The Contested State of Sufism in Islamic Modernism: The Case of the Muhammadiyah Movement in Twentieth-Century Indonesia

in Journal of Sufi Studies
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


The Muhammadiyah in Indonesia is commonly known not to be very sympathetic towards mysticism in terms of its manifestations in mystical religious fraternities and pantheistic identity mysticism. Although its stance versus these religious phenomena seems to be very clear, many of its members are struggling to determine their attitude towards the issue. The continuing uncertainty about its legitimacy is evident from the questions Muhammadiyah members send to the Suara Muhammadiyah regarding this topic. In this article i focus on the Muhammadiyah’s ‘official’ vision through its first hundred years of existence. My thesis is that its rigidness in rejecting ‘mystical and spiritual’ manifestations is not only caused by its fear of unbelief and heresy, but also closely related to the political and social circumstances in which it is confronted with these ‘mystical and spiritual’ manifestations in the first place.

The Contested State of Sufism in Islamic Modernism: The Case of the Muhammadiyah Movement in Twentieth-Century Indonesia

in Journal of Sufi Studies




James L. Peacock‘The Creativity of Tradition in Indonesian Religion’History of Religion 25.4 (1985): 341–51 349.


Cf. Julia Day Howell‘Sufism and the Indonesian Islamic Revival’The Journal of Asian Studies 60.3 (2001): 701–29 705–6.


H. Ibnu Djarir‘Muhammadiyah dan Tasawuf’ in Tasawuf dan Krisised. M. Amin Syukur (Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar2001) 178–97189; and 1 Abad Muhammadiyah. Gagasan Pembaruan Sosial Keagamaan ed. Syarifuddin Jurdi a.o. (Jakarta: Kompas 2010) 17.


E.g. Abdul Munir MulkhanNyufi Cara Baru. Kiai Ahmad Dahlan dan Petani Modernis (Jakarta: Serambi2003) 100 ff.; cf. Kraus ‘Die indonesischen islamischen Bruderschaften’ 24.


Yusuf Abdullah PuarPerjuangan dan Pengabdian Muhammadiyah (Jakarta: Pustaka Antara1989) 170.


Greg Fealy and Greg Barton‘Introduction’ in Nahdlatul Ulama Traditional Islam and Modernity in Indonesiaed. Greg Barton and Greg Fealy (Clayton: Monash Asia Institute 1996) xix–xxvi xix.


Greg Fealy‘Wahab Chasbullah, Traditionalism and the Political Development of the Nahdlatul Ulama’ in Nahdlatul Ulama1–41 9 12–14.


James L. Peacock‘Dahlan and Rasul: Indonesian Muslim Reformers’ in The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systemsed. A.L. Becker and Aram A. Yengoyan (Norwood n.j.: Ablex Publishing Corporation 1979) 245–68 258.


HamkaAjahku77; and Kraus ‘Die indonesischen islamischen Bruderschaften’ 27. For rabita see also Imron Abu Amar Di sekitar masalah Thariqat (Naqsyabandiyah) (Kudus: Menara Kudus 1980) 56–71; and Martin van Bruinessen Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Indonesia. Survei Historis Geografis dan Sosiologis (Bandung: Mizan 1992) 82–5.


NoerModernist Muslim Movement31–3; Akhria Nazwar Ahmad Khatib. Ilmuwan Islam di Permulaan Abad Ini (Jakarta: Pustaka Panjimas 1983); and Ensiklopedi Islam ed. Harun Nasution A. Mukti Ali et al. 3 vols. (Jakarta: Departemen Agama R.I. 1987) 1:73–6.


Mohammad DamamiTasawuf Positif dalam Pemikiran HAMKA (Yogyakarta: Fajar Pustaka Baru2000) 117–9 134–7.


Julia Day Howell‘Indonesia’s Salafist Sufis’Modern Asian Studies 44.5 (2010): 1029–51 1031–3.


Bernard Johan BolandThe Struggle of Islam in Modern Indonesia (The Hague: De Nederlandsche Boek- en Steendrukkerij v/h H.C. Smits1971) 34–5.


