Senin, 25 Januari 2010

Muhammadiyah’s Roles in Designing Modern Indonesia

By Rohman*
Approaching a century celebration, Muhammadiyah as one of Islamic mass organization and social movement in Indonesia has been contributing an important aspect for a country to survive in the global atmosphere. By developing thousands of schools, universities, and hospitals all around the country, Muhammadiyah has become the most influenced mass organization in educational and social side. This sympathetic non political movement have emerged the Indonesian people from darkness into the lightness.

At the early of twentieth century, Indonesian Islam was a nation without direction, concept and belief. Although most of Indonesian are Moslems, unfortunately most of them didn’t practice Islamic teachings holistically based on the authoritative sources of Islam, the Kuran and prophet traditions. This was happened because of the backwardness of its followers in Indonesia and prolongs colonization by the Dutch. Using its authority, Dutch government tried to defend the darkness Islamic atmosphere of Indonesia by imposing some policies which divided Islam between a comprehensive religion and so called a separated religion.
According to Islamic teachings, Islam is a comprehensive religion in which can not be separated. As a complete religion, Islam covers all aspects of life. This religion is not only teach its followers to conduct ritual activities such as praying, fasting during Ramadhan, paying zakat, and performing hajj but also the other aspects such as social relationship (muamalat) and politics as well. Even Islamic teachings also teach every Moslems to perform a simple thing such as ethic before entering and exiting mosque. All aspects are mixed together by the prophet Muhammad’s and his companion’s life.
The existence of prophets Muhammad and his companions in Yastrib was a proof that Islam can be seen as a political religion. It happened because the prophets Muhammad govern and manage the area of Yastrib which was overpowered after the members of two big tribes of Aus and Khadraj embarrassed Islam. To develop and manage the new area, prophets Muhammad proposed a public agreement which should be obeyed by all members of citizen. Some historians noted that the public agreement which was made by prophets Muhammad and some Yastrib tribes was the highest and modern regulation at that time.
After prophets Muhammad passed away, the leadership was controlled by his premium and first class companions such as Abu Bakr, Umar, Utsman, and Ali. Their government reflected the continuity of power and authority which was left by prophets Muhammad. The leadership by those first class companions was called Khulafaurasyidin era in which the way and system of government were alike with their previous leader. On the other hand, the system of government in the era beyond the Khulafaurasyidin was totally different. The caliphs adopted the Rome imperial ways in organizing the government to conduct and rule the area of Islam.
During this period, there are so many regions in the parts of the world were conquered by the caliphs. The area of Islamic government had spread out from Andalusia until Egypt, from Damascus until Baghdad, and from Khurasan until India. The political circumstance of course had been influenced worldwide including Indonesia’s archipelagos therefore, there are some theories concerning the periods of time of the arrival of Islam in the archipelago of Indonesia. First, Islam arrived in Indonesia in the 7th century (Hamka). Second, Islam entered into Indonesia in the 11th century (Snough Horgronje). Third, Islam was accepted as religion in Indonesia in the 16th century (Tobroni 2008, 25). About the person who brought Islam to Indonesia and where Islam was from, there are three theories that can be referred to: first, Islam was brought directly from Arab by the Khulafaurasyidin’s empire. Second, Islam was introduced to Indonesia by scholar from Persia. Third, Islam was brought by Gujarat traders (TW. Arnold 1968).
The course of constructing the Indonesian society into Moslems society seemed to be very triumphant achievement since they were physically powerful Hinduism and Buddhism followers. The process itself took a giant period of time until the establishment of the first Islamic Kingdom in Indonesia. However, based on the effort and collaboration between scholars and kings, most of Indonesian accepted Islam as their religion despite they could not leave the ancient’s clerical culture and ceremonial habits such as Khurafat and Tahayul. Moreover, Some Islamic scholars such as Sunan Kalijaga used such a culture and old tradition to gain an entrance and get their sympathy to embarrass Islam.
According to Frederick, The strong Islamic influence on Indonesian culture is comparatively recent, beginning perhaps in the fourteenth century and increasing in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. However, the Hindu and Buddhist strains also add strong cultural elements and constitute significant minorities along with the Christians, among the approximately 90 percent of Indonesia that is Muslim. Java, for example, is characterized by the older aristocratic elites who are Muslim but who also pride themselves on being Javanese and do not completely repudiate the animism and mysticism of their Hindu-Buddhist past (Frederick 2002).
However, the atmosphere which was really conducive in preaching Islamic thoughts and disseminating Islamic ideas among Indonesian people had been destructed by the presence of Portuguese in the Malaka Shelf. There were three objectives that was arranged by Portuguese; gold, gospel, and glory. First, They tried to monopolize the trade which was formerly controlled by Indonesian Islamic kingdom by ruling a very strategic position, Malaka harbor. Second, they wanted to spread the Christian religion among Indonesian Moslems. Third, they wanted to conquer as much area as possible.
The situation became worsened since the Dutch colonial took over Indonesia. Indonesian Moslems became a slave in their own mother land. The Dutch government received so many advantages from the nature of Indonesia and its owners as well. They took everything from this country and then destructed the society’s system and structure to get their interest. The nightmare of Indonesian people seemed to be a never ending moment because many Islamic Kingdoms in this archipelago were defeated by Dutch not to mention there were also some Islamic leading actors who inspired the Indonesian people to fight for their freedom were arrested by the Dutch through a very dirty conspiracy. This was happened to Pangeran Diponegoro, Teuku Imam Bonjol, Syeih Yusuf Al Makasari, and many more.
However, the day to day situations had changed. For Indonesian Moslems, it seemed that the early century was an awakening moment for them to continue their hope and expectation. They witnessed a heroic desire by some Moslems leaders to change the situation for the sake of Indonesian future. Some Islamic movement organizations were established such as Islamic Commerce Organization (SDI) led by HOS Cokroaminoto, Muhammadiyah led by KH. Ahmad Dahlan, Al Irsyad led by H. Ahmad Surkati, Islamic Union (Persis) led by H. Zamzam, and Scholars Resurrection (Nahdatul Ulama) led by H. Hasyim As’ari. Those Islamic organizations carried out Islam as movement ideology although had different interpretation in certain practical thoughts.

