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AcehnologySoutheast Asian Studies

The Position of Acehnology in Knowledge Production in Southeast Asia

 In this essay, I want to explain the concept of the study of Acehnology. When the Acehnology study was compiled, several goals were to be achieved. This project has one spirit: to try to make a discourse on Aceh Studies. Aceh has been studied a lot, starting from the beginning of Aceh’s history to the present era. As for the Acehnese researchers from Leiden to London. 

Aceh as Complement Studies

Materials about the project are scattered everywhere, from dayahs to leading research institutions worldwide. Unfortunately, efforts to examine Aceh have not yet produced a scientific discipline, namely Aceh Studies. 

Studies on Aceh have primarily been used as sub-studies at various universities abroad, such as Asian Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, Indonesian Studies, and Malay Studies. 

Aceh is often placed as a ‘complementary’ object in these studies. In a sense, the study of the ins and outs of Aceh is not an independent discipline.

Even scientists in Aceh do not seem to have a concept about how Aceh Studies are. Also, why should it be made a topic in science? What is meant by Aceh Studies is: A study that examines, examines, and examines the intricacies of the Acehnese world from various scientific perspectives or approaches. 

In other words, Aceh Studies wants to place Aceh as a scientific object, not as a ‘complement’ of science that has appeared in various regional studies at universities. Of course, in Aceh, there is not a single university that has opened a major in Aceh Studies. 

Acehnology and Social Sciences

To start Aceh Studies is not too difficult. Because Aceh can be studied like other human sciences (Humanities), he could be like Javanology, Dayakology, or Malay Studies, even some of the views say that Aceh is part of Malay studies. Aceh made an essential contribution to the Malay world. Surprisingly, a “subject” has never been studied as a discipline of study.

If Aceh makes a “contribution” to Malay Studies, then Aceh is naturally higher than Malay. Why is that? If the postulate “the intricacies of the Acehnese world” can be accepted, it can become a field of science. 

In one article, I mentioned the term KPA (Aceh Civilization Crust) to build a paradigm regarding the world of Aceh. Civilization consists of three elements, namely history, language, and culture. If Aceh is considered an object of scientific study, then Aceh has its uniqueness in history, language, and culture. 

For example, a researcher will have many variations in understanding the history of Aceh. More than that, researchers can also examine the Acehnese language, in which there are various language styles and dialects. Cultural issues are one of the scientific fields that will not be finished writing when it comes to Aceh.

If these three elements of civilization are associated with Aceh, then Aceh Studies may be able to stand alone. I want to quote the uniqueness of Aceh in the eyes of a scholar of the caliber of Anthony Reid: 

“It has been the genius of Aceh to be able to maintain a high degree of both cosmopolitanism and a strong sense of the importance and uniqueness of its own culture.” 

In other words, the unique culture and historical journey of Aceh, which is connected from Majapahit to Ottoman Turkey, can be a pretty exciting study if examined which is not to mention the history of Aceh’s expansion to the Malay Land, which has colored the Malay identity in the region.

Especially if Aceh is placed in an interdisciplinary study, namely an interdisciplinary study, here, Aceh can be studied from various scientific perspectives, namely social sciences, arts, and humanities. 

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From the perspective of social science consisting of sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics, and so on, we will be able to explain Aceh. However, in Aceh, efforts to attract Aceh Studies have not been prevalent because the philosophical aspects of this scientific field have not been structured. 

 The current of situation of Social science is still worrying in Indonesia, not only in Aceh. In Aceh, for example, the presence of social science studies can still be too early to develop Acehnese studies, which is not to mention the issue of human resources and their level of knowledge in foreign languages ​​such as English, Dutch, and French.

For example, the study on the Kingdom of Iskandar Muda conducted by Deny Lombard is not translated into Indonesian from the original language (French). It will be arduous for Acehnese study enthusiasts in Aceh to understand which is not to mention the level of dissemination of current studies on Aceh, which is difficult for researchers to reach.

 It is challenging for them to gain access to international databases containing studies of Acehnese people.

