Today, 31 May 2018. just mid-Ramadan, we received the message that one of the most energetic, renovating and inspriing Muslim intellectual of Indonesia, Dawam Rahardjo died at the age of 76 years. He was born 12 April 1972, only three months younger than I myself.
Dawam studied economy and always remained inspired by the theories and views of the science of economy. But he was also a concerned Muslim: close to the young, progressive group of Masyumi thinkers asnd later the best of the Suharto/Habibie order. He adored Harun Nasdution, but also had his silly moments with Harun Nasution.
In the period 1981-3 I was a lecturer at the IAIN (now UIN) of Ciputat/Jakarta. Many young students like Din Syamsuddin, Azyumardi Azra, and many others, were close to LP3ES and its mixture of traditional pesantren background and modern social (rather than religious) science in the West. They supported development programmes and liked to receive money from the European and American development foundations. Peter Berger was mor important than forml Christian theologians in their quest for tools to modrnize Islamic thinking.
Once in 1982 he called for a meeting with Harun Nasution, but also the Catholic philosopher Dr. Kees Bertens, myself as a visiting professor ath the IAIN, as well as a small number of his Muslim friends. Dawam
proposed in a long expose that he wanted to develop some kind of Islamic
Applied Theology. This should not be about the doctrine of God, which is the
subject of Usuluddin and kalam, but a
study of how to live religiously in society. His formula was 'applied theologye'. However, this should not be based
upon the traditional rules of shari’a.
In fact this is what he later did with his magazine Ulumul Qur’an and his book Ensiklopedi
al-Qur’an. Immediately after Dawam stopped with his exposition of the
ideas, Harun Nasution gave a short but harsh answer: ‘this is the field of shari’a and I am no specialist in shari’a and therefore will not join the
programme.’ Bertens and I explained that in Christianity there is a philosophical
approach to ethics and also that social science should be taken more seriously
in religious studies, especially for social ethics. But in some way Harun
Nasution did not like to become involved in a program like this. Maybe he knew
already better than I did that there was a suspicion of Communism connected to
Theology of Liberation. Somewhat later there was a priest in Singapore taken to
prison for subversive activities under the label of Theology of Liberation and
there were some problems in Indonesia as well.
Recently I sent most of the more than 3000 books, I once bought in Indonesia, back to the Theologicalo School, next to the UIN of Banjarmasin. But I kept the book by Dawan: Ensiklopdi al Qur'an, one of his major works, besides the still important academic journal Ulumul Qur'an. I read again his debate about banking as a gift for a good and socially balanced economy. The banks do not seek money from the poor, but are a meansd to facilitate a just and equal society, at leasst in their better appearances.
We must feel grateful to such a wise and open man, with the abilities of good writing, even more of organizing big projects and defending poor people like the humiliated and condemned Ahmadi people.
God be praised for a gift like Dawam Rahardjo, may his illuminating idea of a modern and just Islamic thinking be continued.