is an expert in islam
Islam . The most common are and . : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...
. The word is of Javanese
Javanese language is the language of the Javanese people from the central and eastern parts of the island of Java, in Indonesia. In addition, there are also some pockets of Javanese speakers in the northern coast of western Java...
origin, and is sometimes spelled kiai
. Traditionally, students of Islam in Indonesia
Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia, which also has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identified as Muslim as of 2009....
would study in a boarding school known as a pesantren
Pesantren or Pondok Pesantren are Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia. According to one popular tradition, the pesantren education system originated from traditional Javanese pondokan; dormitories; ashram for Hindu or viharas for Buddhists to learn religious philosophies, martial arts and...
. The leader of the school was called kyai, as a form of respect. The traditional word for a teacher in Islam is ustad
Ustad is an Arabized Persian word is a honorific title for a Muslim man in South Asia. The title precedes the name and is usually used for well regarded teachers and artists, most often musicians. It is applied and used via informal social agreement. It is abbreviated as ut. or ud.-References:*...
, which is an Arabic word. There are many ustads in Indonesia who teach the religion, but most of them do not have a boarding school.
In his study of mysticism, royalty, and pesantren in the Sultanate of Banten
The Sultanate of Banten was founded in the 16th century and centered in Banten, a port city on the northwest coast of Java; the contemporary English spelling of both was Bantam...
, Martin van Bruinessen wrote:
"Highly motivated students went from pesantren to pesantren, studying in each the texts in which its kiai was specialised. After a few pesantrens in Banten, they would go on to pesantrens in Bogor, Cianjur, Cirebon, Central or East Java and finally, if their families could afford it, to Mecca, the most prestigious centre of Islamic learning. The pesantrens were typically (although not uniquely) located in rural districts, away from the major roads. Their geographical isolation symbolised, as it were, their ideological distance from the state. The pangulu
, as a state official, and the independent teacher, the kiai, were two contrasting types, in Banten as well as elsewhere in Java."
A kyai is not a cleric in the same way as a priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...
. There is no governing body that ordains or authorizes a kyai. Likewise, no organization can defrock a kyai or remove him from his position. The reason is that a kyai has his position and authority because people will listen to what he says.
Some Indonesians refer to a widely regarded kyai as an ulama
-In Islam:* Ulema, also transliterated "ulama", a community of legal scholars of Islam and its laws . See:**Nahdlatul Ulama **Darul-uloom Nadwatul Ulama **Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal**Jamiat ul-Ulama -Other:...
. This word is actually the plural form of the Arabic word alim
which means knowledgeable person. Through common usage in Indonesia, the word ulama
grew to signify a high-level kyai, even though this is a grammatical misuse of the Arabic word.
In legend if not in fact, a kyai combines the skills and roles of both the Islamic scholar and the Sufi master (sheikh
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...
). Stories abound about kyai that can perform such feats as: 1) fly to Mecca for mid-day prayers and be back in the pesantren for the afternoon repast; 2) walk through the rain without getting wet; 3) meditate by the ocean until the waves stop moving; 4) heal the sick; 5) have secret knowledge about someone that can help that person solve personal problems.
A student in a pesantren is called a santri
. After the founding kyai of a pesantren dies, his son or another santri may take over the supervision of the school, and would then be called kyai. It is possible for a large boarding school to have several kyai living and teaching there. However, most pesantren have a few hundred studentsr, with only one person who is called kyai. The other teachers in the school are called ustadz. Many Indonesian Muslims consider a kyai to be higher ranked than an ustadz because a kyai runs his own boarding school and has mystical abilities.
Kyai is also a common honorific for important heirloom items in kraton
Kraton or Keraton is the Javanese word for a royal palace. Its name is derived from ratu, which means "ruler" . In Java, the palace of a prince is called puro or dalem...
s in Java, like gamelan, chariot, and kris
The kris or keris is an asymmetrical dagger or sword nowadays most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia, but also indigenous to Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Brunei. It is known as kalis in the southern Philippines. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade , but many have...
. For example, gamelan
A gamelan is a musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Bali or Java, featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists may also be included....
used in annual Grebeg
celebration in Yogyakarta is called Kyai Sekati
, itself divided into two instrumental sets: Kyai Gunturmadu
and Kyai Nagawilaga
. Meanwhile, Yogyakarta's royal chariot of is called Kyai Garudayaksa
In some parts of Indonesia, famous students of the Wali Songo mystics are referred to historically as kyai or kiai or ki
. One of them, Ki Ageng Gribig, is said to have returned from Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...
with a small kind of pastry which did not spoil during the long journey. To commemorate this feat, the people of Jatinom hold a festival each year, wherein thousands of these little cakes (called apem
) are blessed and tossed out to participants. The main road from Klaten
Klaten is a regency in Central Java province in Indonesia. Its capital is Klaten.-Geograpy:Klaten borders on Boyolali Regency in the North, Sukoharjo Regency and Wonogiri Regency in the East, and Special Region of Yogyakarta to the South and West...
Boyolali is a regency in the eastern part of Central Java province in Indonesia. Its capital is Boyolali.-Geography:The capital also named as Boyolali and lies 27 km to the west from Solo....
in Central Java
Central Java is a province of Indonesia. The administrative capital is Semarang. It is one of six provinces on the island of Java.This province is the province of high Human Development in Indonesia and its Points Development Index countries is equivalent to Lebanon. The province of Central Java...
, which passes through the town of Jatinom, is officially named after Ki Ageng Gribig, though known colloquially as Jalan Boyolali