Van Bruinessen‘Origins and Developments’17.


Thus rendered by Julia Howell‘Kebatinan and the Kejawen Traditions’ in Religion and Ritualed. James J. Fox (Singapore: Archipelago Press1998) 62–3.


Semuel Agustinus Patty‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan”: A Socio-Religious Movement in Indonesia’ (PhD. diss., Washington State University, 1986), 2. For the ‘new religions’, see, e.g., J.W.M. Bakker, ‘Nieuwe godsdiensten in Indonesië’Indisch Missietijdschrift 41 (1958): 46–53. It is worth mentioning that this J.W.M. Bakker sj is identical with Rahmat Subagya the author of Kepercayaan kebatinan kerohanian kejiwaan dan agama (Yogyakarta: Kanisius 1973 rpt. 1989). See Huub J.W.M. Boelaars Indonesianisasi. Het omvormingsproces van de katholieke kerk in Indonesië tot de Indonesische katholieke kerk (Kampen: Kok 1991) 368.


Johanes IndrakusumaL’homme parfait selon l’école du Pangestu. Étude de la spiritualité javanaise et de sa rencontre avec le Christianisme (Paris: Beauchesne1973) 32. See also Koentjaraningrat Javanese Culture (Singapore etc.: Oxford University Press 1985) 398: ‘The name kebatinan refers to the fact that in all these movements their members search for the truth of the inner self or batin of human being’.


See Martin van Bruinessen‘Global and Local in Indonesian Islam’ in Southeast Asian Studies 37.2 (1999): 49–63.


Archer‘Muhammadan Mysticism’111.


See e.g. Niels MulderMysticism and Everyday Life in Contemporary Java: Cultural Persistence and Change (Singapore: Singapore University Press1978) 5.


Manning Nash‘Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia and Indonesia’ in Fundamentalisms Observeded. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press1991) 691–739721. For the Darul Islam movements see C. van Dijk Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: The Darul Islam in Indonesia (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff 1981); and Holk H. Dengel Darul-Islam. Kartosuwirjos Kampf um einen islamischen Staat Indonesien (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden 1986).


Harun HadiwijonoMan in the Present Javanese Mysticism (Baarn: Bosch & Keuning1967) 3; Olaf H. Schumann ‘Indonesischer Mystizismus und Islam’ Zeitschrift für Mission 2.2 (1976): 64–87 83; Abdul Malik Hasan ‘Aliran kebatinan (Kajian singkat dari sudut pemikiran gnostik)’ in Kebatinan dan dakwah kepada orang Jawa ed. Abdul Munir Malkhan (this is his name on the title page; later the author’s name is spelt Abdul Munir Mulkhan) (Yogyakarta: Persatuan 1984 [only to be used in Muhammadiyah circles!]) 7–27 9 ff.; and Geels Subud 21.


Kraus‘Die indonesischen islamischen Bruderschaften’53.


Toha Hamim‘Moenawar Chalil: The Career and Thought of an Indonesian Muslim Reformist’Studia Islamika. Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 4.2 (1997) 1–54 14 42. It deserves special mention that Moenawar Chalil was at the same time a member of Persatuan Islam and head of its Majelis Ulama. Persatuan Islam is a modernist movement which is considered to be more rigorous than the Muhammadiyah in many respects (Hamim ‘Moenawar Chalil’ 8). However it is very difficult to determine when Moenawar Chalil is speaking as a member of the Muhammadiyah or as a member of Persatuan Islam. For Persatuan Islam see Howard M. Federspiel Persatuan Islam: Islamic Reform in Twentieth Century Indonesia (Ithaca n.y.: Cornell University Press 1970); and Howard M. Federspiel Islam and Ideology in the Emerging Indonesian State: The Persatuan Islam (persis) 1923 to 1957 (Leiden etc.: Brill 2001). For ingratitude as kufr see e.g. Toshihiko Izutsu Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’ân (Montreal: McGill University Press 1966) 120–55.


Hamim‘Moenawar Chalil’42.


