Muslims in Kampung Airmata, Kupang: Preserving Aswaja (Ahlusunnah wal Jama’ah) Tradition and the Diarchic Structure of Kampung Imam and Kampung Raja

Stella Aleida Hutagalung (The Australian National University)


Kampung Airmata (established in 1780) is the second oldest Muslim community in Kupang. Sya’ban bin Sanga, who led the first group of Muslim migrants from Solor Island, became the first imam. Muhammad Badaruddin, a proselytizer from Palembang (Sumatra), helped him in Islamic propagation. Sanga and Badaruddin formed joint leadership of the community in a diarchic structure: Kampung Imam (the religious leadership) and Kampung Raja (the custom office). Each kampung is governed according to distinct principles in terms of membership, leadership, and responsibilities concerning rituals and
festivals. A crisis emerged in 2006 when the sixth imam Haji Birando bin Tahir (born in 1963) passed away. This has created a vacuum in the mosque leadership. Based on the heredity principle, his son Muhammad Devhgan Birando, is the most legitimate successor. He was, however, only three years old. Deputy imam Haji Abdurachim Mustafa issued a decree that justified his appointment as the acting imam.
Mustafa is related to Birando from the female line. Some congregations accepted his decree, while others insisted on deliberation, as there were a number of eligible candidates due to the familial link to Birando.
This paper discusses the origin of the diarchic structure in the village, division of roles and function between the two entities, and its adaptation throughout the history of the village; and then examines the  emergence of crisis and tensions between Mustafa and his opponents. This paper will also show that despite crisis and internal challenges, the communities in this village commit to preserve Aswaja tradition in Islamic festivals and lifecycle ceremonies.

Keywords: Kupang, Aswaja Muslim, Diarchic Structure, Kampung Imam, Kampung Raja