Chapter 6. The sufi influences: in Pursuit of an Islamised Indonesia

Table of Contents

A. Sufi Influences
1. Heterogeneity of Jemaah Tarbiyah
2. Turning into Traditionalists
B. Steps to Islamise the State
1. Creating Strong Cadres
2. Socialising the Ideas
3. Forming a Political Party
4. Penetrating the State

Before the formation of their political party, few observers would have predicted that the Jemaah Tarbiyah activists would turn to a pragmatic role in the politics of Indonesia. For PKS that grew out of a religious movement influenced by the Muslim Brothers of Egypt (which has had the reputation as a fundamentalist movement) such pragmatism in politics is quite surprising. Hamid Basyaib, at the website of the Liberal Islam Network (Jaringan Islam Liberal-JIL) praises the success of PKS in the 2004 general elections but emphasises a possible dilemma facing a party based on religious ideology. According to Basyaib, PKS should decide whether to follow either a pragmatic or an inflexible approach toward politics. In Basyaib’s view, the structure of a party that is headed by a Consultative Board (Majelis Syura) is likely to inflexible.[1]

The reality has been contrary to expectations. After PKS gained its success in the 2004 general elections, it decided to join a coalition with nationalist parties in forming government under the leadership of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. When, in 2005, the government raised oil prices, a move that drew fierce protest from the public and caused some members of PKS to demand that the party leave the coalition, PKS would not withdraw its support.[2] Instead of adopting a hardline stance, PKS has softened its “religious aspirations” in order to move with the political realities of Indonesia. What are the grounds for such a practical decision?

It is interesting to note that since most important decisions of the party are taken through the mechanism of the consultative board (Majelis Syura), whose members are senior activists of Jemaah Tarbiyah upholding the teachings of Hasan al-Banna, political decisions of PKS have reflected the stance of Jemaah Tarbiyah in general. I argue that, quite apart from political obstacles from the ruling regimes experienced by Islamic parties and the socio-political circumstances of Indonesia, it is the teachings of the Muslim Brothers themselves that account for this “realistic” approach.[3] Learning from the experience of the past, a member of parliament for PKS stated, “If Masyumi was eager to confront any obstacle and even sacrificed itself for the sake of upholding its idealism, PKS would not; instead, we attempt to find a different way.”[4] In fact, such moderation finds its justification in the Muslim Brothers’ ideas.

This chapter attempts to analyse the influence of the Sufi dimension within the Muslim Brothers that has contributed to determine the political praxis of PKS. Strictly speaking, PKS activists always insist upon the importance of upholding the two fundamental sources of Islam (the Qur’an and Hadith) and the teachings of al-Banna. In dealing with political and social issues, they attempt to broaden their call to all of the Indonesian Muslim communities to encompass all religious orientations, particularly the traditionalist elements of Indonesian Islam.[5] This is keeping in mind the stages in building an Islamic society and state introduced by al-Banna, which have been adopted PKS, namely to adopt a gradualist approach in promoting their Islamic aspirations.

A. Sufi Influences

The general and “superficial picture” of PKS is that is dominated by modernist characters. In contrast, my study has discovered that there are significant numbers of activists from a traditionalist background in PKS and what is more, the pioneers of Jemaah Tarbiyah were children of traditionalist families. Since most of the modernist Muslim activists during the early development of the movement had previously been activists in their own organizations, while the traditionalists were merely ordinary members or maintained only cultural connections with traditionalist organisations, the face of Jemaah Tarbiyah bears the features of a modernist derived purification movement, rather than of any traditionalist stamp.

However, when studying the political praxis of PKS and the religious attitudes of its members in responding to jurisprudential issues, it becomes apparent that PKS has adopted a traditionalist approach. This pragmatic and accommodative stance of PKS in dealing with politics can be seen to derive from the teachings of Hasan al-Banna which give high priority to the unity of the Muslim community. Al-Banna himself developed these ideas from Sufi doctrines.

Since adolescence al-Banna had firmly embraced mystical practices and doctrines, so that from the beginning of his organisational career, Sufism exerted a significant impact on his thoughts.[6] He immersed himself deeply in the practices of the order of the Hasafiyyah for more than 20 years and remained involved with Sufism in a special way for most of his life.[7] There is no evidence in his writings that it ever ceased to influence him.[8] Thus the Sufi dimension shaped the deepest foundations of the Muslim Brothers movement, directing it to follow a natural and gradual process of social and political change.

This is one of the more neglected aspects of the history of the Muslim Brothers, overlooked both by researchers and by followers of the Brothers themselves. Studies of the movement so far place emphasis on its political activities and its role in spreading religious radicalisation. The Muslim Brothers are known more as radicals and a threat than for their moderate and gradual agenda in achieving their goals. Christina Phelps Harris, for instance, stresses the most influential experience of al-Banna’s life as his father’s fundamentalist Hanbalite orientation[9] in which “al-Banna was steeped from his earliest childhood in the puritan teachings of Ibn Hanbal.”[10]

