The Philosophy of Minangkabau Society: “Adat Basandi Syara’, Syara’ Basandi Kitabullah”


The Philosophy of Minangkabau Society: “Adat Basandi Syara’, Syara’ Basandi Kitabullah”

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The Minangkabau people, indigenous to West Sumatra, Indonesia, have a unique cultural philosophy that intricately weaves together their customary laws (adat) and Islamic religious principles. This guiding principle, “Adat Basandi Syara’, Syara’ Basandi Kitabullah,” translates to “Custom is based on Sharia, Sharia is based on the Quran.”

Historical Context

The Minangkabau society is known for its matrilineal system, where property and family names are inherited through female lines. Despite this matrilineal tradition, the Minangkabau people are predominantly Muslim, and Islam plays a crucial role in their daily lives. The integration of adat and Islamic principles began to take shape significantly during the Padri War in the early 19th century when Islamic reformers sought to align local customs with Islamic teachings.

Philosophical Tenets

Adat Basandi Syara’ (Custom based on Sharia)

This tenet emphasizes that Minangkabau customs must align with Islamic principles. Traditional practices, ceremonies, and social norms are examined and adapted to ensure they do not contradict Islamic teachings. For instance, adat rituals often incorporate Islamic prayers and principles.

Syara’ Basandi Kitabullah (Sharia based on the Quran)

This component stresses that Islamic law, which guides the customs, is itself based on the Quran. The Quran is the ultimate source of knowledge and law for Muslims, and it provides the foundation upon which both sharia and adat are built.

Implementation in Society

The implementation of this philosophy is evident in various aspects of Minangkabau life:

Legal System: The adat legal system incorporates Islamic jurisprudence. Village disputes and family matters are often settled by customary leaders (ninik mamak) who are knowledgeable in both adat and Islamic law.

Education: Minangkabau children are educated in both adat customs and Islamic teachings from a young age. This dual education system ensures that they understand the importance of both cultural and religious values.

Social Structure: Community leadership often involves both religious and adat leaders. The collaboration between these leaders ensures that both adat and Islamic values are upheld in governance and community activities.

Contemporary Relevance

In contemporary times, the philosophy of “Adat Basandi Syara’, Syara’ Basandi Kitabullah” continues to be relevant. It provides a framework for navigating modern challenges while maintaining cultural identity and religious integrity. The balance between adat and Islamic principles allows the Minangkabau society to adapt to changes without losing its foundational values.


The Minangkabau philosophy “Adat Basandi Syara’, Syara’ Basandi Kitabullah” exemplifies a harmonious blend of cultural and religious principles. It reflects a sophisticated approach to maintaining cultural heritage while embracing religious teachings, ensuring that both adat and Islam are respected and preserved within the society. This philosophy not only guides personal and social conduct but also reinforces a collective identity that is both uniquely Minangkabau and inherently Islamic.

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