“Based on the interview, she has a good gender perspective, inclination toward a weakened group, ability to read kitab kuning (Islamic classical text of which the paper colors are yellow), and ability to contextualize with the present situation. She is the alumnus of Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN), from a pesantren family in Banyuwangi. Now, she is waiting for the final test result of the IIEF scholarship for master program in Hawaii. And she has a big chance”, said Farha Ciciek (Director of Rahima 2001-2006) at the meeting to decide the participants for Rahima’s Education Program of Women Ulama in East Java 8 years ago.
She is Nihayatul Wafiroh (Ninik), a woman who was born in Blokagung, Banyuwangi, on December 15, 1979, the first child of Nyai Hj. Handariyatul Masruroh and KH A. Mudhofar Sulton. Ninik and her two younger sisters and one younger brother are the grand daughters of KH. Muchtar Syafa’at AG., the founder of Pondok Pesantren Darussalam Blokagung, Banyuwangi, with more than 4000 santri (Islamic faithful) that has a strong influence in East Java.
As the first grandchild, Nduk Nik—Ninik’s nickname—was very special in the pesantren’s milieu. She became a sweetheart not only for her grandparent but also for her uncle and aunt. The little Nduk Nik was very well known by all administrators, teachers, santri and even the surrounding society. Nonetheless, Ninik did not grow as a pampered child. After graduating from Islamic junior high school (MTs), Ninik chose to study independently in the Pesantren Bahrul Ulum Tambak Beras, Jombang.
There, Ninik was studying at Madrasah Muallimin/Mualimat Atas (MMA)—Senior Islamic High School—and increasingly developed her organizational skill which she has pioneered since in Blokagung. Her sense of empathy and sharing flourished amidst 1200 santri (Islamic faithful) at the Pesantren Fathimiyah. Her passion for reading books and writing (she joined the Pen Circle Forum) also grew rapidly there.
Before graduating from MMA (but already graduated from Islamic senior high school), Ninik got married to Aslam As’ad, a native Madurese academician who, in the eyes of Ninik’s parents, would understand Ninik’s psyche fluctuation. Apparently, the choice was right. Aslam was always the first person behind Ninik whatever activity she chose even if it was considered out of the box among the circle of the pesantren. “My way of thinking which is out of the box was influenced by both the results of parents’ upbringing and inspired by Mbah Syafa’at with his progressive thinking,” said the traveling lover.
After marriage, Ninik continued her study in Yogyakarta. She had spent one-semester studying psychology at the University of Achmad Dahlan before finally gave birth Kevin. Upon her return to Gudeg City, Ninik chose to continue her study at Ushuludin Faculty majoring in Tafsir Hadith, UIN Sunan Kalijaga. She did not cease her activity in the organization despite very busy with her study, especially in writing. She became a board member of ARENA, a campus magazine. One month before graduation, Ninik gave birth Mirza.
After completing her master study from Hawai in 2009, Ninik immediately opened her two big suitcases containing dozens of books and set up a community library for children and housewives. “The access of these two groups to the library is very limited. I then thought about providing a library with various reading themes so that they have times for reading. Reading is the window of the world, isn’t it?” said Ninik who likes writing short stories.
To add the collection of the library built in the middle of the settlement, Ninik asked her husband and her siblings to display their books in the library. She also contacted her acquaintances to donate their books and one of them was the US Consulate General in Surabaya. They donated books among others were the life of the Muslim in the United States. “Tafsir Al Misbah is one of the favorite books here. The books which were the donations of some parties since they were purchased until now have never resided in the book’s shelves,” said the owner of blog nihayahcenter.com with pride.
Not yet finished transmitting the knowledge she gained during her master study to the female santri in the northern lodge—with 1,340 santri in which Ninik’s mother in charge as the caregiver—Ninik had to leave for Yogyakarta to begin her doctoral study at the ICRC (Indonesia Consortium for Religious Studies), Gajah Mada University. Despite undergoing a doctoral program that required high concentration, Ninik always had more energy and needed to distribute it elsewhere so that she joined the NGO’s community and Fatayat NU of Yogyakarta—Nahdlatul Ulama’s Youth Female Organization.
Her closeness with Rahima began when Ninik was still in Hawaii. At that time she used to write for several rubrics of Swara Rahima. In 2010, Ninik became a trainee of TOT (training of trainers) of Rahima on Sexuality and Reproductive Health (SRH) for female ulama. Since then, Ninik was intrigued and became really anxious. “I am reminded of the santri and the lodge’s administrators who still have very limited knowledge about SRH though it is a very basic knowledge of a human being. Its benefits can be enjoyed since in the womb until the grave”, said the woman who also actively writes a note on Facebook. Her anxiety was released as she went home. She organized training for all administrators of a female lodge and PAUD’s (Early Childhood Education and Development) teachers as well as some wives of Kiai.
After the training, Ninik became a private consultant for the alumni of training facilitated via SMS, calling and even YM and Fb chat. Various grievances regarding maintenance of personal hygiene, vaginal discharge, menstruation, contraceptives, and orgasms of the women were served by Ninik. To increase her knowledge, she then joined FSI—the Indonesian Sexual Forum—whose members consist of the youths from various backgrounds who concern on the issues of SRH. Ninik was also a peer educator for the limited circles (only to a few friends) whenever she has times.
However, her anxiety has not subsided yet. She still wanted a continuous activity for her pesantren so that all the santri and administrators have the knowledge on SRH. Because of her parent’s approval, she was able to cooperate with Rahima in the program of Education of Sexual and Reproductive Health (PKRS) for adolescents in the Muslim community. Did not want to be selfish and recommended by her parents, she then invited four other pesantren in South Banyuwangi for PKRS program. “Learning reproductive health (kespro) will not be complete without learning sexuality, as it is part of sexuality. Sexuality is everything related to human life as a social being including emotions, feelings, personality, and attitudes with regard to sexual behavior and sexual orientation,” she added.
As she was very busy in studying, she could not accompany PKRS program until the end. She then asked her sister, Zulfi, to take part in that program. “I want my sister to be able to see the other side of life. By involving in this program, she will have a new perspective that is a critical perspective which supports the weak group”, she said.
Ninik’s new perspective occasionally caused a friction with other parties with different views. “I consider it a challenge of struggle. And, my spirit is inspired by Mbah Syafa’at. He could accept new knowledge as long as it is not against the spirit of Pesantren. So, I always bring his spirit and teachings wherever I go. He is my inspiration!!” Ninik closed our interview [Dani]