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Identity Shift: from Javanese Islam to Shari’ah-Centric Muslims in the Trah, a kinship-based social organisation


This article explores how Javanese identity has shifted away from Javanese Islam (kejawen) to a more shari’ah-centric identity. This shift is evident within the trah, a Javanese bilateral decent group or social organisation consisting of generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including spouses and subsequent descendants. Long-term observations were conducted in this research through participation in various trah activities and in-depth interviews with trah members. The research found that initially, the trah members were kejawen, namely Javanese who identify as Muslims, but who adhere to Javanese beliefs and ritual practices that have been acculturated into Islamic teachings. Kejawen have a high appreciation of Javanese art and culture as part of their identity. However, trah members began to identify with shari’ah-centric piety, having internalised various aspects of a shari’ah lifestyle that is deemed more Islamic. This shift in identity occurred during the Indonesian political Reformation era which brought freedom of expression. This freedom was manipulated by Islamic activists to fortify political positions and engender a shari’ah-centric identity. The trah has provided a platform for its members – generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – to adopt this shari’ah-centric piety.


The socio-religious identity of the Javanese, who make up most of the Indonesian population, underwent a transition throughout the post-independence period until the Reformation period. Initially, their socio-religious identity was categorised into three groups, namely abangan, santri and priyayi (Geertz, 1976). The abangan were identified with lower levels of society, generally farmers, who adhered to religious syncretism, consisting of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism along with local ritual beliefs. Santri were the traders who claimed to be Muslims practising a more stringent Islamic shari’ah, while priyayi consisted of government employees practising kebatinan or spiritualism. These different socio-religious orientations then started to align to different political parties, thus the term politics stream emerged. The politics stream consisted of political parties gaining constituents based on their loyalty to their respective socio-religious orientation, which became the foundation of their identity. Party elites reproduced the politics stream during the New Order era (1967–1998) to garner mass support in all of the general elections (Gaffar, 1992). During the Reformation period (1998–present), religious and nationalist parties have continued to depend on the sentiment of the politics stream to gain votes in democratic elections (Burhani, 2017; Baswedan, 2004). However, in the New Ode era, there was no longer a trichotomy of socio-religious streams consisting of abangan, santri and priyayi as kejawen and santri had become the prominent socio-religious pillars (Hilmy, 2018; Burhani, 2017; Hefner, 2011). This paper explores the two categories of kejawen or Javanese Islam and shari’ah-centric piety.

Several studies show that when identity is based on a socio-religious pillar it will continue to change. As such, Priyayi has effectively transitioned into a category that is more accurately a social class and not a religious category (Koentjaraningrat, 1985). Meanwhile, abangan, which initially was very resilient in Java, has gradually merged into both the kejawen and shari’ah-centrist groups (Hefner, 2011). The abangan category disappeared with the formalisation of religion that occurred during the New Order era (Hefner, 2011; Machmudi, 2008). Children of the abangan were educated in Islamic teachings in schools and abangan adherents were ‘religionised’ to become Muslims (Hefner, 2011). They were also included in the kejawen group as the state only tolerated religious practices that were intrinsically connected to customs and culture (Hefner, 2011). The widespread Islamisation during the New Order and Reformation era was influential and led to the adoption of shari’ah teachings within kejawen groups, such as praying. The most devout and active Muslims in practising shari’ah teachings were flaunting their identity as shari’ah Muslims. Therefore, this study is interested in assessing how kejawen adherents converted to shari’ah-centric piety.

The kejawen view is that being Muslim does not mean that one has to discard their Javanese identity, which includes a multitude of teachings on nobility, beliefs and rituals as well as arts, culture and customs. Kejawen adherents are not permitted to relinquish various rituals such as slametan (a ritual meal with prayer) and numerous arts, culture and Javanese traditions that are considered valuable and noble. They also believe that Javanese noble teachings are in line with their ancestral heritage and are Islamic in nature and, therefore, must be preserved. Meanwhile, shari’ah-centric adherents claim that they are practising Islam correctly and maintain its purity by adhering to various aspects of shari’ah. The shari’ah-centric Muslim purists strive to ensure their religious teachings are devoid of any kejawen influence, which has adopted Hindu teachings and practices religious syncretism (Natsir & Jinan, 2018).

Several studies depict the continuity of Geertz’s thesis, in which the politics stream has divided religious groups both politically and culturally into kejawen and shari’ah-centric groups (Hudayana, 2021; Burhani, 2017; Baswedan, 2004; Hefner, 2000). Furthermore, other studies describe a shift in identity from kejawen to shari’ah-centric piety. Firstly, one study found the transformation from kejawen Muslims to shari’ah-centric Muslims due to an Islamisation process that has occurred through da'wah in the abangan communities, which improved their understanding of the true teachings of Islam (Natsir & Jinan, 2018). Meanwhile, some studies, such as Hefner (2000), Machmudi (2008) and Kim (2017), show the prominent role of the state in ‘religionising’ Java, by formalising religious teachings, prompting many abangan children to become shari’ah-centric Muslim groups’ agency.

Although these studies have depicted the process of the changing religious identity, they do not assess the role of kinship organisations in influencing the transformation to a shari’ah-centric identity. Therefore, this study focuses on the conversion from kejawen to a shari’ah-centric identity among trah members, a Javanese bilateral decent group or social organisation consisting of generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including spouses and subsequent descendants (Koentjaraningrat, 1985; Sairin, 1992). As their kinship system is bilateral in nature, a husband and wife can have four trah groups that come from the paternal lineage, the maternal lineage, the father-in-law’s lineage, and the mother-in-law’s lineage. The number of trah members increases with the generations of descendants consisting of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and their spouses.

The trah organisation has the same function as a wider kinship organisation such as a patrilinear or matrilineal clan. Some anthropology experts that are functionalists believe that a patrilineal clan has an intention to conserve the organisation by conducting exogamy marriages to build social integration that will define who the members are and who are not (Koentjaraningrat, 2007). This rule is assumed to be less important in the Javanese kinship system, which tends to be bilateral. Therefore, the trah (decent) members may come from either the maternal or paternal line. However, the trah associations organise various in-bound social exchanges in Javanese to maintain kinship organisational integrity. Furthermore, both experts, Evans-Pritchard and Fortes, emphasise the importance of various social relations between hereditary groups in any kinship system so that the kinship organisation can finally generate social integrations (Koentajraningrat, 2007).

In empirical reality, social integration regulates the rights and obligations of descent group members and builds social relations, especially brotherly relations, by developing organisational identity. In clan organisations, social integration is built by creating social relations and religious rituals, not only about regulating marital affairs and the rights and obligations of its members. Lévi-Strauss views the importance of reciprocal exchanges such as the exchange of women between clans to avoid incest (Koentjajaringrat, 2007). On the other hand, trah associations promote social integration through internal social exchanges. These associations no longer take care of women’s exchanges but create various social relationships that can unite their members. This social relationship can be done by forming and celebrating the identity of the kinship group.

Several studies show the relevance of kinship organisations in the formation of identity. Most of these studies examine the role of the family in their children’s internalisation of values, worldviews and lifestyles (Sari et al., 2018; Nesteruk et al., 2015; Xu et al., 2007). However, it cannot be denied that extended families, clans and trah play a crucial role in developing identity and solidarity. Many studies explain that the extended family (Vogt, 2020; Azaola, 2020; Shang, 2008; Kim et al., 2016; Bates & Goodsell, 2013; Bengtson, 2001; Roberts et al., 1991), clans (Fingerman et al., 2009) and trah have a social and economic solidarity function that is essential to its members (Koentjaraningrat, 1985; Ratnawati, 2009; Sairin, 1992).

