SUFISM ON THE SILVER SCREEN: Indonesian Innovations in Islamic Televangelism

Julia Howell


As a carrier of Islam’s esoteric tradition, Sufism would seem to be an unlikely candidate for promoting Islamic piety in the popular mass media in Muslim majority societies of the twenty-first century. It is thus remarkable that several of the most sensationally popular of Indonesia’s new breed of televangelists have promoted Islam by modelling ‘Sufistik’ forms of intensified piety. This article examines the electronically-mediated mass predication programs of two of Indonesia’s best known televangelists, Abdullah Gymnastiar and M. Arifin Ilham. Both are recognised by the viewing public as ‘Sufistik’. The article identifies the elements of the Sufi tradition upon which the preachers draw. It also examines how those elements can be projected effectively on television to convey the intense spiritual intimacy with God which Muslims seek through Sufi devotions.


Sufism; Islamic piety; popular mass media; Muslim televangelists

Full Text:



Al-Mukaffi, Abdurrahman. Rapot Merah Aa Gym: MQ di Penjara Tasawwuf.Jakarta: Darul Falah, 2003.

Bayat, Asef. Making Islam Democratic. Stanford CA.: Stanford University Press, 2007.

Chittick, William C. “Sufism: Sufi Thought and Practice.” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Muslim World, ed. by John L. Esposito. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995: pp. 102-109.

Gilsenen, M. Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Gymnastiar, Abdullah. Aa Gym: Apa Adanya, Sebuah Qolbugrafi. Bandung: MQ Publishing, 2003.

Gymnastiar, Abdullah. Jagalah Hati: Step by Step Manajemen Qolbu. Bandung: Khas MQ, 2005.

Hernowo and M. Dede Ridwan. Aa Gym dan Fenomena Daarut Tauhid. Jakarta: Mizan Pustaka, 2003.

Hoffman, V.J. Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Columbia SC.: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

Ilham, M. Arifin and Syamsul Yakin. Indonesia Berzikir: Risalah Anak Bangsa untuk Negeri Tercinta. Depok: Intuisi Press, 2004.

Mujtaba, Achmad Nawawi (ed.). Menggapai Kenikmatan Zikir: Fenomena Muhammad Arifin Ilham dan Majelis Zikir Az-Zikra. Jakarta: Mizan, 2004.

Satori, Syaefullah M. Akhi, Haruskah Manghujat Aa? Jawaban Buku ‘Rapot Merah Aa Gym’. Jakarta: Pustaka Medina, 2003.

Syadzily, Tb. Ace Hasan, Arifin Ilham, Dai Kota Penabur Kedamaian Jiwa. Jakarta: Hikmah, 2005.

Zulkarnain, Tengku. Salah Faham, Penyakit Umat Islam Masa Kini Jawaban atas Buku Rapot Merah Aa Gym. Jakarta: Yayasan Al-Hakim, 2003.

DOI: 10.15642/JIIS.2008.2.2.225-239


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Indexed by:


Creative Commons License

View My Stats

Journal of Indonesian Islam (ISSN 1978-6301 and E-ISSN 2355-6994) is published by the Postgraduate Program (PPs) and the Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (LSAS), State Islamic University (UIN) of Sunan Ampel Surabaya.

Journal of Indonesian Islam by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Copyright ©2020 State Islamic University (UIN) of Sunan Ampel Surabaya. Powered by Public Knowledge Project OJS.