Friday, 27 April 2012

Indonesian Arab Descent Oath 1934

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Mr. Abdul Rahman Baswaden


Some history about fellow Arab descents in Java Island of Indonesia. This oath was taken by the Arab descents in Indonesia around 1934. The Arab descents had conducted a congress in Semarang, north coast of Java Island in Indonesia at 4-5 October of 1934. In the congress, they together voiced that Indonesia is their motherland. Before the congress, many of the Arabs in Indonesia still looking Arabia as their motherland and everything in their life is based on whatever happened in Arabia. This congress is out of the knowledge of many people because it is not taught in history text book in Indonesia. The same thing also happened to Arab descents in Malaysian states who arrived as early as 15th century. Nobody recognize us as bumiputera (natives) according to our own ethnicity but including us into another nation. The congress has a big impact on the Arab descents in Indonesia and also impacted the journey toward Indonesian islands' independence from Dutch colonial rulers.


Dutch colonial administration had divided Indonesians into three classes of society. The highest class were the Caucasians such as the Europeans, Americans, Japanese and etc. The second class citizens were the Arabs, Indians, Chinese and others. The third class citizens were the native Indonesians. Most of Arabs in Indonesian island were from Southern of Yemen which is known as Hadramawt. Arabs who came to Indonesian Islands most of them were men as the Arab tradition prohibited women from being brought together with husband and they could not also bring their sisters together. It is to protect the women from harsh condition during traveling.

Because of this reason, many Arab men also married local women. If the colonial Dutch called the native of Indonesia as inlander (low class native), the Arabs of Indonesia called the native as al-Ahwal. It means their maternal relatives because their mothers were natives. The same thing also to Chinese, Malay and Thai speaking Arabs here in Malaysia. We consider Chinese, Malay and Thai people as our maternal relatives and it is offensive also for us to listen to racist remarks on these people.  

In the 1st of August 1934, Sun Daily in Semarang had included the writing of Abdul Rahman Baswedan about the Arabs in Java Island titled "Arab descent and Their Origin. Baswedan is an Arab descent of Ampel in Surabaya. In the article, there was the picture of Baswedan wearing Javanese traditional cap known as Blangkon. He called fellow Arab descents in Indonesia to accept the jus soli concept of citizenship. Wherever they are born, they are the people of the land. The article in its spirit explaining that Arabs should be more nationalistic to their mother countries. Among the points of the article are:

1. Arab descents culture in Indonesia is Indonesian culture
2. Arab descents must be responsible toward the land and the society
3. There must be a specific political organization representing Arab descents interests
4. Avoiding matters which could broken the understanding among Arab descents
5. Stop isolating themselves and try to adapt with the time and major society

This article was chosen by Tempo magazine special edition for the event of A Century of National Rising (May 2008) as among 100 influential article in the history of Indonesian nationalism. This article is quite a controversy because at that time he was just a 26 years old. Many Arab descents in Java Island were outraged upon the publication of his article since he had raised an idea to lower down Arabs' self-esteem and suppressing their own cultural traits. 

Besides, Baswedan through Sun Daily had routinely expressed some ideas about the importance of social integration, unity of Arabs in Indonesia, and together with natives of Indonesia to gain independence. There was also an idea to establish Indonesian Arab Part as a concern to represent the principals and aspiration of Arab descent in Indonesia.       

The Conference of Arab Descents

All of Arab descents from cities in Indonesian islands had gathered in the conference in Semarang. At that time, Arab communities in the whole Indonesia were shocked with the conference. In the conference, Mr. Baswedan had posed questions on where is their country? The Arab youths who joined the conference wished that all Arabs regardless status in Indonesian islands could be united and fully integrated as an Indonesian nation.   

In the conference they together took the oath: "Our native land is only one, Indonesia. And we Arab descents must stop from isolating ourselves". This oath is known as the Oath of Young Indonesian Arabs. According to Mr. Baswedan, the unity is a main source for Arab descents to rise up with nationalism movement to gain independence from colonial administration. Before the conference, Arab descents all over the islands though intelligent and quite famous figures; they never admit Indonesia as their mother land. They always think that Yemen in Arabian Peninsula was their motherland.   

Mr. Baswedan being one of the apprentice who propagated Indonesian nationalism to Arab communities who earlier never declare Indonesia as their motherland. Since 1934, Arab descents especially young people began to join nationalism movement and leaving behind their Arab identity.

So, this is about Southern Arabs in Indonesia. About our states in Malaysia also we are not so aware about our fellow Arab descent friends. In Malaysian states, there were also those from Hejaz (Saudi), Syria and Egypt apart of those from Yemen or originated from Yemen. Some actually has been absorbed into different communities in Malaysia not to forget others who become non-Muslim as the effect of being isolated.  Hope this is useful for Muslim brothers and sisters.


(English) Huub De Jonge, Abdul Rahman Baswedan and the Emancipation of the Hadramis in Indonesia, Asian Journal of Social Science, Volume 32, Number 3, 2004 , pp. 373-400 (28).
(Indonesian) Alwi Shahab, Sumpah Pemuda Arab,, 16 September 2007. 
(Indonesian) Howard Dick, Surabaya the City of Work, a socioeconomic History 1900-2000, Center for International Studies, Ohio University, 2002. 
(Indonesian) Suratmin, Abdurrahman Baswedan; Karya dan Pengabdiannya, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Direktorat Sejarah dan Nilai Tradisional Proyek Inventarisasi dan Dokumentasi Sejarah Nasional Jakarta, 1989, hal 49-50. 
(Indonesian) Apa dan Siapa; Abdur Rahman Baswedan, Pusat Data dan Analisis Tempo, 
(Indonesian) Alwi Shahab, Partai Arab Indonesia,, 6 Januari 2002. 
(Indonesian) Awal Sejarah Besar Itu dalam Profil Jama’ah Shalahuddin UGM, 
(Indonesian) Lihat catatan pendahuluan Djohan Effendi dalam buku Pergolakan Pemikiran Islam, Catatan Harian Ahmad Wahib yang diterbitkan Pustaka LP3ES, Jakarta, cetakan keenam, Februari 2003.

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace and love, amin!

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