The Jakarta Post | Fri, 07/23/2010 4:38 PM | Opinion
M. Hilaly Basya
Din Syamsuddin has been elected as a chairman of Muhammadiyah for the 2010-2015 term. This is his second term in office. Some observers have said this fact indicates that most Muhammadiyah activists like the way Syamsuddin represents Muhammadiyah.
However, according to Dawam Rahardjo, Muhammadiyah became conservative and puritan under Syamsuddin’s leadership (Rahardjo, 2010).
Is it right that Muhammadiyah does not perform tajdid any more? This article would like to elaborate on the concept of tajdid (reformation) within Muhammadiyah.
In general, Muhammadiyah can be considered part of the Salafi movement. The basic ideas of Salafism — a return to the Koran and the sunnah and pure Islam — are propagated by Muhammadiyah as well.
However, Muhammadiyah differs from radical and fundamentalist Salafi movements.
According to Fathurahman Djamil, one of the methods adopted by Muhammadiyah is istislah (1995).
This method has enabled Muhammadiyah to be more progressive. The emergence of progressive Muhammadiyah scholars at the end of the 1990s was a direct result of this factor.
However, it is right that not all Muhammadiyah figures are progressive? Or that some are puritan and fundamentalist?
One of the factors leading Muhammadiyah figures to become puritan and fundamentalist is the concept of tajdid developed by Muhammadiyah.
Tajdid is defined by Muhammadiyah in two conceptions; purification and dynamization (Syamsul Anwar, 2005). The agenda of purification focuses on fighting against syncretism.
This agenda has been reflected in Muhammadiyah’s attempts to establish pure Islam, which is not infiltrated by local traditions. Islamic faith and ritual are domains that can be purified by Muhammadiyah.
The domain of dynamization is social life. The “modernist” label applied to Muhammadiyah was based on performance in this area.
Since its beginnings, Muhammadiyah developed innovative interpretations of certain verses, especially those relating to educational and social issues. The establishment of modern educational institutions and hospitals are some of the products of this creative interpretation.
Undeniably, later developments saw Muhammadiyah tending to be more puritan in its outlook, particularly following the penetration of Wahhabism in Indonesia. Many Muhammadiyah activists are interested in adopting Wahhabism. As a result of influence from Wahhabism, Muhammadiyah became more concerned with purification.
However, the dynamization movement in Muhammadiyah has not totally disappeared. Besides the increase in its puritan character, there have also been some progressive movements made by Muhammadiyah.
Many fatwas related to contemporary social problems were issued by the Majlis Tarjih of Muhammadiyah from the 1960s to the 1980s, especially related to economic and other public issues (Hooker, 2003:197-211). This indicates that to a certain extent Muhammadiyah has remained consistent in establishing tajdid in two dimensions.
In general, since the end of 1990s, Muhammadiyah has shown a more progressive nature than it had previously. The emergence and involvement of progressive scholars such as Amin Abdullah, Amien Rais, Munir Mulkhan, Syafii Maarif and Moeslim Abdurrahman on the board of the organization has colored the character of Muhammadiyah.
They have a tendency to respond contemporary social problems rather than ritual issues. It means that they have returned the Muhammadiyah movement to the early spirit of Muhammadiyah as developed by K.H. Ahmad Dahlan.
In 2000, the Majelis Tarjih released an exegesis concerning relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims (Syamsul Anwar, 2005: 38-39). Although the book is a product of Wacana Tarjih (a forum held by Majelis Tarjih Muhammadiyah to create innovative discourse to support Muhammadiyah in issuing fatwas) so that it does not bind the organization and its members, it has colored the nature and affected the religious mind set of Muhammadiyah.
During this time, the progressive Muhammadiyah scholars developed and combined the istislah method with hermeneutics. To some extent, istislah is similar to hermeneutics in that they both tend to interpret
and produce contextual meanings of a text.
The combination of istislah and hermeneutics enables these progressive scholars to reconstruct responsive interpretations concerning Islam and social problems.
This combining of istislah and hermeneutics was a characteristic of Amin Abdullah’s leadership of the Center Board of Majelis Tarjih. However, he was not the only member of the Majelis Tarjih to adopt this view; Muhammadiyah scholars such as Munir Mulkhan and Syamsul Anwar shared his approach.
In addition, other progressive Muhammadiyah scholars including Syafii Maarif, Moeslim Abdurrahman, Amien Rais and Hamim Ilyas also employed hermeneutic methods in interpreting Islamic doctrines, although they do not mention their tools explicitly. They are often called the liberal or progressive wing of Muhammadiyah.
Hermeneutics is one of the reasons why the rise of progressive Muhammadiyah scholars has attracted controversy, particularly from the conservative wing of Muhammadiyah. That is why most of these progressive scholars did not hold positions in Muhammadiyah under Syamsuddin’s previous term as leader (2005-2010), because the conservatives disliked their progressive thoughts. They assumed the progressive ideas produced by these scholars would contaminate Muhammadiyah.
For the conservative activists, the main objective of Muhammadiyah is to fight for the purification of Islam. Moreover, the conservatives prefer to fight for purification than social reform. Tajdid is defined by the conservative as purifying Islam from contamination.
It is clear that the concept of tajdid in Muhammadiyah could be performed ambiguously. The men behind Muhammadiyah have made significant contributions in determining whether to push for purification or dynamization. We hope the 46th Muktamar congress, held from July 3-8, 2010, in Yogyakarta served to provide plenty of inspiration to Muhammadiyah’s new board of leaders, and activists to critically evaluate its social reformation agenda.
The writer is a lecturer of Islamic Studies at UMJ and UHAMKA.