A brief biography of Abah Aos (Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Gaos Saefulloh Maslul)

Panji Makalalag
Panji Makalalag
11 Min Read

Source: Actualization of Neo Sufism A case study of The Tariqa Qadiriyyah Naqshabandiyyah PP Suryalaya
Author: Prof. K.H. Budi Rahman Hakim, MSW., Ph.D. (Abah Jagat Al Khoolish)

Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Gaos Saefulloh Maslul or Ajengan Gaos came to be called Abah Aos after he took over the leadership of TQN PP Suryalaya in 2011. He was born in Ciamis on 1 September 1944 and spent his youth in the Panjalu area of Ciamis in West Java, Indonesia. The story of Abah Aos’s religious life until the time he started to lead the tariqa is about the same as that of his guru, Abah Anom. Abah Aos’s life story was written by Dr Lidi Amin and entitled Suryalaya Bukan Panggung Sandiwara (Suryalaya is not the Stage for a Theatre Play). 10 The signals Abah Anom gave that pointed to Abah Aos as his successor are also explained in the book. Before finally ending up in Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya, Abah Aos spent ten years studying religion and tauhid in order to become a kyai in Pondok Pesantren Gegempalan, Panjalu, Ciamis, West Java, which was under the leadership of Ajengan Iskandar Gegempalan. After he had studied with and served Ajengan Gegempalan for ten years, his Ajengan said to him that he had taught him all he knew and he escorted Abah Aos to Pondok Pesantren Cintawana Singaparna, in Tasikmalaya, West Java to continue his studies there.

After having finished his studies in Cintawana, Abah Aos started to deliver religious sermons in many regions. He was an active member of the modernist Islamic Mass Organization, Muhammadiyah, before he finally arrived in Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya in 1968 at the age of 24. After having passed the talqin dhikr in the same year, he never left because he chose to be always together with Abah Anom. The transfer of practices, teachings and inner knowledge from Abah Anom to him is assumed to have started then and continued until he reached the age of 67. He had been with his sheikh –known in the tariqa world as suhba12– for 43 years. The goal of suhba is to resemble the sheikh in all his aspects (kefana’an/ fana’ fi al-sheikh). I was told that when he engaged in suhba with Abah Anom, he could hear and see many things along the way, but he was grateful that he only saw and heard Abah Anom. “I followed everything Abah Anom did in every way, in everything. I did only what he did and what he ordered me to do. I did not do anything he did not do and what he prohibited me to do. Especially after 1983 until know, I said only what he directed me to say.” On many occasions I heard that he said before his disciples, “I don’t know anything. I want nothing. I don’t have anything. I only know, only want, and only have Abah Anom.” During Abah Anom’s time, I was told that none of the talqin deputies was considered to be as intensely close to Abah Anom than Abah Aos. They acknowledged that he was together with Abah Anom inwardly and outwardly already long before he had been appointed talqin deputy in 1990. When he was with Abah Anom, as also mentioned in the book Suryalaya Bukan Panggung Sandiwara, he not only listened to Abah Anom and memorized his sheikh’s fatwas, advice and stories but he also copied every detail of his bodily and facial expressions, his behaviour, way of walking, dress and his total demeanour. The paint on and the form of the mosque (inside and outside) he built in Ciceuri were almost the same as those of the Nurul Asror Mosque Abah Anom built in Godebag. Many senior kyais who presently have become Abah Aos’s talqin deputies said about Abah Aos, “If a survey were to be made it would show that in many aspects, Abah Aos was the disciple who was most Abah Anom.” Conceptually, the core of the tariqa’s teachings and practices is that a disciple is able and willing to ‘obliterate’ himself so that only the knowledge, practices and the habits of his living sheikh murshid remain. Conceptually, a consequence of joining a tariqa is that one has to adopt a sheikh as the only source for the enrichment and deepening of the practices. The present sheikh murshid is the successor and the heir of the teachings of the previous sheikh murshid whose ruh al-qudsiyya (the ‘Holy Spirit’) pedigree goes back to the Prophet Muhammad up to the Essence of all that is. The sheikh murshid is the living book of the Prophetic Tradition (sunna nabawiyya), and he is at the same time the living example (uswa) for all his disciples. From among Abah Anom’s talqin deputies, as mentioned earlier, Abah Aos was the deputy with the most significant number of manaqiban venues which were indeed spread all over Indonesia. He was also the one who, on many occasions that were always designated by Abah Anom, led the prayers especially when there were distinguished guests but also delivered lectures on several occasions in Indonesia and abroad.

