Lilypie 3rd Birthday PicLilypie 3rd Birthday Ticker

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Kangen Umi

Malam-malam ini aku sering didatangi Umi, panggilanku untuk ibuku, yang telah wafat 4 tahun lalu. Sebelum-sebelumnya, Umi sering datang menyapaku tapi tak sesering sekarang. Ia datang, membelai rambutku, mengecup keningku dan membesarkan hatiku. Memang selama ini, bila aku kangen dan merasa pusing dengan persoalanku, dia pasti datang dalam mimpiku. Aku ingat, ketika Umi masih hidup, permintaannya bila meninggal dan kemudian datang menyapaku, aku harus mengirim doa dan membaca surat Yasin untuknya. Aku selalu memenuhi permintaannya. Meski tanpa itupun, aku selalu mendoakan dan mengingatnya.

Kemarin aku berziarah di makamnya. Aku bersimpuh dan merasakan benar-benar kangen padanya. "Aku ingin menyusulmu, Umi..tapi sekarang anakmu punya tanggung jawab yang besar: harus membesarkan dan membahagiakan cucumu. Aku mohon dan berharap, dampingi aku terus meski secara fisik umi tak di sisiku. terima kasih selalu menengok dan menyapaku."

Aku yakin, Umi sudah bahagia di alam sana dan akan selalu hidup untukku. Allahummagfirlaha, warhamha... Umi, Nong kangen banget..

Friday, June 8, 2007

When They Say Your Husband is a Terrorist

This article about Rahayuningtyas. She is the wife of Arif Sunarso or Arismunandar alias Zulkarnaen alias Daud. Arif Sunarso is said to be a chief commander of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and is one of the key suspects in the Bali bomb case who is still a fugitive to this day.

It is close to seven fifteen in the evening when I set out from the hotel with my husband and a friend who is a journalist. Our destination is a simple house located behind the Pondok Pesantren Al-Mukmin, an Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Cemani, Sukoharjo Regency, Central Java. The fence gate is shut when I arrive at the house. Inside, I can see a woman praying. This house—right in front of the residence of Ustadz Wahyuddin, Assistant Director of the Al-Mukmin Ngruki boarding school—is the home of Rahayuningtyas, known to her friends as Ning. She is the wife of Arif Sunarso or Arismunandar alias Zulkarnaen alias Daud. Arif Sunarso is said to be a chief commander of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and is one of the key suspects in the Bali bomb case who is still a fugitive to this day.

The house actually belongs to Ning’s mother, Ny. Aminah Sugiarti, a widow. Before Ning returned home to this house, she and Arif lived in rented houses and moved several times. No one from the house responds to my repeated knocking on the gate. It happens to be the time of shalat Isya (the Muslim evening prayer). A number of people who have just finished praying at the Mosque pass us by. Some of them take a moment to stop and greet us, asking, “Who are you looking for?” and I answer that I want to meet with Mbak Ning. Since the gate is not locked, I summon the courage to enter the yard and call out a greeting directly before the door to the house. The person who comes out is Ny. Aminah, a woman in her fifties. She greets us warmly and asks us to come in.

We enter the front room, which resembles a hall screened by a curtain of cloth with a brown floral motif. There is not a single table or chair in the space. The only piece of furniture is a small wardrobe with a mirror that is pressed against the wall. An ordinary motorcycle helmet lies on top of the wardrobe. My first impression upon entering the house is that it is has never been maintained or repaired. Nonetheless, the size of the house, which is wedged next to the girls’ dormitory of the Al Mukmin Ngruki boarding school, is reasonably large—covering at least eighty square meters and containing several rooms. Here and there, the plasterboard of the house looks broken down or perforated, as do some parts of the roof.

The interior walls are no longer clean; the white color of their paint has turned brown-ish. Luckily, not much of the surface has as yet peeled off. The single window of the house gapes open because its glass has been broken. In the living room, a gray carpet measuring no more than five square meters serves as a place for receiving guests. A space on the left side of the house, probably intended as a garage, appears badly neglected, decorated in dust and spider webs. The doors of the rooms have evidently never been painted, and they look very dim and dingy.

We chat briefly with Ny. Aminah, introducing ourselves, and I explain my reason for wanting to meet Ning. Then Ning herself comes in from an inner room, carrying a tray of water and cakes. She is accompanied by her two youngest children, Amaturrachim (five), and Abdurrachman (three). In fact, Ning and Arif have six children, three of whom—Abdullah (twelve), Yahya ( ten), and Amaturrachman (nine)—have been entrusted to the care of Arif’s parents in Gebang, Masaran, Sragen, Central Java, while the eldest, Maryam (fourteen) has been sent to stay with Ning’s older brother, Dr. Yusuf, in an Islamic boarding school in Bekasi. Ning, the third of four siblings, was born in Wonosobo, on 6 March 1969, of Ny. Aminah Sugiarti and the late Hasyim BA. Hasyim, an activist in the Komando Jihad (Konji) with Abdullah Sungkar, was imprisoned under Suharto’s New Order until the end of his life. His status was ambiguous: there never was a trial.

