Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Reformist Ideology of Muhammadiyah

Mitsuo Nakamura

Nakamura, Mitsuo. 1980. "The Reformist Ideology of Muhammadiyah." in Fox, James J. Indonesia, the making of a culture. Indonesia, Australian perspectives, v. 1. Canberra: Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. pp. 273-86.

Muhammadiyah in Indonesia today is a highly visible, religious, educational and social movement based upon the teachings of Islam. In almost every urban community of the country buildings are found bearing the sign of Muhammadiyah: mosques and prayer houses, schools and kindegardens, clinics and hospitals, orphanages and poorhouses, offices and meeting halls. There are a number of well-known Muhammadiyah members working in politics, business, mass media, academia, and arts and culture. Muhammadiyah occupy an important part in the social, cultural and spiritual life of contemporary Indonesia.

This paper discusses the Muhammadiyah movement with an emphasis on its ideology. Efforts are made to delineate major features of Muhammadiyah's ideology; how it has been expressed in the fields of belief, ritual, education, social welfare activities, and politics of the movement; how it has interacted with historical reality; and what impact it has had on Indonesian society. A brief speculation on the future of Muhammadiyah concludes this paper.

At the outset it seems necessary to qualify the term 'reformist' in its application to the Muhammadiyah movement. In Muslim perception, Islam rejects any reform in its tenets. The truth of the teachings of Allah, revealed to His messenger Muhammad in the words of the Koran and exemplified by his deeds and sayings, the Hadith, has eternal validity. The members of Muhammadiyah, like those many other pious Muslim movements, strive to live up to the teachings of Allah in contemporary social conditions and to adapt their lives accordingly. It never occurs to Muhammadiyah that Islam be reformed or modernized. But it is true that its efforts towards strict adherence to the teachings of Islam have often eventuated in a number of reforms and innovations in individual and collective human conduct as well as in social institutions. However, even in such cases, the intention of Muhammadiyah has not been social reform per se. Rather, social or institutional reform has been an expression of religious devotion in the social dimension, or a means to achieve a religious goal. Therefore, what is intended by the title of this paper is the religious ideology of Muhammadiyah and social reforms derived therefrom.

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