However, the direct effect of returning to al-Banna’s original thought has meant that for PKS, all religious orientations must be accommodated. Intellectual and religious disputes will inevitably arise – yet the idea of purification itself opposes such inclusiveness. The question must be posed: does the need to return to the original message of the Muslim Brothers’ movement require the adoption of the religious inclinations of its founder, or just its political ideas and organisational model? It seems indeed that the adoption of al-Banna’s ideas is not confined to the area of politics. The earliest intellectual formation and development of Jemaah Tarbiyah started with the impulse to consider Islam as an alternative to the national ideology of the state. The totality of Islam and its comprehensive nature has since become the main discourse within Jemaah Tarbiyah circles. The influence of al-Banna on Jemaah Tarbiyah remains broad; it can be traced in the ideas, doctrines and organisational instruments of the movement.[11]

1. Heterogeneity of Jemaah Tarbiyah

Writings on specific religious questions, such as Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) by Jemaah Tarbiyah activists are rare. This indicates wide variation among the activists in their acquisition of religious knowledge and a tolerance of differing opinions. Most of their books are devoted to awakening individual religious awareness and not to compliance with particular issues in jurisprudential precepts. For the latter, they rely on Middle Eastern scholars. The books of Yusuf Qaradawi, for example, have become the most consulted reference for Jemaah Tarbiyah members. The general principle of Jemaah Tarbiyah in dealing with doctrinal issues is to avoid disputes and to seek a common understanding among Muslims, based on a deep grounding in the Qur’an and Hadith. Accordingly, the practices of particular aspects of Islamic jurisprudence depend on the individual religious backgrounds of those concerned.

The degree of rigidity in observance among Jemaah Tarbiyah members varies from one individual to another and in my observation, religious books written by the activists carry few details on the practices or doctrines of any particular school of jurisprudence.[12] Regarding disagreements over doctrine and practice, recourse is made to the rulings of the four orthodox schools, the Hanafi (689-759), Maliki (711-796), Shafii (767-820) and Hanbali (781-856). Jemaah Tarbiyah encourages its cadres to seek reference from authoritative sources. As long as the practices have strong bases in the two fundamental legitimate sources of the Qur’an and Hadith they are tolerated, regardless of possible quibbles over detail. The movement gives free choice to its members to consider the opinions of scholars of different schools. Tolerance in these matters aims to maintain unity among Muslims and to avoid any view that might be introduced by a new sect or belong to a particular group in society.[13] The distinctive character about this movement is its commitment above all to the totality of Islam encompassing all aspects of human life. Religious awareness is considered more important than religious difference

To become educators on whom people rely for answers about religious questions without creating doubts and disintegration within the community. Attempting to revive the spirit of tolerance, in responding to Islamic jurisprudential disputes, is motivated by a spirit to find a common ground for the sake of uniting the ummah.[14]

A seminal book on the theme of preserving the heritage of Hasan al-Banna, entitled Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islam (the Dakwah Strategy of the Islamic Movement) was written by Hilmi Aminuddin, currently head of the Consultative Assembly (Majelis Syura) of PKS. Aminuddin is one of the figures who made initial contact with Muslim Brothers’ ideas during his studies in Saudi Arabia. He states the need to “preserve the originality of dakwah” (muhafazah ‘ala asalah al-da’wah) by relying on three issues - originality of faith, worship and prayer, and ideas.[15] These three, however, must not promote a rigid purification or bring blame upon others for practising a “contaminated” form of religion. Although he took Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia, Hilmi Aminuddin is an heir to traditionalist inclinations, having spent many years earlier studying at the Pesantren of Tebuireng in Jombang, East Java, the renowned city of religious boarding schools of a traditionalist reputation.[16]

In fact, attendance at the Jemaah Tarbiyah halaqah or a religious meeting does not assure an advanced level of knowledge in any particular area of Islamic jurisprudence or theology. The role of the weekly meetings is only to raise religious awareness and to equip those attending in the broader concepts of Islam. The subjects taught in halaqah are very general and simple, far from an expert knowledge of Islam and its heritage.[17] In order to fill the shortfall in Islamic knowledge for its cadres the movement set up religious institutions, called ma’had (Ar. al-ma’had). In the absence of ma’had in areas where there are large numbers of new Jemaah Tarbiyah recruits, members are encouraged to attend other existing reliable Islamic institutions. In Jakarta, the role of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies, Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Islam dan Arab (LIPIA) affiliated with the Imam Ibn Saud University in Saudi Arabia to provide Islamic knowledge among both modernist and traditionalist students coming from a variety of pesantren throughout Indonesia has been very significant.

It is interesting to note that the heterogeneity within Jemaah Tarbiyah and the efforts of PKS to bridge the gap between traditionalist and modernist camps in Indonesia have drawn some suspicion from NU and Muhammadiyah. For NU activists, PKS is not only considered to represent the modernists but is also labelled the party of neo-Wahabis or Salafis.[18] This accusation has its basis on the general call of PKS activists to return to the Qur’an and Hadith and the trustworthy founding generation of scholars (al-salaf al-salih).[19] For some Muhammadiyah members, particularly the youth, PKS is an alternative and indeed makes more common sense in terms of political ideology. However, the older generation of Muhammadiyah activists still consider PKS not only a political party but also a religious movement subscribing to an ideology different from Muhammadiyah.[20] At the elite level, for both NU and Muhammadiyah PKS is a rival, since it promotes different political and ideological affiliations.