Aceh and Malay Studies

The Aceh study in Aceh still requires hard work. For example, a study center on the Malay World  conducted by ATMA requires quite a long work. They collect material about Malay World from all over the world. 

In addition, they recruit leading researchers to research the Malay World and programs for students, especially postgraduates which is not to mention the addition of their publications, both at the local and national levels and internationally. Building a study center for a particular issue is not an easy thing. 

ATMA has become a leading development institution in Malay Studies, which is respected in Malaysia and at the Southeast Asian level. 

In Malaysia, Syed Naquib al-Attas did the same thing when he opened Islamic studies and Tamaddun, ISTAC (International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization). According to his admission, he tried to collect works on Islam and Civilization from all over the world, invite many professors, publish works and publications, and conduct a series of intellectual works in the form of seminars. 

Efforts for a study does involve intellectual work and administrative work. One of the anthropologists conducted them when introducing social anthropology in India, namely M.N. Srinivas. From his experience, it was found that the work of developing a scientific discipline does require hard work, and that experience sometimes becomes part of the history of scientists themselves, especially if they develop scientific disciplines. It is a cell or decades.

For the Aceh level, because the position of science is not yet so strong at the philosophical and metaphysical levels, it can be said that Aceh Studies still needs a very long struggle. In this book, the study of Aceh Studies has begun, although this still needs improvement here and there.


 Apart from this work, there are more demands on serious issues such as meta-theory, irfani, and gnosiology. Therefore, efforts are needed to build the basics of thinking in the scientific field of Aceh Studies. There are quite a lot of studies on Aceh at the practical level. 

However, formations regarding Acehnese studies are still rare. For example, if a prospective student is studying at Aceh Studies, they already have a scientific field that they are involved in and can provide guarantees for the future.

 In studying the intricacies of Aceh, of course, he will not give a job guarantee stamp but rather an effort to develop humanitarian science, which at least can be passed on to the next generation of knowledge.

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Opening a scientific discipline is not the same as opening a department on one campus because a scientific discipline requires a long commitment so that the scientific community is willing to accept and consider the knowledge essential for them and the general public.

In this case, the roots of Malay thought in Malaysia developed by Naquib are a fragment of Hamzah Fansuri’s thought. However, Hamzah Fansuri’s thoughts were vehemently opposed in Aceh. The study of wahdat al-wujūd mysticism in Java developed by Siti Jenar also originated from Aceh, as written by Simuh as an expert in the Javanese mysticism. 

Some discussions tend not to be considered a science of Islam when discussing this issue. The discussion of belief pluralism has become a scientific trend on the campuses of the island of Java, basically pioneered by Sheikh Nurdin Ar-Raniry.

 Even in Aceh, this study is not so much a favorite study that does not mention the history of tafsir in Southeast Asia, where this study was also very much pioneered by Sheikh’ Abd Ra’ūf al-Singkili in Aceh. In terms of the study of Fiqh by Sheikh Nurdin Ar-Raniry.

 There is the role of Hasbi Ash-Shiddieqy, the founder of Indonesian Fiqh, is a vital scholar in studying Islamic law in Indonesia. Although it must be admitted that Hasbi himself was much opposed in Aceh, his thinking was also considered uncommon for some traditional scholars, so if a fragment of their thinking turns out to build one discipline in another country. 

The Socio Cultural of Acehnese

Why were their fragments not collected as part of the Aceh study? Because, inevitably, their thinking is greatly influenced not only by intellectual history but also by the socio-cultural and socio-political system in Aceh, where this is an integral part of the science of history.

Thus, Acehnology aims to examine the traditions in Aceh. The pattern of studying this tradition was made by Hassan Hanafi when he initiated the study of Occidentalism. A very ambitious scientific project by Hassan Hanafi wanted to return the study to the Arab tradition and examine the West with a pattern of occidentalism.

 So, the reading pattern in the Aceh tradition with the Aceh style is an initial capital in building Acehnology. Aceh’s growing tradition is very highly civilized. As emphasized by Anthony Reid above, the uniqueness and richness of Aceh’s tradition is one “reason” why Aceh has been much loved and researched for decades. 

