Muhammadiyah For Beginners

Dok SM

By: Prof Dr. H Haedar Nashir, MSi

Muhammadiyah is the oldest Islamic organization in Indonesia that still survives, grows, and develops not only in Indonesia but also extending its reach beyond borders. Muhammadiyah is also widely known for its large charitable endeavors in the fields of education, health, social services, community empowerment, and preach on the basis of worshipers or communities. Muhammadiyah also moves through its women’s organization namely Aisyiyah, an Islamic organization that has led the rise of Indonesian Muslim women. Muhammadiyah is even known as intelligent and modern organizations.

But does the millennial generation that never in contact with any of Muhammadiyah institutions still can possibly know Muhammadiyah? Are teenagers who were born in the latest period, in big cities or remote areas of the country still recognize the existence of Muhammadiyah? This intriguing question is important to take into reflection that may be the newer the generation the less familiar it is with Muhammadiyah. This is why the effort of continuously bringing and introducing Muhammadiyah to the young people, including through social media, is considered as an important measure. Through social media, it is necessary to tell people about what and how Muhammadiyah as an Islamic movement propagates its thought and tajdid missions to bring progress to the people, nation and universal humanity.

Looking Closer at Muhammadiyah

Muhammadiyah has long been widely known by the public, both domestically and internationally. “Who doesn’t know Muhammadiyah?”, President Soeharto said, who declared himself a “Muhammadiyah seed” for he had studied at Muhammadiyah Middle School in Wonogiri. President Soekarno since 1933 even has been known as a member and administrator of Muhammadiyah. There are other important figures such as General Sudirman, Ir Djuanda, Dr. Soetomo, including Muhammadiyah leaders, namely Kiai Mas Mansur, who is also known as the Figure Four (along with Sukarno, Moehammad Hatta, and Ki Hadjar Dewantara), Ki Bagus Hadikusumo (BPUPKI Member), Prof. KH Kahar Muzakkir (Member of the Jakarta Charter framers), Mr. Kasman Singodimedjo (Chair of KNIP, First Attorney General), Dr. Rasjidi (First Minister of Religion), Buya HAMKA, and others. In addition, Kiai Haji Ahmad Dahlan and Nyai Walidah Dahlan as the founders of Muhammadiyah and Aisyiyah, were also declared by the Indonesian government as National Heroes.

Likewise, Muhammadiyah’s educational institutions, hospitals, offices, and charity businesses can almost be found in every corners of the country. It can be said that Muhammadiyah is truly an Islamic organization that is inherent in the pulse of the life of Indonesian. The wider community is very familiar with Muhammadiyah through its charitable endeavors such as educational institutions that consist of Elementary to Higher Education, Hospitals and Polyclinics, Orphanages, and others. Throughout the country there are innumerable figures of Muhammadiyah school graduates, including Prof. Dr. Boediyono, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia (2009-2014) including graduates of Muhammadiyah Elementary School in Blitar. This is the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia with a variety of practical works that benefit the wider community. So who does not know Muhammadiyah?

Tiga Tokoh Muhammadiyah (Dok SM)
Tiga Tokoh Muhammadiyah (Dok SM)

Kasman (middle) doc SM figures

Muhammadiyah needs to be recognized and understood from various aspects that is inseparable to the identity of this Islamic movement. Muhammadiyah is an Islamic movement that was established in Yogyakarta on November 18, 1912, or 8 Dzulhijjah in 1330 Hijriyah with Kiai Haji Ahmad Dahlan as its founder. Since its inception, Muhammadiyah has been carrying out the mission of preaching to spread and realize the teachings of Islam in the lives of individuals, families and communities. Muhammadiyah also carries out the mission of tajdid to renew the views and ways of practicing Islam in the lives of Muslims so that Islam becomes a religion that brings progress in life of all human beings on earth. Thus the presence of Muhammadiyah through preaching and tajdid missions can present Islam as a blessing for the universe.