A.R. Sutan MansurJihad (Jakarta: Panji Masyarakat1982) 41.


IzutsuEthico-Religious Concepts145–55.


SubagyoKepercayaan120. N.B. Rahmat Subagyo is the nom de plume of J.W.M. Bakker sj see n. 31 above. In John M. Echols and Hassan Shadily Kamus Indonesia-Inggris. An Indonesian-English Dictionary (third ed. Jakarta: Gramedia 1992 [first ed. 1961]) 300 klenik is translated as ‘secret mystical or magical practices of a questionable nature’.


Bakker‘Nieuwe godsdiensten’52–3; Subagyo Kepercayaan 116; and Mulder Mysticism 4. Bakker ‘Nieuwe godsdiensten’ 53 also mentions a fourth element namely unity of doctrine.


SubagyoKepercayaan116. According to Bakker ‘Nieuwe godsdiensten’ 52 Muhammad Dimyati held the following very negative opinion regarding kebatinan which he calls ‘new religions’: ‘These new religions are produced by people of unsound mind who do not actually understand the nature of Islam. Therefore they themselves carelessly design “the true nature of Islam”. Their doctrine found a ready reception with their disciples who are nothing more than stupid fools without any understanding of Islam. These new religions are no religions and that is why they cannot be tolerated. They cause chaos and anarchy and ruin our society. The same holds true for Hinduism and its propaganda. If tolerated it will damage the interest of freedom and democracy because of its revitalization of pre-Muslim paganism by which our development will slide back for several thousands of years’ (my translation).


Bakker‘Nieuwe godsdiensten’53; and Mulder Mysticism 4.


SubagyoKepercayaan117; and Mulder Mysticism 4.


Patty‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’2 71.


For Wahib Wahab see also Fealy‘Wahab Chasbullah’37–8.


Patty‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’4.


Suffridus de JongEen Javaanse levenshouding (Wageningen: Veenman1973) 12–14.


StangeSumarah Movement55.


MulderMysticism7; and Patty ‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’ 10.


Patty‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’90.


MulderMysticism8; and Patty ‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’ 162.




Patty‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’163.


See IndrakusumaL’homme parfait28.


StangeSumarah Movement261.


See e.g. Mitsuo NakamuraThe Crescent Arises over the Banyan Tree: A Study of the Muhammadiyah Movement in a Central Javanese Town (Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press1983) 82 ff.; I.N. Soebagijo ‘Dari Saridi ke Rasjidi’ in 70 Tahun Prof. Dr. H.M. Rasjidi ed. Endang Basri Ananda (Jakarta: Harian Umum Pelita 1985) 3–85; and Azyumardi Azra ‘Guarding the Faith of the Ummah: The Religio-Intellectual Journey of Mohammed Rasjidi’ Studia Islamika. Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 1.2 (1994): 87–119.


RasjidiIslam dan Kebatinan7–38.




RasjidiIslam dan Kebatinan92.




Ibid.38. It is interesting to note that there was also a discussion among Western scholars of Indonesian mysticism and its stagnating or stimulating influence. E.g. Allan M. Sievers The Mystical World of Indonesia: Culture and Economic Development in Conflict (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press 1974) 295 302: ‘Neomysticism . . . contributes to Indonesia’s state of unhealth and it is also a major barrier to modernization. . . . [N]o rational solution to the nation’s problem is really possible in a mystical context. . . . [A]s long as mysticism plays a role in policy making and in administration in planning and organizing in human relations and in politics we are indeed confronted with what Lubis calls a black morass. . . . [C]entral to everything is the problem of mysticism. If modernity is to be the goal there must be a transformation of values which means the abandonment of mysticism. . . . In some sense mysticism is all that the tani has left. . . . [A]nd it is a primary barrier to his modernization’. Contra e.g. Peacock ‘Creativity of tradition’ 351: ‘In general however the deepest and most enduring forces of change and renewal in Indonesian life seem to have come less from the reforms urged by purism than from the frustratingly enigmatic and only seemingly stagnant symbols practices and worldview of a mystical syncretism’.




