Islamic Resurgence and Tajdid (Renewal) Tradition

In November 1979 Muslims throughout the world celebrated the beginning of the 15th century of Islamic calender (hijriah), which was expected as ‘the century of Islamic Resurgence’ (Abad Kebangkitan Islam). It was expected that by entering the new century, “Muslims would return to Islam, a religion and a way of life which is believed would increase Muslims' prestige and humanity” (Hamka and Saimima, 1980:1). In the 1970s in Muslim countries throughout the world, various social and political events occurred. These events included the application of Islamic law in Pakistan and Libya, the Islamic opposition movements in Egypt and Turkey, Muslim rebellions against Marxist government and Soviet invasion in Afganistan, and the Islamic separatist movement in Mindanao Island in the Philippines. Similar phenomena also occurred in Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, Malaysia and other countries where Muslims constituted the majority of the population. One of the most important events was the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which has influenced Islamic activists throughout the world.

Besides this political activism, there is a growing consciousness of Muslims toward Islam both in social and individual lives. In social life, this can be seen in the establishment of various Islamic institutions such as Islamic banks, organisations, laws, social welfare services and educational institutions. Likewise, in individual life, this can be seen in the increasing attention to religious observances such as mosque attendance, prayer, and Islamic dress, and from the increasing Islamic proselytization (dakwah). These political, social and individual manifestations of the Islamic resurgence can be seen throughout the Muslim world, in a variety of political, social and cultural settings.

In Indonesia such phenomena could also be seen in the mid-1970s when Islamic resurgence among young Muslim generations emerged. This was marked by the involvement of young people in various religious activities. Many young people went to the mosque where they learnt and discussed Islam. Such activities not only could be seen in various public mosques but also in school and university campuses. Moreover, many female students, both in senior high schools and universities started to wear the veil (kerudung).[5] This was followed by the emergence of various Ikatan Remaja Masjid (Youth Mosque Associations) in public mosques and Islamic preaching institutions in university campuses (Lembaga Dakwah Kampus). In every large public mosque (Majid Jami or Masjid Raya) there was always a youth sector, which organised Islamic activities for youth. Istiqamah Mosque in Bandung, Sunda Kalapa and Al-Azhar Mosques in Jakarta figured prominently in these activities. In almost every university there was an institution which organised Islamic activities. From these universities the da'wah movement spread gradually to other surounding universities. The spread of the movement took place through mutual campus visitation, Islamic preaching institutions, and coordinated joint activities.

In the 1980s there was another phenomenon, namely the emergence and development of various Islamic movements, known as Harakah (an Arabic, ‘movement’). Different from conventional and formal Islamic movements, such as Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama or Persatuan Islam (Persis), these Islamic movements were not formal Islamic organisations, and some of them were even called underground movements. Moreover, unlike those formal Islamic movements founded by great ulama, the experts in traditional Islamic knowledge, these new Islamic movements were founded and pioneered by young mubaligh (preachers), most of them not trained in the traditional Islamic education system, pesantren, but in public schools and universities. The main base of these movements was usually the various campus Islamic preaching institutions (LDK, Lembaga Dakwah Kampus) and the public mosques.

 Like Islamic movements in other parts of the world, there are three main themes of this new Islamic phenomenon, namely: the application of Islamic law (shariah), making Islam a way of life, and the freedom from non-Muslim political and cultural domination. Politically and sociologically, these themes derived from the awareness that the Islamic community (Umat Islam), even when in a majority, was internally politically, economically and religiously weak. Religiously, these themes derived from a belief that Muslims have departed from true Islamic values due to the infiltration and assimilation of both local indigenous and foreign un-Islamic beliefs and practicies. The political and economic life of the Islamic community, in their view, has for a long time been controlled by other religious and ethnic minority groups. Moreover, they also assert that Islam, as the religion of the majority, has not been able to inspire the social and cultural life of the Indonesian community. Two intellectual Muslims explained:

The development of communication technology has been controlled by ‘other people’, who forced us to neglect religion (Islam) in our lives. Every night television programs, which entered our bed rooms, tempted us to leave Islamic values. Moreover, reading sources in our homes, such as books, magazines and newspapers are almost all provided by those who ruin our faith and belief (Iman and Aqidah). As a result of this, areas formerly regarded as Islamic regions, such as the ‘Mecca veranda’ (Serambi Mekkah)[6] and other places, are now penetrated by “modern” culture with its all lousiness (kebrengsekannya), prostitution, gambling and other wickednesses, which are regarded as proper things…

It is clear that politically from the old order till the new order, the Islamic community, although they are a majority in this country, has always been cornered (terpojok) (Hamka and Saimima 1979:3).