Muhammadiyah recognizes Islam as the principle of the movement. At the same time, Islam became the basis and guidance of life (way of life). By practicing Islam in the aspects of faith, worship, morals, and mu’amalah-dunyawiyah. Thus it can bring happiness to life in the world and the hereafter. The purpose and objective of Muhammadiyah is to uphold Islamic teachings towards the realization of the true Islamic society. With the Islamic community embodied by Muhammadiyah, in a broader life of mankind can be realized what so called Baldatun Thayyibatun wa Rabbun Ghafur, a life that is versatile in the shade of the Divine.

Muhammadiyah is the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia. With a century old experience, it has become a very large Islamic organization in Indonesia. Muhammadiyah is even known as the largest modern Islamic organization not only in Indonesia but throughout the world (Madjid, 1999; Peacock, 1978, 1986). Therefore in terms of quality, it is measured from its modern organizational system; its charitable endeavors in the fields of education, health, social services, economics, and community empowerment; as well as from the progress its thought and its pioneering work in reform; and looking at its social and national work can be said that Muhammadiyah is the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, even in the world, especially in terms of its quality and organizational system. Parameters in terms of quality are equally important for the Indonesian people. So that not to be proud of mere quantity while the people are weak and left behind. This compliment about Muhammadiyah is a form of gratitude to Allah, not as a form of being arrogant and pompous. As well as appreciation for the role and devotion of the pioneers and successors of the Muhammadiyah movement in carrying out missionary and tajdid mission for the glory of the people, nation, and universal humanity.

Muhammadiyah was born, grew, and developed with a dynamic struggle between ups and downs and through many obstacles and challenges. Its founder Kiai Haji Ahmad Dahlan, who, when he was young known as Muhammad Darwis has founded Muhammadiyah with his fellow students and friends, was truly confronted with much opposition. In the Kauman village of Yogyakarta, the birthplace of this Islamic organization, there were many obstacles faced by Kiai Dahlan and the Muhammadiyah movement he founded. Muhammadiyah was considered as a “new religion” because it brought about a notion of reform (tajdid) which was not yet known at that time among Muslims whose thought were still very rigid (conservative, traditional).

Kiai Dahlan and Muhammadiyah’s early generations reform such as aligning the direction of Qibla, introducing a modern Islamic education system, pioneering library gardens and scientific literacy movements, establishing a women’s Islamic organization called Aisyiyah, establishing hospitals or polyclinics and social service institutions, and rectifying the wrong understanding of Islam that includes shirk, superstition, heresy, and khurafat. Kiai Dahlan was even considered “infidel” or deviated from Islam for he introduced the notion of reform. Whereas the founder of Muhammadiyah actually invited Muslims to return to the truly Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet by developing ijtihad to bring Islam to answer the problems and challenges of the times.

Reform Movement

Muhammadiyah is known as an Islamic reform movement. The presence of Muhammadiyah as an Islamic reform movement (tajdid fil-Islam) is often associated with the other tajdid movements in the previous Islamic world spearheaded by Ibn Taymiyah, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, Jamaluddin Al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Rasyid Ridha, Ahmad Khan, Shaykh Waliyullah, and others. The style of Islamic reform is strong in purification of Islam (purification), some are oriented towards reformation itself (dynamization), especially in the field of Islamic thought and development. Kiai Dahlan absorbed the thoughts of Islamic reform. But the founder of Muhammadiyah had differences the previous Islamic reformers (mujadid) did not have. Ahmad Dahlan introduced completely new things such as the reform of the Islamic women’s movement to move in the public sphere, namely Aisyiyah (1917) as well as the birth of new Islamic social institutions such as modern educational institutions, health and social service institutions, scouting movements, and the cultural preaching approach in accordance with the character of Indonesian society or especially the people of Yogyakarta at that time.

Muhammadiyah’s character as a reform movement is not only as purification movement but is also strong in reformation (dynamization) as well as moderate (wasithiyah), which is different from the Islamic reform movement in the Middle East. Therefore Muhammadiyah is different from Islamic movements in Arab countries, so it is completely wrong if anyone calls Muhammadiyah as Wahabbi, the Islamic view spearheaded by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab in Saudi Arabia. Muhammadiyah is moderate in its reform and orientation of its movement, and is grounded in Indonesian society and country, so that its appearance is peaceful and tolerant while bringing progress. Muhammadiyah is not a ferocious organization in da’wah, but it is also not traditional, so that it can be called a progressive moderate Islamic organization.