See e.g. Abdul Malik Hasan‘Aliran kebatinan (Kajian singkat dari sudut pemikiran gnostik)’ in Kebatinan dan dakwah kepada orang Jawaed. Abdul Munir Malkhan (this is his name on the title page; later the author became known as Abdul Munir Mulkhan) (Yogyakarta: Percetakan Persatuan 1984 rpt. 1987 [only to be used in Muhammadiyah’s own circle!]) 7–27; and Abdul Malik Hasan ‘Konsepsi Ketuhanan dalam ajaran Pangestu’ in Kebatinan dan dakwah 29–84 33 79 84.


SubagyoKepercayaan125–6. Jainuri translates takhayul as the ‘belief in the disembodied spirit(s) of (a) dead person(s)’ which could not but be averse to any Muslim. Achmad Jainuri ‘The Muhammadiyah Movement in Twentieth-Century Indonesia: A Socio-Religious Study’ (ma thesis Institute of Islamic Studies McGill University 1992) 72.


Herman L. Beck‘Christmas as Identity Marker: Three Islamic Examples’ in Christian Feast and Festival. The Dynamics of Western Liturgy and Cultureed. P. Post et al. (Leuven etc.: Peeters2001) 97–110105 ff.




PuarPerjuangan134 337–9.


AliMuhammadijah Movement51. Cf. also A. Mukti Ali Interpretasi Amalan Muhammadiyah (Jakarta: Harapan Melati 1985) 20–1; and A. Mukti Ali ‘Modern Islamic Thought in Indonesia’ Mizan 2.1 (1985) 11–29 22.


For A. Mukti Ali see Ali Munhanif‘Islam and the Struggle for Religious Pluralism in Indonesia: A Political Reading of the Religious Thought of Mukti Ali’Studia Islamika. Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 3.1 (1996): 79–126. For A. Mukti Ali’s membership of the Muhammadiyah: Munhanif ‘Islam’ 117–8. It is striking however that A. Mukti Ali has not been included in the Ensiklopedi Muhammadiyah. For Mukti Ali’s involvement in government policy see Beck ‘A Pillar of Social Harmony’.


A. Mukti AliFaktor-faktor penjiaran Islam (Jogjakarta: Jajasan Nida1971) 21; and Ali ‘Interpretasi’ 20–1.




Patty‘ “Aliran Kepercayaan” ’92 164. The full name of the Direktorat Bina Hayat is: Direktorat Pembinaan Penghayat Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan Yang Maha Esa the ‘Directorate for the supervision of the followers of the belief in the Oneness of God’.


Moeslim Abdurrahman‘Zur heutigen sozialen Bedeutung der islamischen Bruderschaften in Java: Einige Feldforschungsnotizen’ in Islamische mystische Bruderschaften75–90 84.




B.M. SchuurmanMystik und Glaube in Zusammenhang mit der Mission auf Java (Haag: Nijhoff1933) 120.


Mitsuo Nakamura‘Unsur Sufi dalam Muhammadiyah? Catatan dari Kancah’Prisma 9.8 (1980): 92–99 96–8.


I am using the seventh edition of 1994: Musthafa Kamal Chusnan Yusuf A. Rosyad Sholeh Muhammadiyah sebagai Gerakan Islam (Yogyakarta: Persatuan 1994).


Kamal a.o.Muhammadiyah20–1.


Ibid.31–2. Cf. also e.g. Martin van Bruinessen ‘Traditions for the Future: The Reconstruction of Traditionalist Discourse within nu’ in Nahdlatul Ulama 162–89 170; and Zulkifli Sufism in Java: The Role of the Pesantren in the Maintenance of Sufism in Java (Leiden and Jakarta: inis 2002) 52 75.