High Tradition of Aceh

The highest tradition is the study of the mind of the Acehnese, which is expressed as local wisdom. From this, the nature of the mind of the Acehnese can be studied more deeply as the intellectual tradition that created how very authentic thinking emerged among the people of Aceh, such as local knowledge collected in Hadih Maja and poems that continue to be created in Aceh society.

 Therefore, to study the “high tradition of Aceh,” it is necessary to deepen the philosophy or way of the view of the Acehnese world view.

In this project, we specifically want to deepen how to understand the nature of the Aceh-an mind through studying the discourse of local wisdom and the most forbidden issue in Aceh, namely wahdat al-wujūd. In local wisdom, the people of Aceh are strongly encouraged to apply it, although it sometimes comes from the traditions of the Hindus and Buddhists. 

Here the task of the study of Aceh is to explain how the people of Aceh can legalize traditions that go against their beliefs in their religion. In other words, an Acehnologist needs to delve into the cultural roots of the Aceh world. Studying the level of adaptation to the outside world starts from the study of the society’s mind. 

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Wahdat al-Wujud

The position of local wisdom can be understood, while on the issue of wahdat al-wujud, no compromise is given other than to be studied or practiced in Aceh Sufism. In Java, the highest thought is on the issue of being united with God.

 At the same time, the lowest is a mixture of something that comes from Islam with the local culture that later gave birth to the term Javanese religion. In principle, in Aceh, the same pattern also occurs, but no study mentions the term Aceh Religion.

The appearance of the beliefs of the Acehnese is always written in perfect condition. It is even mentioned that most Acehnese is adherents of an al-Islam. However, the religious and cultural practices of the Acehnese are not at all “one hundred percent Islamic.” 

Shamanism in Acehnese Society

For example, the meusihe tradition is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored in the Acehnese world. Even in all societies around the world, the use of magic or magic is a fairly common thing to find. The use of magic or meusihe has been an Acehnese tradition for hundreds of years. 

People who pursue science have also adapted to Islamic teachings to legalize their efforts to carry out the tradition of shamans. Although there has not been a particular study that compiles Acehnese magic, the study on this topic is one of the studies quite popular in the Anthropology of Consciousness study. 

The Aceh study can be included in studies that have been considered taboo by the local community, even though they practice it in their daily lives. In this way, Acehnology wants to open the most comprehensive possible space for scientific discussion in understanding the dynamics of Acehnese life, both in Aceh and outside Aceh.

The Arts

As for art, it can be said that Aceh is an area where art is the breath of life for its people. It must be admitted that Aceh has made a significant contribution in this field. Several studies have found that the structure of Acehnese art is very authentic and so rich in philosophical meaning which is not to mention the dance and drama arts of Aceh, which blend local culture with Sufism and the Middle East traditions.

 The uniqueness of Aceh’s art can also be seen in the weapons they use and the meanings contained in them, not to mention the Acehnese literary arts, which are sometimes drawn in the study of Malay literature rather than Acehnese literature. 

The figure of Hamzah Fansuri, apart from being a reasonably influential mystic, is also known as the Father of Literature from Aceh, who has had a significant influence on the Malay world.

The Contacts

In addition to the things above, the desire to bring up Acehnese studies was also triggered by Aceh’s versatility in several Islamic, Indonesian, and Malay studies. Regarding the first things, it has been started since Aceh became a cosmopolitan area where there is very open contact with other cultures, from the Middle East, China to Europe. 

This cultural contact, in the end, creates a “distinctiveness” of Aceh compared to other regions. Islam first stepped into Aceh. The first Islamic kingdom to appear in Aceh. The books of Fiqh, commentary, comparison of din, and Sufism also first appeared in Aceh.

 To Indonesia, socially and politically, Aceh has also exerted a significant influence.  To assemble a study of Acehnology in principle is not complex. If drawn on a broader scale, the possibility of Aceh becoming a civilization or an asset of Islamic civilization in Southeast Asia is also inevitable.

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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