Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Competing in Goodness: Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama

in: Doorn-Harder, Pieternella van. 2006. Women shaping Islam: Indonesian women reading the Qur'an. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Pp. 50-83
Indonesia is a vast country, and “Indonesian Islam” comprises a variety of interpretations concerning the role of Islamic law, methods of interpreting the holy sources, and opinions about religious pluralism and local cultures. This chapter looks at some of the main representations of Islam in Indonesia. It tries to locate the organizations of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama within this spectrum in order to understand how their religious propensities have contributed to their teachings on gender issues.
…The santri do not form a clear-cut group but represent several groups of committed Muslims. Their commitment to Islam may lead them to follow mystical, normative, or Islamist interpretations and practices.
Another way to discern santri is to look at their modes of interpreting Islamic scriptures and their degree of accepting local culture. Following these lines, we may identify four groups: 1) traditionalists; 2) reformists or modernists; 3) renewalists, who combine traditionalist and reformist teachings; and 4) Islamists, also referred to in Indonesia as radicals, fundamentalists, literalists, and extremists. (pp.50-1)
The “Shari`ah mindset,” however, is not the prerogative only of radical groups. Within Muhammadiyah and NU, some leaders have opinions that could be labeled as “extreme.” In its desire to Islamize society and in its methods, Muhammadiyah is akin to the Muslim Brotherhood… (p. 56)
In trying to understand the position of Muhammadiyah and NU in the Indonesian Islamic landscape, it becomes clear that the terms “reformism” and “traditionalism” do not connote black-and-white versions of Islam. The reality is far more complex. Liberal and extremist members flourish in their midst. Muhammadiyah has adopted many aspects of the Indonesian culture and has developed a new identity in comparison with the original, puritanical reformist movement that came from the Middle East. NU’s continual modernizing has produced some of the most innovative leaders of Indonesian Islam in the twenty-first century. At the same time, distinct differences remain between the two modes of interpreting Islam, differences that can never be completely abolished (p. 83).

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