Islamising Urban Space: Salafi Mosque and Propagation in Purwokerto, Central Java

Luthfi Makhasin (Universitas Jenderal Sudirman)


Mosque is an important site where Muslims perform daily obligatory prayers and rituals. It is also a place where they seek religious knowledge by attending informal study club (majlis taklim). Scholarly studies have revealed that mosque primarily functions as an Islamic center for propagation, education and philanthropic-community services. It is a broadly social, economic and political institution that is important for Muslim community for generations (Collins, 2011). In contemporary Indonesia, it can even be a breeding ground for Islamic radicalism (al-Makassry and Ahmad Gaus, 2010).

Indonesian mosques have been distinctive in appearance along different religious orientations. Before long, NUaffiliated mosques are mostly located in rural area, whereas mosques affiliated with  Muhammadiyah are commonly in urban area. This geographical difference has steadily blurred following the emergence of Salafi propagation in Indonesia since early 1970s. Saudi funding has played an
important role in the building of Salafi mosques throughout Indonesia and Banyumas, Central Java is not an exception. By focusing on four mosques (Fatimatuzzahra, Tujuh Belas, Jenderal Besar Soedirman, and al Faruq mosque) in Purwokerto and considering the importance of mosque in Muslim’s religious praxis, this paper will demonstrate that mosque is and will always be an important place for expressing Muslim’s daily religious life. It also contributes significantly in the making of religious and socio-cultural dynamics of urban life in contemporary Indonesia.

This paper is based on a research entitled The Political Economy of Islamic Resurgence: Arab Community Business Networks, and Salafi Propagation that is currently underway. By employing Lefebvre’s ideas on social production of space, this paper argues that Salafi propagation is not only concerned to change religious thought and ritual but also targeting to control and dominate the running of mosque. Salafi  propagation manages to determine urban space that is Islamic in appearance and pious-oriented in nature.

Keywords: Mosque, Salafi, Islamic Propagation, Urban Space