Indonesia in Focus
Indonesians in Focus: Alkhairaat
In eastern Indonesia, Alkhairaat is a household name. The Islamic educational foundation operates schools from Palu in Central Sulawesi to Papua. It also plays a significant role in fostering peace in the conflict-torn regions.
The foundation, which has recently also set up madrassa (Islamic schools) in Jakarta and Surabaya, was established by Habib Idrus bin Salim Aljufrie, who is referred to among Alkhairaat students as “old teacher” or “old preacher”.
Habib, who was the son of a South Yemenese man and a South Sulawesi princess, was widely respected for his knowledge, especially in the area of Islamic law.
He was forced to leave Yemen during political turmoil as a young man, and decided to move to Batavia, as Jakarta was known at the time.
In 1926, he started traveling around Indonesia as a preacher. It was at that time he met Hasyim Asy’ari, the founder of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organization, in Jombang, East Java.
Habib’s grandson, Habib Saggaf bin Muhammad bin Salim Aljufrie, said his grandfather moved to Ternate in North Maluku to preach in 1929 before moving to Donggala in Central Sulawesi.
In Donggala, where most people still embraced animism, Habib approached local leaders to teach them about Islam. He also married a Donggala princess.
“Around that time, the old teacher spoke of his desire to set up an Islamic teaching institute,” said his grandson, who heads the Central Sulawesi branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council.
The idea was warmly received, and the first Alkhairaat madrassa was set up in 1930.
Habib passed away in 1969, but his legacy lives on, with hundreds of Alkhairaat madrassa dotted around the country.
Data from Alkhairaat’s executive board indicates there are currently 1,816 madrassas in Indonesia, ranging from kindergartens to high schools. The foundation has also established a university.
“Our madrassa can be found from Palu to Papua with our headquarters in Palu,” Habib Saggaf said.
When sectarian conflict erupted in the Central Sulawesi town of Poso in 1998, displaced residents flocked to Alkhairaat madrassas for shelter. The foundation also worked to bring an end to the conflict.
Reverends and Christian leaders sought advice from Habib Saggaf in March 2000.
“I asked that the conflict be immediately stopped. Conflict only serves to disadvantage people. I also called on Muslim people to refrain from violence and not be easily provoked,” he said.
Alkhairaat’s stance was seen as preventing the conflict in Poso spreading to the provincial capital of Palu, with the exception of scattered bombing and shooting incidents.
Alkhairaat was also affected by the conflict. At least 50 of its madrassas in Poso were set alight. However, Habib Saggaf said the burning of the Alkhairaat madrassas should be taken as a lesson and not dwelled upon.
“The most important thing is peace, like we have now,” he said.
Alkhairaat’s call for peace was not only made in mosques, but also in its Alkhairaat Weekly newspaper and on its Alkhairaat radio station.
Habib Saggaf’s reason for fostering peace is simple — conflict disrupts education.
“So there is no other direction than that of peace. Peace will make everything run normally,” he said.
The role Alkhairaat played during the conflict was also praised by Rev. Jimmy Tumbelaka.
He said Alkhairaat played a pivotal role in preventing extensive conflict in Palu due to the fact people listened to a central figure in the city.
“The central figure was Habib Saggaf, Alkhairaat’s president,” Jimmy said.
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