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How is the influence of the spirit of Hajj on the Acehnese struggle against the Dutch?



The excellent service and expansion of Acehnese ulama to Haramayn have given its spirit to the people of Aceh. The title of the Veranda of Mecca has proven that the relationship between Mecca and Aceh had never been underestimated until the war against the Dutch. As stated by Roff, those who have returned from Hajj can provide a vital spirit for a Hajj.

 In this case, one strong piece of evidence is the ability of Tgk. Chik Pantekulu composed the Hikayat Prang Sabi (Saga of the Sabil War) on his return journey from Mecca to Aceh in 1881 AD. The influence of several significant events in Mecca on the journey of Tgk. Chik Pantekulu in composing the book Hikayat Prang Sabi is explained by Hasjmy as follows:

The revival of the Islamic world proclaimed by the Wahhabi Movement under the leadership of the Great Ulama Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab and the renewal movement launched by Said Jamaluddin Afghani has left a profound influence on the soul of Muhammad Pante Kulu, who has grown to maturity. As an artistic person, he was very fond of reading Arabic poetry books, especially the works of war poets at the Apostles’ time, such as Hassan bin Thabit, Abdullah bin Malik, Ka’ab bin Zubair. Their poems guided the young soul of Muhammad so that eventually, he became the greatest War Poet in history, and his name was immortalized as a war poet. In addition to reading poetry books (diwaanusy-syi’r), he is also very fond of studying the history of famous Islamic heroes, such as Khalid bin Walid, Umar bin Khaththab, Hamzah, Usamah bin Zaid, Tariq bin Ziyad, and others.  

It must be admitted that this saga later became the spirit of war for the people of Aceh. During the Dutch war, the Hikayat Prang Sabil, according to Ibrahim Alfian, was read in the dayahs, in meunasahs, or in houses or elsewhere before people went to war. Not only that, Alfian said that in Aceh in Dutch-occupied areas, people read war stories in secret. It was not only conveyed in reading to disseminate the contents but the HPS manuscript was copied many times and attempted to be spread to remote areas of Aceh. So the Aceh war against the Dutch was known as Holy War. 

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The attempt to occupy Aceh then forced the Dutch to study Acehnese society, which several Dutch researchers carried out. In this case, Snouck’s role is quite significant. He lived in Mecca for seven months (February to August 1885). He did not have time to perform the pilgrimage because he stumbled upon a case that forced him to be expelled from Haramayn. After his expulsion from Arabia, he returned to Holland. 

However, then arrived again in the archipelago when he settled on the island of Java (1889-1890), and then moved to Aceh on July 9, 1891. After that, he became an Advisor to the Minister of Colonies of the Dutch government. Snouck’s advice to the Dutch government was to 

“not tolerate any activity carried out by Muslims that could spread calls for Pan-Islamism or cause political or armed resistance against the Dutch colonial government.” 

The reasons why he was assigned to Aceh are stated in his confession as follows:

In July 1891, I visited Aceh following the instructions of the Dutch East Indies Government to study specifically about the religious element in the political conditions in that country. While in Arabia (1884 – 1885) – and especially in Mecca – I had the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of the influence of Islamic fanaticism on the attitude of the Acehnese who steadfastly resisted Dutch rule; I needed to be in direct contact with the Acehnese in their own country for some time to consolidate the knowledge I had gained from the literature and my experience in the holy Arab city.

Furthermore, when there was a war between the Dutch and Aceh in Arabia an idea was going on to unite the Muslim community, known as Pan-Islam. This idea emerged in 1878 when European nations attempted to occupy some Muslim areas. Then, Muslims were called upon to unite, an even though this spirit. 

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It was used as an ideology to fight against the invaders. The ulama who encouraged the unification of the Muslim ummah was Sayyid Jamaluddin al-Afghani (1838/9-1979). According to Nikki R. Keddie, 

“Afghani’s reputation in the Muslim world is beyond his time. He was far less well known in his lifetime than after his death, as is usually the case with many influential historical figures.” 