In Java, the trah which is often connoted with associations of one descendant (descent groups) is an association born of people who are still descendants of kings, aristocrats (priyayi), and religious broadcasters and kyai (Dhofier, 2011). Because of this, there was an association of trahs that came from the descendants of Sutawijaya, the founder of the Islamic Mataram kingdom; a descendant of Sunan Kalijogo, an Islamic broadcaster, and a trah that is a descendant of a well-known kyai such as Kyai Haji Hasyim Asy’ari.

In addition, several trahs still feel descended from the kings of Mataram Islam and trahs from heroes such as the descendants of Diponegoro and today’s leaders. An example of this is the Wangsa Manggala trah that was driven by former President Suharto and his younger brother Probosutejo. The role of this trah continues to be pivotal in political economy, as it is a resource for conducting collusion and nepotism practices that are useful for accessing jobs and political positions. Furthermore, the trah comes from a family descended from a successful figure in politics, business, or other fields of work. They form the trah by strengthening its socio-religious identity. These trah associations have developed due to economic progress and because members become the sponsors and patrons of trah activities (Sairin, 1992).

The trah are divided into two major groups, namely trah that identify themselves as kinship associations from the santri group that are given the name ‘bani’, and those who identify themselves as adherents of Javanese Islam and thus choose to be referred to as trah. An example of santri trah is Abulwahab, while an example of the kejawen trah is the Joyopustoko (Ratnawati, 2009). Meanwhile, it is not well known that a number of trah in Java have changed their identity, meaning that the kejawen rituals that they practised are now shari’ah-centric in nature.

This paper examines how the trah arranges social activity and has had several important roles in shaping the identity of its members in the era of political reform. This study examines the change in the identity of communities from the authoritarian New Order era (1967–1998) to the democratic Reformation era (1998–present). The paper explicitly explains the shift in identity between generations in Javanese kinship groups that transformed from a kejawen identity to shari’ah-centric piety in the Reformation era, which is akin to an era of political and economic liberalisation. The identity shift raises the following two questions:

  1. 1.

    How has the impact of political liberalisation in the Reformation era become a structural opportunity for Muslim groups to influence the formation of a shari’ah-centric Muslim identity in trah social organisations?

  2. 2.

    What is the role of the trah social organisation in the internalisation process of an intergenerational identity transformation from kejawen to shari’ah-centric Islam?

Literature review

Identity studies include understanding the content and process of forming an identity (McLean, Syed & Shucard 2016). By focusing on the identity formation process, several studies show that the environment within and outside of the family can shape a person’s identity in society (Su & Costigan, 2009). For example, internal factors refer to the family, where mothers contribute to the internalisation of their children’s identity, in order for them to obey parental orders (Su & Costigan, 2009). External environments refer to school, residence and workplace.

Several studies have focused on the reproduction of Javanese Islam or the kejawen identity (Hudayana, 2021; Schlehe, 2017). Kejawen identity has been reproduced through cultural festivals that are held, appealing to the communities on the outskirts of cities (Schlehe, 2017). Both kejawen and Muslim groups continue to hold various rituals on a grander scale and perform new rituals that attract public attention, such as performing cultural rituals (Hudayana, 2021). Another study in Java has closely observed the shift in identity from abangan to Muslim (Hilmy, 2018; Natsir & Jinan, 2018). This identity has shifted due to higher literacy on Islamic teachings among Javanese Islamic communities; thus, they have begun to adopt more Islamic rituals and belief systems (Hilmy, 2018; Natsir & Jinan, 2018). Muslim identity is increasingly accepted in Indonesian society and is presented as a popular identity that provides essential meaning in improving one’s socio-economic class status. In contrast, the Chinese families living as migrants also create children with mixed identities of both their place of ​​origin and place of residency (Nesteruk et al., 2015).

Many studies examine the reinforcement of the shari’ah-centric identity that has occurred over the Reformation era. These studies, for example, draw attention to the increasing influence of shari’ah-centric Muslims in political and cultural affairs. This has emerged in the success of Islamic parties in maintaining political support in democratic elections in the Reformation era (Karim, Mamat, & Possumah 2014). The success of these Muslims in implementing local regulations on shari’ah in several regions in Indonesia is also noticeable (Pisani & Buehler, 2017). These shari’ah local regulations reflect the state’s acknowledgement of Islamic law and the right of Muslims to implement and mandate it. Furthermore, these shari’ah regulations encourage the implementation of Islamic education and direct children and adults to enter private Islamic schools in order to improve skills in reciting the Qur’an (Pisani & Buehler, 2017).

Other studies also illustrate how a shari’ah-centric Muslim identity has been cultured through an increasing expansion of Muslim lifestyle businesses. Recent research shows how Islamic identity is being reinforced through fashion for women in Indonesia (Agustina, 2015; Kartajaya et al., 2019). Women use and consume fashion products as a way to embody their shari’ah-centric piety. Studies in several cities throughout Indonesia demonstrate that Muslim women are proud to wear a headscarf or hijab as part of their identity (Agustina, 2015; Kartajaya et al., 2019). This hijab trend is because loyalty to religion has a pivotal role in shaping fashion behaviour (O'Cass, Lee & Siahtiri 2013). Market expansion has compelled Muslim women to obey rules determined by Islam (shari’ah) in the way that they dress (Agustina, 2015; Kartajaya et al., 2019).

Some studies that highlight the emergence of the shift in identity from abangan and kejawen to shari’ah-centric Islam provide a significant contribution to this article. One such study found evidence that the New Order regime and the Reformation era are inherently linked to the ‘religionisation’ that has led to many abangan adherents shifting to Muslims (Hefner, 2000). Another of these studies shows that the ‘religionisation’ gave rise to the Tarbiyah group that has had a political agenda to enforce shari’ah in governance throughout the Reformation period under Indonesia’s democratic governance (Machmudi, 2008). The impact of this Islamisation process has given birth to groups that are no longer referred to as santri as they are shari’ah-centric Muslim groups (Machmudi, 2008). This research recognises that the ‘religionisation’ context characterises the identity transformation process from kejawen to shari’ah-centric Islam. One study that reinforces this process of the shift found evidence that having a religious identity is deemed extremely valuable in Indonesian society (Seda et al., 2020). Therefore, Javanese have readily accepted shari’ah-centric piety or culture as a means to create a valuable identity in society; thus, a shari’ah-centric culture is now very present in various trah activities.

Theoretical framework

The trend in the shift in identity from kejawen to shari’ah-centric Islam in kinship social organisations in Java can be explained using two theories, namely: political opportunity structure and agency. Political opportunity structure theory views that people choose an identity as they are influenced by situations, circumstances and the domain in which identity develops (McLean, Syed & Shucard 2016). A change in identity is also associated with changing political opportunities (Meyer, 2004; Tarrow, 1998).

