When asked about how are the people of Aceh? Senouck Hurgronje mentioned that the Kingdom of Aceh was old, resilient and faithful on Islam. Hurgronje’s opinion is understandable. For years this Dutch government advisor was reviewing about Aceh problem and finally Senouck Hurgronje concluded that the people of Aceh were very heroic. Acehnese were well known for their courage and perseverance against the invaders.
The heroics of the people of Aceh can also be seen in nearly every form of arts. In traditional art, for example Seudati, when we are seeing the art motion of Seudati that being played by the Acehnese, clearly the dance moves strongly depict a character of the heroics Acehnese society. Movements that are made by the performers in the Seudati are relatively similar to the guerrilla war. Sometimes they go back, and then they go ahead. Then they seem to avoid, but then they suddenly move forward like people who are making offensive war.
According to Prof. Abou Bakar Aceh (a historian), based on the mental attitude, the Acehnese have a close relationship to the Bedouins in the Arabian Peninsula. This similarity according to Abou Bakar is because Acehnese have a strong character, as have by the Bedouin people in Arab. But yet the Acehnese have also an extremely gentle character in which they quite often refer something with their feelings.
The gentleness of Acehnese people is reflected in their gentle language and art. Therefore it is not surprisingly that the people of Aceh have a very high literature values. This is like the high value of Arabic literature that was developed by Bedouins in the Arabian Peninsula. Basically, the people of Aceh have a very good character while at the sometimes they could be ruthless depending on the condition. The hospitality of Acehnese people that is reflected in the language (Hikayat/ode) is also seen in the way they treat guests. Acehnese people essentially appreciate and please any outsiders who came to their place.
To treat guests properly for the Acehnese is an obligation which is believed to be the suggestion of their religion of Islam. Because in Islam it is a good deeds to share food to guests when a guest comes when we are eating. The people of Aceh are very devoted to their religion. Therefore it is not surprised when you come to the villages in Aceh you will be surely served food as a sign of the kindness from the people of Aceh for their guests.
In addition, the Acehnese people have very high social tolerance. This is reflected in the mutual assistance between them. It can be seen either in the form of things as well as in the form of thought and physical supports. Thus it is commonly that when there is a disaster or grief faced by the people in Aceh, the others will definitely help those who are affected.
The Acehnese people are known for forgiving others’ mistakes, making peace and solving any problem (conflict) easily, both among themselves and with others. This can be seen in Sayam culture that is adopted by the people of Aceh. It is clearly seen in Sayam culture of how the extraordinary sense of forgiving by Acehnese people among themselves and to others’ mistakes, despite the mistakes of which it could bring loss of life. For the people of Aceh these mistakes may be solved by peaceful ways through Sayam culture, and after that they no longer hold a grudge and envy towards people who have been given forgiveness.
But nevertheless the Acehnese people could be ruthless depending on the condition. This had been experienced by the Netherlands when they were in war with the Kingdom of Aceh. The harder the Dutch wanted to conquer Aceh, the Acehnese ruthlessly resisted against them. And therefore the Netherlands noted in its history that from all wars they did in Indonesia’s archipelago, the war with the Kingdom of Aceh was the most difficult and great loss they had. In essence this is character and behavior of the Acehnese people.