Internet and Kyais in Indonesia: Negotiation of Authority in a Mediatized Environment
Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies
UGM Graduate School
Jl. Teknika Utara, Pogung. Yogyakarta 55281
The Kyais (plural from of ‘a kyai’, an Indonesian term generally used to indicate experts in Islamic scholarship and people who establish and lead an Islamic boarding school known as ‘Pesantren’ where the santris—students of the Pesantren—spend their 24 hours in it with particular systems designed by the Kyais themselves) known as the representatives of (Islamic) religious authority in Indonesian history. Society’s great trust in Kyais, as it will be discussed in this paper, combined with their ability to solve not only religious problems but also social, psychological, cultural, and even political, together create a stable, solid, and absolute religious authority for them in Indonesian Muslim society. Furthermore, the fact that Indonesia is the fourth of the Asian countries with the highest Internet user number in the world (internetworldstats.com, June 30, 2014) and, at the same time, it is the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, together creates an interesting phenomenon of the Kyais’ engagement with Internet and its implication on the construction of religious authority in the context of Indonesian Islam. Using mediatization as the theoretical foundation, this paper aims at understanding four particular research questions raised from the phenomenon; the roots of the kyai-ness, how the Kyais gain their authority, how it is different with the coming of Internet, and how the future of their relationship is.
Religious authority; Internet; Kyais; Indonesia; mediatization