Journal Province: West Java Regency/City: Bogor Regency Subdistrict: Cisarua

Migration: The Essence of Hijra in the Context of Islam

One of the alleyways in Warung Kaleng, Sampay Sindang Subur Village (Arab Village).
Written by Muhammad Sibawaihi
Puncak Main Road

Puncak Main Road

The beginning of the spread of Islam in Indonesia often becomes a subject of debate amongst historians.  The theories have developed, such as Gujarat Theory. In L’Arabie et les Indes Neerlandaises, Snouck Hurgronje said that the theory was based on the observation that the Arab role and values had been unseen in the early days, in the 12th or 13th century. He also said that his theory was supported by the long relationship between the archipelago and India, such as Gujarat, Bengal and Malabar. The second theory is the Persian Theory. Persia is said as the first place of the arrival of Islam in Indonesia. This theory is based on the cultural similarity between some Islamic community groups and the Persians. The third is the Arab Theory. In this theory, it is said that Islam came to Indonesia directly from Mecca or Medina. It did not arrive in the 12th or 13th century either, but at the beginning of the 7th century. It means that, according to this theory, Islam came to Indonesia at the beginning of Hijri century. During the time when the Rashidun Caliphs ruled, Islam had even started its expedition to the archipelago when the companions of the prophet Muhammad: Abu Bakar, Umar bin Khattab, Ustman bin Affan and Ali bin Abi Thalib, were in control as Commander of the Faithful. Those theories direct us to the assumption about the phenomenon of Arab villages in various places in the coastal areas in Indonesia. Regardless of the existing theories about the spread of Islam, there are a few questions that need to be revealed and reviewed more deeply. Is the phenomenon of Arab villages in various regions in Indonesia something to do with the spread and arrival of Islam? Is the arrival of the Arabs in Indonesia purely for a proselytization mission? Or maybe, is it an escape from a hot and dry geographical condition to a better geographical one? Or, has there ever been any expansion motive recorded in history, like the Portuguese and other European nations to some regions in the world?

The arrival of the Arabs in Indonesia did not only happen in the past when the spread of Islam occurred. Today, the arrival of them still happens. This was the issue I have heard during my stay in a villa in Puncak area, Cisarua. I heard that around Puncak there was a village which experienced a cultural situation by the presence of the Arabs, so that the village was known as Arab Village. I was immediately astonished by this thing, because as far as I knew the Arab villages were usually located in the coastal areas. I also remembered about a big history of Islam, the Hijra.

One of the alleyways in Warung Kaleng, Sampay Sindang Subur Village (Arab Village).

One of the alleyways in Warung Kaleng, Sampay Sindang Subur Village (Arab Village).

The Hijra did not only give a glimmer of hope, but it also left a deep sadness behind. It was because some of them who joined the Hijra must be willing to leave their families and relatives. Besides that, not all the people who did the Hijra did it because of Allah SWT. There were some of them who did it because they saw a business opportunity and an opportunity to get a position in Medina. There were also some of them who did it because of the women or men of their dreams. Was the Hijra with purposes like those justified by Islam?

This thing then triggered Muhammad SAW to issue his saying that criticized the Muslims’ intentions which deviated from the real essence of the Hijra. Muhammad SAW spoke in the hadith: “The deeds must be accompanied by the intention, and every person will get the reward according to their intention. Who do the Hijra purely because of Allah SWT and His messenger, then the Hijra is for Allah and His messenger; who do the Hijra to get the world, or because of a woman whom they will marry, then the Hijra will be in accordance with their purpose.” (Muttafaq Alaih)

Thus, the Hijra which means the migration from a place to another place is not just a migration, but it has to have a clear purpose and is based on a sincere soul motivation. Viewed from this aspect, then the transmigration program in Indonesia, such as moving the people from Java to Sulawesi or Sumatra, and the mobilization of residents of a country to another country are called immigration. Terminologically, a migration can be categorized as Hijra, but a migration certainly does not cause problems.

The map of the Hijra of the prophet Muhammad SAW from Mecca to Medina (Picture was accessed from

The map of the Hijra of the prophet Muhammad SAW from Mecca to Medina (Picture was accessed from

Based on its terminology, migration means the movement by people from one place to another. Meanwhile, in Law No. 9/1992 on Immigration, it means the event of the traffic of people who enter or exit the territory of the Republic of Indonesia and the control of the foreign national in the territory of the Republic of Indonesia.

These Hijra and migration were back on my mind when the workshop team of ‘akumassa Bernas’ did the simulation in one of Cisarua areas, the hill area of Cisampay Village, Tugu Selatan District. I had never been here before. Many people said to me that this area was known by the name of Arab Village. I was also astonished for a moment why the Arab village was located on a mountain. As far as I knew, the Arab village geographically was located in the coastal area. Like the one in my hometown, Lombok, it was located in Ampenan, an old port city in the western part of Mataram.


