Today, Acehnese make pilgrimages through the government of the Republic of Indonesia. If in the past it took two to three months to get to the Holy Land. Nowadays, people who want to go on a pilgrimage take up to tens of years to be able to leave which is because of the hajj quota system implemented by the Saudi Arabian government. This situation forces Acehnese to follow the quota set by the central government in Jakarta through the Ministry of Religion.
The Hajj computer system
Therefore, the way to go for Hajj has been patterned through the Hajj computer system. People can save at the designated bank, get a number, and then register with the office of the ministry of religion. In this case, the queue sometimes reaches a dozen years, which makes the Acehnese tradition of going on a pilgrimage different from the old days.
People going on a pilgrimage must be able to prepare themselves to wait longer for the pilgrimage rather than the duration of the trip to the Holy Land.
Business behind the Preparation of Hajj
Today’s Hajj has become a business ground. Banks and travel agents can take profits. Even the ‘local clerics who become hajj guides also make the hajj season a harvest season in terms of income. The Hajj season has become a place for ritual preparation and an opportunity to make as much profit as possible.
Even people who go on a pilgrimage are no longer ‘ulama or warriors, as in the past, but anyone who has sufficient funds and preparations can go on a pilgrimage. When returning home, the person will wear the title of Hajj after his name.
Finally, the calls of Tengku Haji and Cut Hajjah are calls that have a relatively high social value and status in society. There are strong indications that contemporary Acehnese ‘ulama did not continue the tradition like those seeking knowledge in Haramayn after studying Islam in the dayahs in Aceh. The ‘ulama seemed to have had enough of the knowledge they got from the dayahs or Islamic boarding schools in Aceh.
However, there is a new phenomenon of how to go on a pilgrimage among young people from the archipelago, namely those who live and study in the Middle East can go to Saudi Arabia during the hajj season. They will work as Hajj or Hajj officers for other people. Although with business nuances, this pattern still shows how Acehnese people go on pilgrimage in the contemporary era.
So that when they returned home, several former students at campuses in the Middle East, in addition to bringing home academic degrees, also had Hajj titles behind their names. However, their status in society remained unaffected, as did the ‘ulama who went on pilgrimage while studying in Arabia.
Due to changing circumstances and conditions, Hajj for young people who have studied in the Middle East is commonplace. They do not need to perform many rituals, as is usually done by the Acehnese when they want to leave for the Holy Land, namely keunduri and peusijuek.
The Status of Hajj in society
The concept of Hajj for Acehnese has triggered that there is no significant influence on their existence, as in the previous era. Those who return from Mecca only get the title of Hajj or Hajjah. Usually, titles are given by people such as Tengku Haji , Cut Hajjah , Pak Haji , and Ibu Haji.
The title or title will continue to be used until the person dies. However, this title had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of religious knowledge one would acquire upon returning from the Holy Land. Therefore, the purpose of the Hajj then changes to only attaining piety or the fulfillment of the fifth pillar.
The role of ‘ulama during the kingdom’s era or the occupation by the Dutch of those on the Hajj was not found. This is triggered by the ability and readiness of a person to go on a pilgrimage, no longer on the ability to raise funds from the community, but because of the adequacy of funds owned by a prospective pilgrim.
The Wahhabism and the Conflict in Middle East
This change, of course, gave a new perspective to the perception of some traditionalist groups who view that the Wahhabis have controlled the Arabs. So they even see that those who will study in Arabia, especially in Saudi Arabia, will become a Wahhabi. It is said that some religious practices that are not in line with the thinking of the dayah group (pesantren) are often considered part of Wahhabism. Therefore, the term Wahabi in Aceh has become a kind of threat to traditional Islamic groups, which are more centered on traditional dayahs.
In fact, according to the confession of an Acehnese cleric, when he went on Hajj, he made the congregation pray alone in the Grand Mosque because the rituals of prayer performed at the al-Haram Mosque were not similar to what he learned and taught in the dayah. These conditions and perceptions, of course, made some of the dayahs have no desire to study in Arabia, citing the Wahhabi movement in Mecca and Medina.
There has been a shift in the orientation of the meaning of Hajj and philosophical issues for the Acehnese. Hajj is only seen as a ritual that does not have an extraordinary impact, as in the history of intellectuals and religious movements in Aceh. The situation in the Middle East, according to some Acehnese, is no longer in line with their expectations. It is now the continuing conflict in the Middle East since post-World War II.
At the same time, Aceh also experienced conflicts, social revolutions, and rebellions against the central government. However, interest in going to the Holy Land still arises, especially for those who want to perform the Umrah. With the latest travel by air, Umrah pilgrims from Aceh are never lonely. Travel agencies always offer Umrah programs to the Holy Land. Once again, the issue of Umrah is sometimes framed with spiritual tourism events to historical places in the Arab Land.
Such is the contemporary portrait of the Acehnese going on a pilgrimage. Of course, the history of the Acehnese to the Holy Land is not the same which was triggered by the social situation in Aceh and the Arab land itself.
Therefore, to understand the contemporary context of the Acehnese going on the pilgrimage, it is necessary to look at it from a purely spiritual aspect.
Arabic has become an essential instrument in affirming Aceh’s identity. In this study, we can see the link between Arabs and Acehnese. From this study, several things need to be underlined:
The role of the Acehnese in Aceh is quite significant. In every episode of Aceh’s early history, the Acehnese have always been in every historical struggle.
The relationship between Aceh and Arabs through the pilgrimage has formed intellectual and socio-religious relationships or networks. It is evident that almost all prominent ‘ulama in Aceh have or have studied in the Arab Land.
- This study proves that the role of the Acehnese in the Arab Land cannot be ignored.
- This essay shows that they were able to make essential contributions to the history of Mecca, especially in material matters (waqf land and gifts for the Sharifs in Mecca).
- Arab lands have an essential role in the struggle of the Acehnese people, where Islamic reformers also spread the ideas of Islamic revival through intellectual networks to Aceh.
- A study of the history of the Hajj in Aceh also opens an understanding of Aceh’s relations with several foreign countries, such as the story of the Acehnese in Pulau Pinang.
- In the contemporary era, there has been a shift in the preparation and situation of the Acehnese for Hajj to Baitullah.
- The circumstances of the times have shown that the orientation of the pilgrimage is not the same as in the glorious era of Aceh in the academic field.