This paper observes that the New Order era provided little political opportunity for Islamic groups to reinforce their identity as Muslims. The government considered that Muslim identity politics would strengthen the Muslim agenda and therefore threaten the power of the authoritarian and militaristic New Order regime. The New Order, however, did not suppress Islam but rather strived to keep it in check (Rinaldo, 2008). The New Order, for example, prohibited female students from wearing headscarves in public schools (Arifah, Sobari, & Usman 2018).

During the New Order era, the hijab was only worn by Muslim women in groups who adhered to shari’ah-centric religious practices, such as students in Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) and other Islamic schools (Arifah, Sobari, & Usman 2018). Women from shari’ah-centric Muslim families also wore headscarves but their numbers were very limited, and they were not dominant in their communities. Now, women have been entrenched to wear a hijab, including women who are moderate Muslim and even some kejawen adherents.

In contrast to the New Order, the Reformation era beginning in May 1998 has provided ample opportunity for a shari’ah-centric Muslim identity to flourish. This is due to the birth of democratic governance as part of the Reformation agenda and political liberalisation (Basya, 2011). In fostering this shari’ah-centric identity, Islamic activists have been pushing for the endorsement of shari’ah local regulations as a form of the government’s acknowledgement of Muslims right to practice formal Islamic religious customs, which would thus enable the government to enforce these practices on all Muslim citizens. Currently, 78 local shari’ah regulations have been passed by local governments and more than 52 cities and districts have implemented these regulations at the local level (Fanani, 2017). The actual number of shari’ah local regulations is far higher, if all local regulations at the village, district and provincial levels are calculated. Data show that 442 local shari’ah regulations have been enforced, and of these, two thirds (292 or 65.9%) are being implemented in rural districts, a quarter (109 or 24.6%) in municipalities, and the remaining regulations (42 or 9.5%) are being implemented by provincial governments (Pisani & Buehler, 2017). These shari’ah regulations address a range of three broad issues: firstly, public order and social issues such as prostitution, alcohol consumption and gambling; secondly, religious skills and obligations, such as reciting the Qur’an, paying zakat (alms or religious taxes), and attending Friday prayers, and religious symbolism, meaning women wearing Muslim attire (Fanani, 2017).

These shari’ah local regulations have reversed state policy from the New Order era on prohibiting women wearing a hijab as it was deemed incompatible with the nation's culture, particularly in schools. The use of hijab at Islamic schools and Islamic boarding schools was even limited during the New Order era (Arifah, Sobari & Usman 2018). Conversely, shari’ah local regulations that have been implemented in the Reformation period have provided political opportunities for Muslims to reinforce their identity, thus the use of hijab among artists, presenters, and even public officials has rapidly increased.

Muslim activists have also successfully advocated for increasing Islamic education content in public schools. Jargon is being used to educate children to be more religious and noble and the government has made religious education mandatory in school curriculums with further enrichment and guidance from various religious activities outside of the classroom.

The Islamisation of education was followed up with the Islamisation of communities through a free market that offers a modern Muslim lifestyle. Identification with this Muslim lifestyle is marked by the proliferation of Islamic products in the market. Consumers of these products are growing and are increasingly articulating which of these various capitalist products constitute Islamic identity (Seto 2020).

Political liberalisation goes hand in hand with economic liberalisation, thus the Indonesian private sector has been able to consolidate throughout the Reformation era. The market has provided the second opportunity structure granting Muslim groups the opportunity to reproduce identities. For example, the aviation and tourism transportation industry offer the opportunity to Muslims to perform the Hajj and Umrah. These rituals have become very popular in the global era and add prestige to one’s identity in the Muslim community (Niu & Metwally, 2016).

Digital technology in the current globalisation era is also a powerful instrument for marketing halal goods and services and Muslim lifestyles among Muslim groups (Kusumawati et al., 2020). The digital era market also has the capacity to encourage citizens to have this lifestyle by wearing Muslim clothing and consuming halal food as part of their identity (Seto, 2020). This Muslim lifestyle has become so popular that it is now a valuable identity in society. Hijab fashion is not considered to be traditional Muslim clothing, but rather a symbol of modern Muslim women. Muslim women wearing the hijab are considered to be women of character who are up-to-date with the times (Blommaert & Varis, 2015). Other Muslim women are of the view that the hijab style is far trendier than not wearing a headscarf at all (Agustina, 2015).

The author believes that the politicisation of shari’ah and the cultivation of Muslim lifestyles have provided a type of opportunity structure for small shari’ah-centric groups to participate in fostering their identity within trah social organisations. The transformation of the trah identity has occurred in various trah activities through the role of the shari’ah-centric trah members. The author postulates that the actions of these trah members are influenced by the agency’s role that has tremendous influence in the associations (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998). The agency comprises senior trah members or trah members with a solid foundation in shari’ah as religious teachers; members who come from families with a strong shari’ah background; members who have studied shari’ah at university, and members of Qur’an recitation forums who are active in the alumni Hajj community.


This research consists of a case study of the Joyoutomo trah (pseudonym) from the small town of Sapuran in Wonosobo district, Central Java, Indonesia. This study chose a trah that was born and developed because its members experienced economic progress who become the sponsors and patrons of trah activities (Sairin, 1992). This case study selected trah from a small-town based on the view that multiple families have formed this trah and have reinforced its activities and identity during the New Order and throughout the Reformation era. This reinforcement is due to the success of the trah members in improving their quality of life and socio-economic class. This trah is relatively new and different from other trah who come from community leaders who are descendants of kings, spreaders of Islam in Java (Sunan), Islamic clerics (kyai) and heroes (Ratnawati, 2009). This small trah emerged from a small group of priyayi from small towns who managed to maintain the kinship ties of its members, and its members were able to achieve prosperity and improve their social class in society. Currently, not all its members live in their small hometown but are scattered throughout various large cities in Indonesia.

The Joyoutomo trah was selected for this research because it is an example of a trah that has been able to thrive during the Reformation period and whose members have changed their socio-religious identity. The access is available to explore the history and activities of this Joyoutomo trah since the researcher is part of this trah association. It was started in 2017 when the researcher was asked by a senior trah member to write the profile and history of the Joyoutomo trah. Therefore, the researcher was able to conduct a kind of ‘participant observation’ by joining in most of the important activities in the trah association, as a trah member.

The researcher received support from his workplace to conduct the research, which could be conducted without having to be in the field amid the pandemic. Therefore, the researcher chose the case of the Joyoutomo trah’s change in identity, as the data had already been acquired. Meanwhile, any further data needed were obtained through in-depth interviews via telephone, or through WhatsApp media through the Joyuotomo family WhatsApp group. The researcher was still able to observe participants by attending a number of funeral ceremonies and marriages in the trah environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic (2020–2021).

The researcher compared the trah members changing identity in the New Order era and the Reformation period. These two periods differently influenced and shaped the Joyoutomo trah’s identity. The researcher observed and interviewed members of the trah organisation regarding the extent of the internalisation of their identity and how shari’ah-centric Muslim groups have influenced this change. Furthermore, the researcher also conducted in-depth interviews with family members from three Joyoutomo generations consisting of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to identify what factors had caused them to become shari’ah-centric Muslims. The interviews were conducted over 2020–2021, when members of the trah and family activities declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the use of WhatsApp groups and online communication media intensified.

Results and discussion

Membership, Joyoutomo trah activities and their contemporary identity

The Joyoutomo family was born in the town of Sapuran in Wonosobo district, Central Java, Indonesia. The founders of the Joyoutomo trah were Romelan (male) and Masini (female), who married in 1937. At that time, Romelan was 18 years old and Masini was 16 years old. Romelan was the son of Abdulsamad, a clothing merchant, while Masini was the daughter of Akung, the Sapuran village chief. Romelan and Masini were given the name Joyoutomo at their wedding ceremony and ritual.

Akung died in 1951, and Joyoutomo replaced him as the village head through a direct election. Joyoutomo led the village from 1952–1973. According to social action theory, Joyoutomo was an important agent (Emirbayer & Mische 1998). He followed the footsteps of Akung, so when he led the village and retired, he was an adherent of the kejawen tradition. He was renowned for organising shadow puppet shows, dances and various Javanese Islamic ritual ceremonies.

The Joyoutomo couple had their own family and became an extended family when their descendants continued to build strong kinship solidarity even though they were living across several cities. The Joyoutomo couple were central figures in raising their children and grandchildren and set a fine example of family living. They always displayed a supportive manner with their children who were not independent after marriage and accustomed their children to help each other out raising their grandchildren and providing financial assistance for their grandchildren’s schooling. They also made their home a place for family gatherings and for meeting their grandchildren during quiet times and on important religious holidays. Their descendants then formed the Joyoutomo trah organisation when their father, Mr Joyoutomo, died in 1982, while their mother died in 2003. She was also a successful figure in uniting and strengthening social solidarity among all members of the trah during her lifetime.

They vowed that the solidarity between the children and grandchildren generations would be preserved as it was in Javanese society. There is no swearing-in ceremony in the establishment of the trah organisation, but in the case of Joyoutomo trah, all descendants were invited by senior members to hold the mandate to always maintain strong brotherhood relationships. The establishment of Joyoutomo formally was made 100 days after the death of Mr Joyoutomo, and his children and their offspring gathered to discuss the continuation of the kindredship. Senior members such as Kinar and Kandar were appointed as chairperson and vice-chairperson. They proposed all of the children and grandchildren to establish a strong kinship bond, such as assisting each other in raising their children, finding work and overcoming various life problems in the village and in the cities where they lived. They emphasised that the trah would be preserved so long as everyone maintained harmony and were willing to assist each other.

Now, all descendants and in-laws have become members of the trah voluntarily. In general, the grandchildren and even the great-grandchildren of the trah are active members as Joyoutomo’s children continued to motivate their families to remain actively engaged in the trah association through social gatherings and visiting each other, sharing gifts, and assisting members to organise rituals for giving thanks, slametan ceremonies and parties.

Currently, the trah organisation is led by Joyoutomo’s grandchildren, who are mostly married. The trah management consists of a chairperson, a secretary, and a treasurer who are elected by members through a consensual deliberation process. They lead the trah for two years and can be re-elected. As the members of the trah are spread throughout large city zones, management of the trah organisation is divided into two zones, namely the Jakarta zone (Jakarta, Bogor, Bekasi) and the Wonosobo zone (including Wonosobo, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Banjarnegara, Purworejo and Cilacap cities). Everyone born of the Joyoutomo lineage, including children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren are automatically considered members of the Joyoutomo trah organisation. The trah management encourages all descendants to become a member of the trah by providing a mandatory fee of Rp. 30,000 per person per year. This fee is insignificant and was intended to link all descendants and not financially burden them.

From 1982 until 2020, the Joyoutomo trah totalled 163 members, consisting of 16 children, 11 son/daughters-in-law, 41 grandchildren, 31 grandchildren-in-law and 61 great-grandchildren (see Table 1).

Table 1 The names of Joyoutomo’s children and son and daughters-in-law, the numbers of grandchildren, and grandchildren in-law, and great-grandchildren of the Joyoutomo trah (1982–2020)

In 2021, there were 139 surviving members of the trah, consisting of Joyoutomo’s children (6 members), son/daughters-in-law (6 members), grandchildren (40 members), grandchildren-in-law (31 members), great-grandchildren (60 members) and great-grandchildren-in-law (4 members) and great-great-grandchildren (4 members). They are divided into 41 household units consisting of 2–5 members each. They are spread throughout the Wonosobo zone (27 heads of household) and the Jakarta zone (14 heads of household).

In general, Joyoutomo’s children and sons and daughters-in-law were middle-class city people. Seven of the children and sons and daughters-in-law were teachers; four children worked as traders; three others worked as bankers; another three worked for the government; and two worked in state enterprises. Joyoutomo’s grandchildren and their spouses are also middle-class, and the wealthiest among them often provides a significant amount of funding for holding social gatherings for the trah members. Eleven of these members work as lecturers and teachers (Pangarep, Rusma, Restu, Uswa, Neni, Maksum, Djoko, Dewi, Slamet, Pertiwi and Paramita). Eight of them work in private and government companies (Widi, Harji, Risdianta, Aulia, Yusuf, Wita, Yana and Dika). Nine of them work as small entrepreneurs (Kusuma, Sasi, Riana, Riantoro, Akbar, Eko, Anjar and Wawan). Eight of them work as bank employees (M. Safril, Bari, Nugroho, Arafa, Priyongo, Arif, Beni and Ratriana). Four of them work as civil servants (Naning, Destha, Deni and Yusuf). Ten of them are housewives as their respective husbands have regular jobs (Ita, Nani, Katrina, Endah, Anisa, Sari, Elan, Cician and Santi). The Joyoutomo trah members middle-class status has enabled this kinship group to foster social solidity and finance various activities such as regular meetings, rituals and parties that they have drawn on to internalise their identity.

From 1982 to 2021, the Joyoutomo trah held a variety of activities that strengthened its social integration and solidarity to foster pride in its members that gained praise from several other trah organisations in Sapuran. These activities included:

  1. a.

    Family gatherings held every two months divided into the Jakarta and Wonosobo zones.

  2. b.

    Biennial family gatherings (camping and outbound activities) that are always in the Wonosobo zone and held every two years for 2–3 days, during school holidays (July–August) or after Eid Al-Fitr.

  3. c.

    Collecting social funds from trah members in the case of illness, death or disaster within the trah.

  4. d.

    Participating in the committee for various rituals for giving thanks, slametan ceremonies, and preparations for Hajj rituals and wedding parties.

  5. e.

    Welcoming Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Hajj Day.

  6. f.

    Conducting reciprocal assistance for members who are facing a disaster or organising a wedding celebration.

  7. g.

    Providing social support for members experiencing financial problems regarding their children’s education.

  8. h.

    Providing financial support for members experiencing economic problems regarding their children’s education.

  9. i.

    Sharing information regarding job vacancies and the property market.

  10. j.

    Maintaining the trah’s houses that have been inherited from family members and graveyards as well as funeral ceremonies through members’ cooperation.

All the above activities have strengthened the social fabric of the trah and solidarity among members. Regarding the fasting month of Ramadan, for example, members who live in several different cities send greetings to the other trah members via WhatsApp. Those who live in the same city send food packages to each other and perform rituals to celebrate Iftar together. These religious social activities that fill the month of Ramadan strengthen social capital among Muslims (Salihin et. al. 2020).

The Joyoutomo trah organisation has upheld its social solidarity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite not being able to hold social gatherings and conduct activities as normal, generally, each family has sent a representative to attend the two monthly trah meetings in each zone and participate in the ritual ceremonies of any family deaths or weddings.

