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INSTADA’WA: REPRESENTATION OF PIETY AMONG MOSLEM WOMEN INDONESIA THROUGH

MEDIATIZATION OF DA’WA IN INSTAGRAM

Izmy Khumairoh – Gadjah Mada University


Seminar 'Criminalising and Emancipatory Trends in Family Law in Indonesia and other
Muslim Majority Countries' – Van Vollenhoven Institute, 15-16 November 2018

Abstract
Indonesia can be seen as one of few countries that succeeded in going through the phase of
modernization without getting trapped into the two extremes: embracing Westernization fully or
completely rejecting it by using the discourse of radicalism and fundamentalism. Specifically, this
point is demonstrated by the parallel of democracy and the notion of Pancasila with the process of
Islamization that touches all aspects of everyday life, except for the legal-political one. This paper
attempts to describe the close relationship between religion (i.e. religious discourses in the context
of everyday life) and modernization (i.e. the intensive and excessive use of social media in society)
produce the new image of religion reflects the shifting of power from traditional institutions to
media. The role of religion changed drastically due to the mediatization process that occurs in the
public sphere as well as how the social media plays a dynamic role in society, including marriage
decision as pious women. The indicator of women piety among digital natives today is expanding and
shifting, but still in the conservative framework of religious teachings.
Instada'wa, a word that I use to describe a phenomenon where Instagram is a new
proselytization tool for da'wa communities by offering visual freshness: memes, photos, quotes, and
so on. The discourse of marriage and the pleasure of household life in Instada'wa becomes a best-
selling theme and attractively to young people to get back to religious teachings or known in
Indonesia as the hijrah phenomenon. Unfortunately, we forget that the most social media users in
Indonesia are the Y and Z gene age group that should have limited access to certain content only. The
rise of the indoctrination on marriage through the da’wa community through online and offline
platform is cautious can increase the occurrence of early marriage and even child marriage. The
da'wa community's trends with the issues about pious Moslem women in Indonesia will make
women's thinking space more excessive because the media works massively. The power of women's
criticism is intentionally weakened with the aim that the understanding of religious teaching can be
accepted easily simultaneously through the logic of the media and a friendly approach. In conclusion,
Moslem youth in Indonesia currently faced with the banality of religion from the aesthetic of the
persuasion in Instagram features whereas the implications are determining one's way of life, in this
case, marriage decision.
Introduction
"It’s better to marry my daughter earlier than to witness something bad
happened later, isn’t it?” said Ridwan, Andini's father, when he attempted to
defend his decision to marry her daughter, a 15 years old girl, with a 17 years
old boy in Polewali Mandar, West Sulawesi1
A piece of the story above is one of many early marriage cases in Indonesia which also depict
the ambiguity of Indonesia's civil law system, mainly about marriage things. The religious law
(Islamic law) tends to occupy a higher position and replace the civil law compiled by the state. With
Moslem as the majority, Islamic law 2regarding marriage de facto has affected legitimation form in
Indonesia, although de jure, Indonesia with its civil law 3is not a theocracy state like, for instance, the
Islamic Republic of Iran.
The position of the state is in the liminal phase. The state seems to be giving up instead of
confronting the force of religion, people are more afraid of being disobedient to religion rather than
being submissive to bureaucracy. On the other hand, we need to be aware that the enforcement of
Islamic law among civil law in Indonesia is generating new complexity of problems.
The question is thus: how Islamic law, so well-received by society as a rule, also regulates the
private sphere, in this case, marriage? Of course, we cannot forget the role of the family, which is very
vital as the mediator of the most primary religious teaching besides the presence of religious
institutions such as madrasa or recitation groups (majelis ta’lim). However, as time goes by, religion
tends to respond to the conditions faced by society, that is, by synchronizing its frequency with the
new technological era so that religion remains sustainable and not obsolete.
Nowadays, modernity is challenging the status quo faced by religion, and for its survival,
religion has also been pulled into adopting some values of modernity (one of which is mass
production) to be applied in the Islamization movement, or what’s also called the Post-Islamism
phenomenon (Bayat, 2005). Accordingly, Berger’s (1977) statement that the modernization
experienced by the world will be decreasing the presence of religion in the public sphere does not
wholly fit with reality in Indonesia today. Islamic law is instantly recognized in a very easy and fast
way through cyberspace and Instada’wa phenomenon. This includes the content about marriage law
based on religious instructions. Concerns about the number of early marriages in Indonesia are
increasing along with the emergence of these phenomena given the high number of teenagers in
Indonesia who are exposed to social media.
Regarding the theme of the conference, which is about criminalizing and emancipatory trends
in family law in Indonesia, this study will show how marriage is interpreted as a symbol to encourage
da’wa, thus in turn will trigger early or child marriage. Marriage, formerly exclusive in the family or
private sphere, now enters the public sphere or virtual world. There is some indication that the
expansion of religious law into cyberspace is to be directed into common consensus because the
invasive message about marriage embedded on the content of proselytization. Therefore, this paper

1
Junaedi. (2017, November 30). Di Polewali Mandar, Pernikahan di Bawah Umur Heboh di Medsos. Retrieved
November 3, 2018, from Kompas: https://regional.kompas.com/read/2017/11/30/09083691/di-polewali-
mandar-pernikahan-di-bawah-umur-heboh-di-medsos.
2 Order for marriage are written in several surahs in Al-Qur'an, for instance in Surah An-Nuur 32 : " And

marry those among you who are single (i.e. a man who has no wife and the woman who has no husband) and
(also marry) the Salihun (pious, fit and capable ones) of your (male) slaves and maid-servants (female
slaves). If they are poor, Allah will enrich them out of His Bounty. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’
needs, All-Knowing (about the state of the people)".
3 The rule of the minimum age for marriage in Indonesia regulated in article 7 paragraph 1 of the constitution

Number 1, 1974: minimum age for men is 19 years old and for women is 16 years old.
attempts to present a precaution about the existence of a new trend that will bear a great risk of
triggering early marriage in Indonesia. With a very specific focus on the market segment, Instada’wa
with the selective theme of the teachings (dominantly about hijrah and marriage) is able to attract
young people who are currently discovering insights on religious teachings. In addition, the logic of
social media reduces the essence of religious teaching into memes, photographs, and quotes so that
young people just understand the banality of the teaching. I will present some examples products
from Instada’wa and other findings from the field in this paper by taking one of the da’wa groups
specifically for youth (Pejuang Mahar) in Bandung, West Java, as a case study of da’wa groups which
have concerns about marriage.
Da’wa in Indonesia Today: A Case Study of Pejuang Mahar Group
The proselytizing actors are essentially required to respond properly to the historical
changes that have occurred in modern times (Kahmad, 2002: 68). The development of da’wa after
the Prophet Muhammad showed a very rapid development: in the prophetic era, various fatwas and
teachings of jihad (including their preaching) must be coherent with the paradigms of the prophets
and refer to the Al-Qur'an (the original reference to God's words). The reality nowadays shows that
the flexibility of the teachings of jihad and religious authorities/fatwas become looser because of the
displacement of legitimate holders: scholars, politicians, and people who are considered to have
influence in Islam (Bunt, 2003). Furthermore, changes in the validation of the spreading of Islamic
teachings which comes from the behavior and words expressed by the prophet, at the time, may only
spread by certain people (for example, among friends and family of the prophet). When the process
of proselytization penetrates to electronic era, the process of individual’s understanding of a teaching
become accelerated. People no longer need to go through the hegemony of the group of religious
authorities because the religious teachings now available on various platforms. The internet simply
facilitates the emergence of instant experts: several requirements that must be fulfilled by a religious
preacher like the capability of religious knowledge and authentic lineage are no longer deemed
necessary.
Several surveys of the behavior of internet users in Indonesia show that in 2017 active
internet users in Indonesia reached 143.26 million4 of the total population of Indonesia, which is 262
million. The productive age group became the most active group exposed to the internet, specifically
people in the 13-18 years old (16.68%) and 19-34 years old (49.52%). Another interesting data
finding is that 41.55% of active internet users in Indonesia use the internet as a medium for seeking
religious information. Meanwhile, regarding the amount of time spent accessing social media
(Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram), every Indonesian citizen can spend an average of 3 hours 23
minutes each day. The emergence of this behavior was embraced by religious institutions to face the
globalization, such as through preaching that has been accessible to various social media platforms.
Thus, da’wa expected to take part in efforts to improve the moral society through its role as a
reminder of the relationship between humans and God by presenting the theme of da’wa about
hijrah, in other words, transforming themselves in accordance to the Islamic law and the Sunnah.
Da’wa about hijrah were promoted by various da’wa groups, specifically Moslem youth in
Indonesia who were initiated by the Pemuda Hijrah Group in Bandung. The aim of Pemuda Hijrah is
to encourage young people to re-apply Islamic law in their daily lives and maintain it (Hanief, 2017:

4
Data is taken from the results of the survey report of the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association
(APJII) about the behavior of Indonesian Internet user in 2017.
107). Pemuda Hijrah is a patron of Islamic youth organizations who use social media as a tool for
communication, gathering members, information about da’wa studies, maintaining relations
between members, and the publication of da’wa events that are regularly held in several large
mosques located in Bandung and which are open for the public. With a good strategy, now Pemuda
Hijrah is not only known in the local arena, but has also even reached almost all of the region in
Indonesia and has been copied by similar movements in other areas.
I have got the opportunity to join and get involved with a da’wa groups of Moslem youth in
Bandung, namely the Pejuang Mahar group. Pejuang Mahar (PM) was founded by Ahmad Fudoli or
familiarly called Kang 5Abel at the end of January 2017. He is a computer teacher in junior and senior
high school in Bandung and previously had studied in madrasa in Malang, East Java. PM did not
appeared intentionally as a da’wa community because at first PM was present as a facilitating
institution for Moslems who wanted to do ta’aruf.6 But along with PM's journey, Kang Abel as the
founder realizes that the most important aspect before deciding to ta’aruf is the knowledge about
pre-marriage life. Missions of PM are bringing back someone from 'wrong love' (dating) to 'true love'
(love for Allah) through motivating someone to get married as soon as possible (regardless of his/her
age). Kang Abel wished that da’wa about marriage can touch the youth Moslem in Bandung, from
teenager to adult age. Kang Abel confessed that the great achievement achieved by him was gathering
ta’aruf participants up to 250 women and 30 men at one point of time, and also attracting thousands
of followers in Instagram in only one year. The regular preaching, held one-two times per week, is
attended by around 50-80 people and dominated by women's groups.
PM has a weekly routine preaching agenda with a different theme each week. In the first-
week, there was a LEMON study, the acronym from Let 's Move On, at the second-week about pre-
marital study, at the third-week study about love and marriage motivation, and in the last week there
was a reciting and learning the meaning of surah in Al-Qur'an. PM's events are usually held in large
mosques which merges with mall in Bandung such as the Trans Studio Bandung Mosque (TSB) or
collaboration with several universities. PM has a big event that’s routinely held every year, namely
Bandung Lautan Jomblo. The event is held with the aim of enhancing the relationship between young
men and women in Bandung by joining the community and support each other in the path of hijrah.
By paying 60,000 IDR, participants will be able to take part in the Bandung Lautan Jomblo program
in a day, starting with sports such as archery, futsal (especially for men), badminton, jumping rope
(especially for women), door prize, sharing experiences about ta’aruf, having lunch together, then
ending with a preaching from Kang Abel about the importance of hijrah.

5
Kang is a term to older men in Sundanese.
6Ta'aruf is a tradition in Islam to introduce both families of brides-to-be and grooms-to-be before going
married.
Picture 1: Bandung Lautan Jomblo participants Picture 2: Kang Abel is giving preaching at Trans
holding photo properties themed about marriage Studio Bandung Mosque
enthusiasm

In general, the themes of online or offline da’wa that dominantly presented by PM are talking
about obeying the Islamic law, especially for women. For example, the style of da’wa by PM is always
associated with the obligation to marry. From a number of PM's events that I visited, both men and
women were given an understanding of the glory of marriage as the longest worship in life and a
suggestion to simplify the prerequisite for marriage. Women are expected not to ask an excessive
dowry and always improve themselves physically, while men are expected to reduce any doubts
about marriage preparation which usually involves financial matters (stability of income, willingness
to support the family, etc.). In addition, they were also asked to immediately leave several habits that
contradict the Islamic law, especially and mainly: dating. Through the emphasis on religious
arguments such as the hadith which says that dating is related to zina (adultery) and zina is strictly
prohibited in religion, PM directly propagate ta’aruf to its audiences.
As a very interesting finding, PM has a specific system for everyday content section on
Instagram through design division. The task of design division is to design posters that contains
information about PM's events and activities or theme about preaching by Kang Abel through memes,
quotes, or caricatures that are distributed through Instagram. Not just depending on visuals, the
design division also has the responsibility to distribute a rhetoric style that is familiar to young
people in the captions or graphics. The rhetoric used by PM on Instagram is consistently using satire
and irony style which can lead someone to ambivalency: satirical humor about single shaming or
motivation that encourages marriage. The design division team has a routine schedule for uploading
PM's designs on Instagram three times a day which is divided into three sessions: morning’s theme
is about romance that tends to emotionally destabilize individual’s feeling, afternoon’s theme is about
PM's events that are / will take place, and in the evening the theme is about one-minute video that
goes along with the theme of PM's events, whether made personally or re-uploaded from someone
else's da’wa Instagram account.
Picture 3: Design samples which posted on PM’s Instagram

