Wednesday, December 9, 2009

North American Scholarship on the Muhammadiyah

Ahmad Najib Burhani*
*University of California - Santa Barbara

North American scholarship on Muhammadiyah just began after World War II. This scholarship was initially conducted by three universities: MIT, Yale, and Cornell. MIT concerned with Indonesia’s economy, Yale with peasant and plantation agriculture, and Cornell focused on Government and politics.

One important feature of initial scholarship on Muhammadiyah is that they regarded this movement as an incarnation of Calvinism in Muslim world. Just like the role of Calvinism in the rise of Western Capitalism, they envisioned that Muhammadiyah could play the same role in Indonesia. This is the reason why American scholars interested in studying Muhammadiyah; this movement could inspire the economic development in this new independent nation. This is also the argument why they paid little attention to the Nahdlatul Ulama considering that this movement lacks of economic power to support the economic development. Therefore, it is not surprising that the first generation of American scholars on (or related to) Muhammadiyah, such as Clifford Geertz, Harry Benda, Leslie Palmier, Lance Castles, and James L. Peacock, was identified by the influence of Weberian thought in their works.

The second generation of American scholarship on Muhammadiyah has two important features. First, the topic of study is multi-focused of the Muhammadiyah, not confined on socio-economic and political development and their relation with theological issues (as inspired by Weber). Second, research on Muhammadiyah was mostly conducted by Indonesian scholars who were studying in North American universities, such as Alfian (Wisconsin), Din Syamsuddin (UCLA), Ahmad Jainuri (McGill), Fauzan Saleh (McGill), and Alwi Shihab (Temple University).

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