C. Dialectic with Traditional Realities
KH Ahmad Dahlan (1912-1923) had accomplished momentous jump in raising man power qualities by establishing an organization of socio-religious activities, not an Islamic political party. He tried to choose organization as a means of spreading Islamic views because the impediment of political parties, as this tended to divide the people and the Dutch government tended to encounter its development. His decision to adopt modern ways of living was due to not having studied a lot about religion. That is why he did not produce numerous religious books because he emphasized practical efforts to fulfill the worldly life. Prof. Dr. M. Amin Abdullah (1995: 27) argues that:
…this choice was not based on the in-depth studies on classical Islamic literatures and he did not got inspiration in the conceptual framework of theology which already well-developed in the classical intellectual literatures.
KH Ahmad Dahlan tried to criticize S ufi establishment with social activities, by transforming Sufi with social ethics.Zikir orwirid , kinds of rememberance of the God, which was common amongst students in the traditional religious schools was replaced with serious thinking such as how to help the poor, to cure the ill, and giving religious advice. All activities promulgated into a grand concept of “amar ma’ruf nahi munkar” (to encourage to the proper behaviors and protect from improper behaviors) (Abdullah, 1996: 156).
Ahmad Dahlan’s criticism to the malpractices of Sufism were very essential of Muhammadiyah, based on the theology of monotheism. However he was very tolerant to the existing tradition in society because he wanted to conduct wise religious teaching. It was fact that some years after his death, that Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the countering organization of traditionalism, was established in 31 January 1926 (Ricklefs, 1994: 269-270). Furthermore critics to Sufisms’ malpractices, were not monopolized by modernist group of Muhammadiyah. KH Hasyim Asy’ari, one of the founders and the leader of NU, also criticized Sufi’s malpractices which had paralyzed Moslem society. However, he did not want to discard Sufism and tried to reform it from within.
Incidentally, Muhammadiyah’s efforts to reform Islamic life, especially with the regard to the Sufi’s malpractices, have contributed also to the disruption of some of the Moslem’s spiritual aspects from its depth and its originality. That is why people acknowledge more Muhammadiyah the anti-TBC (Tahayul, Bid’ah, Churafat) movements than the socio-religious reformation (Mulkhan, 2000: ix). It is due to Muhammadiyah’s reformation based solely on the normative values of the Koran and Hadits and its failure to accommodate the socio-cultural realities of the Moslem societies as its missionary target. This stigma lasted for a long time until there occurred the constructive dialogue with its counterpart, the NU.
The dialogue was hindered for long time because Muhammadiyah disregarded NU as tolerating “impure Islamic practices of TBC” so that it viewed the NU as having diverted from Islamic monotheism. Islam is in nature is not theology-minded religion comparable to Christianity, however
theology has been perceived deeply by some Moslems ever since the early history of Islam, so that this hinders constructive dialogues amongst Islamic groups. Some Moslems make use of theology to judge the people either as Moslem or non-Moslem. Here more precisely it is used to judge other Moslem groups either true-Moslem (kaffah ) or not. Most Moslem groups in Indonesia fall into the Sunni sect, however sub-divisions (furu ) amongst them often make it difficult to develop an open dialogue because they are often related improperly to the sub-division into theological judgment. Consequently each group assumes itself as practicing true Islam and views others as not-truly practicing Islam.
It lasted for long time and then some of Muhammadiyah’s followers become aware of their stagnant religious thinking. One of them, M. Thoyibi (2000: 160-163), evaluates correctly that this is due to overconfidence, religious orthodoxy, and contact avoidance with development outside. Recently all impediments have resulted in another stigma that its claim as a modern Islamic group often contradicts with its conservative views as to modernization. It is not surprising given its reference only to the Koran and Hadist, while ignoring the Islamic history and Moslem societies sociologically. As further consequence, its membership is limited to urban areas and the majority of Moslems are still associated with NU.
There are two currents propelling Muhammadiyah into more intense dialogue with NU. First, some of the followers are aware of the above stagnancies. Second, some of them are persisting in their previous tradition associated to NU. Furthermore Muhammadiyah try to make use of tradition to increase its followers in rural areas. It should not relieve its normative standard and follow the common Moslem, but instead should develop a dialectical approach to reform Islamic societies by considering sociologically Moslem societies. It should cooperate with other Moslem groups to reform Islamic societies and develop constructive dialogues with them to understand more thoroughly the conditions of Moslem societies.
This does not mean that they should fuse into one group because each group has its own social basis. It is not surprising that all the groups differ in their attention as well as their capabilities to reforming their Islamic societies. About the necessity of pluralistic groups to fulfill the human being multi-faced demands, Nasr (1994: 147) argues convincingly that:
Since every religion addresses a collectivity with varying psychological and spiritual temperaments, it must possess within itself the possibility of different interpretations. By bearing within itself, providentially, several modes of interpretation of the same truth it is able to integrate a multiplicity into unity and to create a religious civilisation.
Recently some Muhammadiyah followers such as Munir Mulkhan (2000), Thoyibi (2000), and Kuntowijoyo (1991) are consolidating themselves to address some stagnant features within Muhammadiyah. This started during its 42ndmuktamar [^6] , held between 15-19 of December 1990, in Yogyakarta when they agreed to reform the organization and its leadership system. Then in the 43rdmuktamar in Aceh in 1995 they were able to reform the theological foundation s to accommodating both Islamic tradition and local tradition. This decision changed the most important
organization body of the Committee of Religious Matters (Majelis Tarjih ) into the Committee of Religious Matters and the Development of Islamic Thinking (Mulkhan, 2002: 31-32). As a result, Muhammadiyah tried to develop systematically an inclusive theology which respects other group ’s theologies. Subsequently it formulate d a thematic interpretation categorizing all religionsahl al-kitab (people of knowledge, such as Jew s and Christian s ).