The social solidarity of the Joyoutomo trah is like that of other trah associations (Ratnawati 2009). This study notes that the function of the trah is identical to that of a large family that maintains social solidarity between generations in the form of sharing, mutual assistance and affectionate relationships (Bengtson, 2001). Trah organisations consisting of inter-generational members are important for the Javanese as they enable the provision of socio-economic assistance. Meanwhile, this trah organisation’s solidarity has grown stronger as the trah has continued to hold ritual activities and provides social assistance that is important to members while living in an increasingly impersonal economy in urban areas. The trah has existed as a kinship organisation that is able to provide altruistic, needs-based assistance, found in the form of parental assistance to children (Fingerman, et al. 2009).

The Joyoutomo trah identity, however, has changed from being a kejawen group to a shari’ah-centric group. In 2021, in the Reformation period, 83 per cent of the 139 living members of the trah, identified themselves with shari’ah-centric piety, and 17 per cent (24 people) identified themselves as kejawen adherents. In 1998, at the end of the New Order era and the beginning of the Reformation Era, only 5.82 per cent (6 members) out of a total of 103 living trah members identified themselves as shari’ah-centric Muslims.

Without a background in Islamic ideology and a strong Muslim family environment, Joyoutomo’s children and grandchildren are certain to easily follow the identities of their relatives who are shari’ah-centric Muslims. Twenty-four of the Joyoutomo trah members who have chosen to continue as kejawen adherents all come from a strong kejawen background. For example, they engage in kejawen rituals such as performing slametans; properly maintaining the keris or ceremonial knives and family heirlooms; listening to shadow puppet broadcasts on TV, radio and YouTube media; and studying their ancestral teachings in books, videos and through their communities.

Kejawen ideology views that ancestral teachings and Javanese rituals are not deviations from Islam. Kejawen consider various kejawen teachings and rituals such as the slametan ritual to be from Islamic holy verses and the Sunnah as well as the revelations from saints. The slametan is favoured as it is in line with community life traditions, namely praying together, sharing food and creating tumpeng, a Javanese ceremonial dish, as food depicting prosperity and well-being coming from God’s creation. Their view emphasises the diverse forms of the slametan ritual, which all have a positive function in the religious traditions of the Javanese (Woodward, 1988). All slametan are considered to conform to Islamic teachings so long as they use prayer by reciting the holy verses of Surah Al Fatikah from the Qur’an. Thus, kejawen adherents believe that Islamic teachings are practised by acculturating Javanese customs. Trah members who practise kejawen need to continue respecting Javanese culture and be bold in rejecting Arabic culture. Kejawen women wear the hijab, but they do so because of social pressure rather than religious awareness.

Although a kejawen group still exists within the Joyoutomo trah, various trah meetings and rituals tend to use the shari’ah-centric method as most members are shari’ah-centric Muslims. They feel that this method is considered more common and accepted within the circle of members and by neighbours who are also invited to attend the rituals. Their argument is based on the idea that they chose this shari’ah-centric identity so that they can practice the true and correct form of Islam. This means performing the pillars of Islam, in particular the five daily prayers, being able to recite the Qur’an in Arabic, and abandoning various wayward’ kejawen rituals deemed to inevitably lead to major sin, especially rituals that entail shirk, namely the worshiping of gods or anything other than Allah as the only god. Their idea of ​​shari’ah is consistent with the results of another study in Sulawesi; namely, it is analogous to the performance of Islamic life cycle ceremonies such as wedding ceremonies and giving Islamic names to newborns (Aqiqah) (Alimi 2017).

Members of the Joyoutomo trah who practise this shari’ah-centric piety prefer rituals that are deemed more Islamic; therefore, they are reluctant to perform the slametan. Woodward’s study provides evidence that the slametan is an Islamic ritual (Smith-Hefner 2013). However, for shari’ah-centric Muslims, it is not consistent with Islamic teachings that are separate from the Prophet Muhammad teachings. They prefer to use the terms Aqiqah (birth of a baby) and mujadahan (a ritual requesting blessings) and syukuran (ritual to express gratitude to Allah), and various other rituals that do not use offerings but rather prayers using the Sunnah of the Prophet or prayers that conform to Islamic culture.

Members of the trah who identify as shari’ah-centric Muslims strive to demonstrate that being Muslim does not mean that they are not modernised. Therefore, they exert themselves to improve their education and work in modern sectors, such as banking while they continue to practice Islamic religious duties in daily life such as praying, paying zakat, wearing Muslim attire, and staying in touch with fellow Muslims in order to build solidarity and perform their duties.

Despite choosing to embrace shari’ah-centric piety, generally the trah members are not interested in joining Islamic movements such as HTI (Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia), the Islamic Defenders Front – FPI (Front Pembela Islam), the Islamic Community Forum – FUI (Forum Umat Islam), or Islamic Society that have gained popularity throughout the Reformation era (Munabari 2018). They even dislike Islamic movements which are often considered to create conflict in society. They agree that Islamic da’wah must be peaceful and should not enter the realm of politics.

The shari’ah-centric Muslims in the trah are not Islamic party activists and they generally reject the hard-line Islam promoted by party activists within the Prosperous Justice Party – PKS (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera). This party can be seen as the political component of a larger social movement that seeks to change Indonesian society and culture by establishing a social system based on shari’ah. This movement rejects worship practices at the local level as well as the ‘un-Islamic’ religious culture of Indonesia (Woodward, Amin, & Rohmaniyah 2013). The shari’ah-centric Joyoutomo trah members prefer moderate Islamic parties such as the National Awakening Party – PKB (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa) and the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional) and nationalist parties such as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle – PDIP (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan). Electing a political partner is a private matter for them, and they are intent on not getting involved in party campaigns as it has the potential to jeopardise social relations within the trah.

The shari’ah-centric category within the Joyoutomo trah reflects a new class of santri (Burhani 2017). They have become Muslims embracing shari’ah-centric piety, not because of the pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) or the santri community, but because they reside in urban areas and they have internalised formal Islamic teachings and the ideology of the da’wah activist movement throughout the Reformation era (Machmudi, 2008).

It is the generations of Joyoutomo’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have internalised these shari’ah-centric teachings during the Reformation era. The grandchildren, in particular, have been exposed to Islamic religious education in schools and mosques in their residential areas and also shari’ah teachings at university through campus Muslim activists.

Teachers educating the generation of grandchildren are from the Muhammadiyah group. They urge students to become true Muslims, where shari’ah-centric practices are mandatory and religious traditions are forbidden as they are seen to be potentially sinful acts (associating Allah with other deities). The Muhammadiyah activists in the grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s residential areas voluntarily educate these youth to be pious, pray at mosques and participate in mosque youth activities. Young people who have a Muammadiyah education have indeed become important agents in the Islamisation process (Kim, 2017).

Parents have also had a central role in the hariah-centric generation of great-grandchildren. Parents have facilitated the internalisation of this generation’s shari’ah-centric identity. Four of the parents who became shari’ah-centric Muslims did so as they were actively engaged in Islamic religious studies on campus while studying in Yogyakarta. Some of them learnt from Islamic activists who were not affiliated with Nadlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah but the Tarbiyah congregation. University campuses in Indonesia have provided a fertile platform for facilitating the Tarbiyah group to internalise shari’ah-centric teachings (Machmudi 2008). In Joyoutomo trah, Anisa (a granddaughter) and Aulia (a grandson-in-law), learnt shari’ah from Tarbiyah group, and then they educated their children in shari’ah-centric piety by sending them to study religion in modern pesantren (Islamic boarding schools).

The shift in the Joyoutomo trah members’ identity has occurred during the Reformation period; however, the initial process began back in the New Order era. Various studies illustrate that the New Order regime laid the foundation for this Islamisation process and encouraged abangan groups to convert to Muslim groups. This paper shows that the kejawen identity of the Joyoutomo trah began to alter during the New Order era and then shifted to a shari’ah-centric identity during the Reformation era.

The decline of the Kejawen identity of the Joyoutomo Trah during the New Order Era

The New Order contributed to the perpetuation of the politics stream and the Javanese dichotomy between those practising kejawen and shari’ah-centric piety (Gaffar 1992). The leadership of the New Order controlled political parties and general elections, which took place every five years (1971, 1977, 1982, 1987). It mobilised the public to support political parties in the elections according to their socio-religious identity. Most abangan and kejawen adherents were mobilised to support Golkar as the government party, and a small proportion of kejawen adherents were directed to vote for a democratic party, while the shari’ah-centric Muslim groups (santri) were mobilised to vote for the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan) as the representative of an Islamic party (Gaffar 1992).

As part of the campaign to modernise the country and eliminate opposition, the New Order forced Indonesians to choose a religious identity and have religious education in school (Hefner 2011; Mahmudi 2008; Rinaldo 2008). The New Order controlled the identity of Muslims with the aim that they would not use it in any way as a political force. The New Order dictated religious activities, for example, through local and national Qur’an recital festivals; Islamic religious holiday celebrations; instating Islamic teachers and establishing Islamic schools; and permitting public school students to wear the hijab.

By controlling the identity of Muslim groups, the New Order government indirectly provided the initial foundation for the growth of educated Muslim groups with better religious knowledge than educated Muslims during the Old Order (1945–1967). This was due to the New Order government’s agenda to modernise all aspects of society. A popular agenda was building numerous elementary, middle and high schools and introducing Islamic religious education curricula to Muslim students and eliminating all education on ethics and character that was derived from local wisdom and Javanese culture. Thus, students in Java who attended school during the New Order era had a far broader exposure to Islamic religious education than children who grew up during the Old Order. This shrewder internalisation of Islamic religious education during the New Order era was the initial capital for Joyoutomo’s children and grandchildren to then adopt a shari’ah-centric identity in the Reformation era.

Some of Joyoutomo’s children who grew up during the Old Order have followed in Joyoutomo’s footsteps as kejawen adherents. These children included Kesi, Karno, Sasini, Dayu, Endarti, Indri, Erna and Andayani. Initially, they became kejawen adherents as Javanese traditions were instilled in them by their parents. One of the reasons why these children did not become shari’ah-centric Muslims was because apart from living in a kejawen community, the Old Order government did not provide Islamic religious education when they were at school. In contrast, the Old Order government introduced moral and ethical lessons at school, which were generally taught by teachers who were raised kejawen and proficient in Javanese culture. The lesson material was based on teaching students to cultivate an affable manner, the Javanese Islam world view, and traditions, which were all derived from Javanese cultural values. Thus, there was a political opportunity to create an identity (McLean, Syed & Shucard 2016), and schools during the Old Order contributed to the strengthening of the kejawen identity as opposed to a shari’ah-centric identity.

Education can readily form one’s identity during adolescence (Lopez, Huynh & Fuligni 2011). Joyoutomo’s children’s education in the Old Order era was still based on the kejawen identity and prioritised the formation of their character in accordance with the traditions of kejawen adherents. At that time in Wonosobo, kejawen identity indicated a higher-class status than shari’ah-centric Muslim adherents.

Children’s education changed during the New Order era. During that time, six Joyoutomo children were attending junior and senior high school, and they received a better Islamic education than their older siblings who attended school during the Old Order. Budi, Joko, Wibisono, Sampurno, Bahagia and Jayanti all attended school during the New Order era.

Sixty Joyoutomo trah grandchildren attended junior and senior high school in the last decade of the New Order government (1990s). They received a more intensive Islamic religious education compared to Joyoutomo’s children. Joyoutomo’s grandchildren, for example, were trained to read the Qur’an in Arabic script, pray and participate in religious activities at school and at the mosque.

Although Islamic education was more intensive in the New Order era, the Joyoutomo trah grandchildren only switched to a shari’ah-centric identity in the Reformation era. The New Order era only provided the prerequisites for Joyoutomo’s children and grandchildren to familiarise them with Islamic education. Their shari’ah-centric identity subsequently developed in the Reformation era when they were conditioned by the political opportunity structure.

The Reformation era allowed all Indonesian citizens freedom of expression. Consequently, Islamic boarding schools, Islamic organisations, Islamic social movements, and Islamic political parties rapidly developed amid the strengthening democratic system. Islamic activists, for example, readily performed da’wah in government and private offices, in communities of newcomers, and kinship associations. Some of Joyoutomo’s children and sons and daughters-in-law were heavily influenced by the da’wah from these activists who introduced shari’ah teachings in place of the previously known kejawen teachings.

The transformation of the Joyoutomo trah members becoming shari’ah-centric Muslims has occurred on a massive scale throughout the Reformation era. It was especially significant in 2007 when Joyoutomo’s five children, namely Kesi, Dayu, Indri, Erna, Sampurno and two in-laws performed the Hajj pilgrimage. The shift that embraces shari’ah-centric piety in the Reformation era is not only due to educational factors. The government issuing popular policies for Muslims has also indirectly contributed to this shift, for example, facilitating Muslims to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. This policy was offset with an increasing number of more affluent Muslims in line with Indonesia’s economic growth which reached six per cent per year. This enabled them to perform the Hajj, Umrah, celebrate various Islamic rituals such as providing sacrificial animals on the day of Hajj, donating money to build mosques and paying zakat.

During the Reformation period, middle-class Muslims have mobilised to develop their power as elites and build networks to strengthen their identity (Hasan 2009). The middle-class members of the Joyoutomo trah were of the need to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals as a means of reinforcing their identity. The Hajj status is significant for Indonesians as it signifies that one has upheld his/her responsibility as a Muslim and also provides one with social prestige in society (Zainuddin 2013). By performing the pilgrimage, Muslim groups raise their awareness to further increase their worship and religiosity (Alnabulsi et al. 2020), and strengthen solidarity among fellow Muslims (Clingingsmith, Khwaja & Kremer 2009).

Joyoutomo’s children decided to perform the Hajj pilgrimage when their communities were providing shari’ah-centric teachings. One of these communities was a migrant community. In Jakarta, for example, Unggul and Dayu were closely connected to the migrant community that held monthly meetings to strengthen social solidarity. This migrant community often held community Islamic recitations and provided social assistance for members for wedding celebrations and funeral ceremonies. They invited Islamic clerics who have Muhammadiyah background to lead recitations and religious ceremonies. According to social action theory, clerics are influential agents (Emirbayer & Mische 1998). In 2005, Unggul and Dayu became interested in following their cleric’s teachings to increase their faith and perform the Islamic teachings correctly. In 2007, they performed the Hajj pilgrimage and actively urged their younger siblings and their children to also embrace shari’ah-centric Islam. Unggul and Dayu have also been influential agents in the Joyoutomo trah. They succeeded in encouraging their younger siblings to adopt this shari’ah-centric piety based on the idea that they would be accepted by Allah through their religious observance.

Trading communities have also promoted shari’ah-centric teachings. Unlike Unggul and Dayu, Kesi never left the city of Sapuran. She worked as a trader at a clothing market. Muslim activists emerged in trading communities and encouraged Joyoutomo’s children to learn more about Islam and to even adopt shari’ah-centric practices. Initially, Kesi saw how diligent her new friends were with praying. They persuaded her to be more disciplined with praying in line with the religious law of Islam. She has been praying devoutly since 2001. In 2003–2005, Kesi and her three younger siblings learned to read the Qur’an from an Islamic cleric who has a Nahdlatul Ulama background. He offered courses to the traders in Sapuran voluntarily. Once she could recite the Qur’an fluently and she was praying regularly, she performed the Hajj pilgrimage in 2008.

After performing the Hajj pilgrimage, Joyoutomo’s children and children-in-law became increasingly fervent in their religious practice. They then joined shari’ah-centric Muslim communities and participated in Islamic recitation activities with Hajj alumni associations. Thus, the Hajj pilgrimage encourages practising Muslims to establish social solidarity among other Muslims (Alnabulsi et al. 2020; Alexseev & Zhemukhov 2016; Clingingsmith, Khwaja, & Kremer 2009).

Members of the Joyoutomo trah began shifting their identity towards shari’ah-centric Islam in 2007. This occurred after the couples – Unggul and Dayu and Indri and Barkon, as well as Sampurno and Kesi – completed the Hajj pilgrimage. They then urged their children and their siblings to be more disciplined in praying, fasting, paying zakat and obeying various shari’ah rules so that their supplications would be accepted by Allah. They also joined Hajj alumni associations, participated in Islamic recitation groups and practised religious da’wah in the community. Unggul, Indri and Kesi have been very influential figures in the trah, which has enabled them to persuade other members to follow in their footsteps. They managed to get 17 trah members to perform Umrah and two to perform the Hajj pilgrimage from 2007–2016.

Joyoutomo’s children who have Haji or Hajjah status, have gained social prestige and are deemed as successful citizens (Sedo, 2009). Indonesian society believes that the older a person is, the more religious they should be, and their achievements should be evident, for example, being more pious and doing the Hajj pilgrimage. Therefore, the other Joyoutomo children, who were economically able, also strived to perform the Hajj pilgrimage or Umrah. In 2019, for example, four members performed Umrah. The cost of the Hajj and Umrah is no problem for the trah members, as they are financially comfortable.

There is strong evidence that some of Joyoutomo’s children and children-in-law were trusted agents, who successfully internalised the shari’ah-centric identity within the Joyoutomo trah community. The facts show that almost all Joyoutomo’s children and in-laws who originally followed kejawen later became shari’ah-centric Muslims during the 2007–2010 period. Unggul, for example, was known as the good senior son-in-law of Joyoutomo, who always liked to assist and who had a good career. He succeeded in persuading his younger sister and brothers-in-law and their children to perform daily prayers five times a day, and various other religious observances according to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and guided them to perform the Hajj pilgrimage and Umrah.

The children and children-in-law of Joyoutomo’s who have successfully performed the Hajj brandish themselves as successful Muslims. This is manifested in their frequent attendance at family rituals and parties involving the trah members. They often dress in shari’ah Muslim attire, distribute gifts to relatives and their nephews and nieces consisting of Muslim clothing, prayer mats, prayer beads and the Qur’an. Dayu not only persuaded his younger sibling and his nephews and nieces to adhere to shari’ah-centric piety but also helped pay for Jayanti to perform Umrah in 2014. Generally, the Joyoutomo members are drawn to perfecting themselves through shari’ah-centric piety with the hope of gaining the status of one who has performed the Hajj or at least Umrah Tables 2 and 3.

Table 2 Communities that have had a role in influencing Joyoutomo’s children and children in-law to change their identity from Kejawen adherents to Shari’ah-centric Muslims
Table 3 Identity Profile of Joyoutomo’s Grandchildren and Grandchildren-in-Law in 2021

Fortifying the Shari’ah-Centric Muslim identity of Joyoutomo's grandchildren during the reformation Era

This trend of increasingly more Javanese people changing their kejawen identity to a shari’ah-centric Muslim identity is clear in the generation of Joyoutomo’s grandchildren. Generally, their shift to shari’ah-centric piety is largely due to the influence of school and the roles of the trah, their spouses and their parents. Schooling has been a significant factor. From the 1990s, many Islamic schools that were known to provide good education began accommodating children who were not accepted into state schools. Islamic schools are places where the Muslim character of their students is developed (Kim 2017). Eight of Joyoutomo’s grandchildren continued their senior high school education at Islamic schools. Iwan, for example, became far more disciplined in his religious worship when attending Muammadiyah Wonosobo Senior High School and then became active in Islamic student organisations while studying at university in Yogyakarta.

The Islamisation of education has occurred on a massive scale during the Reformation era. Joyoutomo’s grandchildren who have all attended school during the Reformation era feel that they have received a lot of Islamic education. They also had to participate in numerous religious activities at school, such as commemorating Islamic holidays. This Islamisation has shaped the identity of these grandchildren of Joyoutomo who have been more receptive to their Muslim identity. When they later married, they followed the wishes of their parents and pursued shari’ah-centric piety. It was easy to mould the identity of Joyoutomo’s grandchildren during their adolescence, just like other teenagers who readily embrace a religious identity (Schachter & Hur 2019).

Some notable factors that mobilised Joyoutomo’s grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law towards shari’ah-centric piety included the introduction of Islamic religious education in schools, followed by the role of trah and their parents. Out of 34 grandchildren, 16 (50%) have become shari’ah-centric Muslims and 15 of the 22 sons and daughters-in-law (68.18%) shifted from kejawen to a shari’ah-centric practice due to the influence of the trah.

As so many trah members were shifting to a shari’ah-centric identity, the trah then became a platform for members to learn about various Islamic beliefs and rituals and Muslim lifestyles. Those who had adopted shari’ah-centric practices, for example, have instilled their practices and rituals through various events such as weddings, circumcision events, Hajj celebrations and social gatherings. These shari’ah-centric families, for example, celebrate the birth of a child by holding an Aqiqah ceremony, which involves slaughtering a sacrificial goat as prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad as a substitute for the Javanese Islamic ceremony (a birth slametan). At social gatherings (arisan), they also flaunt various types of Muslim attire, especially colourful hijab, in tempting other members of the trah to purchase them.

The conversion of the grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law to a shari’ah-centric religion was due to their parents discarding their own kejawen identity, for example, the children of Dayu and Indri. After Dayu completed the Hajj pilgrimage, Harji and other siblings also adopted a shari’ah-centric identity. Asri also followed in the footsteps of her mother, Indri, and in 2011 she performed Umrah to validate her choice in her shari’ah-centric piety.

The last factor contributing to the shari’ah-centric transformation in the trah are the spouses. The perpetrators include the spouses of Pengarep, Sasi, Restu and Nani who are Joyoutomo’s grandchildren. Safril, for example, persuaded Sasi, the grandson of Joyoutomo and daughter of Iskandar, to observe shari’ah-centric piety even before marriage. Several in-laws have cleverly led their spouses towards more shari’ah-centric practices, for example, by advising them to wear Muslim attire at their own weddings. Ita and Uswa come from families of Islamic teachers and Islamic religious leaders. They have cleverly motivated their husbands and other members of the trah to pursue shari’ah-centric teachings, and diligently attend recitations on the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile, Ita, who became Pengarep’s wife, has showcased her piety by frequently aiding the Joyoutomo trah members in the form of Qur’ans and prayer mats.

The transformation into hariah-centric piety was far more straightforward for Joyoutomo’s great-grandchildren compared to the generation of grandchildren as they had direct input from their parents. Currently, Joyoutomo’s great-grandchildren are aged around 16–21 years old. In 2021, there were 60 great-grandchildren in the Joyoutomo trah, and most of them are shari’ah-centric Muslims (83.4 per cent). Their parents had prepared this generation in shari-ah-centric practices in a more planned and disciplined manner. Firstly, they introduced a shari’ah-centric identity by giving them Islamic names with the hope that an Islamic name would instil piety and virtue; 31 of the 60 great-grandchildren have a mixture of Javanese and Arabic names. This trend of giving children Arabic or mixed names also occurred in the 1990s in Java (Askuri & Kuipers, 2019). Arabic names are deemed to be truly Islamic and thus represent the hopes of parents wanting their children to become shari’ah-centric Muslims (Askuri & Kuipers, 2019).

Secondly, the shari’ah-centric practices of the generation of these great-grandchildren have been supported by society since they were very young. They were trained to use prayers taught by the Prophet Muhammad, recite the Qur’an, and were conditioned to eat Muslim-style food and wear Muslim clothing as well as participate in Qur’an recitation sessions in their schools and mosques. They were also sent to Islamic kindergartens and introduced to various Islamic ceremonial rituals in the community, at school and at various family events. Mothers have had a particularly pivotal role in educating their children in shari’ah-centric piety. The characteristics of a mother’s religion influence the religion of her children (Pearce & Thornton, 2007). The mothers have naturally socialised their children to follow religious orders just as they do themselves. Parents have guided their children towards shari’ah-centric piety through conditioning them to pray, recite the Qur’an, wear Muslim attire, and engage in religious activities at school but continue to use a Javanese cultural approach in educating them. For example, children are urged to obey and perform shari’ah-centric practices as children must always obey their parents, and if they do not, God will punish them (Yulina et al., 2016).

Some of the great-grandchildren still identify as kejawen despite the Islamisation of the Joyoutomo trah that prioritises shari’ah-centric piety; 16.6 per cent of the great-grandchildren have been guided by their parents to retain their kejawen identity. These parents argue that kejawen is fundamental in shaping the character of their children, as firstly, they know that Javanese rituals and traditions contain Islamic values ​​and teachings. Traditional Javanese proverbs that provide advice and guidance on Javanese life have adopted Islamic religious values (Kasnadi & Sutejo, 2018). Secondly, these parents believe that Javanese Islam or kejawen is about tolerance that embraces difference and multiculturalism. Thus, the children in these families have engaged in establishing global inter-ethnic relationships. They understand that Javanese children who embrace this inclusive culture can readily interact with people from diverse ethnic and religious groups. The arguments of these parents, as Joyoutomo grandchildren, show that they continue to practice kejawen as they see it as an identity that upholds values of social inclusion compared to Islam that is shari’ah-centric.

Critical implications

This article reveals the importance of observing the role of kinship organisations in order to understand and explain the shift in socio-religious identity that has occurred in Javanese society. Kinship organisations in Javanese society have become a platform for conditioning socio-religious identities. Identities have shifted as members of strong kinship organisations tend to cultivate their identity through their close and personal social relationships with other members. Thus, the transformation of members’ identity is able to occur effortlessly without any rejection or open conflict.

This article also highlights the importance of including political variables in depicting the process of identity formation. This change in the Javanese kinship organisation’s identity from kejawen to shari’ah-centric Muslim in the Reformation era shows that political liberalisation provided an opportunity structure for Muslim groups to strengthen and spread their identity. Such groups were unable to develop their identity during the New Order era as the strong central government controlled them as a political force.

This article also outlines and differentiates the influencing factors in different generations. The identity formation experiences of the different generations of parents, children and grandchildren were distinct. The generation of Joyoutomo’s children (the older generation) developed into shari’ah-centric Muslims primarily due to external environmental influences in the form of migrant communities and traders rather than the trah social organisation itself. Meanwhile, Joyoutomo’s grandchildren (middle generation) became shari’ah-centric Muslims due to the influence of the trah community. Joyoutomo’s great-grandchildren (younger generation) became shari’ah-centric Muslims because of the influence of their parents.

This article also shows that the generations of Joyoutomo’s children and grandchildren abandoned their kejawen identity for a shari’ah-centric identity, which goes hand in hand with their middle-class identity. Various Islamic rituals and Muslim lifestyles further enrich this identity. Thus, shari’ah-centric piety is not related to the reinforcement of Islamic fundamentalist ideology and movements, but is the result of political liberalisation, identity politics, the rise of the Muslim middle-class, and their need for a Muslim lifestyle. This study shows that it is the upper-middle-class that has embraced this shari’ah-centric identity, with democracy and the free market facilitating them to express their Muslim identity and lifestyle.


This article describes and explains why many Javanese have changed their kejawen identity, which was the dominant identity to a shari’ah-centric Muslim identity. Their identity began to shift with the onset of Indonesia’s political liberalisation in the Reformation era. Muslim groups utilised political liberalisation to strengthen their bargaining position in politics by establishing Islamic political parties and shari’ah local regulations, and by reinforcing a shari’ah-centric identity in society. Directly and indirectly, the democratic process in Indonesia has contributed to the spread of this shari’ah-centric identity in Javanese society. The state has provided the opportunity structure for Muslim activists to cultivate a shari’ah identity through educational institutions and various communities, including kinship associations.

The trah as an inter-generational kinship organisation in Javanese society has become an arena for the internalisation of members’ identity. Shari’ah-centric Muslims have actively fortified their identity and used the kinship organisation as a platform to do this. The internalisation of religious teachings and a shari’ah-centric identity has occurred flawlessly as it has been infused through a cultural and humanistic approach using various ritual events and ceremonies in the kinship organisation. Thus, many kejawen adherents have become shari’ah-centric Muslims as it gives them prestige and a very good social status, which fulfils their human psychological drive, and social and lifestyle impulses in accordance with market trends.

Even though there is a shift in identity, Geertz’s thoughts are still relevant to describing that the Javanese have a Javanese Islamic tradition (kejawen) called abangan. It is evidenced by a small number of members of the kejawen trah who do not want to convert to Shari’ah-centric Muslims. However, they even still have a kejawen community and strengthen their argument by placing kejawen as a valuable identity today. They position their identity according to the pluralist and culturalist identity of the Javanese. Thus, the Javanese still exist and can develop their identity in the midst of strengthening the identity of Shari’ah-centric Muslims.


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Hudayana, B. Identity Shift: from Javanese Islam to Shari’ah-Centric Muslims in the Trah, a kinship-based social organisation. Cont Islam (2022).

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  • Identity
  • Islam
  • Javanese Islam (Kejawen)
  • Shari’ah-centric Muslims
  • trah
  • Reformation era