Friday, March 11, 2011

Soekarno, Islam, and Muhammadiyah

Quoted from: Boland, B. J. 1971. The struggle of Islam in modern Indonesia. The Hague: Nijhoff.
[The Muhammadiyah bestowed title for Soekarno as] “Faithful Member and Great Support of the Muhammadiyah” (p. 133)
pp. 126-27
In Bencoolen (Bengkulu, Sumatra), where Soekarno had been taken by the colonial government in 1938, he came into contact with the reform movement and became a member of the Muhammadijah, where he found opinions at least partly acceptable to him.
However, Soekarno probably wanted to give a more radical interpretation of “the spirit of Islam” than many reformers. On the one hand, the point on the reformers’ programme concerning the “purification” of Islam from all superstition would not have interested him much. On the other hand, Soekarno could be called a true liberal. He was certainly more interested in the new world than in Islam. In his interpretation of Islam, he always emphatically repeated the slogans of Muslim apologists, such as “Islam is progress”, “no religion is more rational than Islam”, “Islam insists on scientific research”, “the science of Islam is knowledge of the Qur’an and Tradition plus general knowledge”, “the Qur’an and Traditionmust be interpreted with the help of general scholarship”, and so on.[1]
What Soekarno envisaged was certainly not a “return to the Qur’an and Tradition” in the way the salafiya reformers wanted to return to the pure belief of “the ancestors” (Ar. aslāf, sing. salaf). For Soekarno, the revolutionary, there was no “return”. Islam had to catch up its thousand years of backwardness. “Not back to the early glory of Islam, nt back to the time of the caliphs, but run forward, catching up with time (chasing time), that is the only way to get glory again.”[2] Does not Soekarno’s criticism sound like “Turkish” criticism of the Arab glorification of the past?[3]

[1] A small collection of sayings by Soekarno is given in Solichin Salam, Bung Karno dan Kehidupan Berpikir dalam Islam, Djakarta 1964.
[2] Salam, Bung Karno, p. 91. When speaking of “catching up with time”, one must realize that the Indonesian expression ketinggalan zaman (obsolete, out of date) literally means that something is “left behind by time”.
[3] Compare Smith, Islam, p. 164ff.

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