This organization knows no blue-blood system. Although the family and descendants of KH Ahmad Dahlan as the founder of Muhammadiyah are certainly honored, there is no privilege in terms of organization and leadership.
AHMAD NAJIB BURHANI
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Although November is better known nationally as heroes’ month with the 10 Nov. 1945 event in Surabaya as its anchor, for Muhammadiyah, November is also its anniversary month. Muhammadiyah, one of the largest and oldest Islamic organizations in the country, was born on 18 Nov. 1912.
Discussions on the national role of Muhammadiyah, its contribution to democracy, education, economics and health have frequently been held, including how this organization has dedicated itself to the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is something occasionally overlooked, which is its cultural role.
Muhammadiyah, often considered identical to a purist movement, is not infrequently described as being opposed to some aspects of local culture. Some mention its aversion to the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, ancestral traditions and various art performances.
Then, what culture or tradition is adopted by Muhammadiyah in its social dynamism? Observers such as Deliar Noer and Clifford Geertz identify Muhammadiyah as a modernist Islamic movement. Modernization is translated into the use of modern education instead of the traditional system, modern treatment at hospitals instead of being dependent on traditional healers and a democratic modern organization instead of the kinship system or oligarchic domination.
Muhammadiyah, for instance, applies the egalitarian value to its members and in the case of leadership it does not depend on a certain ethnic or family origin.
In the definition of Max Weber, modernization is understood as rationalization whose manifestation is not only limited to such matters. The meaning of modernization is mainly related to the way of thinking. Muhammadiyah, for instance, applies the egalitarian value to its members and in the case of leadership it does not depend on a certain ethnic or family origin.
Although born in Yogyakarta, it can be headed by people of Sundanese, Minang or Sumbawa ethnicity, or other groups, not necessarily from the ethnic Javanese community. Its leadership pattern has also shifted from the charismatic system to a more collective-collegial one.
This organization knows no blue-blood system. Although the family and descendants of KH Ahmad Dahlan as the founder of Muhammadiyah are certainly honored, there is no privilege in terms of organization and leadership. The same is true of the families and descendants of his successors.
The other value adopted by Muhammadiyah is cosmopolitanism, as shown in its acceptance of different religious views, without antipathy to other groups. Cosmopolitanism provides the foundation to be open to alternatives, tolerant and unfanatical.
The cosmopolitan position sometimes indeed makes Muhammadiyah vulnerable when the foundation of its identity and ideology weakens, thus enabling the entry of other ideologies. This is akin to democracy that opens the chance to a certain group intending to commandeer democracy itself. So, the mechanism set up by Muhammadiyah in safeguarding its position and ideology takes the form of the Tarjih (legal) and Tajdid (reform) assemblies, which determine its religious stance based on solid principles and arguments.
The value of cosmopolitanism is translated into the concept of progressive Islam. This term, as contained in the executive decree or Tanfidz Muhammadiyah (2010), is meant as a recognition that Muhammadiyah members are world residents having “a sense of universal solidarity of humanity and universal responsibility toward fellow humans regardless of differences and distance separation of a primordial and conventional nature”.
So through cosmopolitanism and progressivism, Islam has gone beyond tolerance and peace, no longer remaining in slogans.
In Progressive Islam (2003) written by Omid Safi, progressive Islam has four dimensions, which are beyond apologetics, no more “pamphlet Islam”, Islam beyond tolerance and Islam beyond “religion of peace”. So through cosmopolitanism and progressivism, Islam has gone beyond tolerance and peace, no longer remaining in slogans.
The third important value and culture followed by Muhammadiyah is the spirit of competition, as translated into fastabiq al-khairat (competing in virtue) and can be seen in the logos of some autonomous organizations under Muhammadiyah. This motto is almost always spoken out by Muhammadiyah cadres at the end of lectures.
This spirit of competition was inculcated by Ahmad Dahlan when he competed with the Christian mission in building hospitals, schools and orphanages. The is not the spirit of enmity, but rather that of competition for dedication to humanity. This spirit inspires Muhammadiyah cadres to maintain discipline, have a strong work ethic, remain independent and be determined to become winners. Despite the minority position of Muhammadiyah followers in several places in Indonesia, they undertake meritorious work and have fairly large assets.
This has often caused Muhammadiyah to be seen as the parallel of Calvinism in Europe and the United States with its Protestant ethics. But unlike Calvinists who emphasize individual success, Muhammadiyah puts more stress on organizational success. Its activists and executives are at times economically modest but their organization is wealthy.
Among the chapters and verses of the Quran that are picked as performance guidelines are the chapter Al-Ma’un (107:1-7) and the verse about atsaris sujud or prostration (48:29). Al-Ma’un advises that ritual worship has no meaning unless it is manifested in social devotion.
Regarding atsaris sujud, some Muslims take this verse literally with two black spots on the forehead as proof of frequent prostration. Yet in Muhammadiyah, as affirmed by Abdul Malik Fadjar, the evidence of prostration must not be individual in nature, but it should be enjoyed by society in the form of, for instance, many hospitals and schools.
These three values, among others, have been contributed to the culture of Indonesia by Muhammadiyah –modernism, cosmopolitanism and Calvinism.
Congratulations on the organization’s 109th anniversary! Always be the light of the country!
AHMAD NAJIB BURHANI,Professor of research at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN)