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Nyai Ahmad Dahlan


Nyai Ahmad Dahlan

Nyai Ahmad Dahlan
Portrait of Nyai Ahmad Dahlan
Born Siti Walidah
Kauman, Yogyakarta, Dutch East Indies
Died 31 May 1946 (aged 73–74)
Kauman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Resting place Great Mosque of Kauman, Yogyakarta
Nationality Indonesian
Occupation Social worker
Years active 1914–1946
Religion Islam[1]
Awards National Heroine of Indonesia

Siti Walidah (1872 – 31 May 1946), better known as Nyai Ahmad Dahlan, was a female emancipation figure, wife of Muhammadiyah founder Ahmad Dahlan, and National Heroine of Indonesia.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Sopo Tresno and Aisyiyah 1.2
    • Leadership and later life 1.3
  • Legacy 2


Early life

Nyai Ahmad Dahlan was born Siti Walidah in Kauman, Yogyakarta, in 1872 to Kyai Haji Muhammad Fadli, an ulama (Muslim religious leader) and member of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta;[1] the area housed many religious figures from the palace.[2] She was homeschooled in various aspects of Islam, including Arabic and the Qu'ran; she read the Qu'ran in the Jawi script.[3]

Nyai Ahmad Dahlan married her cousin, Ahmad Dahlan.[1] As he was busy developing the Islamic group Muhammadiyah at the time, she followed him in his travels.[3] However, as some of Ahmad Dahlan's reformationist views on Islam were considered radical, the couple at times received threats; for example, before a scheduled trip to Banyuwangi in East Java they received death threats from conservatives there.[3]

Sopo Tresno and Aisyiyah

In 1914 she established the prayer group Sopo Tresno (literally Who Loves); she and her husband took turns leading the group in reading the Qu'ran and discussing its meaning.[1] Soon she began focusing on passages in the Qu'ran that dealt with women's issues.[1] By teaching reading and writing through the group, the couple slowed the Christianization of Java through schools sponsored by the colonial government.[4]

With her husband and several other Muhammadiyah leaders, Nyai Ahmad Dahlan discussed the formalization of Sopo Tresno as a women's group.[1] Rejecting the first proposal, Fatimah, they decided on the name Aisyiyah, derived from

On 10 November 1971, Nyai Ahmad Dahlan was declared a National Heroine of Indonesia by President Suharto with Presidential Decree Number 42/TK of 1971;[13] Ahmad Dahlan had been declared a National Hero ten years earlier.[14] The award was accepted by her granddaughter, M Wardan.[1] She has been compared to women's rights advocate Kartini


Nyai Ahmad Dahlan died at 1 p.m. local time (UTC+7) on 31 May 1946 and was buried behind the Great Mosque of Kauman in Yogyakarta four hours later.[1][12] State Secretary Abdoel Gaffar Pringgodigdo and Minister of Religion Rasyidi represented the government at her funeral.[1][12]

Nyai Ahmad Dahlan continued to lead Aisyiyah until 1934.[8] During the Japanese occupation, with Aisyiyah banned from working with women by the Order of the Japanese Military in Java and Madura of 10 September 1943, she worked at schools and struggled to keep the students from being forced to worship the sun and sing Japanese songs.[9] During the Indonesian National Revolution, she ran soup kitchens out of her home for soldiers[8][10] and promoted military service amongst her former students.[11] She also participated in discussions about the war with General Sudirman and President Sukarno.[10]

After Ahmad Dahlan's death in 1923, Nyai Ahmad Dahlan continued to be active in Muhammadiyah and Aisyiyah.[7] In 1926, she chaired the fifteenth Muhammadiyah Congress in Surabaya; she was the first woman to chair such a conference.[1] As a result of widespread media coverage in newspapers such as Pewarta Surabaya and Sin Tit Po, more influential women joined Aisyiyah, while branches opened on other islands in the archipelago.[1]

Leadership and later life

Through Aisyiyah, Nyai Ahmad Dahlan founded girls' schools and dormitories, as well as literacy and Islamic education programs for women;[1] she also preached against forced marriage.[5] She would also visit branches throughout Java.[1] In contrast to the traditionally patriarchal Javanese society, Nyai Ahmad Dahlan argued that women were meant to be their husbands' partners.[5] Aisyayah's schools were influenced by Ahmad Dahlan's educational ideology of the Four Tenets (Catur Pusat): education at home, education at school, education in society, and education at places of worship.[6]


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