Structuralism of Sheik Siti Jenar’s Life Stories

There are about seven versions of story that tells about the life of Sheik Siti Jenar. All of them are cited from history books and Babads, Javanese historical texts. We cannot assure, however, which one of them is the truest story because practically none of them has proven anything truthfully. Not only the history of the death; the history of the origin, precepts, learning sayings, and living place of Sheik Siti Jenar are also told in several versions. All of them are narrated by different historians. However, almost all of them have the same basic concepts that when we connect each of its thread, we would find an intersection. The existence of Sheik Siti Jenar is, for some reason, even doubted by historians until today. He is said to be only a politic tool used to arrogate powers. It is probably because there is almost no relevant proof saying that the Sheik had once lived in the land of Java. There are only stories that were written and told by historians who lived far after the Sheik died. No alive witnesses -- or their descents to tell a real story about him. Therefore, his figure is questioned until now.

As what has been told on the previous paragraph, although there many versions of Sheik Siti Jenar’s life story, there are actually basic concepts. Say, from the seven versions of his death story, four of them narrate that he died in a bad way and the rest narrate that he died in a good way. However, the basic concept of all is that the Sheik was believed to spread precepts deviating from the teachings of Islam -- the religion that was reaching its victorious on the land of Java at that time. His deviated precepts made Wali Songo, an illustrious council of Islamic theologians who took the most control of Islam’s development on the land of Java, took an action to straighten his precepts. Five versions out of seven narrate that Wali Songo made a scenario to execute Sheik Siti Jenar. Their intentions were to avoid the Sheik from spreading his precepts even larger and from fouling Islamic values even worse. However, two versions out of seven narrate that he died on his own will by surrendering to Allah. All of the versions mention that after he died, Wali Songo replaced his body with the corpse of a black dog in order to show people that the Sheik embraced heresy. Wali Songo was not the only one who was involved in all the story versions. Demak and Cirebon Islamic Kingdom; and Majapahit Kingdom were also so much involved. It is also assumed by historians that dirty politics was played all along with Sheik Siti Jenar’s life story for the sake of stakeholders and those who were thirsty of powers.

In Sheik Siti Jenar’s life story, the voice of the story are Sheik Siti Jenar as the protagonist one; and Wali Songo and Islamic Kingdom as the antagonist one. Afterward, we can draw a binary opposition stating that the Sheikh is the good one and the victim for being killed, tortured, and in a false judicature. Meanwhile, Wali Songo and the government of Demak, Cirebon, and Majapahit Kingdoms are the bad ones for killing the Sheik – even in some versions state that they replaced his body with the corpse of a black dog, which sounds very cruel. This binary opposition somehow seems odd considering that Wali Songo; and Demak and Cirebon Kingdoms are reputed as Islamic icons since hundreds of years ago. Then, questions that pop up in the mind of readers are probably: how could people carrying the teaching of Islam do that kind of cruel thing? How could they kill someone – even though perhaps he was guilty, but how could they do that? Wasn’t killing prohibited in Islam? Why did they even replace the Sheik’s body with a black dog’s corpse? Was not it so terrible to claim that these cruel things were done on the name of justice? These questions may lead readers to a conclusion that actually Islam is not a good religion for allowing us to kill someone only by accusing them guilty – and even without presenting strong proves. Readers may also think that Wali Songo as Islam icons are such a bad example for having done something that veered from their own doing-good-things-in-life teaching. In this story, the image of Wali Songo, Islamic Kingdoms, and Islam itself is shown as if they are bad, and it is obviously disparaging.

We, as Muslims, know that killing is not allowed in Islam. It is strongly prohibited to take other people’s life away. We all know that Islam is a religion that teaches us to live in peace and to always pray to Allah in every step we take. We also know that Islam requires us to think before doing something – and to consider its consequences. We can say, then, that Islam is a good religion and will always be the right one because its teachings are eternally given to us by Allah, the proprietor of the universe.

However, in all versions of Sheik Siti Jenar’s life story, Islam is pictured as the evil one. In the Sheik Siti Jenar story, this good teaching is not depicted. We can draw a conclusion, then, that the binary opposition of right and wrong in this story is reversed deliberately, whose purpose is probably to disparage Islam generally; Wali Songo and Islamic Kingdom especially. It is hard to decide which version of the story is the original one because probably it is already massively manipulated – or even the original is not even true. New versions of it are created to counterbalance current issues and culture, which creates multi-structure. This multi-structure makes readers confused to decide which one is the good one and the bad one, and it finally leads to multi-structuralism.