Indonesian Islam and Its Future

Muhammadiyah dan Kehadiran Islam Berkemajuan Di Indonesia Indonesian Islam
Kuliah Umum Haedar Nashir di Monash University, Australia, Februari 2018

Indonesian Islam and Its Future

Prof. Dr. KH Haedar Nashir, MSi

It is now widely acknowledged that moderate Indonesian Islam is the face of the future Islam. Moderate and rahmatan lil-‘alamin kind of Islam emerges from Indonesia. The group of Islam Nusantara proudly claims for their future influence in the world. TIME magazine several years ago raised the issue of “The New Face of Islam” (TIME :, 23/9/1996), citing Esposito’s view of the face of moderate Islam.

Of course, these positive assumptions and expectations are such encouraging projections and optimism. However, this will not necessarily happen if the quality requirements are not met. If it is not accompanied by a strong quality and support capacity in all areas of life, any labeling Indonesian Islam will not do much to the world.

Paradox or irony can even occur. How is it possible for Indonesian Islam to spread its influence worldwide if the condition of Muslims is still left behind, trapped in traditional way of thinking, and weak in various aspect of life. While they are still not being independent in the economic field. They are very much pleased only to hear such rhetoric, speech, and jargon, but not invested the real action itself.

Therefore, it is necessary to consider the importance of progressive Muslims as one of modality to strengthen the influence of Islam in the future. All citizens, activists, and especially Islamic leaders in this country must work hard to mobilize all their potential and abilities equipped by building centers of excellence if they want to make Indonesian Islam as a future force!

Indonesian Islam

Indonesian Islam is an interesting religious phenomenon. Islam in this archipelago exists peacefully, has a moderate character, and has developed into the largest Muslim in the world. The peaceful spread of Islam has had an influence on a socio-cultural style of Islamization (Kartodirjo, 1993). Indonesian Islam developed into the religion of society at large, as well as being a force for national integration in the formation of Indonesian culture (Koentjaraningrat, Kompas interview). Therefore, do not turn Indonesian Islam into a hardline Islam as seen in some other countries.

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In this “indigeneous” process of Islamization, Indonesian Islam has formed a Muslim who is gentle, peaceful, tolerant and harmonious. According to Esposito (1997), the face of Indonesian Islam is softer, shaped by tropical winds and long multicultural experiences. This is the face of Islam which is now popularly called moderate Islam or middle ground Islam (wasithiyah). Some groups unilaterally claim to be the Islam Nusantara or Islam which represents the archipelago. In fact, the face of Indonesian Islam is not singular and continues to experience changes.

Post-Islam Nusantara with its cultural face, Indonesian Islam underwent a dynamic transformation. At the beginning of the 20th century, along with the rise of a more organized national consciousness and the emergence of the of modernization, there was a new process in Islamization, namely Islam with the face of renewal or tajdid. Islam which gives a touch of progress or modernity is played by reform organizations, especially Muhammadiyah.

In the lives of women, the role of ‘Aisyiyah as the Muhammadiyah women’s organization in pioneering the rise of Muslim women and participating in the conception of the First Women’s Congress in 1928 was an important milestone in giving a progressive Islamic color.

The role of reform or Islam that spreads the values ​​of progress is very important and determines the latest Islamic development. The role of modern Islam is very important in addition to fostering nationalism and new political awareness against the colonialists in a modern way as well as in strengthening the ummah and nation after Indonesian independence (Deliar Noer, 1996). Without the reform movement, it would be impossible for a generation of educated Muslims to emerge as a new middle class and become a pillar for the emergence of advanced Islamic social institutions.

The Muslim generation who was born in this renewed Islamic culture has produced Muslim elites in various government institutions, which have formed a new genre of Indonesian Islam that strengthens the pillars of the Islamic movement on the basis of society and civil society. Without the presence of advanced Islam or reformist-modernist Islam, it would be impossible to give birth to the face of Indonesian Islam which is cosmopolitan, urban, and able to live in the midst of advanced modernity and lurid globalization as we see it today.

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However, Islam anywhere, including in Indonesia does not stop at one point. This means that Indonesian Islam is not static, let alone singular. Indonesian Islam will continue to experience the dynamics between teachings and the realities of life that surround it, as well as form various shades or variants according to its complex struggle process. Indonesian Islam will face the dynamics of a new life in the 21st century in accordance with the law of change.

Progressive Islam

In the context of this complex contemporary life, it is really important and relevant for the presence of a progressive Indonesian Islam. The majority of Indonesian Muslims must appear as progressive people, not only large in numbers. There is not much value when the quantity is outweighing the quality. What does moderate Islam mean if left behind and lack of independence. Large and moderate Indonesian Muslims must become a large group that excels and independent.

Various tendencies, problems, and challenges of modern life which are more complex and will continue to be present for intelligent answers by Muslims. Apart from appearing as a group that carries a message of peace, tolerance and proplurality, Muslims must also become a pro-democracy force, uphold human rights and civil society. In addition, Indonesian Muslims must also become a group that excels in the fields of politics, economy, education, in science and technology, and has high competitiveness.

It is impossible for Muslims everywhere, including Indonesian Muslims to appear as rahmatan lil-‘alamin Islam if they are left behind and do not have any progress. Islam rahmatan lil-‘alamin must advance in various fields of life, so that it becomes a superior and highly competitive force. This is where the relevance of the presence of Islam and Muslims to be developed in Indonesia.

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The progressive Islam gives strength to the character of moderate Islam. Moderate Islam in the latest dynamics in Indonesia will face various understandings and complex realities of life. The process of globalization, the development of science and technology, geopolitical change, social change, and modernization in the 21st century will have an influence on the character of any religious community including Muslims, anywhere. Likewise in dealing with various Islamic understandings; both those who tend to be radical and conservative as well as liberal and secular. In this context, Indonesian Islam must have a moderate face and be progressive.

The face of Indonesian Islam today and in the future requires continuity in addition to maintaining its moderate character in order to be able to compete with other people and nations within the new world arena in a very dynamic and complex modern age. Middle Islam (wasithiyah, moderate), which has a soft, peaceful, calm, tolerant, and harmonious face is integrated with progressive Islam that displays an awareness of rationality, objectivity, science, technology, hard work, discipline, independence, professionalism, and other values ​​of progress. so that the majority of the people are present as a superior force.

Muslims must appear as a modern community and have centers of excellence as is characteristic of progressive societies. Indonesian Muslims will emerge as the spreaders of rahmatan lil-‘alamin when they have the advantage to be given to their nation and the world community.

In conclusion, it is not enough for Indonesian Muslims to have moderate character, but also to be progressive ones, namely to excel in all areas of life, so that their presence as a bearer of the mission of grace for the universe can truly be manifested in real life. This is where the importance of Muhammadiyah’s position as an Islamic movement that presents the role of progressive Islam in Indonesia in making its way to the 21st century!

Source: SM Magazine 22nd Edition 2017