Puritanism vs. Syncretism: An Islamic Cultural Collision in the Rural Farmer Community in Trucuk, Indonesia

By Sutiyono, Sutiyono; Mughni, Syafiq M. et al. | Asian Social Science, December 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Puritanism vs. Syncretism: An Islamic Cultural Collision in the Rural Farmer Community in Trucuk, Indonesia


Sutiyono, Sutiyono, Mughni, Syafiq M., Siahaan, Hotman M., Asian Social Science


1. Introduction

The research concerned here started from the point of Geertz' conception mentioning that religion is considered part of the cultural system. He views religion as pattern for behaviour, in the sense that religious values become alive in human individuals and become visible in daily life. Thus, religion is a guide used as framework for the interpretation of human actions (Geertz, 1973).

A number of farmer community members that used to be abangan (Note 1) in their social orientation, as written by Geertz in The Religion of Java in the 1950s, have now turned santri (Note 2), as seen in the rural community in Trucuk (Note 3). The social change of the farmer community members from being abangan becoming santri indicates a process of change occurring for a sufficiently long time, i.e., around half a century. When the movement of Islamic puritanism pioneered by Muhammadiyah (Note 4) entered the rural region of Mojokuto, it did not get enough sympathy from the farmer community members. Their participation in the puritan movement was quite little. In Geertz' rough calculation, not more than forty people from the community participated. At present, the number of people from the farmer community participating in the puritan movement in Trucuk has risen to roughly 11,000.

The process of change in the farmer community members becoming santri, which has occurred for a sufficiently long time, could surely be viewed from the point of various influencing factors. In other words, there have been factors influencing the farmer community members into accepting the Islamic puritanism movement. The Islamic puritanism movement, which has a radical style, has been quite phenomenal; though radical in style, the Islamic puritanism movement in Trucuk has been accepted by rural farmer community members. It is certainly not in line with Geertz (1960), who states that it is difficult for a radically-spread puritan movement to win the participation of rural communities and of farmers in particular.

In addition, the radical style of the Islamic puritanism movement differs from those in Kotagede (Nakamura, 1983), Banyuwangi (Beatty, 2001), and Lamongan (Chamim, 2003). In this relation, it is seen that those involved in the Islamic puritanism movement used to be of the same kind of community, namely, syncretic-abangan-farmer community. In the process of change from being a syncretic farmer community into being a puritan one, no social conflict has occurred because at first the puritan movement in the three last mentioned places was not radically spread. What is to view is then why the one in Trucuk has differed from the ones in Kotagede, Banyuwangi, and Lamongan, since, after all, they are the same in role as puritan movement and in origin as farmer community.

This writing attempts to interpret different value levels, i.e., both that of farmer community members still syncretic-abangan in orientation and that of those already changed into puritan ones, including those changed further into ones radical-puritan in a style colored with cultural collision resulting from difference in pattern of action and interpretation on the religious or ideological devices used by the actors concerned to confront their social environment. The difference in pattern of action and interpretation is reflected in the social and religious life of the Islamic community in the rural region of Trucuk, where that community is divided into two social groups, namely, one in support of puritan culture and another in support of syncretic culture. They are the same in making the claim of being Islam believers but differ in pattern of action and interpretation in their social and religious life or, in other words, they have different cultural systems.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Syncretism

The cultural system which the abangan-syncretic farmer group bears is one which depicts a mixture between Islamic culture and local culture and the mixture is referred to at least here as syncretism. …

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