 Through religious legitimation, these new Islamic movements tried to transform their present societies into the ideal society exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad. To achieve this, like many previous Islamic revival movements, they encouraged Muslims to return to the Qur'an and the Sunnah (model and example) of the Prophet. Based on these prime sources, they believed that Islam is the only solution of those problems faced by Muslims. For them, Islam is a total way of life which is applicable to all times and places. There is no separation between the religious and worldly life, and between state and religion. The main goal of these movements is the government of a community based on the God's revealed law (Sharia). Within this ideal community, God is sovereign over all people, and individual freedom is guaranteed. Those who resist this goal, either Muslims or non-Muslims, are regarded as enemies of God.

This research is concerned with these phenomena of the Islamic resurgence movement among young people in Bandung, focusing on its emergence, development and routinisation, which took place between the 1970s and the early 1990s. The subject I have studied, borrowing Nakamura's[7] term, is an “on going [process] of Islamisation … in which a substantial number of Muslims regard prevailing religious situations (often including themselves) as unsatisfactory and, as a corrective measure, strive to live up to what they conceived as the standard of the orthodox teaching of Islam” (1983:2). Such a process, Nakamura further said, is a “self-conscious re-Islamisation of Muslims by themselves… [which] emphasized not only the necessity to conform to the ritual orthodoxy of Islam but also the genuine devotion to fulfilling the moral and ethical teaching of Islam” (Ibid).

Contemporary Islamic resurgence in Indonesia, like Islamic movements in other parts of the Islamic world is deeply rooted in the Muslim medieval and modern historical experience. Muslim historical heritage provides bases, symbols and concepts for the current Islamic resurgence. Contemporary Islamic resurgence, like previous Islamic movements, is a reflection of longstanding tradition and continuation of a renewal (tajdid) tradition in Islamic history (Voll, 1983:32–47 and Ahmad, 1983:222). It is an expression of the revitalization of Islamic faith and practices as an attempt to bring Muslim individual and communal life into the right path based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. Besides this notion of tajdid, there is also the Islamic idea of dakwa (to call people, especially Muslims to obey the divine command and to model the life of the Prophet Muhammad) and of al-amru bi al-makruf wa al-nahy an al-munkar (to command the good and forbid the evil) which obliges every Muslim individual to correct any kind of impurity and corruption within society.

The notion of tajdid (renewal) in the Islamic tradition can be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad, who said that “At the turn of each century there will arise in this ummah (the Muslim community) these who will call for a religious renewal (revival)”.[8] Such people (mujaddid),[9] are believed to always come in the time when Muslim community departs from the true path defined by the Qur’an and sunnah (example of the Prophet). The task of the mujaddid, therefore, is to return Muslims to their basic sources (the Qur’an and sunnah), to clean Islam from all un-Godly elements, to present Islam and make it flourish more or less in its original pure form and spirit (Maududi, 1981:34–5 and Voll, 1983:).

The source of validity of this Islamic renewal (tajdid) is the perfect model available in the revelation, Qur’an (wahyu, words of God) and the traditions and customs of the Prophet (sunnah). The era of the Prophet is an ideal model of a society in which revelation is applied in human life. The purpose of the tajdid is to implement this ideal model in Muslims’ lives, wherever and whenever Muslim society exists. This purpose implies that tajdid is a continuous effort by Muslims always to explain Islam and make it applicable in continually changing situations without violating its principles. Contemporary Islamic resurgence, therefore, is inspired by the example of past experience, not by a hope for a future utopia like messianic or millenarian movements, which depend on the notion of the future when a saviour or Messiah will appear. Nevertheless, the tajdid tradition in Islam cannot be seen as conservatism[10] because of its past orientation. This is because, as history has shown,tajdid movements often criticise the established institutions and traditions, and even by revolution challenge the existing system. Moreover, the progressive ideas of the tajdid tradition and current Islamic resurgence are demonstrated in their basic acceptance and accommodation to modernity[11] (Cantory 1990:183–94). The notion of the ideal era of the past here should be understood as a perennial model and not as antiquated custom.

 The difference between contemporary tajdid (renewal) and the previous ones is that the contemporary tajdid movement occurs in an era of globalisation in which the electronic revolution in mass communication has broken down boundaries between countries. Satellites, transmitters and television networks make the citizens of the world a global community. In such a situation the insistence on Muslim unity in a single Islamic international community (Ummah) becomes a reality. The growth of global systems of communication, according to Bryan S. Turner (1994:90), “[reinforced] the concept of Islam as a global system.” Such a situation also influenced the way tajdid ideas and movements have emerged and spread. Through global communication systems tajdid ideas and movements in one Muslim country can rapidly spread to other Muslim countries. This makes it possible for one movement in a Muslim country to have branches in other Muslim countries, a phenomenon that never existed before.