A lot of us may have heard the word santri a lot. People would think that the meaning of ‘santri’ is a student studying at a boarding school, or pesantren while studying and reading kitab and Quran.
According to many websites, the word santri means someone who follows Islamic religious study in a boarding school. Santri is a student studying in a pesantren, which is led by someone called a Kiai, learning a more orthodox version of Islam, studying in a faraway place from our parents
Many of us have common misconceptions and misinterpretations about what a santri is. Some groups have this negative thought that Santri might be too traditional and too conservative, some might say that Santri isn’t modernized. Some people form this picture that santri only lives in rural areas and villages, is never updated, and is not open-minded to the vast knowledge of this globalization era.
In my opinion, a santri could be more than that. Even though people have this common misconception of a santri living too traditional lives, a santri could still step out to the world and still hold to our local upbringings and Islamic studies.
In my pesantren alone, we are supposed to talk in Arabic and English. This shows that Santri can be more global, we have international exchange programs, we sent our santri to World Scout Jamboree, and many other examples. And it’s not only our pesantren that does this, a lot of Pesantren out there have been more modernized to prepare its students to be a globally devoted worshipper or Allah Swt.
As proof, there are a lot of powerful and successful people in Indonesia who are santri and have been studying at a Pesantren at some point. Like Abdurrahman Wahid, our former president, also known as Gus Dur, or like Ahmad Fuadi, the writer of the popular novel ‘Negeri Lima Menara’ who graduated from Pondok Pesantren Gontor, or Yudain Wahyudi; a professor at the US who has also graduated from a pesantren.
Being a santri, and having the experiences of being a santri could make us stand out. Being a santri, you carry your religion and you carry your country and culture. With that, and with the understanding of this new modernized world, we, as a santri could introduce Islam and Indonesia’s culture globally.
Being a santri doesn’t mean you can only study religion 24/7, but being a santri also means opening your mind to new subjects, being closer to Allah, and being more independent, all the useful skills of being a global citizen.
So let's try to prove to them that a santri is not only limited to being a traditional student of Islam in rural areas, but that a santri could step out into the world.