Nahdlatul Wathan School: Islamic Education Institution in Indonesia, Developer of the Spirit of Nationalism

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By: Nyayu Khodijah – State Islamic University Raden Fatah Palembang –


Nahdlatul Wathan (National Awakening) school as a national-moderate educational institution was first established in Surabaya by KH. Abdul Wahab Khasbullah (Nahdlatul Ulamafigure) together with KH. Mas Mansyur (Muhammadiyahfigure) (Hakim, 2012: 198). Nahdlatul Wathanofficially obtained Rechtspersoon(legal entity) in 1916. At that time KH. Abdul Kahar (a Muslim merchant) acted as the Director, KH. Abdul Wahab Khasbullah as the leader of the Teacher Council (Keulamaan), and KH. Mas Mansyur assisted by KH. Ridwan Abdullah as the Principal (Ahmad, 2017).

Nahdlatul Wathanis the first nationalist-moderate religious educational institution in the archipelago (Van Bruinsen, 1994: 35). Nahdlatul Wathan Madrasahwas founded on the background of the concern of Kiyai Wahab and friends at that time on the condition of indigenous people who experienced limited access in many fields, including access to education, while foreigners (Europeans and others) gained a wide-open access. The establishment of Nahdlatul Wathanwas aimed at educating young people and awakening their spirit of nationalism (Dosi, 2016).

Unlike other schools of that time, which only developed intelligence as a means of struggle, Nahdlatul Wathanalso sought to foster a strong sense of nationality in the bosom of youth through education (Ahmad, 2017). In line with that, Kiyai Wahab composed an Arabic song “Ya Ahlal Wathan” which is now known as “Ya Lal Wathan“. Then, it became a compulsory song that must be sung by his students before the lesson began (Van Bruinsen, 1994: 46). Here are the song lyrics in Indonesian (Amin, 1996: 31-32);

          Wahai bangsaku, wahai bangsaku(O my people, O my people)

          Cinta tanah air bagian dari iman(Loving the country is a part of faith)

          Cintailah tanah air wahai bangsaku(Love the land, O my people)

          Jangan kalian menjadi orang terjajah(Don’t you become colonized people)

In addition to Surabaya, Nahdlatul Wathanschools were also established in many areas, such as Akhlul Wathan(homeland brother) in Semarang, Far’ul Wathan(homeland branch) in Gresik and Malang, Hidayatul Wathan(homeland guide) in Jombang and Jagalan Ahlul Wathan(homeland citizen) in Wonokromo, and Khitabul Wathanin Pacarkeling (Halim, tt.: 34-35). Through these schools, the roots of nationalism began to spread to the santrior students who attended school there. Awareness of the love of the homeland grew in a simple educational space that was nurtured by teachers who were mostly student graduates from pesantrensand Islamic schools with nationalist spirits (Hakim, 2012: 199).

In its educational program, Nahdlatul Wathantaught and maintained the concept of ahlussunnah wal jamaahwith the orientation of pesantreneducation, and at the same time built the spirit of nationalism of the students. The curriculum used includes the study of religion, general science, and the love of the homeland. With the curriculum and method that was considered new at that time, Nahdlatul Wathangained tremendous interest from the communities so that it could develop rapidly in various regions. In Surabaya, there were 18 schools affiliated with Nahdlatul Wathan.In 1939, it was recorded that there were 924 students of those 18 schools. Nahdlatul Wathanmadrasahswere also growing rapidly in every Nahdlatul Ulamabranch. In West Java, the center was in the madrasahof Mathla’ul Anwarin Menes, Banten. In Central Java, the center was in Nahdlatul Wathanin Jomblangan Kidul, Semarang. Whereas in East Java, it was based in Surabaya with its branches which were widely spread in Jombang, Gresik, Banyuwangi, Jember, Lumajang, Malang, and other cities (Ahmad, 2017).

In developing the Nahdlatul Wathanmadrasah, Kiyai Wahab sought to widely spread the “virus” love of the homeland (hubbul wathan) among societies by carrying out the pesantren educational tradition (Ahmad, 2017). Many nationalist figures were born from this college. Not surprisingly, then in 1945 Surabaya was filled with fighters who really love their country and were not afraid of foreign invaders. Now Nahdlatul Wathanis already more than 1 century old, dealing with the threat of national disintegration and the slackening of the spirit of nationalism among young people, Nahdlatul Wathanneeds to develop its educational pattern.


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