Sholat in Indonesian

Nov 10th, 2006, in News, by

Yusman “Gus” Roy says he intends to continue conducting services in both Indonesian and Arabic after having been released from prison.

Roy was sentenced to two years imprisonment by a Kepanjen, East Java, court, because he advocated the use of Indonesian language, in addition to Arabic, during sholat, or prayers. The use of any language but Arabic is considered unlawful according to most Muslims although there has been some dispute over the matter in past times. islamlib

His use of Indonesian was brought to the attention of the authorities when the Malang branch of the Ulema Council, MUI, issued a fatwa against him. Malang Regent Sujud Pribadi and chief of the Malang Prosecutor’s Office Ichdar Supi’i then moved to close down the Muslim boarding school which Roy headed, I’tikaf Ngaji Lelaku.

Yusman Roy
Yusman Roy, while preaching at the I’tikaf Ngaji Lelaku school in Malang.

Now that he has been released he says he will continue to use Indonesian when praying, or leading prayers.

That teaching is a principle of mine done to increase faith in God, what I do does not violate the law. antara

He also plans to put out a book, titled rather pompously “Buku Putih Meluruskan Opini Multi Dimensi Fungsi Agama dan Bahasa dalam Ibadah”, detailing his opinions on the use of languages in worship.

He says the book will also contain the circumstances of how he was arrrested and imprisoned in a Probolinggo jail for 18 months. Yusman says that he wasn’t convicted of blasphemy, specifically, (law 156 A) but of spreading hatred in society (law 157). He distributed leaflets to people detailing his beliefs on the use of Indonesian in sholat services.

He advised that the government should give room for people to conduct worship according to their beliefs because Indonesia was a democratic nation.

April 4th 2007.

The Malang chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) says it will not revoke its edict banning dual-language Islamic prayers, despite a Supreme Court decision undercutting the edict. Chapter head Mahmud Zubaidi was speaking on the 2nd of April, according to the Jakarta Post, after Muhammad Yusman Roy, leader of Islamic boarding school Pondok I’tikaf Jama’ah Ngaji Lelaku in Malang, East Java, reported him and three other MUI leaders, as well as Malang Regent Sujud Pribadi, to the police over the fatwa.

Mahmud claimed innocence over the fatwa, saying the MUI simply issued it as a guideline for Muslims, what the public did with it was not the council’s business.

A fatwa is like a guideline. Whether those who are guided are willing to abide by the fatwa, it depends entirely on them.

However, Yusman Roy said that the MUI should be held responsible for its edict, which he said resulted in his being sent to jail for leading dual-language prayers at his boarding school.

During a trial at the Malang District Court several years ago, Roy was found not guilty of blasphemy, but was convicted of “despoiling” or insulting Islam. That verdict was confirmed at the East Java High Court.

However in its review decision of 2006 the Supreme Court said Roy was guilty only of the lesser charge of violating Article 157 of the Criminal Code, for circulating leaflets which sparked hatred between groups in society.

After the MUI refused to revoke the fatwa, and the Malang regent did not allow the reopening of Roy’s boarding school, which gave Indonesian translations to Arabic verses in prayers, Roy filed a police complaint against the five figures. Roy said he began providing Indonesian translations of prayers so worshippers unable to speak Arabic understood what they were saying.

It is rumored that the Malang regent was pressured by the MUI and the Religious Affairs Ministry not to allow the reopening of Roy’s boarding school, allegedly fearing public unrest if the school opened its doors.

Sri Hariyanto, an assistant to the Malang regent, said his office had not received a copy of the Supreme Court’s decision.

We cannot take any action (on this matter) because we have not received a copy of the decision.

Sri said that if the Supreme Court ruled Roy was not guilty of blasphemy, the Malang regency administration would have to allow the reopening of his boarding school.

The issue of dual-language prayers will later be taken up at a meeting involving representatives of the MUI, community leaders and the local administration, he said.

What we banned was the use of Roy’s school as a place for proselytizing, not the teaching itself.

Meanwhile the East Java branch of the Muslim Defence Team, Tim Pembela Muslim (TPM), a group of Islamic lawyers, have demanded that the police cease processing the MUI case. Their leader Fahmi H Bachmid said the case against the MUI was part of a general trend towards insulting Islam and Muslims and had to be stopped. antara

22 Comments on “Sholat in Indonesian”

  1. ali says:

    No can do dude, Allah only speaks Arabic. 🙂

  2. Anonymous_aloy says:

    We need people like Yusman Roy to really know where we stand on tolerance and religious freedom.