A Glance of Muhammadiyah’s Movement
One of the most important Islamic mass organizations in Indonesia is Muhammadiyah. Its movement which is implemented by some real actions, such as in education and social, has influenced millions of Indonesian to face a better life and future as well. Muhammadiyah’s consistency in constructing and engineering a new society of Indonesia since its establishment perhaps provides a fertile media for most of Indonesian to contribute the country’s development. Therefore, this movement has been supported by Indonesian people since the increasing of its members from time to time.
Muhammadiyah was established in 1912 by Kiai Ahmad Dahlan. As a founding father of Muhammadiyah, Kiai Ahmad Dahlan’s understanding on Islamic teaching has been inspiring and encouraging his followers to perform Islamic teaching practically. His influence on this movement organization members are considered very strong. It is evident in the history of Muhammadiyah that no single problem facing by Muhammadiyah members which can not be solved except by considering his point of view. Even, his doctrine became a solution to finish a problem (KRH Hadjid 2005).
There are at least five causal factors of the born of Muhammadiyah. First, the emerging deep spirit in the Kuran stimulated Dahlan’s ideas to carry out the Islam’s missions as it is said in the surah of Ali Imran (article 104). Second, Islamic teachings conducted by people are no longer pure as the incoming of culture and traditions is not from the Islamic teachings. Third, the educational system owned by Islam community was weak, and the western education system implemented by colonials dominated in Indonesia at that time.