When I first see Ning, I am surprised. This is because, long before I came to this house, I had heard that Ning always wore the cadar (the full head-to-toe Islamic veil) and that she was a very introverted person. According a Tempo reporter some time before, she was only willing to receive journalists from behind a hijab, the gauze panel of the cadar that hides a woman’s face but allows her to see out. Because of that story, I had originally planned to wear a cadar myself. As it turned out, I could not find these clothes before my departure for Solo, and I am wearing only an ordinary long jilbab (Islamic head scarf)—and fortunately Ning is not wearing a cadar, just an ordinary jilbab; and she is willing to receive male visitors. Ning assents and has no objection when I propose that we talk together, in company, in the living room. I am here with my husband and a Tempo news correspondent (male) who came with me to Solo. Also present is Haris, Ning’s youngest sibling—a reserved and mysterious young man—and their mother, who intermittently jumps into the conversation and adds to Ning’s replies. I am struck by the smoothness of Ning’s face; wrapped in a white jilbab and lit by the beam of a 10 watt bulb, she looks fresh and bright for her thirty-two years. There is nothing in her appearance to suggest that she is facing serious problems: having a husband who ‘people say’ is a chief commander of JI which took an active role in the Bali bombing, and is, to date, a fugitive from the police. Her face is cheerful, and she continually laughs as she talks and answers my questions.

Because of these first impressions, I am moved to ask about Ning’s current circumstances of no longer wearing a cadar. I am curious to learn why she wore a cadar in the past, and then let it go. At first she is reluctant to reply. But finally she does answer. “I am already grown up, have six children and no longer feel beautiful. I don’t attract the attention of men the way I used to. Besides, I don’t want people to think I’m self-righteous [paling benar] by wearing a cadar. Because being self-righteous is evil. My experience when I wore a cadar was that people were afraid of me and didn’t want to talk to me.” But when she stopped wearing the cadar she could talk with her neighbors. In fact, for the last three months, she has been working as a teacher at one of the kindergartens in the Ngruki area. In this new environment, there is no one who knows that she is the wife of a JI command leader. “The only one who knows about my problems is the school principal, the one who hired me,” she says.

Stroking the heads of the two children who have begun to doze in her lap, she continues her story. “I started wearing a cadar when I was eighteen, when I was still a mustami’ (auditor or listener) at the Mu’alimat Pesantren Ngruki.” Ning tells me repeatedly that she has never received formal education except for elementary school. When she finished elementary school she entered the Pesantren Ngruki, which was behind her house, but only as an informal student.
“Coming back to the cadar,” I said, “were there any outside pressures, for example, in your environment?”
“No! Wearing a veil is a teaching and a rule from Allah that Muslim women must follow. Especially if her position is not that of a slave,” she says. She believes that in Islam, women are aurat [an Islamic concept for a part of the body that may not be exposed during a ritual; also a term for genitals] and, for this reason, must be covered and guarded. At first, she only wore a regular jilbab to cover her head, like others. She decided to wear the cadar when she returned home from Bandung, after meeting with some friends who wore cadars. She confesses that before she decided to adopt the cadar, she had to read many books to convince her to take this decision. What is more, Ning felt she was coming of age (akil baligh)–a time when many of the men she knew were proposing marriage to her. But strangely, she says, laughing, she chose Arif as a husband, someone she barely knew beforehand, a year after she began to wear the cadar. Indeed, after they married, her husband strongly supported her in continuing to wear the cadar.

Ning was introduced to Arif by her brother, Dr. Yusuf. It was in 1988: Arif came over to her brother’s house in Bekasi, just for a friendly visit. Ning happened to be there at the same time. Arif’s taciturn, simple and intelligent manner captured the interest of Yusuf’s wife, Dewi, in arranging a marriage between him and Ning. Her husband agreed with the idea. At last, Ning and Arif were brought together. The reason why Ning wanted to marry Arif, aside from her brother’s encouragement, was that she saw at once Arif’s character as a man who was clever and responsible. Two days later they were wed, in a menikah sirri ceremony in the home of Ning’s mother.

The word sirri comes from the Arabic word meaning ‘secret’. But it is widely understood in Indonesia to refer to a marriage that does not involve the officials of the Bureau of Religious Affairs (Kantor Urusan Agama), where Indonesians must register their marriages; in other words, a couple married in a sirri wedding do not register their marriage in the civil records. This kind of wedding is usually performed by individuals who come from the same group and are married directly by their imam (mosque leader) or each moslem’s community leaders. Or it is performed by a couple who do not wish to deal with the complications of the bureaucracy. From the perspective of the teachings of Islam, the sirri wedding is legal provided that there are two witnesses and the bride is married by a wali (a male who is legally responsible for her, usually her father or her relative). In the case of Ning and Arif, Ning was married by her brother, as her legal guardian; the witnesses were several teachers from the Pesantren Ngruki such as Ustadz Wahyuddin, who is now the director of the school. Their wedding was attended only by Ning’s family; Arif’s parents in Sragen were not advised of their son’s wedding at all. None of their neighbors was aware that they got married. Truly sirri...