Abah Aos was known –as I checked myself– as a most prolific author of works that were all related to Abah Anom and the teachings and practices of his Sufi order. He wrote his works in Arabic, and they have now been collected in a book entitled Majmu’a al-Rasa’il Sayf Allah Maslul (The collection of Sufi matters) that contains three of Abah Aos’s works: Fada’il al-Shuhur li Talibi Rida Rabbu al-Ghafur (the Sufi meaning of the Hijriya months), al-Sunan al[1]Mardiyya fi ‘Amaliyya Murshidiyya (the traditions of the silsila of the Qadiriyya Naqshabandiyya), and al-Fath al-Jalil fi ‘Alamat al-Murshid al-Kamil (the criteria of a perfect sheikh). 14 He also wrote non-classic books in Indonesian such as Menyambut Pecinta Kesucian Jiwa (Welcome the Devotee of the Holiness of the Soul) , Lautan Tanpa Tepi (Sea Without Borders), Cintaku Hanya UntukMu (My love is only for you). 15 All of his works are now available in digital version (e-book). When Abah Anom was still alive, Abah Aos actively and routinely published the magazine Nuqthoh that discussed news and updated material related to TQN PP Suryalaya. Many of the speeches he delivered during manaqibans can be consulted on YouTube while his sermons may also be bought on DVD.

Since his name had come up among Abah Anom’s disciples as Abah Anom’s successor and because of the strong reaction from Abah Anom’s family and the supporting institutions of Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya, Abah Aos, as the disciples had started to call him, decided to settle in Pesantren Sirnarasa where he started to welcome large number of disciples who vowed to remain loyal to him and who wanted to continue to study the tariqa with Abah Aos. Abah Aos founded a pesantren in 1968 under the name Pondok Pesantren Al[1]Ishlah but Abah Anom changed its name to Pesantren Sirnarasa in 1980.16 In 1980, he turned Pesantren Sirnarasa into one of the Centres for Counselling on Juvenile Delinquency and Drug Addiction for girls, and Abah Aos and his wife especially admitted girls with spiritual and mental problems.17 However, when more and more addict were of the age of junior and high school children, in 1994, he opened a formal school at the Tsanawiyah level under the wing of Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya. Three years later, in 1997, a school at senior high school –Aliyah– level was opened under the wing of Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya. However, after he had gone to Abah Anom, Abah Aos spent his entire time engaged in suhba and Abah Anom entrusted him to expand the manaqiban to places outside the pesantren in West and Central Java. He expanded not only in the rural and urban areas of East Priangan such as Ciamis, Tasikmalaya, Banjar, and Garut but also in Bandung, Jakarta and other big cities in Indonesia and abroad. At that time, he was only rarely at Pesantren Sirnarasa because he started to concentrate his activities on Pesantren Sirnarasa only after he had left Suryalaya. When he no longer joined the manaqiban and other activities in Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya, he started to do them in his own Pesantren Sirnarasa. He started to hold his monthly manaqiban on the 10th of each Hijriya month and thus one day before the monthly manaqiban in Pondok Pesantren Suryalaya where they are held on the 11th of each Hijriya month. Starting in September 2012 and up to the present, ever increasing numbers of Abah Anom’s disciples continue their studies with Abah Aos apart from new disciples who want to study the tariqa.

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