Zaim Uchrowi and Ahmadie Thaha‘Menyeru Pemikiran Rasional Mu’tazilah’ in Refleksi Pembaharuan Pemikrian Islam. 70 tahun Harun Nasution (Jakarta: Lembaga Studi Agama dan Filsafat1989) 3–6242; and Luthfi Assyaukanie ‘Muslim Discourse of Liberal Democracy in Indonesia’ in Muslim Politics and Democratisation in Indonesia Monash Asia Institute Annual Indonesian Lecture Series no. 28 (Clayton Vic.: Monash Asia Institute 2008) 1–31 4. Cf. also Mirjam Künkler ‘How Pluralist Democracy Became the Consensual Discourse among Secular and Nonsecular Muslims in Indonesia’ in Democracy and Islam in Indonesia ed. By Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan (New York: Columbia University Press 2013) 54–72 57–8.


Cf. e.g. Oman Fathurahman‘Urban Sufism: The Change and Continuity of the Tasawwuf Teaching’ in Islamic Thought and Movements in Contemporary Indonesiaed. Rizal Sukma and Clara Joewono (Jakarta: Centre for Strategic and International Studies2007) 237–56. On 242 Fathurahman also mentions Jalaluddin Rahmat who founded Tazkiya Sejati and Haidar Bagir who coordinated ‘IIMan—a centre for positive development of tasawwuf’.


Juhaya S. Praja‘Dimensi spiritual dalam Muhammadiyah: Rekonstruksi pemikiran kalam dan tasawuf’ in Pengembangan Pemikiran Keislaman Muhammadiyah: Purifikasi dan Dinamisasied. Muhammad Azhar and Hamim Ilyas (Yogyakarta: lppi-umy 2000) 123–41 141.


MulkhanNyufi Cara Baru101–5.


A. Fatichuddin et al.Pergumulan Tokoh Muhammadiyah Menuju Sufi. Catatan Pemikiran Abdurrahim Nur (Surabaya: Hikmah Press2003); cf. Ricklefs Islamisation and Its Opponents 186–7.


Julia Day Howell‘Modernity and Islamic Spirituality in Indonesia’s New Sufi Networks’ in Sufism and the ‘Modern’ in Islamed. Martin van Bruinessen and Julia Day Howell (London and New York: I.B. Tauris2007) 217–40219.


See e.g. KullPiety and Politics149–61.




See Endang MintarjaArifin Ilham. Tarikat Zikir dan Muhammadiyah (Bandung: Hikmah2004) 110–3. Abdul Munir Mulkhan dedicated a lot of attention to the study of mysticism Sufism and tarekats. Several books are already mentioned and are sometimes published under different titles e.g. Nyufi Cara Baru is identical to Islam Sejati Kiai Ahmad Dahlan dan Petani Muhammadiyah (Jakarta: pt Serambi Ilmu Semesta 2003). With regard to this subject his Islam Murni dalam Masyarakat Petani (Yogyakarta: Yayasan Bentang Budaya 2000) is also worth mentioning.


See e.g. Kuntowijoyo‘Kemandirian Gerakan Muhammadiyah’ in Pergumulan Pemikiran dalam Muhammadiyahed. Syukrianto ar and Abdul Munir Mulkhan (Yogyakarta: Sipress1990) 67–7271; idem Paradigma Islam. Interpretasi untuk Aksi ed. A.E. Priyono (Bandung: Mizan 1991) 266; and idem Muslim Tanpa Masjid. Esai-Esai Agama Budaya dan Politik dalam Bingkai Strukturalisme Transendental (Bandung: Mizan 2001) passim.


MintarjaArifin Ilham39–41; Howell ‘Modulations of Active Piety’ 54–6; cf. also idem ‘Indonesia’s Salafist Sufis’ 1042–6; and especially Arif Zamhari Rituals of Islamic Spirituality: A Study of Majlis Dhikr Groups in East Java (Canberra: anu Press 2010) 15.


MintarjaArifin Ilham50 80 109–14; cf. also Howell ‘Modulations of Active Piety’ 56–60.


Julia D. Howell‘Muslims, the New Age and Marginal Religions in Indonesia: Changing Meanings of Religious Pluralism’ in Social Compass 52.4 (2005): 473–93 481 483.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 26 26 18
Full Text Views 21 21 21
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0