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Nur Ahmad

PhD candidate

N. Ahmad MA
+31 71 527 2727

Nur Ahmad is a PhD student at the Institute for Area Studies.

More information about Nur Ahmad

Nur Ahmad (1990) is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Area Studies. He is currently writing his PhD thesis about the mystical exegesis of the Quran written by Kiai Shaleh Darat from Java.

His PhD promotors are Prof.dr. N.J.G. Kaptein and Prof. Dr. Bernard Arps. Nur received his Bachelor degree in Quranic Studies from Walisongo State Islamic University, and his master's in Theology and Religious Studies from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

He is now doing research on Islamic-Mystical discourse in the Javanese Mystical Manuscripts which are mainly written in Pegon script. Those manuscripts are mainly under-researched for many years.


A Study of The Mystical Quranic Exegesis by Muhammad Sholeh Darat (1820-1903)

The present study aims at investigating the first Quranic exegesis in the Javanese language by Muhammad Sholeh Darat of Semarang (1820-1903), namely Faidurrahman. It primarily concerns with the mystical notion of the two-volume exegesis which characterizes also all other works by Sholeh. In general, this mystical exegesis employs the allusive method in which a far-reaching meaning of a verse is worked out. For example, on verses about the characteristics of hypocrites in the surah al-Baqarah, he attributes those features not only to the people who pretend to appear as religious outwardly but a non-believer inwardly, but also to those who are in an esoteric path (tarekat) who lost his/her belief in the specific path and then changing his/her way. As far as the tafsir studied in the pesantren tradition is concerned, this kind of explanation does not exist.
This study is based on the notion that a Quranic interpretation is a product of not only its author, but also the intellectual milieu in which the tafsir is produced. For this reason, a close attention to the social environment in which its author lives, the intellectual climates, and the contesting theological movements, because the Quranic commentary is often a representative of the author’s tool to promote or to defend their doctrines, will be addressed intensively. In this dissertation, the analysis to Sholeh Darat’s Quranic commentary, which employs a mystical approach of exegesis, is hoped to reveal the condition of the Javanese religiosity in the 19th century.

The significance of the research project for the chosen (sub)discipline and for theology in general (max.100 words):
The result of library research on the study of Sholeh Darat’s Qur’anic interpretation gives a clear vision that the previous studies pay meticulous attention to the “craft of commentary” such as, its genre, sources, method and narrative structures. In addition, most of them also limited their study to parts of surahs of the tafsir. Without any attempt to deny the merits of these studies, no one attempt to consider this Qur’anic interpretation as a product of not only its author but also the intellectual environment of the society in which the author lives. No one, for example, pose the question on why did Kiai Sholeh Darat produce a mystical interpretation of the holy Qur’an, something that has been never done by other scholars in Java.


Main research question
What are the cultural and intellectual factors that lead Sholeh to compose this Qur’anic interpretation?
What methods and sources does Sholeh employ to interpret the Qur’an?

This study is a socio-intellectual history that examines the ideas of a prominent figure in a form of Quranic exegesis and the decisive factors that leads to its composition. To arrive at a valid conclusion, to some extent, this study investigates the intellectual networks which Sholeh builds in Java and primarily Mecca. Being deeply rooted in the study of al-Ghazali from his teachers in Mecca, Sholeh composes works which is characterized with, as al-Ghazali, the harmonization of the sacred law (shariah) and the mystical dimension (tasawwuf). Moreover, the discussion on Islamic mystical dimension in Java which was so immense in Sholeh’s era is the key factor from which we could see a clearer vision on the cause of the birth of this tafsir. For this reason, an analysis of the Javanese mystical features, such as in suluk literatures, is central for this study. The method of these mystical literatures in incorporating Islamic doctrines is hoped to give us an idea of a hermeneu tical ap proach exist in the Javanese intellectual tradition.

Provisional table of contents
Chapter 1: Introduction.

Chapter 2: background, Javanese religiosity in the 19th century. Pre-Dipeonegoro, After Diponegoro. Close attention to mystical doctrines in Java. From Islam Dizkir, Wirid, Petungan. Hindu Buddhist, sadjen: the doctrine of sakaratul mauw with seeing lights. Local nature religion.

Chapter 3:
Shaleh Darat and his works.

Chapter 4: sources and structures of the tafsir. Faidurrahman’s history. His view on Tafsir., makna. Model kiai sholeh. Several sources: Ibnu Arabi.

Chapter 5: analysis of method interpretation. Tafsir Isyari.
Names of God

A brief description of the content of the planned chapters (max. 500 words):

Provisional bibliography

Sands, Kristin Zahra. Ṣūfī Commentaries on the Qur’an in Classical Islam. Routledge Studies in the Quran. London: Routledge, 2006.



Masters in Theology and Religious Studies at Vrije Universitet Amsterdam, September 2016 – August 2017. Thesis: Study on Javanese Mysticism as Elaborated in Kiai Sholeh Darat’s Treatises.
Bachelor in Quranic Studies at Islamic State University Walisongo, June 2010 – December 2014. Undergraduate Thesis: Study on Hadist in the annotation of al-Hikam of Ibn Athaillah by Kiai Shaleh Darat.

Informal Education:

Islamic Boarding School Al-Itqon Bugen, Semarang, 2003—2006.
Islamic Boarding School al-Bahraniyyah Ngemplak, Mranggen, Demak, 2009.


Lecturer at the Faculty of Ushuluddin, Walisongo State Islamic University Semarang 2018-Present.
Teacher in Ma’had Walisongo of Walisongo State Islamic University Semarang 2018-Present.
Teacher in Language Development Center, Walisongo State Islamic University Semarang 2018-Present

Islam in Java.
Pegon Manuscript.

Quranic Interpretation.

Grants and awards

MoRA scholarship for Master's, Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, 2016.
English for Academic Purposes, Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, 2015.


Javanese Mystical Dimension;

Pegon Manuscripts;

Islam in Java

PhD candidate

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Indonesie
  • No relevant ancillary activities
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