by : Dr. Nur Rofiah, Bil. Uzm.

Technology has given various kind of easiness to santri. In the past, santri needed a lot of times to cook rice, to boil water, to wash clothes and to move here and there, now they can use rice cooker, water dispenser, washing machine, and motorcycle or even a car. Students also used to wait long enough for receiving money from their parents via wesel (money order), lined up in a wartel (a telecommunication shop) to call their parents. Now they can utilize ATM and mobile phones.

Similarly in teaching-learning process, technology enables santri to have thousand Kitab Kuning, yellow Islamic classical textbooks, without buying in the bookstores. There are applications of those books, for instance Maktabah Syāmilah contains 6111 yellow Islamic classical textbooks which comprise various kinds of Islamic Studies disciplines from classical to modern ones. For pesantren that just want to access those books of Ahlussunnah wal Jamaat (Aswaja) stream can download the application of Syumila NU which also contains of books and amaliyah (tradition) of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) with a guarantee of no distortion (tahrīf) from the Salafi Wahabi in those books. Santri are now able to enjoy teaching and learning more creative and varied methods by using laptop and LCD. Subject like History will not be boring anymore, it can be done by watching and discussing relevant films, for instance, the history of great scholar of Ibn Rushd in the film Le Destin or al-Mashir.


On the other hand, technology also overwhelms santri with various unlimited information include fake informations (hoaxes), which are incompatible with their beliefs, which contains racism or pornography. For santri having their handphone connected to internet, such information can be easily accessed in their hands without any censorship from their caretakers and teachers. Day by day, the information occupy their minds, and influence santri’s behavior. The development of communication technology causes a value shifting. A conversation about sexuality which was taboo in beginning, now can be openly discussed in social media and can be accessed by any children from different ages. 

Unfortunately not all information about sexuality contains educative element. Generally it is even misleading. There are many pornographic viruses so the internet users, including children and teenagers can easily get lost in the websites containing information about sexuality which only indulge lust excessively.


So the development of IT gives many benefits and harms at the same time for santri. A total ban for santri to use that kind of information technology may cause them unskilled and unable to respond to incursion of information proportionally when they are outside pesantren. Let them browsing virtual world to access information freely is similar to let them being a victim of various irresponsible information. Thus, in this era of globalization, pesantren has a serious task to accompany santri in order to be able to respond the development of IT wisely. Because finally santri will return to their communities without assistance of their caretakers and teachers.

One of the ways to encourage wise and responsible attitude to santri in using IT is to give an opportunity to discuss scientifically the information on sexuality which was considered taboo, now is openly discussed in social media and virtual world in general. 

Al Qur’an itself does not consider discussions about sexuality as taboo. Genital organ (furūj) is mentioned seven times in QS. al-Ahzab / 33: 35 and an-Nur / 24: 30-31, al-Mukminun / 23: 5, al-Ma’arij / 70: 19, sperm in QS. ath-Thariq / 86: 6-7, menstruation in QS. al-Baqarah / 2: 222, sexual intercourse in QS. al-Baqarah / 2: 197, 187223, 228, pregnancy in QS. al-Mukminun / 23: 12-14, as-Sajdah / 32: 7-9, az-Zumar / 39: 6, al-Ahqaf / 46: 15, QS childbirth in QS. al-Ahqaf / 46: 15, Luqman / 31: 14, and breastfeeding in QS. al-Ahqaf / 46: 15, Luqman / 31: 14, al-Baqarah / 2: 233.


How to Discuss Sexuality

The interesting one in the Quranic verses regarding sexuality is strong emphasis on ethics or morals in addressing reproductive organs, whether belonging to him/ herself or others, and how to respond empathically during women’s reproductive times, which is many, lengthy, and frequently accompanied by pain. One of the examples is the verse which talks about breastfeeding in QS al-Baqarah / 2: 233 as the following:


“Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father’s] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do” (QS. Al Baqarah : 233)

The above verse as the other verses on sexuality actually does not explain in detail about breastfeeding but comprise a lot of moral guidance in addressing one of the reproductive stages. Some are, a mother can complete a breastfeeding up to two years, a father has an obligation to feed and provide clothes to  the baby even after a divorce with his/ her mother, father-mother and a baby should not be troublesome one another, a father and a mother can wean the baby before two years old on basis of mutual decision and contentment, a baby can be breastfed by other woman with a proper payment, a behavior to treat well between father and mother as well as between parents and the baby in related to someone’s piety so they are supposed to maintain good behavior as being supervised directly by Allah. 

Wahbah az-Zuhaili in his tafsir (book of commentary) explains the above verse is related to provisions for breastfeeding that a mother who is under responsibility of her husband, is obliged to give breastfeeding according to appropriate norms. If the mother is divorced by her husband, then the breastfeeding becomes sunnah (commendable) and voluntary. However, in a condition where the baby is hindered to receive breastfeeding of other than his/ her mother because of poverty or other causes in which the father can not find another woman who can breastfeed, the mother must breastfeed her baby and the father must give payment to the mother, because breastfeeding is worth applied in the place of both easy or difficult, and rich or poor. Ath-Thabari gives an explanation that is equally interesting, the sentence يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنّ (a mother breastfeeds her child) shows that the mother is more entitled to breastfeed her baby than another woman, but not intend to emphasize the obligation. 

The above verse and the other verses on sexuality which also emphasizes on morals imply the discussion on sexuality is not taboo even indispensable considering many people mistakenly treat human sexuality. For example, menstruation taboo that considers menstruating women are disgusting even invite calamity. And being indifferent to women’s difficulties in pregnancy and childbirth Al Qur’an describes as an overlapping burden (wahnan ala wahnin) in QS. Luqman / 31: 14, as following: 

 “And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination. (QS. Luqman : 14) 

Quraish Shihab in his tafsir al-Mishbah explains the use of word وَوَصَّيْنَا indicate the message to all mankind. To serve parents in this verse is very strong, especially because the mother has conceived baby in a state of weakness upon weakness, the multiple weakness which increased steadily from moment to moment.  Then she gave birth with difficulty, maintained and breastfed the child any time, even at midnight when others were sleeping, this till time of weaning came after two years. This parable contains a moral message that husband, big families, communities and even states that govern human life should care to give support. So this noble function can run safely and easily.

Indeed, religious guidance on sexuality is very important to be discussed openly and politely in a scientific frame. Although virtual world may provide correct and healthy information on sexuality, the information comes from sex industry is more intense and aggressive, either through paid websites or various kind of viruses that often appear on any sites we are opening, even through various games for children and adolescents. Such sexual information may mislead santri because it relies on business profit, indulgence in unlimited lust, contains pornography and can encourage anyone to sexual violence. 

Strategy in Pesantren

IT can help pesantren teachers and caretakers in assisting santri to understand the organs, functions and reproduction times in healthy ways. For example when explaining about creation of human, Harun Yahya’s video on miracle of human creation can help them to illustrate stages of pregnancy. This video has been also accompanied by relevant Qur’anic verses. The teachers and caretakers can prompt a discussion by asking about the process of pregnancy; what Quranic verses, what Hadith, how Islam teaches morality regarding pregnancy, what wrong attitudes are in addressing pregnancy, when a pregnancy should be undergone, is it necessary the pregnancy should be well planned, what should be prepared by teenagers, how husband and wife could work together so the pregnancy can be eenjoyable, what kind of support can be given by big family, community, and state so that every woman can have safe and easy pregnancy.

The same pattern can be conducted for other subjects on sexuality with emphasis on the substance of the subject, to build a critical behavior on wrong attitude, and to build empathetic and responsible attitude. In fact, the theme of sexuality is not completely taboo in pesantren because many topics related are also discussed in fiqh (jurisprudence). However, legal approach which has been used so far, based on different eras, needs to be enriched by perspectives of health and moral, and needs to consider the progress of technology in present day.

After getting information on sexuality through a process of open discussion, which is framed by language and religious arguments, accompanied by teachers or caretakers, santri eventually will have a certain standard on healthy Islamic sexuality. This filter is important as a reference for selecting useful or harmful information on sexuality. Especially when they are browsing alone in virtual world without assistance of teachers, caretakers and parents, that is when they come back to the middle of their community where the stream of information continues to come and they are unable to ignore it. Wallahu’alam (Allah knows best) []

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