Among the Salafi groups, PKS is considered to have deviated from the true teachings of al-salaf al-salih and has often been accused of entertaining religious innovation (bid’ah).[21] This accusation is caused by the image of the “problematic figure” of Hasan al-Banna who drew his ideas from both Salafi and Sufi traditions alike. For the followers of “pure” Salafism, Hasan al-Banna was not committed to the doctrines of Salafism. Those ideas unacceptable to Salafi groups were in the main related to practices adopted from the writings of the medieval scholars; al-Ash’ari (d. 935) and al-Ghazali (d.1111).[22] Most Salafi groups do not accept these scholars, whilst al-Banna was very familiar with their writings and practices.[23]

In the 1990s, the once good relations between Salafi groups and Jemaah Tarbiyah in Indonesia were broken because of disappointment among Salafi followers with the decision of PKS to enter politics – Salafis reject practical politics.[24] It seemed that the reason was not only internal friction in Indonesia but rather international friction in responding to the Gulf War in 1990, when the Muslim Brothers gave their support to Iraq instead of Saudi Arab as the backbone of Salafism.[25] In Indonesia, the financial support offered to Jemaah Tarbiyah activities by Saudi Arabia declined after the Gulf War.

2. Turning into Traditionalists

Having realised the need to include traditionalist groups, which have significant numbers of followers in Indonesia, and yet to preserve the originality of the movement, Jemaah Tarbiyah has felt the need to return to the authentic model established by the founder of the Muslim Brothers, Hasan al-Banna. One of the many books written by Jemaah Tarbiyah activists, Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islam, mentioned above, advocates the need to go back to the original texts written by al-Banna.[26] It is recommended that the Arabic versions be read in order to gain a full understanding of his ideas and mission.[27] Whilst other prominent figures such as Sayyid Qutb are widely emulated by contemporary Islamic movements throughout the world, Jemaah Tarbiyah has limited access only to his renowned Qur’an exegesis, Fi Dilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Qur’an). Qutb’s more radical works are not promoted. Instead, the influence of al-Banna is incalculable and most books written by Jemaah Tarbiyah activists refer to him.[28]

Efforts to preserve the originality of the movement employing the initial methods of al-Banna have led to other theological and doctrinal consequences. Al-Banna’s traditionalist and Sufi orientations have greatly influenced the practices of the Muslim Brothers. Undoubtedly, members of Jemaah Tarbiyah brought up in the modernist traditions of Indonesia meet confusion in al-Banna’s intellectual heritage. However, those already within Jemaah Tarbiyah and familiar with al-Banna’s ideas have tolerance towards the practices of Sufism, as long as they are based in Islam. Sufism that upholds a valid Islamic morality and is derived from Islamic sources is allowable.[29]

However, the spirit of bringing the movement into accordance with the Qur’an and Hadith remains the main agenda. All efforts towards this end are carried out in a gradual and consensual manner, not to create tensions in society. For Jemaah Tarbiyah, a long-term predication is the only and best option and Jemaah Tarbiyah programs have started to accommodate traditionalist elements since its decision to be involved in the political arena.

Activists of Jemaah Tarbiyah have been well aware that esoteric Sufi teachings have had strong roots in Indonesian Islam for many centuries. Greater political Islamism, which would undermine spirituality, would cause alienation from mainstream Islam, in particular from NU. Instead of criticising the role of Sufism in the process of the Islamisation of Indonesia, the famed nine saints (walisongo) from the history of Java are considered by Jemaah Tarbiyah to be local pioneers of Islamic movements.[30]

On the other hand, the teachings of al-Banna are responsible for the “pragmatic approach” of PKS to politics. It was al-Banna who often advocated a “middle way” and was keen to avoid religious conflict in order to maintain social harmony. This “middle” inclination was also typical of al-Ash’ari and al-Ghazali, al-Banna’s inspirations. PKS activists are quite aware that adopting al-Banna’s ideas has led them to accommodation in politics. Ahmad Firman Yusuf, a former head of the Central Board of PK (1999-2004) says that “most Muslim activists have viewed the ideas of the Muslim Brothers as too tolerant and flexible in upholding the shariah. Al-Banna based his opinions on the concept of benefit in dakwah (maslahah al-da’wah). However, besides his “tolerant attitude” in dakwah, his opinions always have justification in the principles of shariah.”[31] For instance, the decision to be involved in a secular system was widely criticised by many Muslim activists since this involvement meant to acknowledge secular and infidel rule that is in violation of the message of the Qur’an.[32] Within al-Banna’s understanding of maslahah, involvement in a secular system is preferable if it prevents harm and beings benefit, even though that benefit may only be relative.[33]

This attitude sets Jemaah Tarbiyah apart from other Islamic groups, who prefer to make clear cut distinctions between what is allowable (al-halal) and unallowable (al-haram). Such tolerance of the secular system is influenced by Sufi teachings. As has been suggested by Michael Gilsenan, the political importance of the Sufi orders has been characterised by their inclination to serve as mediators and peacemakers in a system in which dispute has been only one element in the constant tension born out of a need for security.[34] The Sufi orders cut across the ties of geography, kinship and tribal affiliation, forming a framework for a broader set of social relations and political cohesion.[35]

Hasan al-Banna was “a schoolteacher with a background of individual and family religious studies and a modern oriented education.”[36] He was not a typically deep thinker, such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh or other reformist figures; rather he was a charismatic leader who was able to pave the way for the establishment of a viable and effective Islamic movement. What makes him distinct from scholars before and during his time, despite his success as a propagandist and leader of a movement, was that he never undertook advanced religious studies. He graduated from a secular university, Darul Ulum University in Cairo, specialising in educational training. He was more concerned with bringing people from different sects together and avoiding doctrinal disputes.[37] His training in mysticism (tasawwuf), which he received within the regime of the Hasafiyyah Shadziliyyah order, moulded his entire personality. However, his inclination toward Sufism, which had made itself felt since childhood, was not purely otherworldly; it did not prevent him from being actively concerned with concrete social issues and activities.[38]

Initially, the Muslim Brothers was a socio-religious movement which aimed at restoring the spiritual and social dimensions of Egyptian Muslims, while at the time challenging the influence of Christian missionaries in Egypt.[39] Overwhelmed by the political and social problems of his nation under the impact of Western civilisation, al-Banna felt that Egyptian society had departed from the gaols of its faith; therefore, returning society into the guidance of Islam became the main goal of the Muslim Brothers.[40] The movement expanded its role to engage in a struggle to “liberate” Egypt and the Arab world from foreign occupation and domination. Since it offered a reform-based Islamic framework against a corrupted society and government, it gained popularity and support from the humbler rural and urban societies of Egypt. Even more, albeit not organisationally controlled, the Muslim Brothers expanded their influence and attracted large numbers of Muslims throughout the world, including the Indonesian offshoot.[41]

Thus Hasan al-Banna tried to accommodate a wide range of Islamic orientations, conceiving his initial movement as (1) a Salafi movement (dakwah salafiyyah) to reject any actions contrary to the Qur’an and the Sunnah; (2) a Sunni path (tariqah sunniyyah) that inclines it to practise the Prophet’s way of life; (3) a Sufi truth (haqiqah sufiyyah) that emphasises virtue and purity; (4) a political organization (hay’ah siyasiyyah) that calls for political change from within; (5) an athletic group (jama’ah riyadiyyah) that stresses the significance of physical exercise; (6) a cultural and scientific body (rabitah ‘ilmiyyah thaqafiyyah) that seeks to enhance the knowledge of its members and others about Islam; (7) an economic enterprise (shirkah iqtisadiyyah) that calls upon its members to gain economic power and ensure its distribution; and (8) a social ideal (jama’ah ijtima’iyyah) that is committed to solve the malaise of society.[42]

It was Hasan al-Banna who laid the basic foundations of the doctrines that combined Sufism, which focuses on the spiritual and mental development of the individual, and social activism, which encourages its adherents to be involved with people.[43] Al-Banna himself saw no contradiction between Sufism’s ethical and spiritual goals and his own social praxis.[44] In the end, he acknowledged that the final shape of the Muslim Brothers resulted from the intellectual and social evolution of his own Sufi affiliation with the Hasafiyyah order.[45] Interestingly, this order was led by his close spiritual friend, Ahmad Syukri, whom he transferred to the Muslim Brothers branch in Ismailiyah and then chose as his deputy in Cairo.[46]

Through his deep involvement with the Hasafiyyah order, al-Banna also paved the way for reform in Sufi doctrines which benefited their organizations as prospective religious and social movements. The structure of his own movement is very much based on Sufi concepts and terms. Even though he did not attribute it to any particular order (tariqah), the usages and practices of Sufism are found in the organisational terms of the Muslim Brothers. He called his followers al-ikhwan (brothers) and assumed the title of murshid (supervisor). He used the Sufi term bay’ah (oath) to initiate new members and obliged them to practise his compilation of wirid and wazifah (prayers). The mutual feelings developed among members also show a profound Sufi inclination, signified by such terms as brotherhood (ukhuwwah) and family (usrah).[47]

Al-ikhwan (brothers) indicates the specific type of mutual friendship among the members of a Sufi order; in its strictest sense, the term al-ikhwan refers to members of the same Sufi line, for instance, those of the Naqsyabandiyyah, Tijaniyyah, Qadiriyyah, and so forth. There is mutual obligation as well: a member of a tariqah, (al-ikhwan) may travel through distant regions, accepting hospitality along the way from local brothers. The ikhwan code guarantees the traveller will find shelter or food within the order.[48]

From the beginning, the Muslim Brothers did not aim to single themselves out from broader Egyptian society. Instead of identifying his followers as a tightly knit or closed group like the tarekat (Ar. tariqah), Hasan al-Banna preferred to name his organisation al-ikhwan al-muslimun (Muslim Brothers).[49] He did not want to deal with religious disputes arising among members of different Sufi orders or to limit his call to a narrow element of society. His organization had to address all levels of the broader society, based on three fundamentals – knowledge (al-‘ilm), education (al-tarbiyyah) and striving (al-jihad). However, he provided the opportunity for those who wanted to go through the special training of the brotherhoods to do so.[50] In the long run, however, the Muslim Brothers could not escape from an exclusivist orientation; indeed it developed into a group quite set apart from community at large.