Fourth, the efforts to maintain Islam from negative influences is another factor since it was unavoidable that the presence of colonials in Indonesia had caused negative changes either in the aspect of social life or religion’s life of Indonesian community. Five, the influence of Islamic reform in the Islam world which occurred two times, pre-modern and post-modern period. The pre-modern is known as the reform of Muhammad Bin Abdu Wahab from Saudi Arabia, and Sultan Mahmud II in Turkey Usmani. Meanwhile, the post modern was signed by Jamaludin al Afghani and Muhammad Abduh (Saputra 2008, 70-72).
According to Alfian, Muhammadiyah seemed to have affected, first of all, by the general socio-political conditions of Indonesia. In politics, such conditions were characterized by the presence of the Dutch colonial rule with its own colonial policies and administrative practices and the consequence emergence development of modern Indonesian nationalism. In social scene, it was marked by the surge of western education and culture as they were largerly accelerated by the Dutch newly introduced Ethical policy and the increasing activities of the Christians missionaries (Alfian 1989, 9).
However, genealogically, Muhammadiyah concept and movement were influenced two major triggers, by Ibnu Taimiyah thought who opposed the infiltration of local culture into Islamic teachings and Wahabi movement in Saudi Arabia . Wahabi movement wanted to conduct a pure Islamic teachings without any penetration from local culture as well as non Islamic teachings (Jamhari & Jahroni 2004, 42).

During the some years of its establishment, Ahmad Dahlan always took a chance to attract and propagate Indonesian people by using dakwa movement based on Islamic teachings. He spent his life by visiting some cities in Indonesia to enlighten his families, companions as well as students by giving them a new perspective about Islam which was for some periods of time had been influenced and manipulated by old doctrine. He realized that only by utilizing his networking, he would be able to conduct and disseminate the Islamic teachings and doctrines. His efforts seem to be fruitful because his modern concepts about Islam reformation and social solidarity had aroused social endeavors and education as well (Jainuri 2002, 87).