According to Snouck, this idea must be suppressed, so those who have lived in Mecca for a long time cannot bring this idea to the archipelago. However, this Pan-Islamic idea undeniably influenced the archipelago, especially when they went on a pilgrimage to Haramayn. According to one informant, the Acehnese fighters who fled to Mecca studied Islam and followed the development of Pan-Islamic ideas, especially those who had heard the lectures of Muhammad’ Abduh, a student of Sayyid Jamaluddin Al-Afghani. 

After the Dutch declared war on Aceh, they migrated to Mecca as stated above. Because they are fugitives, it is strongly suspected that they did not use an official passports. In 1881, Nyak Amin received them from Aceh Besar in Penang, who acted as Sheikh for pilgrims from Aceh. Before Penang developed, Aceh was a transit point for those who wanted to travel to Jeddah. At that time, the port was very crowded with visitors, not only for hajj matters but also for trade. 

However, when Penang was fostered, the Acehnese built their colony. According to historical records, Penang became the gateway for Acehnese to go to several countries. The Dutch once blockaded around June 1873 as many as 270 Acehnese who returned from Mecca to not reach Aceh. But they built a network of forces to fight the Dutch on Pulau Pinang. Snouck is also well aware of the impact of the Aceh colony on Pulau Pinang. So the idea emerged from the Netherlands to build the Ule Lheu port around Banda Aceh. 

In 1890, war leaders among the Acehnese people even suggested not to perform the pilgrimage because they had to strengthen their ranks against the Dutch. It is here that it can be understood that the Hikayat Prang Sabi war played an essential role in giving the spirit of war against infidels. This reason was put forward because the order not to recommend performing the pilgrimage because another important reason is the war against infidels. 

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It is certain that those who advocated this were the ulama because they were the ones who controlled the Acehnese at that time to face the Dutch. It is evident that in 1889-1890, the Dutch mobilized a large force to Baitullah to prevent the East coast of Aceh. In 1890, the Dutch formed a special force merchaussee to hunt down many war leaders from the Acehnese stronghold. 

Meanwhile, in May-July 1890, there was a war on the Idi River, East Aceh.  The route for the Acehnese to go on pilgrimage, namely Idi Beach to Pinang Island, is entirely impassable because it has become a war zone.

The history of the Acehnese in Mecca impacted the Muslim community in the Holy Land and influenced every episode of the history of the Acehnese. The relationship between Aceh – Pulau Pinang – Mecca during the war between Aceh and the Dutch also showed the journey of ideas from Mecca to Aceh. 

The explanation of the saga of the Holy War and the idea of unifying the Islamic ummah turned out to influence the spiritualism and intellectualism of the Acehnese after the pilgrimage. Similarly, the Dutch had seen the threat of the Naik Hajis returning to the archipelago, and Aceh was no exception. 

The experience of the blockade both on Pulau Pinang and the war around the area where the Acehnese went for the pilgrimage also formed an understanding that the Acehnese should not be allowed to perform the pilgrimage to Baytullah. In this case, Jaku Arab has become an independent spirit for the Acehnese, as stated by Roff above.

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad (KBA) has followed his curiosity throughout life, which has carried him into the fields of Sociology of Anthropology of Religion in Southeast Asia, Islamic Studies, Sufism, Cosmology, and Security, Geostrategy, Terrorism, and Geopolitics. KBA is the author of over 30 books and 50 academic and professional journal articles and book chapters. His academic training is in social anthropology at La Trobe University, Islamic Political Science at the University of Malaya, and Islamic Legal Studies at UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. He received many fellowships: Asian Public Intellectual (The Nippon Foundation), IVLP (American Government), Young Muslim Intellectual (Japan Foundation), and Islamic Studies from Within (Rockefeller Foundation). He is based in Banda Aceh and can be reached at ceninnets@yahoo.com.au

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