Murshid (General Guide) is the title of the supreme leader of a Sufi order and the title taken by the head of the Muslim Brothers. It literally means “the one who gives spiritual guidance to his pupils” (murid). Within the Sufi tradition, the murshid, or sheikh is capable of bringing his pupils into a closer relation to God. He is “an inspired man to whose eyes the mysteries of the hidden are revealed, because he sees with the light of God and knows what thoughts and confusion are in man’s hearts.”[51] The uppermost thing in Sufi practice is to find a good guide on whom followers may rely totally. The pupils should follow the instructions of the guide without reservation.[52]

Most importantly for al-Banna, the choice of Sufi custom and the stress on the religious bond between the leader and the led reinforced the significance of personal authority within the Muslim Brothers. Al-Banna was able to revise the requirement of absolute obedience to the teacher into more flexible relations by emphasising the need for students to maintain their own freedom of thinking. He still required the sincere observation of the obligatory prayers (salah), the liturgies (dhikr) and ethics (akhlaq).[53] He based his leadership on his charismatic authority but also confined it within the framework of a bureaucratic and hierarchical organization.[54] Furthermore, he emphasised that not all of the instructions of the murshid should be followed, particularly in dealing with non-religious matters. In one of his “twenty principles and guidelines for followers of the Muslim Brothers” he explained:

The opinion of the leader or his deputy regarding issues that are not clearly ruled out in the text and may attract possible interpretation but serve the public interest (maslahah) may be applied as long as the statement does not contradict shariah principles. However, it may change depending on the changing of conditions, time and local tradition. Principally, worship requires a total surrender without considering the meaning, but non-worship activities should be examined as to their meanings and goals.[55]

Nevertheless, al- Banna maintained the style of murshid leadership in running his society of the Muslim Brothers to a certain extent. He was a charismatic leader, since none of his companions was able to challenge his leadership. As General Guide of the Brothers, he demanded the loyalty of his followers and held “the power in his own hands and personally directed the program and the policies of his organization.”[56] His personal characteristics and outstanding intellectual attainment were evident from the respect he was given. Even those who knew him personally, though had never belonged to the Muslim Brothers, acknowledged his personal qualities

Al-Banna had three outstanding qualifications for leadership. He had an extraordinary amount of personal charm and magnetism; he was a most eloquent speaker, with a degree of oratorical power that moved his audiences deeply; and he possessed an unusually good command of his native tongue. In the Arabic-speaking world, any man with the ability to express himself fluently in excellent Arabic is highly appreciated and respected.[57]

However, it is because of his Sufi style of leadership that many writers on the Muslim Brothers have criticised his leadership: it was not democratic in nature. For instance, Zakariyya Sulayman Bayumi contended that the autocratic style of Hasan al-Banna and lack of democracy in the Muslim Brothers were serious defects in the organization.[58] Furthermore, a number of leftist Egyptian historians, such as Rif’at al-Said[59] and Tariq al-Bisri[60] accused the movement of representing the opponents of the democratic forces because of its alignment with the “autocratic” and “fascist” forces of the palace.[61] This leadership style has also drawn criticism of Jemaah Tarbiyah in Indonesia. It is accused of being too focussed on the relationship of the murabbi (mentor) towards his mutarabbi (student) in which the student should obey whatever the mentor has instructed. The process of conveying knowledge is often seen as indoctrination. Even the case of marriage among halaqah members, the murabbi has a significant role in determining the marriage process. The relationship between murabbi and mutarabbi also depends to a large extent on the character of the murabbi, who may be flexible or strict.[62]

Another term borrowed from the tariqah and applied by al-Banna is bay’ah, the oath taken by the seeker of mystical wisdom to abide by the organization’s rules and guidelines. Strictly speaking, none of the Sufi orders accept new members of the tariqah without the swearing of this covenant. Only those to have taken the vow of allegiance to the leader of the order are allowed to begin practising the rituals. Before taking the oath, the candidate should make sincere repentance before God and renounce his or her past sins.[63] The new student places his hand in the hand of the murshid and the murshid administers the covenant that he or she accepts the murshid as his or her guide.[64] It should be noted that each Sufi order has its own particular details and ways of proceeding in performing the ceremony of covenant taking.

The first members of the Muslim Brothers swore their allegiance to the murshid al-Banna himself. They were six labourers working in the British Company of the Suez Canal, and were seeking a guide able to improve their spiritual and social conditions. Even though it has not been clearly described for posterity, the event of the covenant taking by these ordinary people indicates the strong relations between leader and led.[65] It explicitly shows the Sufi code, when laymen surrendered themselves and all their possessions - blood, soul and coin, to express their adherence to an honourable spiritual Guide.[66] Since that moment, al-Banna fulfilled his dream to become a respected Guide and teacher (murshid and mu’allim) and guided his followers accordingly.[67] He also successfully reformed the absolute dependence of students upon their teacher into the concept of solidarity and brotherhood among the members, under the banner of the Muslim Brothers, in which the murshid was included.

