MAHFUZ b. `ABD ALLAH AL-TARMASI
(K.H. Mahfudz Tremas, d. 1338/1920)


[Dictionnaire biographique des savants et grandes figures du monde musulman périphérique, du XIXe siècle à nos jours, Fasc. no 1. Paris: CNRS-EHESS, 1992, p. 30-31]

 



Mahfudz of Tremas was the most respected Javanese `alim of his generation. Born in Tremas (Pacitan district, East Java), he spent the better part of his life in Mecca, where the most influential Javanese kyai of the early twentieth century became his students. He takes the credit for widening the range of works studied in the Javanese pesantren to include the canonical hadith collections and usul al-fiqh, topics not previously studied there.
            Mahfudz' paternal grandfather, `Abd al-Mannan Dipomenggolo, founded in 1830 the pesantren of Tremas, the oldest presently existing. He had studied in the famous pesantren of Tegalsari under its illustrious kyai, Kasan Besari (Hasan Basri), where one of his fellow students was the Surakarta court poet-philosopher Ronggowarsito. Later he visited the Middle East and studied with Sayyid Muhammad al-Shatta' in Mecca and with the shaykh al-Azhar, Ibrahim Bajuri (d. 1277/ 1860-1). After `Abd al-Mannan's death (1862), his son `Abd Allah succeeded him as the kyai of the pesantren Tremas.
            Mahfudz was `Abdallah's eldest son. He received his first religious education from his father, studying the works that his grandfather had been licensed to teach by his Arab teachers. At a young age, he was sent to Mecca to continue his studies with the prominent Shafi`i scholar there, Sayyid Bakri (Abu Bakr b. Muhammad al-Shatta' ad-Dimyati, the son of his grandfather's Meccan teacher). All his life he remained close to the learned Shatta' family (originating from Dimyat in Egypt), into which he was virtually adopted; he was buried in the Shatta' family graveyard. He also studied with Sayyid Bakri's colleague and rival, Muhammad Sa`id Ba-Basil (who succeeded Ahmad b. Zayni Dahlan as Mecca's Shafi`i mufti) and various Indonesian `ulama resident in Mecca: Nawawi Banten (Nawawi b. `Umar al-Jawi al-Bantani), `Abd al-Ghani al-Bimawi and Muhammad Zayn ad-Din al-Sumbawi, all of whom taught in the Masjid al-Haram.
            Mahfudz did not return to Java, preferring to remain in Mecca, where he was becoming a very prominent teacher. When his father died in 1894, it was a younger brother, Dimyati, who became the kyai at Tremas. Ironically, the fame of Tremas seems to be in large measure due to Mahfudz, although he never taught there. In Mecca, he had among his students Hasyim Asy'ari, Bisri Syansuri and Wahab Chasbullah (`Abd al-Wahhab Hasb Allah), who later, in 1926, were to found the Nahdlatul Ulama (Nahdat al-`ulama), Indonesia's major traditionalist Muslim organisation. These men are his best-known of his students, renowned because of their political activities. Besides them, he educated numerous others, including some who became influential teachers in their own right, such as `Ali al-Banjari (a Meccan resident of South Borneo origins), Muhammad Baqir al-Jugjawi (of Yogyakarta, but resident in Mecca), Muhammad Ma`sum al-Lasami (the founder of the pesantren of Lasem in northern Central Java), `Abd al-Muhit of Panji Sidarjo (another important pesantren, near Surabaya).
            Many of Mahfudz' students founded pesantren upon their return to Java, which contributed to his lasting impact on the pesantren world. If in the twentieth century the pesantren curriculum is more varied than previously, this is in no small measure due to Mahfudz' influence. Hasyim Asy'ari, one of Mahfudz' favourite disciples, established after his return to East Java the pesantren Tebuireng near Jombang and became the first kyai to teach Bukhari's canonical hadith collection, an innovation in the pesantren curriculum, due to Mahfudz, that gradually spread. Other Javanese kyai became through him acquainted with such usul al-fiqh works, also previously unknown, as Subki's Jam` al-jawami` and Ibn Haja's Sharh Mukhtasar.
            Mahfudz was also a prolific writer, the author of books on various Islamic sciences (all of them in Arabic). The one book still regularly reprinted and used in the pesantren is his Minhaj dhawi al-nazar, one of the more advanced works on Arabic syntax (a commentary on Bayquni's work). His most celebrated work, however, is the four-volume Shafi`i fiqh text Mawhiba dhi al-fadl, a commentary on `Abd Allah Ba-Fadl's Al-muqaddima al-hadramiyya that probably is the major Indonesian contribution to fiqh literature. The Mawhiba is rarely if ever taught in the pesantren; it is used by the senior kyai as a work of reference and is one of the works most frequently cited as authoritative in fatwa by Javanese `ulama.
            Mahfudz' other writings include two voluminous works on usul al-fiqh, Nayl al-ma'mul (a supercommentary on Zakariya Ansari's Lubb al-usul and its commentary Ghayat al-wusul) and Is`af al-mutali` (a commentary on a versified version of Subki's Jam` al-jawami`), and another fiqh work: Takmilat al-minhaj al-qawim (additions to Ibn Hajar al-Haytami's Al-minhaj al-qawim).
            He was not only interested in the intellectual sciences but also in Qur'anic recital (qira'a), on which he wrote no less than five books: on the readings of Ibn Kathir, Nafi`, Ibn `Amr and Hamza, and on the qira'a `ashara. Finally he authored two bio-bibliographical texts, Kifayat al-mustafid li-ma `alla min al-asanid (on the lines of transmission from the authors of classical texts to his own teachers) and Al-saqaya al-mardiyya fi asami kutub ashabina al-shafi`iyya (a survey of Shafi`i fiqh works and their authors). None of these works seem to be available in print, however. 


[Martin van Bruinessen]


Literature:
H. Aboebakar, Sedjarah hidup K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim dan karangan tersiar (Djakarta: Panitya Buku Peringatan alm.
K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim, 1957), p 88.
Mahfuz b. `Abd Allah al-Tarmasi, Mawhiba dhi al-fadl `ala sharh muqaddima Ba-Fadl (n.p.: Matba`a al-`amira al-sharafiyya, n.d.).
`Umar `Abd al-Jabbar, Siyar wa tarajim ba`d `ulama'ina fi al-qarn al-rabi` ashar li al-hijra (Mecca: Mu'assasa Makka li al-taba`a wa al-i`lam, 1385/1965-6), pp. 323-4.
Yasin b. M. `Isa al-Padani, Al-`iqd al-farid min jawahir al-asanid (Surabaya: Dar al-Saqqaf, n.d.), passim.
Muhammad S.H., Mengenal Pondok Tremas dan perkembangannya (Tremas, Pacitan, 1986).