In order to interpret religious authority and its historical contours in Indonesia this article considers Sufi associations (Ind. tarekat) and the way that their religious leaders and followers understand their authority and the challenges to it. Particularly, this article will focus on the history of the Khalwatiah Sammān tarekat in South Sulawesi. Over the past two centuries the Khalwatiah Sammān and its growing membership have faced a long running opposition from formalist ulama whom take exception to their Islamic practices and interpretations. The opposition mounted against this tarekat and its adherent’s response to these attacks allows us to review the diverse ways that religious authority is understood and practiced in Indonesia.
Founded in1924this political organisation initially operated in the space between Muhammadiyah and PSI but then these three modernist organisations fused themselves into a wider organisation Persatuan Perkumpulan Umat Islam (PPOI/ the Association of Muslim Organisations).