Muhammadiyah’s Contribution
Muhammadiyah believe that Islam is an integral religion which consists of faith, ethics, worship and social. Moreover, those aspects are divided into two different categories, unchanged and change element. The domain of faith, ethics, and worship are can not be changed or modified because it has been handed down directly from prophet Muhammad. On the other hand, social problems (Mu’amalah), such as in trading, public service, and politics, can be changed and modified based on the context of age.
To develop and grow the organization, Muhammadiyah’s did not limit its action on religious teaching and religious activities. The core of movement actually has been inspiring its activists to grow social responsibility through educational, social and medical aspects. Therefore, we can see thousand of school buildings from kinder garden until university are spread all around Indonesia not to mention hundred of clinics, orphanages, and hospitals.
Therefore, Fredrick said that “One of the most significant educational, social, and economic movements in Indonesia was the Muhammadiyah movement, founded early in the twentieth century as a development of the thinking of the modernist Muhammad Abdu of Cairo, and dedicated to religious reform and rethinking of Islamic principles. This movement has provided Indonesia with a sternly Islamic yet energetically progressive impetus toward improved education, health care, social work, and guild organizations (Friedrick, 2002).
Since the unraveling of western colonialism in the mid twentieth century, Muslim countries have experienced difficulties in identifying the relationship between Islam and the state (Effendy 2003, 7). However, Muhammadiyah does not hunt the fantasy of unity between religion and state. It has humble beginnings with concern about poverty and lack of education among the ummah. Its founding father visualized schools and hospitals to be the means of improving their conditions. This vision remains unbroken since the first period until now. For Muhammadiyah, education is a tools of da’wah, perceived as a path to a social rather than political transformation. It’s a method to introduce the public sphere with Islamic values. This is a project less disdainful, though no less gracious, than establishing an Islamic state. Long experience has taught them that such projects require patience.
Furthermore, what has sustained Muhammadiyah’s long life are its schools, universities, hospitals, and nursing homes more than its rhetoric. These enterprises have allowed millions of fathers and mothers and young men and women at the grassroots level to participate and take part in the cause of Islam in a concrete and comprehensible way. There are elements within Muhammadiyah that want to see it play a more political role. So far, it has restrained them, knowing that politics can be a liability to its programs.
Moreover, Muhammadiyah have helped promote it by cultivating an Islamic intellectual tradition. They have built a network of hundreds of boarding schools all over Indonesia, independent of the state. They have encouraged the ummah to practice the sharia on their own, without mobilizing the power of the state. They know that state power can be harmful to freedom of religion and to the work of beneficial religious life. This was especially true when the state favored certain ideas about Islam at the expense of others. History bears witness to this. They have thus grown wary of the idea of the unity of state and religion.
Nowadays, there are millions perhaps alumnae of Muhammadiyah’s school as the implementation of Muhammadiyah’s contribution in education aspect to Indonesia. Muhammadiyah’s education institutions are an accomplishment of integral education system which has a strong character of Islam. It is estimated that there are 5,800 schools from the primary to university levels.
In addition, besides its branch at village and territorial community level, Muhammadiyah has seven elements called autonomous organisation. They are Aisyiyah (for women and have similar organizational structure to Muhammadiyah itself), Hisbul Wathon (boy scout), Tapak Suci (Martial Arts), IMM (college/university student), IRM/IPM (school student), Pemuda Muhammadiyah (the male youth) and Nasyiatul Aisyiyah (the female youth).
Through integrated leadership system of educating and training for Muhammadiyah’s cadre it seems that the organization has so many human resources as the core cadre that can continue and maintain the spirit of Ahmad Dahlan and Muhammadiyah itself from within. Meanwhile, all alumnae of Muhammadiyah’s school will support and sustain the mission of the organization from outside.
On the other hand, according to Kuntowijoyo, one of Muhammadiyah’s intellectual, Muhammadiyah has no element dealt with particular professionals although there is a department which takes concern on farmers and Fisherman. The situation represents the character of Muhammadiyah movement which is overwhelmed by old-fashioned religious and social empowerment. The current development of Indonesian people determined by advanced education and economic prosperity is a new challenge, but Muhammadiyah unfortunately fail to respond by initiating a new religious-social movement based on particular professional job (Kuntowijoyo 1993, 265).
In spite of that, Muhammadiyah is still a huge mass organization which actually has been becoming the real cultural movement. This is based on the fact that it is not affiliated with structural and political movement. The education services done bu Muhammadiyah is a process of transmission of Islamic values, science, and life skills that should be transferred into the real activity. The public health service initiated by Muhammadiyah also change the Indonesian’s irrational mindset into the rational ones. They cure their diseases by visiting doctors and hospitals rather than visiting paranormal.

Concluding Remarks
Muhammadiyah has taken a part in designing and changing Indonesian capacity and way of life from the traditional into the modern ones by its missions: education, social, and dakwah mission. The modernity way of life are demanded to anticipate and keep in touch with the globalization world. By it’s a long historical action, Muhammadiyah has proofed their willingness, ability, and spirit can revolutionize the Inonesian people. Therefore, the existence and presence of Muhammadiyah is very important to improve Indonesian people into the modern Indonesia.


Alfian. 1989. Muhammadiyah, The Political Behaviour of a Moslem Modernist Organization Under Dutch Colonialism. Yogyakarta: Gajah Mada Press.
Jaenuri, Ahmad. 2002. Idiologi Kaum Reformis, Melacak Pandangan Keagamaan Muhammadiyah Periode Awal. Surabaya: LPAM.
Hadjid, KRH. 2005. Pelajaran KH Dahlan: 7 Falsafah Ajaran & 17 Kelompok Ayat Alquran. Malang: UMM Press.
Jajang Jahroni and Jamhari. 2004. Gerakan Salafi Radikal Di Indonesia. Jakarta: Raja Grafindo Persada.
Effendy, Bahtiar. 2003. Islam And The State In Indonesia, Singapore: ISEAS.

M. Deny, Frederick. 2002. Another Islam: Contemporary Indonesia. Journal of Islam 9. Retrieved January 20, 2008, from

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