“Since I was little, I was used to seeing my mother busy outside the house. Indeed, that was something unusual at that time. Moreover, that happened in a village where the people were still very patriarchal. However, because mother could not stand the condition of the society who were still very stuck to their ‘molimo’ behavior: madat (drugs), madon (prostitution), mabuk (alcohol), maling (theft) and main (gambling), she chose to make changes in the society.”
The statement above was delivered by Khotimatul Husna, born in Bojonegoro, March 27, 1976, at the beginning of our interview. Then, the sixth child of eight siblings known as Khotim proudly added, “Mother started by initiating a pengajian (Quran recitation group) for children in mushalla (small mosque). Father who graduated from the Religious Teacher Training (PGA), taught them.” The parents of Khotim, her father (Anwar Daud) and her mother (Siti Maskanah) do have strong religious blood from their ancestors.
From the pengajian for children, Mrs. Maskanah then developed a pengajian (religious gathering) for mothers which came to be known as pengajian ‘Ahad Sore’ (Sunday Afternoon Religious Gathering). The place alternated at the members’ house. Mrs. Maskanah taught the learning forum. The goal was only one, to introduce Islam. “Until now, Pengajian Ahad Sore is still running. It is now continued by my older sister, who happened to be the Chairperson of Fatayat (women’s youth league) NU Bojonegoro (2010-2014). The pengajian for children then developed into madrasah diniyah (Religious School). Formal schools were also finally formed, starting from Early-Childhood Education (PAUD) to Islamic Junior High School (MTs) and also Pesantren under the Family’s Foundation ‘Ulul Albab’,” explained the woman who spent her MTs and Islamic Senior High School (MA) at Pesantren Attanwir, Talun, Bojonegoro, for her mother’s wishes.
Not only pengajian, Mrs. Maskanah was also active in Muslimat (women’s wing) NU and various activities. To fulfill the household needs and various activities, she opened a small shop in the sub-district market. This made Mrs. Maskanah spent more time outside the house. “Some people, even our extended families, often chattered about Mother. Even though we, eight of her children, were well-cared for because each of us was taken care by caregivers. The eight of us were also better-educated than the other children in our village. Maybe, due to being influenced by the chatter of neighbors or relatives, father often got angry with mother. We often heard father verbally abused mother when she got home late at night. Though mother was tired”, explained the woman who had “learned for a while” at the Institute for Quranic Studies (IIQ) Jakarta and Pesantren Langitan Tuban before finally being “stranded” at the State Islamic Institute (IAIN) Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta in 1996.
In the city of Education, Khotim studied at the Al-Ahwal Asy-Syakhsiyyah (Islamic Family Law) Department of the Sharia Faculty. In campus, Khotim was not only diligently studying, but also active in some organization. At least, there were two organizations that she worked with, Campus Da’wah Institute (LDK) Kordiska and Indonesian Moslem Student Movement (PMII). In Kordiska, Khotim was active until she had held the position of Deputy Chairperson. “The chairman was Irpan Mutaqin, a senior of two years above me,” said the woman who knew the gender issue for the first time through Eman Hermawan.
During her college years, Khotim’s writing talent grew and developed. She channeled her writing talents through the Faculty magazine ‘Advokasia’ and PMII leaflets formed by Women of Sharia Faculty Rayon named LEPPAS – Institute for Women Caring for Justice and Equality. “The leaflets were published every month. Most of the contents criticized the policies in the Faculty”. Graduating from college in 2000, Khotim worked as an editor in a publishing house until she married in 2002 with her former chairman in the Kordiska who was originally from Tasikmalaya, Irpan Mutaqin. She continued to work after the eldest, Ratu Sheba Sofie Ahimsa was born in 2003. Shortly afterward, Irpan moved to Malang. Khotim and Ratu stayed in Yogya. She even still had time to move to two other publishing houses before finally she and Ratu followed Irpan to Malang. “Ratu often called Dad to the toy seller who passed by in front of our house,” Khotim cited the reason why she finally decided to stop working and reunite with her husband.
In Malang, Khotim was even more productive in writing. She succeeded in writing two books ‘Etika Berbisnis ala Nabi’ (Prophet-style Business Ethics) and ‘Toleransi Beragama’ (Religious Tolerance); and writing opinions in various media, such as KOMPAS, Jawa Pos, Rubrik Swara Kompas, Koran Tempo, Seputar Indonesia, etc. The contents of her writing were mostly related to women’s issues, such as: ‘(film) Ayat-ayat Cinta: Pro atau Anti Perempuan?’ (Love verses: Pro or Anti-women?) , ‘Spiritualitas Perempuan dalam Perspektif Agama-agama’ (Women’s Spirituality in the Perspective of Religions), ‘Jilbab, Tubuh dan Seksualitas’ (Hijab, Body and Sexuality), etc. She also wrote various book reviews, such as books about marital rape, which she titled ‘Suami Perkosa Istri’ (Husband rapes wife), or the novel ‘Snow Flower’ to which she wrote a review entitled ‘Mendamba Kecantikan dan Pengakuan dengan Penderitaan’ (Yearning for Beauty and Recognition with Suffering). For three years in the city of Apple, Khotim also worked as a ‘long distance’ editor for the LKiS publisher.