In the case of PKS, cadres are expected to make allegiance to the party, just as are cadres of Jemaah Tarbiyah. Since the Majelis Syura occupies the highest status in the party leadership, all committee members of the party should obey and exercise decisions issued by it. The Majelis Syura is also charged to elect the members of central board committees and to formulate all strategies of the party. Members of Majelis Syura are appointed through internal elections held by the central board of the party. It represents senior members of Jemaah Tarbiyah from the provincial branches, and some scholars and social leaders. Candidates of Majelis Syura must hold at least the level of ahli (expert) in the party. The membership of the party is divided into three levels: sympathizers or pemula (beginners) and muda (the young); core cadres of madya (intermediate), dewasa (mature) and ahli (expert) status, and purna (advanced), and luar biasa (extraordinary) which are based on merit. When the members of Majelis Syura are formally elected, they are obliged to swear allegiance to the party.[68]

To realise commonality and the sharing of aims rather than a single-focussed loyalty, al-Banna revised the concept and practice of attachment to the murshid (rabitah murshid) to the attachment to fellow students (rabitah muridin). When the rabit}ah murshid is undertaken as a practice in certain other Sufi orders, students are instructed to visualise their master and sense his presence within their hearts. Al-Banna’s newly devised rabitah however involved a process of communal visualisation among fellow students.[69] Thus the rabitah, understood as a special spiritual relation, was not monopolised by the master but was shared by all members. In practising rabitah, the Brothers were to visualise their fellow members’ faces and try to feel spiritual contact with them (even those with whom they had no acquaintance). Then the following prayer was recited

O Allah, indeed you know that our hearts have gathered for the sake of your love, met for the purpose of obedience, united under your mission and promised to uphold your path. O Allah! Strengthen our relations, endure our passion, and give us your light that never reduces to a glimmer! Widen our hearts with full faith and the beauty of submission and revive them with your knowledge. Show me the way of jihad. Surely, you are the best Guide and Helper.[70]

Recognising the Sufi aspects of al-Banna’s teachings, it is understandable that some members of PKS have begun to acknowledge the practice of Sufism within Islam. A practical example of this is the forging of close contact between the PKS branches of West and Central Java with leaders of the Sufi orders, the Tarekat Syahadatain and Tarekat Rifa’iyyah of those provinces. The leaders of both of these tarekat have welcomed the PKS campaigns and have readily introduced the PKS to their members in the 2004 general elections.[71]

Furthermore, efforts to appreciate non-modernist elements of Islam by committee members of PKS have developed, not only in certain regions, but in many others as well. In the area of Islamic knowledge and thought there has been a similar trend. The publishing of books in great numbers dealing with Sufi subjects by PKS-associated publishers indicates the movement’s increasing inclination to extend its membership among Muslims of a traditionalist background. The Rabbani Press which was so well known in the mid-1980s for publishing political materials by the Muslim Brothers has moved to concern itself with issues of the “purification of the heart,” a central theme in Sufi traditions. It has published many books written by al-Ghazali (1058-1111), re-edited by the Muslim Brothers scholar, Sayyid Hawwa on the classic Ihya Ulumuddin (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) and other Sufi subjects. However, the categorical rejection of Sufism among modernist groups in Indonesia makes some activists of PKS inclined to use the term, tazkiyyah al-nafs (purification of heart) than “Sufism.” In dealing with the subject of the love of God, Hidayat Nurwahid, former president of PKS and currently Chairperson of the People’s Consultative Assembly, Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (MPR, 2004-2005) avoids the use of the term “tasawwuf”: “The love of God (al-hub Ila Allah) is a central and fundamental topic in theology and within the purified soul.”.[72]

So to summarise all of the above, in comparison with their modernist predecessors, the activists of PKS of today value the practice of Sufism. In translating the ideas of al-Banna, they are far more permissive of Sufism than the “real” proponents of purification movements, such as Muhammadiyah or Persis. A heated issue in Sufism, and one stridently rejected by modernist groups, is the subject of tawassul (prayer for mediation). Whilst the reformist groups emphasise prayer as direct communication with God, the traditionalists allow room for mediation between humankind and the Creator. This mediation is believed to be carried out by the four great companions of the Prophet and deceased local saints. Al-Banna himself discussed this question of mediation at some length in his book, Majmu’a al-Rasail (Collected Writings), first translated into Indonesian by Media Dakwah in 1983 and recently again by the PKS-associated Era Intermedia in 2002. However, since Media Dakwah has been influenced by modernist and even puritan ideas, it interpreted the issue of tawassul, as addressed by Hasan al-Banna, as a denial of its validity. Era Intermedia, on the other hand, considers it to be a disputed issue that may be tolerated.[73]

The Sufi influences bringing PKS to a pragmatic and flexible approach in promoting its objectives can be seen in the way in which members of Jemaah Tarbiyah has formulated its strategy of Islamising the state. The following steps, as given by Cahyadi Takariawan in his book Rekayasa Masa Depan Menuju Kemenangan Dakwah Islam, [74] are an elaboration of al-Banna’s emphasis on the need to initiate dakwah from individual, to family and to society. A society that is motivated and familiar with the teachings of Islam will automatically determine the nature of the state.[75]




[1] See Hamid Basyaib, “Dilemma Partai Agama,” Islamlib.com, 19 April 2004.

[2] An internal survey conducted by PKS in Jakarta and Yogyakarta reports that 62% of supporters were upset with the party’s position and 75% of members believe that supporting the government costs the party a lot. See “Survey PKS Yogya: Citra PKS Turun Gara-Gara Dukung SBY,” Tempointeraktif.com, 24 November 2005.

[3] In this case, Oliver Roy seems to attribute it as the failure of political Islam, however in contrast I prefer to see it from a different perspective. The domestication of universal Islam represents the success of an Islamic movement in adapting itself to political realities and making its Islamic agenda more practical, for its survival. See Olivier Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994)

[4] Interview with Muttammimul Ula, Jakarta, 16 June 2003.

