Brownbag Series #41: Ba’Alawi Community in Indonesia’s 21st Century

January 24, 2024

Contributor: Hamad Shoukat | Editor: Supriyono

UIII, DEPOK - The 41st episode of the Brownbag Series held by UIII’s Faculty of Social Sciences (FoSS) on January 10, 2024, unraveled the intricacies surrounding the Ba'Alawi community within the Indonesian socio-religious context during the 21st century with Mr. Geradi Yudhistira as the speaker, moderated by UIII scholar Dr. Nia Delian.

Mr. Yudhistira is a PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam who also serves as an Assistant Professor at Universitas Islam Indonesia (UII), Yogyakarta. His presentation commenced with a meticulous unpicking of terminologies, presenting the audience with a lexicon essential to decoding the Ba'Alawi narrative.

He highlighted the profound significance of Ba'Alawi as a community tracing its lineage directly from Prophet Muhammad. The honorifics—Sayyid, Syarif, Habib, Muhibbin—were dissected with scholarly precision, revealing the rich semantic layers that underpin the Ba'Alawi identity.

Mr. Yudhistira's inquiry focused on the question: ‘What propelled the Ba'Alawi to prominence within Indonesia's traditional Islamic community in the 21st century?’ employing participative observation, informal dialogues, formal interviews, and the judicious use of secondary sources in collecting the data.

The findings asserted that Ba'Alawi's elevation to a dominant-minority echelon was a consequence of a heightened sense of group solidarity, an asabiyya that transcended mere social cohesion. This collective consciousness fostered mutual understanding, mythologized historical narratives, and a shared pursuit of collective objectives. Trust, emanating from a historical legacy and the perceived direct descent from the Prophet, formed the bedrock upon which the Ba'Alawi exerted influence within the broader Islamic community.

In addition, the supporting factors, such as Islamic revivalism, reconnection to Hadhramawt, democratic openings for da'wah, and the establishment of robust kinship networks, painted a comprehensive tableau of the socio-political landscape conducive to Ba'Alawi's ascendance.

In a sagacious tone, the speaker posited that the Ba'Alawi's dominance transcended the realm of Islamic pedagogy, permeating broader societal contexts. The escalating number of Habib devotees (Muhibbin) served as a palpable testament to the expanding influence of the community, their collective devotion echoing the resonance of a spiritual crescendo.

As the lecture gracefully transitioned into poignant anecdotes from Depok, Solo, and Yogyakarta, the impact of individual choices on the embrace of the Ba'Alawi identity materialized vividly. The democratic space, illuminated through the growth of Majelis, attracted even political luminaries, illustrating the intriguing confluence of religious and political spheres.

Throughout the presentation, students of the Faculty of Social Sciences distinguished themselves by displaying active participation. Their queries reflected a profound engagement with the complex dynamics presented. The lecture garnered accolades for its scholarly depth and the valuable insights it contributed, underscoring the university's commitment to fostering intellectual discourse and nuanced understanding.