Muhammadiyah also played an important historical role in the national revival movement and the struggle for independence. The scouting movement of Hizbul Wathan (1918) shows the patriotic and nationalist movement, which was born from the heart of a young man named Sudirman who is also a pioneer of guerrilla warfare and the Father of the Indonesian National Army. Aisyiyah’s role in the Women’s Congress in 1928 also became a milestone on the rise of Indonesian women. Likewise, the pioneering work of Soeara Moehammadijah (SM) Magazine in 1915 which in 1923 introduced the use of Malay or Indonesian even before the 1928 the Declaration of Youth Oath (Sumpah Pemuda) was very monumental in laying the foundation of Indonesia. Its work on building post independence society in various phases of governance is also innumerable, so that it becomes the true Islamic and nationalist movement. In the Eastern Indonesia, Muhammadiyah has a large role in advancing education, health, and community empowerment so that it shows itself as plural movement through real practice without rhetoric and mere words.

Haedar Nashir dan Kepala Kampung Wormon Kokoda Syamsuddin Namugur (Dok Unimuda)
Haedar Nashir dan Kepala Kampung Wormon Kokoda Syamsuddin Namugur (Dok Unimuda)

Haedar Nashir and the Head of Wormon Kokoda village Syamsuddin Namugur (Dok Unimuda) Haedar Nashir and Head of Wormon Kokoda village Syamsuddin Namugur (Dok Unimuda)

Likewise in renewing the minds of Muslims and the Indonesian people to be progressive, is truly an expensive historical trail of the struggle for Indonesian. Aisyiyah’s role as a Muhammadiyah women’s organization since its establishment in 1917 was very great, including taking part in pioneering the first Women’s Congress in 1928. Also noted was the role of Kiai Mas Mansur as a Four-String Figure with Sukarno, Moehammad Hatta, and Ki Hadjar Dewantara during the struggle of the Japanese occupation. In the most decisive moment also the role of Ki Bagus Hadikusumo who laid the foundation of the ‘Supreme God Almighty point in the struggle for an independent Indonesia which was proclaimed on August 17, 1945. This part of Muhammadiyah’s gait shows evidence of the modern Islamic movement pioneered by Muhammadiyah which largely determined the struggle of Muslims and Indonesian in the early 20th century until Indonesia became independent and post-independence to the present. Therefore Muhammadiyah cannot be separated, from the existence and struggle of Islam in Indonesia and the struggle of the Indonesian from its establishment until now and in the future.
Therefore it is important to understand the history, existence, birth, development, character, and any details of Muhammadiyah in various aspects both for Muhammadiyah people and those who want to know Muhammadiyah more as an Islamic movement in Indonesia. How Muhammadiyah was born, what is the nature of Muhammadiyah as an Islamic movement, how is Muhammadiyah ties with the Islamic reform movement in other the Islamic world, what is the positions of Muhammadiyah in the context of Indonesian Islam, what about the true Islamic community that is the aim of Muhammadiyah, how is Muhammadiyah’s character compared to other Islamic movements, how to describe Aisyiyah movement and other autonomous organizations as a strategic component within the auspices of the Muhammadiyah organization to realize the objectives of the Islamic movement that was founded by Kiai Haji Ahmad Dahlan. Understanding and studying Muhammadiyah is really an important part in the proccess of learning about the history of of Muslims and Indonesian people endless struggle. For the young generation of Muslims, learning Muhammadiyah as a subject in class (Kemuhammadiyahan) is something that need to be mainstreamed in order to understand the history of the nation along with Muhammadiyah as an agent of national reform in Indonesi, so that progressive Islam that brings rahmatan lil-‘alamin can be realized.

This article was published in the 2018 edition of SM Magazine 2018