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The Open University of Maiyah

Kenduri Cinta, Friday 14 April 2023
Dok. Kenduri Cinta

Early on in the evening of Friday 14 April 2023 the crowd was thin but in intense concentration as Mas Tri and other leaders took the stage and opened proceedings for Kenduri Cinta that night. The theme referenced Eid, which was close — “Evakuasi Kefitrian”. What would that prove to be about? We were deep into Ramadan, the mood was relaxed and very good-natured.

When it came for me to join them on stage, I’d prepared to reflect on last week’s trip to Surabaya and Lumajang with Mbah Nun, what we did and saw there, more importantly what we learned and experienced there, the characteristics of Maiyah that we encountered there and how we wove them into a narrative. You can read about that in last week’s pieces on www.caknun.com and mymaiyah.id. We also talked about the new international order that appears to be emerging following the end of the global Covid-19 pandemic and the onset of the war in Ukraine, challenges to industrial supply chains and related factors, the international economy and the position of Indonesia within it, among other topics.

Those reflections on Lumajang I augmented with some ideas around “ways of thinking” designed to generate a model for analysis for any given topic or questions and to stimulate new thoughts around where we were going with Maiyah. It’s the “iceberg” model where we start with seeing and experiencing only that small part of a problem that emerges from above the surface of the water. That’s all we have to go on in the first instance. Below that is the first of three deeper, ever broader layers. The first of those immediately below the water line shows the “patterns and trends” from which that uppermost part arises and which we can perceive and study so that we better understand. Deeper still is a larger layer which we attribute to the “structures” on which those patterns and trends and based. Lastly, and deepest, a thick layer which we envisage for the “mindset model”, the assumptions that we hold about a subject which we need to comprehend and possibly deconstruct.

It’s a model that Mbah Nun encourages for Maiyah and versions of it have been used by Sabrang. We would utilise it later that evening to explore the theme of “Evakuasi Kefitrian” but I illustrated it first with some ideas around how it could help us understand those questions around the new international, the global economy and Indonesia’s role and development within it. The discussion was primed by Mas Tri Mulyana with contributions from Mas Ali Hasbullah, Mas Yoga, Mas Jadat, dan Mas Rido. This is what makes Maiyah the truly “open” university. It’s our way of learning together or “sinau bareng”.

Mbah Nun arrived later in the evening and was received warmly. He started by referring to the evening’s theme and instigating a round of “Takbiran”, the recitation chanted repeatedly prior to Eid prayers at mosques and open spaces where those mass prayers are held. Mbah Nun drew jamaah from the audience to come up and recite the takbiran…

La Ilaha Illallahu Wahdah, Shadaqa wa’dah, Wa nashara ‘abdahu, Wa a’azza jundahu, Wa hazamal ahzaba wahdah.

And then Mbah Nun led the assembled crowd in a mass recitation of it, and of a longer, more complete version of it, switching and changing line by line, crowd segment by crowd segment, left and right.

Dok. Kenduri Cinta

After that he would build on the discussions we’d already had on “ways of thinking” — using a random method to select members from among the jamaah to form two groups for an exploration of the evening’s theme. It was fun to have those young people up on the stage and to have them select others at random from among the crowd, guided and teased by Mbah Nun. Eventually we had two groups formed and Mbah Nun led them through the exploration, drawing out thoughts and ideas — the difference between “brain” and “mind” — and responding to one another across the groups.

Mbah Nun intervened to reference chapters and verses from the Quran such as QS. Al-Isra [17]: 85 and QS. Al-Baqarah [2]: 32 and to demonstrate their relevance and use within the context of the theme and the study of it. Again, this is where Maiyah serves as the truly “open” university and where we “learn together”. It was a challenge. The groups struggled to discern ideas on the theme, to respond to questions from Mbah Nun and to voice their thoughts, but after some discussion to and fro, with the close and instructive guidance of Mbah Nun, they managed it.

The discussion also took on the question of how we felt, perceived and understood Maiyah, its current form and possible futures, how other Maiyah gatherings managed, survived and thrived without the presence of Mbah Nun — with him joking to loud laughter from the crowd and all of us that when he was no longer with us he would come back and “haunt” Kenduri Cinta with his spiritual presence and would be seen and felt in the wind and elements.

At around 1am Mbah Nun called for this evening’s Maiyah to draw to a close. We’d been treated to music from the jazz band Rangkai interspersed at points throughout the evening but now it was time for Mbah Nun to say the closing prayers and Mbah Nun left for the airport and a homeward flight. We were all glad of his presence and of each other and had all learned a lot, and were all better prepared for the next Maiyah gathering. Hope to see you there…

Ian L. Betts
Jakarta

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