[5] Based on the author’s observations during field research (February 2003- January 2004) Jemaah Tarbiyah has struggled to maintain its intellectual origins with the founder of the Muslim Brothers, Hasan al-Banna.

[6] In his writings al-Banna repeatedly used Sufi terms. There is no evidence to support the claim that he embraced the strict practices of Hanbali Sufism; rather, he demonstrated a thorough acquaintance with the classical doctrines of al-Ghazali and other Syafi’ite scholars. For further details of the biography of al-Banna see Hasan al-Banna, Memoar Hasan al-Banna, trans. Salahuddin Abu Sayyid and Hawin Mustadho (Solo: Era Intermedia, 2000).

[7] Richard Mitchell, The Society of Muslim Brothers (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 3.

[8] Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 68-69.

[9] The Hanbalite School of Jurisprudence is known for its strict implementation of Islamic teachings.

[10] Christina Phelps Harris, Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt: the Role of the Muslim Brotherhood (The Hague: Hoover Institution Publication, 1964), 143.

[11] See Ali Said Damanik, Fenomena Partai Keadilan: Transformasi 20 Tahun Gerakan Tarbiyah di Indonesia (Bandung: Mizan, 2002), 109.

[12] The firm Pustaka Tarbiatuna has published many original writings of the Jemaah Tarbiyah activists. These deal predominantly with practical dakwah issues and organization rather than religious issues. There are many publishers, such as Era Intermedia of Solo in Central Java and Rabbani Press of Jakarta, that are allegedly associated with this group but they mainly publish translated books from the Middle East and the Egyptian Muslim Brothers. The work of an influential Muslim Brothers figure, Yusuf Qaradawi, on Islamic jurisprudence has become the main reference. Qaradawi tries to position himself among moderate scholars in dealing with questions of differences in Islamic jurisprudence.

[13] Aminuddin, Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islam, (Jakarta: Pustaka Tarbiatuna, 200), 141.

[14] Aminuddin, Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islami, 143.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Interview with Hilmi Aminuddin, Jakarta, 23 December 2003.

[17] Tim Departemen Kaderisasi Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, Manajemen Tarbiyah Anggota Pemula (Jakarta: DPP Partai Keadilan, 2003), 57.

[18] See Rizqon Khamami, “Kebangkitan Neo-Wahabisme,” Duta Masyarakat, 16 August 2005.

[19] Ibid.

[20] See “Kader Muhammadiyah Tergiur ‘Rumah Yang Lain’” Suara-Muhammadiyah.or.id, 5 October 2005. Within Muhammadiyah, and in particular among the older activists, there have been worries about PKS members taking over Muhammadiyah branches and activities in the strongholds of Muhammadiyah, such as West Sumatra. See Abdul Munir Mulkhan, “Sendang Ayu: Pergulatan Muhammadiyah di Kaki Bukit Barisan,” Suara-Muhammadiyah.or.id, 2 January 2006.

[21] The charge was circulated by the so-called “pure” Salafis in order to preserve the original teachings of salafus salih and it excluded those who did not follow in the way which their predecessors had understood. For more detailed allegations, see www.salafy.or.id under the title Membongkar Pikiran Hasan al-Banna (Revealing Hasan al-Banna’s Thought). The article was translated from the Arabic version written by Shaikh Ayyid ash-Shamary, Turkah Hasan al-Banna wa Ahamul Warithin, (Saudi: Maktabah as-Sabab, 2003). See also “Historical Development of Methodologies al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen and Their Effect and Influence upon Contemporary Salafee Dawah,” Salafi Publication (March 2003).

[22] Both Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali are main references for traditionalist in terms of theology and Sufism respectively.

[23] See Hasan al-Banna, Risalah Pergerakan Al-Ikhwanul Muslimin 2, tran. Anis Matta et.al. (Solo: Era Intermedia, 2001), 234-238.

[24] See “Gerakan Islam Kontemporer: Sebuah Sketsa tentang Gerakan Salafi dan Laskar Jihad di Jogyakarta,” www.lkis.org/islam_kontemporer.php.

[25] See Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, 121.

[26] Aminuddin, Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islam, 142.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Three important books written by leading figures of the Jemaah Tarbiyah and the committee of PKS, Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islam (the Dakwah Strategy of the Islamic Movement) by Hilmi Aminuddin, Negara dan Cita-Cita Politik (the State and Political Ideals) by Abu Ridha, and Rekayasa Masa Depan Menuju Kemenangan Dakwah Islam (the Engineering of Future towards the Triumph of Islamic Dakwah) by Cahyadi Takariawan are filled with quotations from Hasan al-Banna; there is no mention of Sayyid Qutb.

[29] See Ainur Rofiq Tamhid Foreword to Syekh Abdur Rahman Abdul Khaliq, Penyimpangan-Penyimpangan Tasawuf, trans. Ahmad Misbach (Jakarta: Rabbani Press, 2001), vii.

[30] Hidayat Nurwahid and Untung Wahono, Pengaruh Sekularisasi dan Globalisasi Barat Terhadap Harakah Islamiyah di Indonesia (Jakarta: Pustaka Tarbiatuna, 2001), 21.

[31] Ahmad Firman Yusuf, foreword to Pimikiran Politik Kontemporer Al-ikhwan Al-Muslimun: Studi Analitis, Observatif, Dokumentatif, by Taufiq Yusuf al-Wa’iy, trans. Wahid Ahmadi and Arwni Amin (Solo: Era Intermedia, 2002), 6.

