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The use of title Sayyidin Panatogomo Abdurrahman for Javanese kings indicated strong religious influence within political administration. The interaction between Islam and government was also reflected in architectural aspect. For instance, the king’s palace was built side by side with mosque and public square. Palace reflected the existence of kingdom, mosque symbolized religion, and quadrangle square represented the power of military force consisting of 40 soldiers. This number also signified the minimum quantity for Moslems to perform Friday praying as dictated by Syafii’s school of thought. These three elements became basic pillars for the kingdom.

When Sultan Agung governed Kingdom of Mataram, he attracted Moslem people to play roles in court conduct system, particularly civil court. This aimed to install religious norms within law system throughout the kingdom. However, Sultan Agung did not radically change the existing court system into religious one by which qadhi had been the only judge (allens prekende rechten), but tried to integrate and complement the existing court system with religious norms. Furthermore, the existing court where qadhi was “allens prekende rechten” began to change to be Pengadilan Surambi where the chief judge was advised by a number of ulama. Here, the court began to have such kind of a panel of judges.

When Amangkurat I replaced Sultan Agung in 1645, civil court was revitalized. In the same time, the role of Pengadilan Surambi decreased. In 1677 Dutch colonial pressure had been so powerful and spread into every single governmental administration including court system. In the era of Amangkurat II, the role of the King to maintain court system had been totally removed, resulting in a wide open chance for Dutch colonial to conquer and manage court system within the Kingdom.


To perpetuate its conquest, the Dutch colonial sponsored researches on social patterns, political systems, and religious practices within the archipelago. Court system was also one of research objects. The research found that court system in Priangan area was polarized into three different types: Religious Court, Drimaga court, and Cilaga court. Religious Court tried marriage-related disputes and inheritance based on Islamic norms. Drimaga court referred to classical Javanese system of norms, while Cilaga court was for specific trade disputes.

The Dutch colonial then revoked the role of penghulu and ulama from court system and allowed them only to handle marriage, divorce, inheritance cases based on local custom, not religious guidance.


In 1828, through General Commissioner, The Dutch colonial issued Decree No. 17 which regulated each district in Batavia to establish such District Council. This Council consisted of District commander as Chief District, and a number of penghulu and sub-district chief administration as members of the Council. The Council administered religion-related disputes, marriage, and inheritance since there was no arrangement by notary act.

The Dutch colonial also tried to impose political concordance in law system affair in which European law system had been recognized as well designed better than the existing law system in Indonesia. However, Mr. Scholten Van Oud Haarlem who led the Commission of political concordance sent a note to the Dutch government telling that specific considerations had to be taken to prevent such social chaos among people and to keep them at their religious as well as custom tracks.


Previously, the role of Religious Court or what so called Pengadilan Surambi in Surakarta and Yogyakarta had a wide scope. Unfortunately, the issue of Staatsblad No. 30/1847 cut the functions of penghulu they enjoyed in the era of Mataram Kingdom under Sultan Agung.

In 1848, The Dutch colonial ran political concordance by functioning civil code (Burgerlijk Wethoek) and commercial law code (Wethoek Van Koophandel) for Europeans who lived in Indonesia.

On May 1st 1848, the Dutch colonial issued Reglement op de Rechterlijke Ordonantie en Het. Beleid Justitie known as R.O. This regulation administered the structure of court and law policy which neglected any rules of Religious Court. But article 134 point 2 Indische Staatsregeling pointed out that civil disputes among Moslems could be tried by Penghulu (religious judges) since constitution did not arrange any regulations toward the object of the dispute.

However, based on article 78 Regerings Reglement 1854, Religious Court had been restricted to two basic functions only. The first restriction was that criminal suits were not Religious Court’s competence. While the second restriction allowed Religious Court to handle this suit with local customs approval.

In addition, as stated in article 109 Regerings Reglement 1854, Religious Court could adjudicate disputes between Arabian origin, Chinese, Malaya and everyone who affiliated with Islam. This means that the scope of Religious Court was actually the same as Staatsblad 1820 Jo. Staatsblad 1836, by minor changes in which Regerings Reglement 1854 (Stbl. 1855 No. 02) included non indigenous Moslems.


There were several areas out of Java where the information about the dynamics of Religious Court can be described. These areas were Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Jambi, Palembang, Bengkulu West Sumatera, East Sumatera, Lampung, Bangka Belitung, and Sulawesi.

In these areas, Religious Court had been practiced and supported by political power in which each Sultan (King) paid much attention to establish the power of Religious Court. Among these areas, Sulawesi was the best example in terms of presenting information and data related the dynamic of Religious Court.

In Sulawesi, the adoption of Islamic norms into governmental institution was seen in a well-managed arrangement due to the role of the Sultan. The first kingdom in Sulawesi adopted Islam as official religion was Tallo in South Sulawesi, followed by Gowa on 22nd of September 1605. In 1609 Sidenreng and Soppeng embraced Islam as official religion of the Kingdoms, followed by Wajo in 1610 and Bone in 1611. This dynamics illustrated how Islam and politics could integrate in a well appearance.

Meanwhile, political policies of Dutch colonial which let Javanese to adjudicate their civil disputes prevailed far broader outside Java. The policies were resumed by Staatsblaad 22/1820. Article 13 of the Staatsblaad stated that chief-district had to pay attention and let priests to play their roles according to custom practiced by Javanese in marriage, inheritance, and related cases. To manage Religious Court outside Java, Dutch colonial built Religious Court in Palembang based on the Staatsblaad No. 12/1823. This Religious Court was led by chief-district advised by a number of ulama. On 23rd of March 1825 a regulation on Religious Court was issued allowing the Court to handle particular fields as follows:

  • Marriage;
  • Divorce;
  • Inheritance;
  • Child Custody;
  • Testament.

To conclude, this historical portray showed that the existence of Religious Court had begun before Islam came to this archipelago. When Islam came, people started to conduct Islamic values and norms as documented by fiqh. When imperial power came to conquer the kingdoms throughout the archipelago, judicature system had been governed by sultans and kings.

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