The Son of the Mosque

Title : The Son of the Mosque: Religious Commodification within Social Relationship between Kyai and Madurese Workers in Malaysia
Author : Akhmad Siddiq (CRCS, 2008)
Keyword : kyai, religion, commodification, Madurese workers
This thesis attempts to describe manners of religious commodification within social relationship between kyai and Madurese workers in Malaysia, especially through Islamic preaching performed at the kongsi (provisional housing of migrant workers in Malaysia). The process begins from kyai’s visit Malaysia to collect money for their Islamic institutions, e.g. pesantren, madrasah and mosques. Using religious capitals, kyai, as religious leader, perform any Islamic activities amongst Madurese communities in Malaysia to achieve their economic interests. In doing so, kyai consistently keep the habitus of kyai-ship and reveal the lineage, the power of charisma.

Religious commodification is usually produced in a specific cultural context, and thus, it requires a comprehensive understanding of its cultural boundary. Hiding behind the purity of religious teachings, the kyai coming to Madurese worker communities in Malaysia, use religion as a symbolic capital to get their economic purposes. Kyai profoundly know the significant effects of having religious authority; religious attributes, symbols and rituals are very important to maintain their influence in Madurese worker’s life. In the social structure of Madurese, kyai have charismatic power because of their role in Madurese sosio-history, namely in religious realm. According to Zamakhsyari (1982), kyai are leader of pesantren (Islamic boarding school), who dedicate their life to teach Islamic values. Iik Arifin Mansurnoor (1990) classified Madurese kyai into (1) local kyai and (2) supra-local kyai. Supra-local kyai have a bigger role and higher status in the society, so they have a wider connection than local kyai to develop pesantren; find an access to the government, foundations, or wealthy individuals to enhance the pesantren. Unlike supra-local kyai, local kyai have a narrow connection: it is difficult for them to find financial support to develop their pesantren. Some local kyais visit Malaysia to arrange pengajian (Islamic preaching) to collect financial support from Madurese workers.

This research elaborates participant observation and in-depth interview with Madurese workers in Malaysia during a monthly-research-stay at the kongsi in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. I have chosen these two districts of central Malaysia Peninsula because the majority of Madurese workers are working there. Additionally, it is being supported by secondary data.

As conclusion, this thesis notes that the most important things for the kyai’s visit Malaysia is an economic profit; the milieu of religiosity and morality of Madurese worker seems as a secondary consideration. Even if kyai persistently said that the main purpose of their visit is da’wa and to collect financial support for their institution, Madurese workers currently understand what essentially occurs “behind the scenes”. It is no longer a part of religious curiosities. It is a piece of what Bourdieu said as a religious enterprise.

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