    Cases like his helps us to identify Muslim leaders who say they are very tolerant and open minded and those who really are.

  3. Hassan says:

    Muslims can pray (“berdoa”) in any languages. but Muslims should only perform shalat in Arabic.

    Muhammad (pbuh) said: “shalatlah sebagaimana engkau melihat aku shalat”. Muhammad (pbuh) always performed his shalats in Arabic and in congregation (“berjama’ah”).

  4. Munafikbangetloepade says:

    Yes, Arab words, when pronounced, generate that special frequency in the air, that will help the world maintains its perfect balance…. That’s what god just told me (I just met him in a gay bar).

    He advised that the government should give room for people to conduct worship according to their beliefs because Indonesia was a democratic nation.


  5. O. Bule says:

    Goverment should never get involved in arguments that take place withing religious groups. It was wrong of the Indonesian government to lock this guy up for leading sholat in bahasa Indonesia.

    Personally, I am all for performing sholat in Indonesian or English, or whatever the local language may be. As for so called ‘hadith’, they are not the words of God, but the words of men, and should be disregarded. Everything a Moslem needs is in the Al Quran. ‘Hadith’ is garbage.

    O. Bule

  6. Tomaculum says:

    I would rather doing sholat in bahasa Indonesia or bahasa Jawa but I would only do it in my heart (as a dialogue with Him). Why? Because I would understand it better (so I would able to interprete and to internalize it better too), but at the same way I don’t want being beheaded or stoned to death.
    I have read somewhere:
    Languages are a gift of God so we can comunicate each other.
    So why shouldn’t people pray in one of these God’s languages? He/she is a sinner who place one of God’s gift (in this case a language) as less worth to the other, he/she insults God.

  7. David says:

    Good article in the Jakarta Post on Roy, by Duncan Graham:

    Yusman Roy: Fighting to pray in peace

    Some quotes from Roy in the article:

    The problem with many Muslims in Indonesia is that they don’t think for themselves. They just follow whatever the leader says. They stand in the mosque and mumble, but they don’t understand what the clerics are saying because they don’t know Arabic. What’s the problem with using Indonesian? God understands everything we think and say, whatever the language.

    There’s no commandment to use Arabic. We should debate, not fight.

    I’m not afraid of being charged again, but don’t expect it. The government’s job is to protect all citizens whatever their views, and I demand that protection.

    The government should be allowing space for public dialog and I want to encourage that. The people who attack me don’t know right from wrong — they don’t understand the prayers in Arabic so they don’t pray properly. Quality matters.

    These people are losers. There are many terrorists in Islam — they’ve lost their way. They’ve become criminals and anarchists. Prayer is the foundation of Islam. When that collapses everything else goes down.

    This is what I believe. There’s a group in Indonesia that wants to keep Islam backward. This is a political issue. I’m angry at what they’ve done to me, but I forgive them.

    Many say they support me, but don’t help. I’m fighting this cause as a pioneer with my soul and property. It’s difficult being alone, but I’m sure God will protect me.

    I want my good name restored. I’m an Indonesian Muslim, not an Arab Muslim! Why would anyone want to stop me?

  8. Tomaculum says:

    “Shalatlah sebagaimana engkau melihat aku bersalat”
    1. Mohammad is already dead for a long time ago, so we can’t see him doing shalat. And like Rashomon effect: 5 watchers will reflect things they’ve seen differently.
    2. We can interprete the sentence this way: we should do the shalat like Muhammad did, but only the movements to pray to Allah. He didn’t say (if he really said it!) explicit, that we have to use his language. I think Muhammad was an intelligent and foresighted man, who could look ahead, that the religion he founded will dispread in the whole world and I’m sure he knew, that there are many, many languages spoken in this world. It seems to me much illogical, that such an intelligent and foresighted man had insisted, that his local language has to be used all the time. And as a wise man he surely awaited, that his teachings should be understood in the whole world.
    And I ask myself: how many Indonesian Muslimahs and Muslims understand really the Al Qur’an? Take the word “Jihad” as an example. How many know, that the most important Jihad (al-dschihād al-akbar) is the endeavour against the mean/bad self (which direct us to the evil)? How many know that Jihad means the effort/endeavour or to exert/to labor, but also to fight/to struggle?
    So why don’t use a populace language? To avoid independent and critical thinking?

  9. Hassan says:

    yes Tomaculum, i think Muhammad (pbuh) was a man with foresight. he knew (and Allah SWT told him) that this religion named Islam will spread worldwide. isn’t it true that Islam is “rahmatan lil alamin”? hence, he knew that Islam will be embraced by people of all races and religion, and if Allah had permitted him to say so, he would’ve said that we can pray in any languages and just follow the movements that he had examplified. but he didn’t say that, did he?

