published in 1999
Nyak Dhien 1848
Benny Ohorella and Zaynab El-Fatah
Australian and Indonesian Co-operative Effort
History of one Muslimah’s dedication to Islam on the
President Sukarno decreed on Presidential Decree Number 106,
on May 2nd 1964, that Tjoet Njak Dien was a National
Tjoet Njak Dien did not die in her own land or amongst
her own people. She died as "Ibu Perbu," which
means "The Queen", a name given to her by the
local people in Sumedang, West Java. The local people never knew
that this gracious and religious prisoner, bought to them by Dutch
Soldiers on December 11th 1906, was, in fact, the
famous Heroine of Aceh Province. Dien had fought the
Dutch from the jungle for 25 years.
We know from other modern studies, such as "The Rope of
God" by Siegel (1969), how strong the spirit of Jihad is
amongst the Acehnese. However, what that book does not reveal, is
how the women are ready to join and lead in Jihad also. These are
other heroine’s names that we are familiar with and our
apologies for any others who have not been mentioned.
Tjoet Gambang (Kambang)
Keumala was an Acehnese
Admiral who commanded an Acehnese fleet to fight
the Portuguese in Malacca.
Dien, who was active in writing and delivering speeches on the
beauty of Jihad, was born in 1848 into Acehnese nobility. Her
father, Teuku Nanta Setia was an Uleebalang
(commander, or literally, Sultan’s military officer) of VI Mukim
of the Sagi XXV Military District. Nanta Setia’s ancestor
was Panglima Nanta (Chief Commander), a descendant from Sultanah
Tajjul Alam, an Acehnese ambassador (also a woman) for Pagaruyung
Sultanate in West Sumatra. Dien’s mother was also from an Uleebalang
family, the Uleebalang of Lampagar.
Having married young (in 1862), to
Teuku Ibrahim Lamnga, a
son of Uleebalang of Lam Nga XIII, Dien soon realised, as
the daughter and the wife of commanders of Army divisions, that
she would have to farewell them when war broke out against the
Dutch Invade Aceh
Her two most beloved left her on March 22nd
fight Jihad and succeeded in expelling the Dutch from Aceh. Even the
Acehnese army succeeded in killing the Dutch Army commander,
General Kohler, in the battle to defend Kutaraja, the Acehnese
capital. She was happy to see them both back safe.
On December 11th 1873, the Dutch invaded Aceh again,
lead by General Van Switten. They had returned with a vengeance
and 7,000 well-equipped infantrymen who managed to break the
Acehnese line, on December 22nd 1873. Dien was parted
from her husband and father for a longer period, this time.
This second invasion was better prepared and better planned
than the first invasion. The Dutch advanced carefully and in an
orderly manner, until succeeding in capturing the capital. The
Sultan was forced to leave the capital and began the guerrilla war
against the Dutch. Dien, this time, followed her father and her
husband into the jungle. She sacrificed everything, her jewellery,
her comfortable life and her health.
Killed- Dien Takes Over
Tragically, during the guerrilla
war, Nanta Setia, (her
father) and Ibrahim Lamnga (her husband), were attacked
heavily, surrounded and after fierce fighting, both were killed.
This battle is known as the "Battle of Sela Glee Tarun."
Most of the troops were killed also and it was thought to be due
to a betrayal by Habib Abdurrahman.
Participating directly, as she was, in
war, Tjoet Nyak Dien
took over both her late husband’s and father’s army commands
and led them in guerrilla warfare from the jungle. She re-built
these units and led them successfully. A far cry, from living like
a princess, in VI Mukim. This is significant in the history of
Muslimahs and which led to her eventual recognition as a National
Heroine of Indonesia and indeed the entire Ummah.
Dien Re-Marries and
Has a Child
While leading these guerrilla
army units, she met another army
commander from Meulaboh, West Aceh, by the name of Teuku Umar,
who was one of Dien’s relatives. He was fascinated with her
refusal to mourn her husband and father, because she said she
should be happy that her two most beloved had reached the most
noble status and died as a Shaheed in Jihad.
They soon married and together led the two armies into a series
of successful assault missions. Dien had one daughter with him
whose name was Tjoet Gambang. Tjoet Gambang was to
follow her Mother’s example. Some years later, after the
destruction of Dien’s army, Tjoet Gambang married Teungku
Di Buket, son of the most famous Ulama and guerrilla leader, Teungku
Cik Di Tiro. It is commonly thought that Tjoet Gambang died
a martyr in 1910, two years after her Mother’s death in exile.
Teuku Umar (her husband) made a strategic move seen as a betrayal by those unaware at the time. Both of
them came out of the jungle and surrendered to the Dutch. Their clever ploy was to lie to the Dutch, so when they came
out of the jungle they said. Quote: "they realized they had
done wrong so they wanted to re-pay the Dutch by helping them
destroy the Acehnese resistance." Un-quote.
The Dutch were very pleased that such dangerous enemies were
willing to help them. In gratitude, they decorated her husband
with a Medal of Honour and called him "Teuku Johan Pahlawan",
which means the greatest hero. They also made her husband
commander in chief of a Dutch army unit with full authority.
They kept their plan a secret, even though they were
continuously accused of being traitors by their own people. Their
intention was to study Dutch strategy ,while slowly replacing as
many as they could of the Dutchmen in the unit with Acehnese men.