Khotim’s involvement in a community began in Malang. “At that time, my husband and I began to detect a fundamentalist movement in our neighborhood. We then discussed. Finally, an idea emerged to form a pengajian for children. The pengajian for children then developed into a pengajian for women and men. Alhamdulillah, until now all the pengajian are still active, even though we finally returned to Gudeg City in 2008,” Khotim explained.
In her new settlement in the Kepanjen area, Banguntapan, Bantul, Khotim and Irpan were also called to involve themselves in a community. It started with a group of teenagers. “Teenagers around us were apparently facing challenges in their world. Some of them joined the motorbike race, even one of them, a Junior High School Student, died. Others succumbed in drugs.”
Since Khotim and Irpan’s books collection was quite large, they then opened a library at their house which was open every day, and was given the name ‘Kandank Ilmu’. Initially, there were around 50 registered teenagers. They might access all the available books. “But only 30 were active. It turned out they still preferred to read casual books like KKPK (Kecil Kecil Punya Karya). But the important thing is that they had the desire to read.” The strategy was then made, a ‘book review’ discussion forum was formed and conducted once a month. Each teenager took turns sharing the book he/she read,” explained the woman who added youth activities with spiritual activities such as diba’an (sholawat recitation) and celebrating the great days of Islam.
Last year, Khotim initiated the establishment of PAUD Flamboyan, also at her house. “It started from the concern for the activities of children under five (balita) who were brought by their mothers to ngrumpi (gather) in their free time.” After discussing with the mothers and the head of the village, finally, the PAUD was established. “The number of students registered was 42. But now only 30 are active. They study from Monday to Thursday, for one and a half hours. Per their arrival, students are expected to contribute Rp 1,000 to the ‘Smiley Box’.” The Rp 1,000 is then divided by two, which is Rp 500 for students’ (traditional) snacks, and the rest is for administration. “Alhamdulillah, up to now we have 7 volunteer teachers from the local residents,” explained the woman who closes her small shop when PAUD or book discussion is underway. “So that children can concentrate on learning,” reasoned the woman who since last October has received a monthly honorarium from the Bantul Regency Government. The amount is Rp 100,000/month, taken every three months. “The first honorarium was Rp 300,000 which was then used to buy teachers’ uniforms.”
As it turned out, Khotim who since moved to Yogya has had two more ‘ratu’ in addition to the eldest, namely, Queen Aisha Permata Ahimsa and Malika Kimya Mutia Ahimsa, still provided time to train kindergarten and primary school students to read for free. Again at her house. “I am concerned that many primary school students have not been able to read fluently. Some of them even flunked,” explained one of the four female participants invited to join the Village Planning and Development Initiative (Musrenbangdes) a few days ago.
Together with women in Kepanjen, Khotim initiated a pengajian. “There are two pengajian groups. One group is pengajian “Monday Night (Seninan)” at the RT (neighborhood) level, the participants come from the same culture, Nahdliyin. The forerunner of this pengajian was more focused on arisan (rotating savings club) and savings and loans and the usual practice of Yasinan (recitation of surah Yasin). It was then updated with the yasinan, berzanji (reading the history of the prophet), then lecturing method.” Khotim tried to connect this pengajian forum with the Fatayat boards of the city of Yogyakarta, to handle the lecture. Fatayat became Khotim’s another activity upon her return from Malang. At this Fatayat branch, she served as Secretary for the period of 2010-2014. “Whereas, the members of the second pengajian group are women with diverse religious cultures. There are many challenges. So I have to be smart in maintaining relations,” explained ustadzah who took lecture materials from various sources including from Swara Rahima.
With these various endeavors and activities, Khotim ‘only’ has one day a week which she fully spends for families, on Friday. However, that is also if there is no schedule for the Batch 4 Women Ulama Training (PUP) of Rahima. “Why do you still want to join PUP?” I asked. “There are many reasons, i.e. PUP makes me become more confident – I start to accept offers to speak at PMII’s events, something that I always refused before -, PUP appreciates local wisdom by conducting its tadarus series in various pesantren. From there, I see Rahima really appreciates pesantren. Finally, what is important to me, Rahima spreads the messages of Islam rahmatan lil alamin, Islam which is a blessing for all, non-violent Islam,” Khotim concluded our interview. [dani]