Two days after the wedding, Ning’s adventures began. As Arif’s wife, she was always moving from place to place, following the rhythm of her husband’s livelihood as a trader. Wherever her husband went, Ning followed. Although Ning does not seem open to elaborating further, Ny. Aminah says that she never knew for certain where her daughter and son-in-law were. If she ever asked Arif about this when they dropped in to visit in Ngruki, his answer was always, “They are safe who live on God’s earth” (Mereka aman tinggal di Bumi Allah). Ny. Aminah knew about the lives of her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren’s only through the letters Ning sent, postmarked from various places: Lampung, Batam, Sumatra, Malaysia, Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait, and even, once, Germany. Ning interrupts her mother. “That was just the postmark. I asked friends to mail the letters from those places. But I was still in Indonesia: in Lampung, Batam, Sumatra, Jakarta and most of all, East Java.”

I ask her why their whereabouts must be kept secret from her mother. Ning does not answer. She just explains that her husband had to make a living to support his family, selling Muslim clothing and scented oils in many different places. In Surabaya, she says, she had a small warung (street stall). As if to make this explanation more convincing, she adds, “My neighbors know about that. You can ask them, you know! (Bisa dicek kok!)” Now the warung has fallen to pieces, she says, because it was destroyed by officers looking for traces of her husband. Not a single family document was saved, including her children’s birth certificates. “Everything was lost,” she says softly.

As a wife facing allegations that her husband is a commando leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist organization that is now a focus of worldwide attention, and that he is known by the name of Zulkarnaen, Ning is bewildered. Each time she hears these things, she says, she feels as if she is watching a cartoon film. Ning claims that she is not shocked or amazed. She says it’s like seeing and hearing a fantasy, a fictional reality like an animated film. She knows only that her husband did business. Her husband never told her anything about his outside activities. Arif is the quiet type of husband. Ning admits that as a family they often moved from place to place and that her husband often went away for long periods. As his wife, she could only obey and support whatever he was doing, including helping him in his trade. About her husband’s many aliases, Ning is evasive. She says that his real name is simply Arif; Sunarso was his name when he was a boy. The name ‘Zulkarnaen’ is a pen name of her eldest child, Maryam, who likes to write. ‘Zulkarnaen’ means a person who possesses the weapons of knowledge and religion (dien).

Today Ning does not know where her husband is; there has been no contact between them. She says that the last time she saw her husband was on the fourth or fifth day of the Muslim month of Syawal, at Lebaran in the year 2002. At the time Ning was at her brother’s place in Bekasi, because she had been sick throughout the fasting month. Arif visited her there. A policeman happened to come by, but because he did not know Arif’s face, Arif was not arrested. Ning also says that it was she who asked her husband to get away, because she had a premonition that her husband was going to be implicated in the Bali bombing case. “I dreamed there was someone being chased. In the dream the person’s face was not clearly visible. It was only after Arif left that it became clear that the one being chased was him,” she says. At first, her husband did not want to flee; he wanted to hold out with the family. Even when the Bali bombing case was at its height of public attention, they were able to make a round trip to Surabaya twice. Arif also managed to bring his three children to his parents in Sragen, Central Java because Ning was ill and needed intensive treatment in Jakarta.

Ning is not worried about her husband’s situation. She always remembers the message he left when he departed, “It is enough to have God as our protector, because He is the best protector possible” (Cukuplah Allah sebagai pelindung kita, karena Dia sebaik-baiknya pelindung). Ning would also acquiesce if her husband were to marry again in his place of refuge. As a faithful Muslim, she accepts polygamy, because as she sees it, “I cannot forbid what is already permitted in the Koran.” She has also never blamed her husband for what he has done. Even if it is true that her husband did what the authorities have accused him of doing, and even if what he did is a violation in the eyes of the law, as far as Ning is concerned, her husband is carrying out a task that is holy and true according to the Qur’an and the Hadis [traditional collection of stories about the words and deeds of the Prophet and providing guidance on religious questions –Ed.].

Currently, Ning is able to take care of only her two youngest children, although it is her desire that all of her children to be raised and educated under her own guidance. Ning will educate her children in religious schools, like those she and her husband attended before them. For Ning, children are seeds. A mother must be able to nurture these seeds so that they may grow into human beings who can carry out God’s mandate to become caliph on earth (melaksanakan amanah Allah menjadi khalifah di bumi). But what are the twists of fate, conditions and problems that prevent her from creating a family that is whole? Her husband has gone, who knows where, and four of her children are not by her side. Closing this night of talk, Ning gently says, “Me, I feel as if I am sailing, cast ashore, left behind by my husband and children” (Saya ini seperti berlayar yang terdampar dengan ditinggal suami dan anak-anak.) Ning’s two children are by now fast asleep in her lap. I know there is much about her husband that Ning has left unsaid. There is still much I would like to ask, but the night is getting late. So I take my leave, carrying with me a warehouse full of mystery about the shared life of Ning and Arif: a couple forever wandering from place to place, carried by their conviction in one goal: to become a human being who can carry out the mandate of establishing the law of Islam on the face of this earth—even if it must be achieved by violent means and sacrifices that create victims because of that conviction.

Reference : Latitude July 2003