kyai or a muballigh (preacher).

At Daarut Tauhid such pengajian is known as Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati (Comforting Religious Advice). This term was deliberately chosen to reflect the primary target of Daarut Tauhid, that is the achievement of qolbun salim. By this Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati Daarut Tauhid aims to help those Muslims in attendance to achieve the quality of qolbun salim.

The Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati is held at Daarut Tauhid on a twice-weekly basis; on Sunday afternoons at 1.30 PM and on Thursday evenings at 7 PM. In addition, Aa Gym regularly gives Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati on two radio channels in Bandung. That is on 106.5 Antassalam FM on Mondays at 6.30 PM and on Medinatussalam FM on Thursdays at 9.30 PM.

The Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati that is held at Daarut Tauhid is, of course, distinguished by two features. First, it was the origin of the emergence of Daarut Tauhid itself. As noted earlier in Chapter Two, Pesantren Daarut Tauhid developed from a small group of pengajian. Second, the attendance of a large number of followers, which reflects this program’s attractiveness, suggests that the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati is more important than any other single activity. The followers find listening directly to the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati at Daarut Tauhid more satisfactory than listening to it on the radio. Some followers told me that they came to Daarut Tauhid to attend the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati after they had listened to it on the radio. A follower said that “Aa Gym’s religious talk on the radio was very impressive, but listening to it directly here at Daarut Tauhid is to me more impressive.” When asked why, he answered “I do not know.” But he then explained that it may be because of the direct contact with Aa Gym and the large number of Muslims in attendance. He felt, he said, a spiritual satisfaction from seeing Aa Gym as a religious example of life. He also obtained a feeling of religious solidarity from getting together with other Muslims in such large numbers. Thus, to this follower and to others, gathering together on the occasion of Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati at Daarut Tauhid makes closer their relation to Aa Gym and to other Muslim brothers and sisters.[8]

Moreover, the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati is more important than the Friday service given by Daarut Tauhid. There is no doubt that the Friday service is usually the most important event in the Muslim world. This is well-illustrated, for example, by Bowen (1993:296) who shows how “the Friday service in the Takengen [Aceh] mosque structures the week’s activities for men and women living in nearby villages.” However, the Friday service is less important at Daarut Tauhid. This is, I observed, for the main reason that Aa Gym is rarely present at Friday service time. He is usually invited to deliver Friday sermon at other mosques. (Daarut Tauhid itself usually invites other Muslims of learning to deliver the Friday sermon there.)

The presence of Aa Gym is profoundly important to the followers’ attendance. It significantly determines the size of the audience. This was brought to my attention when Aa Gym was performing the umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) to Mecca from December the 19th 1994 to January the 4th 1995. In the absence of Aa Gym, the number of the followers attending the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati decreased by more than half. The mosque was less than half filled. Many followers did not come although Daarut Tauhid had by then invited some prominent muballigh (preachers) to replace Aa Gym during his absence. This certainly demonstrates the degree to which Aa Gym is important to his followers.[9] This is why the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati, which is delivered by Aa Gym personally, is more important an event than the Friday service at Daarut Tauhid, the sermon of which is not delivered by Aa Gym.

Although the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati on Sundays formally begins at 1.30 PM, some of the audience come as early as 12 PM, which is the due time for performing shalat dhuhur (afternoon worship). Those who come this early usually perform shalat dhuhur together with the santri. Aa Gym acts as the imam of the shalat if he is available. The most frequent case finds Aa Gym most often fulfilling some invitation to preach outside Daarut Tauhid. Those who come later have commonly performed shalat dhuhur at home or at a neighbouring mosque. When entering the Daarut Tauhid’s mosque, they commonly perform the optional shalat of two cycles, which is recommended by Islam to respect the mosque as a holy place and is thus called shalat tahiyyatul masjid (greeting the mosque).

Photograph 17 A few followers, who have come early for the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati, recite the Qur’an or perform the optional shalat.
Photograph 17 A few followers, who have come early for the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati, recite the Qur’an or perform the optional shalat.