These Acehnese men were from their guerrilla army units. When the
numbers of Acehnese in this army were sufficient, Dien’s husband
proposed a false plan to the Dutch, claiming that he wanted to
attack an Acehnese base.
Dien and her husband left with all of the troops and the Dutch
heavy equipment, weapons and ammunition, never to return.
This raised the ire of the Dutch and huge operations were
launched to capture both Dien and her husband Umar. The guerrilla army, however, were now armed with the best equipment stolen from
the Dutch and returned its identity to the strategic guerrilla army. They began to heavily attack the Dutch while General Van
Switten was replaced, humiliated and disgraced. His replacement,
General Pel, was quickly killed and the Dutch army was in chaos
for the first time.
Occupied Banda Aceh
Dien and Umar applied repeated pressure on occupied Banda Aceh
(Kutaraja) and Meulaboh (her husband’s former base) and the
Dutch had to continuously replace its Generals. The mighty guerrilla
army that was created, trained and led by this formidable
pair, was successful.
A gruesome history was to follow, however, when General Van Der
Heyden was installed and never to be forgotten by the Acehnese. Brutal and bloody massacres of men, women and children in
innocent villages took place, when the inhumane General Van Der
Heyden engaged the "De Marsose" units. They were so
savage that they were almost impossible to defeat. Most of the
troops of "De Marsose" were Christian Ambonese. They
destroyed everything in their path, including property and
villages, as well as the people. These units caused even the Dutch
soldiers to feel sympathy for the Acehnese, and eventually, Van
Der Heyden dissolved the "De Marsose" units. These
events may, however have paved the way for the following
General’s success, as many people who were not involved in Jihad
had lost their lives or their loved ones lives, their property or
indeed all of their loved ones and property. Fear and grief may
have then weakened the remaining broader population.
Killed in Meulaboh
General van Heutz exploited that fear and began to bribe local
Acehnese to spy on the rebel army and act as informants. It
wasn’t long before the Dutch soldiers found Dien’s husband and
he was killed on Umar’s attack mission to Meulaboh on February
11th 1899. It was known as a betrayal by the informant
named Teuku Leubeh.
Tjoet Gamgang (her daughter) heard of her
father’s death she began to cry and was slapped by her Mother (Dien)
who then hugged her and Dien is quoted as having said:
"As Acehnese women, we must not shed tears for anyone
who becomes a Shaheed" Unquote. (A Shaheed is one who
dies in Jihad)
Tjoet Njak Dien’s husband,
Teuku Umar’s death, left
Dien alone again to lead the rebel army. Weakened then by
advancing age, Dien, with her army, retreated further into the
jungle. Trying not to mourn over her late husband, Dien continued
to lead this rebel army, assisted by her army officers, such as Pang
Laot Ali and Pang Karim. This army fought until its
final destruction in 1901 and it consisted of men and women.
Pang Laot Ali who felt sorry for Dien’s condition, hoped
that the Dutch might give medical treatment for her. He deserted
to the Dutch and bought the Dutch army into Dien’s camp in
Beutong Le Sageu. They were completely caught by surprise and
fought to the last man and woman except for Gambang and
Dien. Pang Karim was said to be the last man to defend Dien
with his sword until his death. Only due to her blindness was Dien
captured and even then she held a rencong (a traditional Acehnese
dagger) in her hand trying to fight the enemy. Her daughter Gambang,
however escaped deep into the jungle, where it is known that she
continued the resistance in the spirit of Jihad as her Mother and
Father had done. There is little information to be found about Tjoet
Gambang. Our humble apologies for being unable to provide more
information than this at this time.
Exiled to Java
Exiled by the Dutch, Dien’s arrival in Sumedang in her worn
out clothes and accompanied by other Acehnese political prisoners,
naturally drew the attention of the Regent Suriatmaja as a
faithful Muslimah. The male prisoners demonstrated obvious respect
to this small, old lady, but the Dutch soldiers were forbidden to
reveal the identities of the captives. See insert photograph.
Due to their obvious deep religious nature, especially Tjoet
Njak Dien, they were placed with the local Ulama, named Ilyas. Ulama Ilyas
quickly realised that his guest, who could not
speak their language nor them hers, was indeed a scholar in Islam
and became known as "Ibu Perbu"(The Queen). Her
sound Islamic knowledge and her ability to recite Al-Quran
beautifully earned her the invitation to instruct on Islam.
Dies as Ibu Perbu
"Ibu Perbu "or Tjoet Njak Dien taught
in Sumedang, West Java, until her death on November 8th
1908. She was buried as "Ibu Perbu" in the cemetary
of Sumedang’s nobility in Gunung Puyuh, in the
outskirts of Sumedang.
By 1960, those Sumedang locals who could have recollected who
"Ibu Perbu"was, had passed away. However,
information came from the Dutch Government based on official
letters in "Nederland Indische", written by Kolonial
Verslag, that Tjoet Njak Dien, rebel leader from Aceh
Province, had been placed in exile in Sumedang, West Java. There
had only ever been one Acehnese female political prisoner sent to
Sumedang. It was realized then, that"Ibu Perbu" was
in fact Tjoet Njak Dien and
was then recognized by President Sukarno as a National Heroine.
A small Acehnese Mosque
(meunasah) was built near the
cemetery in her memory.
May Allah (swt) have mercy on her soul.
- Ensiklopedi Islam Indonesia.
- An article title Tjoet
Njak Dien by Sr. Ida S. Widayanti in Hidayatullah
- The Rope of God by
James Siegal, (1969).