That afternoon, around 1 PM, in a mini bus we sped through the steep and winding slope in the Cisarua area towards the Puncak Main Road. That afternoon was still raining. Indeed, it was raining all the time here. The cool and cold air blew through the car windows. Through the windows, once in a while I saw the geographical condition of this area which was very fertile and beautiful. It was like watching the scenery on television. Being in the middle of the blue mountains and was covered with the silky mist made my heart and thought peaceful. The arrangement of luxurious and beautiful villas in the foothills took my fantasy to drift into the fairyland.


When we entered the main road, the silence suddenly changed. The noise on Puncak Main Road was deafening. The shops stood in a row with dozens to hundreds of customers. The blue public transportation made the road more crowded. Not to mention the reckless motorbike drivers who caused the traffic jam. It was true that recently there were more vehicles on the road in Indonesia. That traffic jam made our car’s movement slow. The slower we moved, the more we could see the interesting things on Puncak Main Road. The view from the car windows now was different. The sight of the beautiful mountains had changed into the stores, offices, minimarts, and other buildings. That view from the windows which was like the scene on TV felt strange and out of place. “It seems that we have arrived,” I said to myself. Almost in every shop there were Arabic letters. The signposts stood with various characters of Arabic writing on them. On the walls, there were banners or posters using the Arabic. On the window panes of the beauty shops, the cell phone credit seller, even the goat seller, there were Arabic writings with Khat Kuffi or Naskhi. Once again, through the car windows I was like watching the Arab movie on TV.


The more extraordinary thing was when we arrived at Tugu Selatan District, the atmosphere of the Middle East was more pronounced. There were dozens to hundreds of tall people wearing the Arab white cloak on the street. The faces with pointed noses and dark brown hair mixed with the local faces. They mixed with the restlessness, hope and concern of the residents of Cisampay and Ciburial. “Why are there so many Arabs?” I thought. This view was different from the view of Arab village in my hometown. Although there was an Arab village in Ampenan, the Arab stuff was not as strong as in this place.


It triggered my curiosity more. Finally, we got off the car. I immediately looked for a source to ask further about this phenomenon and the Arab people in this place. Ageung, one of the members of Forum Lenteng, accompanied me. We walked along the uphill street towards the top. We kept on walking, entering the small alleys. We saw more villas and more Arabs. Once in a while, we found them in pairs, a woman and a man, but mostly they were in groups of 3-4 men.


We stopped at an Islamic boarding school called Miftahul Huda. It was a small boarding school, far smaller than the resorts in the foothills. We were invited by a kyai named KH. Rifqan Asy’ari and were greeted by his wife and his beautiful daughter.

A picture with KH. Rifqan Asy’ari, the Head of Miftahul Huda Islamic Boarding School

A picture with KH. Rifqan Asy’ari, the Head of Miftahul Huda Islamic Boarding School

I did not want to linger, so I immediately asked about the phenomenon of the number of Middle East people in this place.

“Actually, most of them here are illegal immigrants,” said Kyai Asy’ari.

I was surprised. “Illegal immigrants?” I asked.

“Almost in the last two years, many immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Oman have been coming here.”

“Aren’t they on a vacation, Sir?” asked Ageung.

“Those ones usually come from Saudi Arabia and that is seasonal. These ones come to ask for protection. We are worried too. Many of them don’t report themselves to RT or RW.”

“But how can they stay in residents’ houses?”

“Maybe there is the third party, I don’t know.”

That was the story I got from Kyai Asy’ari. It was true, the Arabs often came to this place to take a vacation. However, they usually came when it was a vacation time in their country. What we saw on the street now were immigrants.


I had not been satisfied yet. What bothered me was along the street towards the school we also found the Arabic on people’s houses, although they were only for selling the cell phone credit. Besides that, there were many travel agencies that handled the tourists from the Middle East. Ageung and I went back to the Puncak Main Road. We stopped at a minimart. I was tired. Ageung, who at that time did not fast, felt so thirsty. Indeed, we had already walked hundreds of meters. Ageung then decided to buy a drink in that store. I sat alone under the signpost of the minimart, looking and observing the atmosphere around. I saw an Arab got off a car with a local woman.

I instantly remembered our conversation with Kyai Asy’ari, “We often hear the issue about the unregistered or contractual marriage here. As a kyai, I am ashamed and sometimes I suffer the unpleasant rumor. People say that the kyais here support that contractual marriage or what in Islam is called Mut’ah marriage.”

I was lost in thought, “Hmm…”

Ageung was back and we continued our walk. We arrived at a mosque of which the architecture was like the Arab tents in the week of the Hajj. I often saw the tents like these on TV because my father often chose the Saudi Arabian channel. There, we met a keeper of the mosque, Mr. Ujang. He told us about the ‘Arab Season’, that on holiday, the tourists from the Middle East came to this place to take a vacation. They spent 2-3 weeks in a place like this. “They say that this place for them is like a Jabal Al-Jannah (Mountain of Paradise). Sometimes they call it the Jabal Al-Ahdhor (Green Mountain) because there is no place like this in their country,” said Mr. Ujang. Furthermore, he told us that some of those people bought villas in that place by a contract system. Once in a year they came back to those villas to take a vacation. Sometimes they invited the residents to read the Surah Ya Sin together in their villas. Even many stores along the street were owned by the Arabs.

