The Response of the Ulamā Dayah to the Modernization of Islamic Law in Aceh investigates the dynamics of the intellectuals that took place in Aceh has brought significant impacts on science in the archipelago or even in Southeast Asia. This occurred because the Acehnese scholars at that time incessantly made attempts to take initiatives to deal with the challenges confronting the community.
Since the initial stage of the advent of Islam in Aceh, the Islamic scholars had played a vital role in various aspects of the life of the Acehnese society. During the period before the advent of the European colonists, the scholars had played a role as models who made efforts on developing Islamic traditions of science. Hence, there were a large number of them who spread Islamic teachings to other regions in Southeast Asia.
Furthermore, the Acehnese scholars were actively involved in preventing the penetration of the colonists to Aceh and in fighting against their occupation. At this time, they played a double role, that is, on the one hand, they assumed a role as a teacher to empower or enlighten their community and, on the other, they were actively indulged in political struggles to free their country. There were a countless number of scholars who died for the sake of their nation and religion.
During the time of independence, they were very energetic to address varied kinds of social, religious and political matters in order to update them as different kinds of transformation took place over the period. The ulama in Aceh, besides serving as advisors to the king also functioned as facilitators of cultural communication (Abdullah 1987, 169). Though the ‘ulama’ had to accompany the ruler they were not tied to local politics and could communicate freely with various levels of people. Whereas the ulèëbalang, who was appointed formally by the king to be a mediator between the people and the king, always had to maintain a cordial relationship concerning politics or the economy with the sultan, the ulama’s status for its part was based on the people’s acknowledgement.
On the one hand, the ulèëbalang needed the ulama to administer justice in order to win respect from the people, while on the other hand, the people needed the ulama to provide guidance as to what they had to do. The ulèëbalang usually made a great effort to run their administration assertively and solidly but did show certain regard for justice so as to win respect for their programs. To avoid making or administering unjust decisions, the ulèëbalang always involved the ulama in formulating their programs and regulations.
Those factors have led the author to be interested in conducting research related to the following objectives and wrote The Response of the Ulamā Dayah to the Modernization of Islamic Law in Aceh: First, to raise an appreciation of these scholarly works. Second, to socialize the information on the scholarly works so that the community is enlightened with or recognize the existence of the scholars in the community. Third, to raise awareness of the rulers to recognize their roles so that they will not make wrong decisions which can result in wrong actions taken by the community and, hence, the structure of the community will be destroyed. Fourth, perhaps this investigation will be initial guidance for the researchers for their further study who are willing to study socio-political matters, even the matters related to the development of Islamic law in the life of Southeast Asian community.