The audience arrives individually, in pairs, or in a group. They gradually fill the three storey mosque, men on the first floor and women on the second.[10] As the second floor is narrower than the first and since women slightly outnumber the men, some women fill roughly a quarter of the first floor, on the right behind a piece of green fabric draped between the mosque’s pillars. (This fabric is set as high as a sitting person during the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati and as a standing person during shalat.) The audience seem to come as early as they can to claim the closest possible position to the mimbar from which Aa Gym will deliver the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati.

By about 1 PM, the mosque has usually been filled by the audience. Those who come after this time usually have to use the back part of the mosque, its stairs, or the yard and the street in front of the mosque. The santri appear busy ordering the audience in the mosque; asking them to fill any gaps to give room for those coming later. Outside the mosque, some santri roll out mats on which those who cannot come into the mosque can sit. Two santri are busy ordering traffic, since the narrow street in front of the mosque is crowded by the followers, other pedestrians, passing cars, pedicabs, and motorcycles. Other santri are busy managing the parking of the cars and motorcycles of the followers, since many of them come by their own transportation.

While waiting for the commencement of the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati at 1.30 PM, the audience are recommended to do tadarrus (reciting Qur’an) individually. It is interesting the way this recommendation is done. Rather than an announcement through the loud speaker system, the organising santri simply distribute a huge number of the holy Qur’an, which are available at every corner of the mosque to the audience by passing them along from a person to another until each one gets a copy. This has been the tradition and without any explanation, each starts doing tadarrus of their own.

Photograph 18 Many followers come by motorbike or car.
Photograph 18 Many followers come by motorbike or car.

About ten minutes before 1.30 PM, an organising santri asks the followers to stop tadarrus. The Qur’an are then passed back along to the corners of the mosque. This santri then calls on the followers to chant al-Asma al-Husna.[11] This al-Asma al-Husna is sung together with an impressive melody. The santri leads the chanting. They sing the long al-Asma al-Husna without any text. Therefore, the leading santri must sing it by heart. Some followers seem to sing it by heart, while others seem simply to follow. The massive chanting produces a thunderous yet melodious sound. (One would enjoy it as I did.)

The chanting of al-Asma al-Husna is not intended to be a mere song to fill the time of waiting. It is, a santri said, intended to intensify the faith of the followers in the tauhid. By chanting the al-Asma al-Husna the followers can remember Allah with these ninety-nine attributes of His superiority.

The chanting of the al-Asma al-Husna, stops precisely at 1.30 PM. Then a santri comes up to host the formal program. He begins by greeting the audience saying as-salamu ’alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh (peace be to you and the mercy and blessing of Allah). Next he thanks Allah, praising Him and asserting His oneness and His absolute power, and he asks Allah to bless the Prophet Muhammad. Afterwards, he makes some announcements concerning the current activities of Daarut Tauhid. When finished, he invites a santri to chant some verses of the Qur’an. These verses are then translated into Indonesian by another santri.[12] After this brief opening ceremony, Aa Gym comes into the mosque and mounts the mimbar to give religious advice. (If Aa Gym comes late to the mosque, because he has been delivering a religious talk elsewhere, the waiting time would be spent singing al-Asma al-Husna together or reciting tadarrus individually.)

The following is an example of Aa Gym’s speech on Sunday 11 December 1994. After opening remarks thanking and praising Allah for His continuous blessing upon humans and saying sholawat for the Prophet Muhammad, Aa Gym began his talk by saying

Men and women who do not know Allah well would depend heavily on humans or things other than Allah. They fear the creatures instead of fearing the Creator. They also hope for blessing from them not from Allah. As a result, many of those people live in misery. Do they not realise that everything depends on Allah? Though some one is willing to give you something, for example, he/she will not give you anything unless Allah allows him/her to do so. That is because verily it is Allah who determines our life. Note that all creatures la haula wa la quwwata illa billahil ‘aliyyil ‘adziem [have neither power nor energy unless they are given them by Allah, the High, the Inaccessible].

This prologue, again, demonstrates Aa Gym’s insistence on the complete belief in tauhid and in the consequent superiority of Allah.

Aa Gym then went on to advise the audience of how much Allah loves His beloved Muslims. First of all, he reminded the audience of the fact that only a few Muslims are aware of the truth that ultimate happiness is being beloved by Allah.