Instada’wa: producing visual piety through aesthetic persuasion


The presence of aesthetic values is also one of the main factors that enables the mediation of
religious teachings. As stated by Latour (2005), the media does not convey messages in a neutral way,
but there are some elements in the message including the nature of the superiority of the media
technology used, social aspects, and aesthetic values in certain forms. A similar idea was expressed
by Marshall McLuhan (1964) in describing the intersection of religious and technological preaching
through the jargon 'media is a message'. The media is connected with the technology itself, which is
assisted by technological power (visual, audio technology) and the abundance of representation, so
that it is no longer related to the world of the reality and instead is trapped in media mechanisms
that refer to itself (Fakhruroji, 2010). Through the process of attaching aesthetic and technological
values, religious teachings have the ability to embrace the younger generation in a fresher form even
though the meaning of religious teachings is ultimately indirectly reduced or referred to as a banal
religion phenomenon (Hjarvard, 2008: 3).
Nevertheless, media sublimation and aesthetics are not arbitrarily present in religious
activities without functions. Aesthetics as a value is intentionally embedded on the body, objects,
texts, picture, and other media so everything that divine is becoming real. Birgit Meyer (2011) calls
it religious materiality that perpetuates personal relationships continuously through mediators from
various products. Meyer called this activity as a sensational form which contains aesthetics of
persuasion: when the censorship of human bonds with the divine is designed in such a way as to
produce a certain sensibility (Meyer, 751: 2010). Meyer emphasized that aesthetic persuasion is the
key to the success of religious mediation because it serves as a source of strength to convince people
who have faith in the truth of the relationship between them and God or transcendence. The religion
teaching as an extension form of the divinity being materialize too through mediatization. In the case
of Instada’wa, aesthetics play role in producing content through beautification (rhetoric, design, color
selection) which assembled in products such as memes, graphics, quotes, and photos. The
consistency of repetition of the virtual reality is manifested by PM and presented at Instagram,
especially da’wa about marriage. This repetition then delivers a different personal sensation in
religious activity; sensations that occur continuously because of their efficiency of access via a
smartphone. The nature of repetition and consistency in the mediation process of religious teachings
can lead to 'common sense' through socio-cultural construction, which is in turn considered a natural
order. Seeing the workings of aesthetic persuasion in the logic of social media, the material of
religious teachings concerning marriage through Instada’wa has enormous potential to be accepted
and thus balancing the equilibrium with traditional teaching techniques through parents or other
religious institutions.
Conclusion
Marriage glorification, which has basically become a cultural practice where being single is a
taboo thing, increasingly strengthened by the sacredness of Islamic law; married is a merit, heaven
for the couple, and so on. For media and the public, discourse of selling anxiety and single life is still
a marketable commodity including for da’wa content. With the logic of social media and the aesthetics
of persuasion that play an important role in the process of mediating the teachings of religion on
Instagram, this anxiety will continue to be reproduced with more threats: sin, zina, hell.
Consequently, there is a strong reason for not suspending marriage for Moslem in Indonesia at all
cost, especially for women. Instada'wa has shaped the image of pious Moslem women with the
characteristics: waiting to be proposed, obedient to their husbands, and ready to marry.
Hybridization of language with expressions of religiosity in cyberspace provides an
opportunity for Moslems in Indonesia to explore the religious teachings in a variety of creative ways.
But in the other hand, the banality of religious teachings, which are considered as an essential truth
for several people, is easily accessed by all age groups, showing the Instagram control mechanism
regarding user categorization based is very loose. Besides that, the banality of religious teachings
also, in turn, can produce the risk of early marriage one day.

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