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Meulaboh's Masjid Raya after the tsunami of 2004- file photo

°Cerita Dari Meulaboh- A Story of Meulaboh

By Savic Alielha

°Indonesia's Endangered Religion and Species- Islam and the Muslims

By S. Abidin


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By Zaynab el-Fatah 

°O Kutaraja- Wahai Kutaraja

Poetry dedicated to the Momins of Aceh
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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Originally published in 1999

Tjoet Njak Dien

(Cut Nyak Dhien 1848 – 1908, Aceh Province, Indonesia.  

By Benny Ohorella and Zaynab El-Fatah

An Australian and Indonesian Co-operative Effort

Tjoek Nyak Dien as a prisoner

 "A History of one Muslimah’s dedication to Islam on the Indonesian Archipelago."

National Heroine

President Sukarno decreed on Presidential Decree Number 106, on May 2nd 1964, that Tjoet Njak Dien was a National Heroine.

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.

Acehnese Heroines

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.

  1. Tjoet Meutiah

  2. Tjoet Gambang (Kambang)

  3. Keumala Malahajati

Keumala was an Acehnese Admiral who commanded an Acehnese fleet to fight the Portuguese in Malacca.


Tjoet Njak DienDien, 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.

The Dutch Invade Aceh

Her two most beloved left her on March 22nd 1873 to 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.

Dien's Family 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.

Strategy of War

Around 1875 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.

Weapons Acquisition

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 (Kutaraja)

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.

Dien's Husband 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.

When 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:

Quote: "As Acehnese women, we must not shed tears for anyone who becomes a Shaheed" Unquote. (A Shaheed is one who dies in Jihad)

Dien Betrayed

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.

Dien 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.

Dien Dies as Ibu Perbu

"Ibu Perbu "or Tjoet Njak Dien taught Al-Quran 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 magazine.
  • The Rope of God by James Siegal, (1969).

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