Of course one must be happy when given wealth, position, title, award, and the like. But, you know, these things are given by Allah to everyone, Muslim or not, pious or not. Therefore, one’s achievement of those things does not indicate Allah’s favour and love. We do not want, of course, to achieve this worldly enjoyment without Allah’s favour and love. This is because we learn what Allah says in the Qur’an: Inna akromakum ‘indallahi atqokum [Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you].[13]

Aa Gym then mentioned some indications by which one can recognise Allah’s favour. One of these indications is worth noting here.

Dear sahabat (friends), an indication of Allah’s favour and love is the cleanliness of one’s mind and heart. Allah will always make the mind and heart of His beloved Muslims free from any bad character and interests. When one’s mind is very pure (bening), Allah will make it easy for one to grasp high knowledge that cannot be grasped by other people. In grasping knowledge, a Muslim with clean mind is like one who digs land to build a well. While digging, a spring (mata air) suddenly spouts out from the depth of the land. There would be a sudden flow of high knowledge that is blessed by Allah as a reward to the Muslim for having a clean mind. This sound mind is like a completely clean mirror without any spots on it. People will love to make this person a mirror that they can use as an example for living. On the contrary, one with a dirty mind is just like a dirty mirror; none would refer to him. Further, the clean mind is reflected through good manners, good language, good ways of looking, and other behaviour. It is also reflected through the outcome of ideas. Excellent ideas will only come from a sound mind while only crazy ideas would come from a dirty mind. It is like a teapot or bottle. If it is filled with tea, it will produce tea, if coffee coffee, if alcohol alcohol, and so forth. Thus, whether one is good or bad, the way one behaves depends on whether one’s mind is good or bad.

Aa Gym’s advice continues on in this vein throughout the Taushiyah Penyejuk Hati. This usually ends by the time of shalat ashar (afternoon worship).

It is interesting that Aa Gym, in the middle of his talk, often has very short breaks of about 30 seconds to a minute, during which he commands the audience to either do istighfar or recite sholawat. This kind of break is particularly frequent during question time, as Aa Gym needs some time to read the audience’s questions before responding. During each break the members of the audience individually say istighfar or sholawat just as Aa Gym has commanded. These short breaks, with what is done therein, are very significant in bringing the audience to a state of sadness, a situation that is “built” by Aa Gym for the following ritual.

[8] Compare this to what Bowen (1993:296) found from the worshipping together among Muslims in Gayo. He suggests that worshipping together possibly brings to the fore one’s relation to other people, produces aesthetical and emotional satisfaction, and embodies “certain ideas of religious communication and social relations.”

[9] It happened that on the first Sunday of Ramadhan (February 5, 1995) Aa Gym was absent, fulfilling invitations for some religious talks in Singapore. The followers had not been advised of his absence in order to maintain the level of attendance. (The officials at Daarut Tauhid had learned from the drastic decrease in attendance during Aa Gym’s absence for the umrah the month before.) Truly it worked effectively. The mosque was fully filled half an hour before time. The followers came in huge numbers, more than the usual number because it was the first of Ramadhan. (Ramadhan is the holy month to Muslims. They are more likely to attend religious activities during Ramadhan than in other months.) Certainly, those who attended the congregation were annoyed when they were told that the preacher for that Sunday would not be Aa Gym but Drs. H. Buchori Muslim, a prominent preacher in Bandung. Some in attendance expressed their disappointment when we were having a brief conversation. One of them argued that the current preacher was less attractive than Aa Gym, both in terms of the topic chosen and in the way it was delivered.

[10] The ground floor is used for the Daarut Tauhid’s mini-market and is thus not part of the mosque.

[11] Al-asma al-Husna (the Most Beautiful Names) are the divine names of Allah. Muslims are taught by the Qur’an (7:179, for one) that to God belong the most Beautiful Names. A Hadith, transmitted by abu Hurairah, states: “to God belong 99 Names, a hundred less one; for He, the Odd Number likes (to be designated by these enumerated Names) one by one; whosoever knows the 99 Names will enter paradise.” Muslims repeat these Names and meditate on them as an act of devotion. Chanting these names is known in the pesantren tradition as dzikir istighothah. And, according to the Sufi belief, remembering the names is a key to the secrets of life (Dhofier 1980a:183n).

[12] Chanting some verses of the Qur’an melodiously is a common part of Islamic ceremonial events in the Muslim tradition.

[13] QS. 49:13.