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By : Muhyiddin Depe 

For some people, talking about mairil is a taboo. How come, talking about mairil means talking about pesantren (boarding school). While talking about the both issues -boarding school and mairil-are 2 contraditory words. People says ash-haab al- syimaal (the left  parties) and ash-haab al-yamin (the right parties). Pesantren is a religious educational institutions which has a sophisticated image in everything, that every step of its activity based on ibadah (worship), akhlaq (etiquette), and syariah (religious teaching). While mairil is a deviant phenomenon, which in the eyes of so many people it is not just prohibited, but also disgusting. Therefore, talking about mairil in pesantren, it will be considered as impossible, hoax, and discrediting the image of a pesantren. 

But, I have a specific experience that may be good for us for muqabalah (sharing of thoughts). In 1995, Pesantren Lirboyo Kediri had a very huge work,  by gathering all its alumnae. The topic is so ‘horrible’. Reunion of 1000 Kyai(s)! Actually it is not so excessive. Some of kyais or religious leaders attended the forum, such as KH. Nur Muhammad Iskandar, KH. Mustofa Bisri, KH. Cholil Bisri, KH. Said Aqil Siradj, KH. Maimun Zubair, and all of the Kyai of pesantrens in Lirboyo as shahibul bait (the host of ceremony). What happened in the reunion is almost the same. cathing up, having the nostalgia and added with jokes, and reminding stories of the past. And for the santris (pesantren students), the mairil is a very interesting topic which live up the reunion atmosphere. For them, mairil issue is not a strange thing, although it never discussed seriously in an academic forum.  

This because the competency of the pesantren is not in such mairil issue. Pesantren is always in their mainstream agenda : ibadah (worship), akhlaq (ethics), and syariah (religious teaching).While mairil issue in the live of santri (pesantren students) can be considered as some grain of sands in a full rice in a pot. Although the issue become very interesting for reproductive health and sexuality rights activist or observer to discus in the workshop, seminar, training, and etc.; but here I want to discussed it from the science that merely explore it in sexuality approach. I want to call to the readers, to understand it in a very different approach in a universal context.   

Mairil – Al Amrad  and the Law on It 

The ‘mairil’ term, of course came from the pesantren world. It can be defined as ‘the love relationship” attitude which happened in the same sex context  (homosexuality between man and man or between woman and woman) in the pesantren context. This attitude can happened intensively;  and sometimes up to the sexual contact which usually called ‘nyempet’ (which is different with sodomy). 

But sometimes, the ‘nyempet’ (touching somebody’s genital organ with the perpetrator’s  organ) activity can be done without mairil process. It means, the relation happened between perpetrator and victim. Usually, the victim did not consider to the such action, because it is done while he was sleeping. He only can find the trail of former activity when he got up. 

Generally, the perpetrator of mairil and nyempet does not do the activity permanently, because they are not gay neither lesbian. The activity was done only if they can’t control their sexual desire and to release their unstoppable hormone. After  graduating or finishing their study in pesantren, the activity will also finish. 

If it is analyzed from various approaches, the homosexual activity can’t be legalized. Not only a few of Islamic Classical textbook (the Salafi books) which discuss on this. Whereas the Quran mentioned this activity as a disgusting activity (fakhisyah) with consist very heavy consequences. 

The terminology of ‘mairil’ of course will not be found in the Yellow Classical textbook which use Arabic language, because the word ‘mairil’ in taken from uncertain language. There is an opinion, that it is an acronym from mar’ah fil-lail ( a man who change into woman when the night come). But validity of definition can’t be fully accounted. 

In the classical textbook, there is a terminology which is associated with mairil word, it is amrad. The term amrad is usually defined as a young man who come to adolescence period and whose beard has not growth or  a still very cute young boy. Among the Salafi scholars (ulama), Imam Syafii is part of the ulama who discuss on the amrad issue. According to him, to look at the amrad’s face carefully is prohibited (illegal). This opinion is similar with the ijma’ (consensus) among Islamic scholars (ulama) that looking at the face of the amrad  with lust is prohibited or illegal. 

Reinforcing the Imam Syafii’s opinion, Imam An Nawawi in Al Majmu’ mentioned that if looking at the amrad only is haram or prohibited, so seclution with him is more prohibited because it is not an appropriate thing to do. More than that, the risk of doing seclusion with amrad is huge. 

But, because human being is not like an angel which absent from the lust, so they will do everything to justify their own opinion, including the religionist. So that, argument from the Fiqh methodology such as ’irtikabu akhaffi adh dhararain’  (decide to do something with the lower consequence of danger) emerge. Therefore, this kind of problem can’t be solved only using the religious jargon. 

Robert K. Merton’s Offer 

Looking at to the mairil reality, it seem that it will be difficult to solve the problem merely from religious approach. In accordance to this, the analysis of Robert K. Merton, a follower of Functional and Structural theory may be good to become reference. He offer the manifest and latent function. The manifest function is the situation that should be happened; and it is what people really expect. While manifest function is the vice versa. 

The nearest example of the theory in pesantren reality is : because the very high number of people in pesantren so, unconsciously they (the pesantren students) had learn the ‘ghasab’ (borrowing something without permission from the owner) attitude; a lesson (that is not kind of formal teaching of pesantren) that they never learn before living in the pesantren. As well as the mairil; it become a latent function in pesantren. The meeting situation among many people that happen intensively in a homogen situation and the very long time; it turned out to unwanted social impact. 

Just imagine,  how do you feel if somebody live in a very limited environment and do many monotonic activities? Pesantren or boarding school is in that situation; meet almost the same people every day, live in the limited area, read the Holy Quran and Islamic Text-book, go to school, pray together in the most,  sorogan (seek the assistance of Kyai/Nyai to read the Holy-books), istighatsah (conduct religious ceremony) and etc. in routine manner every day. Then, for some certain person will solve their desire (biological needs) not by doing fasting as commanded by The Prophet,  but through mairil activity.  Of course, every body’s capacity to control their lust is different. 

If it is taken to the Merton’s theory, then the same situation will also happen in other place which is similar with pesantren. It means, the mairil (or whatever its name) practices will also possible happen in the students dormitory, military camp, and other institutions that apply the boarding school system.And finally, it is not only pesantren problem. But, this is the latent function of every institution that is managed with the similar way as pesantren. And the attitude can be transmitted easily to other people, as the ghasab attitude/behavior.  

So, the sociological approach will be fit in solving the mairil problem. It needs a further discussion and understanding, that the mairil is not pesantren’s sin only. Because the similar institution has the same potential problem. Wallahu a’lam. Allah Knows best!


Muhyidin Depe,  a  Leader in  the Foundation of  Pondok Pesantren Mamba’ul Huda Krasak Tegalsari Banyuwangi, East Java ( muhyidin_depe@yahoo.com)


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