[32] In the Qur’an VI: 60 it states: “Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad] and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to “taghut” (false objects of worship), while they were commanded to reject it, and Satan wishes to lead them far astray.”

[33] Yusuf, foreword to Pemikiran Politik Kontemporer, 10.

[34] Michael Gilsenan, Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: an Essay on the Sociology of Religion, (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1973), 4.

[35] Ibid.

[36] John Obert Voll, Islam Continuity and Change in the Modern World (Essex: Westview Press, 1982), 175.

[37] Ishak Musa Husaini, The Muslim Brethren (Westport: Hyperion Press, 1986), 25.

[38] Rabi, Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence, 67.

[39] Al-Banna, Memoar Hasan al-Banna, 199.

[40] Mitchell, The Society of Muslim Brothers, 6.

[41] Aminuddin, Strategi Dakwah Gerakan Islam, 143.

[42] Al-Banna, Risalah Pergerakan 2, 227-229.

[43] Mitchell, The Society of Muslim Brothers, 6.

[44] Rabi, Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence, 67.

[45] Al-Banna, Memoar Hasan al-Banna, 42-43.

[46] Ibid., 132

[47] The Sufi model of brotherhood or family is the best way of disseminating Islamic teachings. The organised Sufis, under their charismatic leader, easily expanded their influence beyond national borders. Some tarekat also served as clandestine organizations that aimed to challenge the authority of an unjust ruler of the day. See Abu Bakar Acheh, Pengantar Sejarah Sufi dan Tasauf (Kelantan: Pustaka Amar Press, 1977), 313.

[48] A member of the tarekat may stay in the zawiyah (contemplation room) or the house of al-ikhwan. See Martin van Bruinessen, Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Indonesia (Bandung: Mizan, 1992), 15.

[49] Al-Banna, Memoar Hasan Al-Banna, 43.

[50] Ibid., 116.

[51] Gilsenan, Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt, 73.

[52] Martin van Bruinessen, Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Indonesia (Bandung: Mizan, 1992), 83.

[53] Al-Banna, Memoar Hasan al-Banna, 80.

[54] Brynjar Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: the Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942 (Readings: Ithaca Press, 1998), 115.

[55] Al-Banna, Risalah Pergerakan 2, 163.

[56] Harris, Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt, 143.

[57] Ibid., 152.

[58] See Zakariyya Sulayman Bayumi, The Muslim Brothers and the Islamic Associations in the Egyptian Political Life, 1928-1948 (Cairo: Maktabah al-Wahda, 1978) as quoted by Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, 9.

[59] He wrote a book entitled Hasan al-Banna: Mata, Kaifa wa Li-mada? (Cairo: Maktabah Madbuli, 1977).

[60] See his book al-Harakiyah al-Siyasiyah fi Misri 1945-1952 (Cairo: Dar al-Tawzi wa al-Nashr al-Islamiyah, 1972).

[61] Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, 7. The stance of the Muslim Brothers vis-a-vis the palace indicates a certain Sufi tradition more accommodating to rulers, and the way in which they gave their support to combat secular and foreign forces in the country.

[62] Interview, anonymous, Jakarta, 23 April 2003.

[63] Bruinessen, Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Indonesia, 87.

[64] Gilsenan, Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt, 95.

[65] Mitchell, The Society of Moslem Brothers, 8.

[66] Al-Banna formulated ten prerequisites of the covenant. These include understanding (al-fahm), sincerity (al-ikhlas), action (al-‘amal), honest striving (al-jihad), sacrifice (al-tadhiyyah), obedience (al-ta’ah), perseverance (al-thabat)), authenticity (al-tajarrud), brotherhood (al-ukhuwwah) and trust (al-thiqah).

[67] In his memoir, al-Banna includes a story which describes his goals after graduating from the University of Darul Ulum. He dreamed he became a great teacher who took on a responsibility to educate people through academic training and a great supervisor to extend spiritual guidance to people through the Sufi tradition. See Al-Banna, Memoar Hasan al-Banna, 96-100.

[68] Majelis Pertimbangan Partai PK, Panduan Organisasi Partai Keadilan (Jakarta: DPP PK, 2001), 19.

[69] In the practice of the Naqsyabandiyah order, students are supposed to sense their teacher’s presence as much as they can in order to strengthen their spiritual connection with him.

[70] Hasan al-Banna, Al-Ma’tsurat Sughra: Doa & Dzikir Rasulullah SAW Pagi dan Petang (Jakarta: Sholahuddin Press, 1996). Jemaah Tarbiyah activists have used this formula of prayer as part of their daily practice. Thousands of books of collections of al-Banna’s prayers are widely distributed by the Prosperous Justice Party.

[71] Keadilan Online, 20 May 2003

[72] Hidayat Nurwahid, Mengelolah Masa Transisi Menuju Masyarakat Madani (Jakarta: Fikri Publising, 2004), 109.

[73] See Hasan al-Banna, Konsep Pembaruan Masyarakat Islam (Jakarta: Media Dakwah, 1983).

[74] See Cahyadi Takariawan, Rekayasa Masa Depan Menuju Kemenangan Dakwah Islam (Jakarta: Pustaka Tarbiatuna, 2003).

[75] Al-Banna, Risalah Pergerakan 1, 175.