The value of freedom which is taught and practiced by Gontor, as is often delivered by our teachers and, to my understanding, has a high philosophical content and is in accordance with Islamic values. This spirit of freedom was born in an Islamic epistemic framework, with the main foundation being the Qur’an and Sunnah, along with the support of the faith-knowledge-deeds trilogy. In addition to teaching people to make good choices, (ikhtiyar), it is also in tune with human nature and recognizes the human ability and will to choose and act, but emphasizes choosing what is good and right.
According to the founding fathers of Gontor, the meaning of freedom is as follows: “Free in thought and action, free to determine the future, free in choosing a path of life, and even free from various negative and external societal influences.” This spirit of freedom will make the students confident and optimistic when facing all difficulties. (See https://www.gontor.ac.id/panca-jiwa).
You can also read Dr. Hamid Fahmy Zarkasyi: The Competence Needed by the World exists in the Five Spirits. http://unida.gontor.ac.id/dr-hamid-fahmy-zarkasyi-kompetensi-yang-dibutuhkan-dunia-ada-dalam-panca-jiwa/
As for the meaning of the motto to think freely, Gontor firmly believes in the following, “Free thinking does not mean free as freely possible (liberal). Freedom here cannot eliminate principles, especially the principle of being a Muslim believer. In fact, freedom here is a symbol of maturity and adulthood, results of an education enlightened by divine guidance (hidayatullah). This motto is instilled after the students have a high and noble mind and after they are knowledgeable. (See: https://www.gontor.ac.id/motto).
If concepts like these are effectively put into practice, it will be beneficial for us, especially for the residents and alumni of the pondok. However, if misunderstood, then there will be confusion and corruption, in aqidah, thought, and action.
In regards to the translation of the meaning of the motto of free thinking, Gontor stands by the following: “This freedom must be returned to its original state, namely freedom within positive guidelines, with full responsibility, both in the boarding school life itself as well as in our larger society.”
You can also read: Indonesian independence in terms of the Jarosy philosophy. http://afi.unida.gontor.ac.id/2019/08/17/kemerdekaan-indonesia-ditinjau-dari-filosofi-jarosy/
Gontor has and continues to strive to guarantee this concept of freedom is always understood in Islam. The pondok is also institutionally arranged so that the concept can be properly practiced by the students and alumni, where it is supported with discipline and curriculum, written or not, which is both independent and solid.
Here Dr. Syamsuddin Arif writes, “On a practical level, true freedom radiates wisdom and reflects knowledge and manners. Individual freedom should be guided by the law and by wisdom, by religion and by ethics, so as not to destroy the order of life and in order to bring happiness in this world and hereafter. (Islam and Intellectual Diabolism, page. 170).
This spirit makes Gontor independent. One is able to independently choose his or her own educational philosophy and practice. It is certainly the best in accordance with the founders of the Ijtihad and is not easily interfered with by outsiders.
Additionally, Gontor’s Chairman, Ustadz KH. Hasan Abdullah Sahal, has acknowledged several opportunities for improvement, “Openness, yes, Intervention, no!” This principle is certainly a concrete manifestation of the true meaning of freedom and independence, literally and spiritually, physically and mentally, so it is very relevant for us to live and practice it. Wallahu A’lam.
Translator: Trey Spadone
Reviewer: M. Taufiq Affandi, M.Sc.
This article is also available in Bahasa Indonesia: MENGGALI SEBONGKAH MAKNA KEMERDEKAAN DARI JIWA KEBEBASAN GONTOR