Not everybody was charmed.
J. Hoesterey did not talk much about his Ph.D Thesis on Aa Gym, the reason why I went to Leiden to attend his talk. But I could borrow the book and read it.
Hoesterey has a chapter 2 with the title: Popular Psychology and Religious Wisdom. He also compares Aa Gym with televangelists and with other self-help gurus. There is some and even now and then a strong Muslim flavour in his teaching. Frequent Qur'anic quotes are in Arabic, but there is no talk about application of shari'ah. After the terrorist attacks in Poso he once preached in a Christian church and his concern for harmony and unity in Indonesia is sincere.
Hoesterey acknowledges that Islam in Indonesia is part of a global religion with the Arab countries as the centre. But newer developments should not always be explained by this Arab background. Like ESQ Training (Emotional Spiritual Quotient) of Ary Ginanjar has more affinity to 'the American pop psychology of Daniel Coleman, also much content of Aa Gym is taken from self-help programmes in the international psycho-market.
Hoesterey started research in 2006 and after about one year it became known that Aa Gym had taken a second wife and his imperium of some 700 employees collapsed within a few weeks. The researcher was present and gives a fascinating story of the scandal. Aa Gym recovered slowly but never became as famous as before. What a case for a researcher, to be so close to so dramatic changes in the subject of the research!
The first chapter of the book looks like a hasty collection of all kind of broader theories. That is necessary, apparently. I liked mostly the balanced narrative of this surprising development of a major personality in modern Indonesian Islam.