Ageung and I took a rest in front of Al-Muqsith Mosque.

Ageung and I took a rest in front of Al-Muqsith Mosque.

However, there was another reality happened. The arrival of the Arabs in this place was very alarming because of the frequency of the unregistered or contractual marriage. According to a guide we met, it had happened a lot around 1995 to 2005. According to him, the practice was usually done by the Arab tourists and the women from Cianjur and Sukabumi when in Islam itself the contractual marriage was prohibited. The Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia – MUI) had been prohibiting it too since 1997. This thing was also included in Law No. 1/1974 on Marriage and in PPRI (Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia – Government Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia) No. 31/2013 on implementation for the immigration rules. Suddenly it reminded me of the Hijra of the prophet Muhammad SAW. When he had just arrived in Medina with the companions, he knew that apparently in his group there was a man who joined the Hijra only with a hope to be able to propose to a woman who joined the Hijra too. The prophet had known about this, so he went onto the mimbar (a pulpit in the mosque) and criticized that action. Zainuddin al-Hambaliy had mentioned that the woman’s name was Ummu Qais.

Besides that, when we entered a minimart named Al Shallahi, we found some stuff with the Arab label there, from the cigarette, rice to the Arab egg. A question arose in my mind. With many foreign tourists in this place, the stores there should have sold the local products as a means for introducing them to the international community.

Being in a place like this was like being somewhere far. Was this a form of cultural migration? Or, was this a kind of migration risk that was happening in this place?

Even though the human migration has been happening for thousands of years, the modern concept of migration, particularly in the 19th century, was associated with the state and nation development with the clear citizenship criteria, passport, permanent border control and citizenship law. A country gives special rights to its residents, while the immigrant is limited by the immigration law. A country or nation makes the migration a political issue; by definition, it is a homeland of a nation which is characterized by the ethnic and cultural similarities, while the immigrants have different ethnicities and cultures. These things sometimes cause social tensions, xenophobia and national identity conflict in many developed countries.

Let’s get back a little to a hadith of Prophet Muhammad SAW that says: “The Hijra will never be broken until the repentance is broken. And the repentance will never be broken until the sun rises from the west.” Until today, the Hijra is still possible for every Muslim. But the question is what kind of Hijra that Allah SWT and His Messenger expect? It is true that the migration and Hijra have different meanings. But what if the concept of migration is done like the real concept of Hijra? It seems that the tolerance becomes the solution for a mobilization of the population. However, the presence of another culture that is brought, in the concept of Hijra and migration, still becomes a risky problem.

It seems that we need to understand a little about the concept of Hijra or migration through some definitions of the word Hijra. Etymologically, the term Hijra comes from the Arabic triconsonantal root هـ ج ر (pronunciation: Ha Ja Ra) which is comprised of two meanings. The first one is to break off. For example, a person does the Hijra, leaving his or her hometown towards another village. That means he or she breaks off their relations with the hometown. The Hijra can also refer to the strength of something; (Al- Hijru- Al Hijiiru- Al- Hajirotu) which means “at noon when the heat of the sun is stinging (strong).”

Al Imam Al-Asfahaniy inclines to the first meaning. According to him, Hijra means the separation of a person from the others, either physically, orally or psychologically. Leaving a place means separating physically. Hating someone means separating oneself from another psychologically. Orally means does not want to speak with other people. However, in interpreting the meaning of Hijra, Imam Ibn Faris and Al-Asfahaniy only see the language without associating it with another aspect. Based on this meaning, then people who do not talk to each other (hate each other) are classified as the Hijra.

Al-Jurjaniy is different. According to him, Hijra is leaving the homeland, which is under the rule of the kafirun (infidels) towards the Islam area. This meaning already includes the meaning of the term because it associates and refers to the Hijra that has done by the Prophet Muhammad SAW and his companions.

Whatever the definition of the term Hijra is, the most important thing is the phenomenon of the Arab Village which happened in Cisampay Village. Of course, this place cannot be separated from the problem I explained above. This could be seen from some residents I met who chose not to comment about this Arab way. Some of them were against it, but some of them were comfortable with that thing because of the prosperity they got, especially for the ones who owned a business and got the benefit from this Hijra or migration.




This article was completed by Muhammad Sibawaihi in Jakarta, July 23, 2013. It was a part of the collection of writings of the first akumassa bernas, the result of the workshop of akumassa bernas program in Cisarua, Bogor, July 20-23, 2013.

About the author


Muhammad Sibawaihi

Born in Pemenang Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, on May 20, 1988. He got Bachelor degree at IKIP Mataram, majoring in English. He is the Program Director at Pasirputih Foundation. He is also active as an independent writer and curator.

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