  10. Tomaculum says:

    Hassan, we come back again to the question: how we interprete a long time ago spoken and written messages.
    You’re right, he didn’t say, that Muslimahs and Muslims are allowed to do shalat in any languages, but in the sentence you’ve cited, he also didn’t utter explicit about the language to be used, isn’t he?
    And back again to my comment: how many Muslimahs and Muslims do really understand the words (read: the messages) in Al Qur’an? Isn’t it desirable, that every Islam follower understand it thoroughly?
    I’m aware too, that this assume a translation in the respective languages which has – as much as possible – to be free from any subjective interpretations. And here we find a further problem.
    This is also like the translation of the bible.

  11. KH. Moch. Yusman Roy says:

    Dear Readers,
    I am Yusman Roy himself, who’s been spending almost 2 years in jail, because I was defending what I believe till right now. Please be known all of my arguments of my ideas of bilingual sholat, are based ONLY on THE HOLY QURAN, while those who spoke against me, use man-made sources other than Al Quran, ( Remember Hadiths and Fiqh are all man-made, written CENTURIES after the death of Prophet Muhammad SAW )

    Further more, I am sad with the fact that, Muslims still fight and persecute each other through unfair and non-civilized ways, if differences do occur among us. I am a victim and living evidence of this unislamic system practiced by those who claim themselves MUSLIM. Please stop fighting! ISLAM means PEACE AND SALVATION. Let’s dialog in peaceful way, solving any problem facing us.

    If you would like to contact me, please write to : KH. Moch. Yusman Roy, No. 136, Sumber Waras Timur, Lawang, Malang, East Jawa, Indonesia. I’ll be glad to answer all of your questions. Thanks, and God bless you all.

  12. jamal says:

    ‘Hadith’ is garbage.

    With out the sunna from hadith many fundamental aspects of islam would be unclear. The quran does not tell people how to salah. It tells us to establish the salah. So hadith and sunnah is very important to islam. For you to call hadith garbage is very insulting.

  13. HUGH says:

    Sholat should be broadcast in ALL languages !

  14. brother amin says:

    I am American Muslim living in Indonesia.RASOOLULLAH (SWA).Said his ummah will be
    devided into 73 ummas.72 will be in hell fire.I have seen 70 here in Indonesia.The only
    commentator I agree with is brother Hassan

  15. Oigal says:

    Brother Amin..Saudi awaits why waste time with the USA or us poor souls here..

  16. Su'ud says:

    I think the problem is not only about languages. It’s about legacy. if we change something that was supposed to be, our grandchild will do the same thing maybe 100 years from now or earlier. Over and over. Until they forget where’s the source came from.
    Don’t forget that other religions get lost because they forgetting the source

  17. Oigal says:

    Actually su’ud who said other religions got lost..not the other religions. Oh and BTW why is the inscription on the Dome of the Rock in different Arabic than the Koran..mmmmmm?

    Still I guess you are right, better people recite by rote rather than actually understand and perhaps question the message.

  18. Su'ud says:

    Sorry about my english. I know it’s poor. Because it’s not my mother language. But I don’t mind to learn it as I want to learn anything from there. So why don’t we learn Arabic also :).

    I don’t know why it’s different (the dome) as I don’t know anything about that.

    Maybe these videos will answer our questions here:

    The problem is not about the “Hablum minallah” but it’s about “Hablum minannas”. It’s not about our relationship with Allah but it’s about relationship between among of us…

  19. ET says:

    @ Su’ud

    Don’t forget that other religions get lost because they forgetting the source

    Can you tell us what religions got lost? And if they got lost how do you know it was because they forgot the source? And who told you these religions got lost in the first place?

  20. Su'ud says:

    I don’t want to judge anything because I’m not the expert. But maybe you can make a conclusion from the video link that I present above

  21. ET says:


    I watched your video’s. Can’t you muslims concentrate on what really matters instead of nitpicking about translations? Or is this to hide the lack of substance of your scriptures by treating them like mathematical formulae instead of words that will always have different interpretations, no matter where or when, even in their original language?

  22. Su'ud says:

    It matters in this topic (sholat in 2 languages). Because it is about language. Like you said that words that will always have different interpretations and that is the point. Allah (or you may say God) won’t misinterpretations but we would. So we must consider and be careful with it

    We (muslims) must be careful if we want to change something that will affect not only at present time but also many many years from now. It doesn’t matter if it changes to good things but how if it’s wrong.

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