donderdag 23 augustus 2018

Syafii Maarif published by Leiden University Press

In 2009 Achmed Syafii Maarif (SAM) published two books that asked much attention. He was one of the authors of the angry book Ilusi Negara Islam, The Illusion of an Islamic State, as propagated by hardline traditionalist Muslim from the Middle East who had infiltrated since the 1980s in the heaven of moderate Islam in Indonesia.In that same year he published the first version of Islam dalam Bingkai Keindonesiaan dan Kemanusiaan, later in a second edition in 2015 and now in an English translation at Leiden University Press.
 ASM was general chairperson of the Muhammadiyah between  1998 and 2005. From the two ideals of Muhammadiyah (purification/modernization) he mostly supported the idea of modernization. He was not really afraid for new things (bid'ah) in the religion of Islam. Instead, as a historian rather than dogmatic theologian, let alone a specialist of Islamic Law, he supported the idea that all religions, including Islam, know developments. One is the regional and so the idea of Indonesian Islam or Islam Nusantara is important for him. Indonesia does not need to imitatethe Islam from the Middle East societies. The other is the historical: the present state of Islam (also in Indonesia) is that is has a low quality of adherents and leadership. Not the deviation in wrong practices, but the low intellectual quality of its leadership is the greatest problem for Indoensian Muslims.
Herman Beck who wrote the preface for the translation of this book, writes in his introduction that in the 1960s and 1970s AMS still supported Muhammad Natsir and the ideal of an integral introduction of sharia law in his country. This is now no longer the great ideal, but rather an enlightened humanist Islam, adjusted to Indonesian culture. There the cover of this book shows the minaret of the mosque in Kudus, built after the model of a Hindu temple (or the transformation of a Hindu one).
I wrote already about this book and its translation 26-11-2016, quoting from my notes for the recommendation of the publication of this translation. Traditionalist Muslim in Indonesia seek support in the Middle East, modernists seek fellow thinkers in the Western world. Such is the new division.
Pages 78-84 are an appraisal of the ideals of Communist leader Tan Malaka, a fellow Minangkabau thinker. Wonderful to read how much sympathy is given here to a Communist protagonist by a prominent Muslim leader.

maandag 13 augustus 2018

The personal belief of Gerry van Klinken

On 12 June Gerry van Klinken celebrated the beginning of his new life as 'pensionado': the freedom of retirement. First there was a conference of two days with papers and speeches about civil rights and status of citizens in pre-colonial Southeast Asia. The final lecture was for Gerry himself who talked not about Southeast Asian history or present status, but about his personal belief.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith has written much about the difference between institutionalised faith and personal belief. They can be quite different, so beware of all kind of too easy statistics!
To my surprise, Indonesia did not play a role in his vision, unless a short remark that he had 'abandoned the last relics of his Christian belief during the wars in Maluku'.
Gerry started with singing: an ancient Greek hymn to Apollo for his fighting the dragon Python and stabilizing, giving order to the world! Then he moved to Socrates, as described by Plato, giving his views about events and myths in a philosophical discourse about the ideal state, a theoria, a true vision, not a lifeless theory in some science to be applied and interpreted.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura had been of much influence for him in his vision of human beings amidst the universe. Lucretius did what Nurcholis Madjid would call sekularisasi: forget the myths, look at the things around as part of the universe that includes also human beings. Material things and conditions are not divine. But Van Klinken did not need Nurcholis or other indonesian people, he likes here Lucretius.
The last model figure here was Spinoza, who formulated the phrase: Deus sive natura,  God or nature are interchangeable: all nature is 'divine'  so to say and the divinity is not separated from nature, instead. Therefore there are ethical commands inherent and clear for all rational people, also for politics: republican and democratic values against monarchy and dictotorship.
The talk is on the KITLV site, available to be read (code: 12062018).
When reading Hamzah Fansuri about the 'unity of being' the wihdatul wujud, unity of man with nature, with other human beings as a condition that includes the divinity, I feel the company of Spinoza, compatibility with the contemporary religious author, as well.
But also now concentrating on the traditional religion of Timor, where Sun and Moon are symbols for a sublime and ultimate reality, shared and supported by the ancestors, I see that also Indonesian spiritual poetry can contribute to our understanding of man amidst the universe. For a Professor of Indonesian Culture and Society, I found this neglect of Indonesian aspects somewhat surprising.

woensdag 1 augustus 2018

Aa Gym between Psychology and Shari'ah

Last week James Bourk Hoesterey was in Leiden to talk about methodology of social science and the humanities. He criticized the emphasis on libraries, books and archives, manuscript collections. Edited short movies should be seen as the new source for finding facts and theories.
Not everybody was charmed.
J. Hoesterey did not talk much about his Ph.D Thesis on Aa Gym, the reason why I went to Leiden to attend his talk. But I could borrow the book and read it.

Aa Gym (born 1962) was the son of a sports trainer in a school in Bandung and therefore the strange Arab-Indonesian name of Abdullah Gymnastiar. After general education and some years in a technical university, some study of accountancy, Aa (older brother, in Sundanese, apparently the same as kakak in Indonesian), earning money with making movies of celebrations like graduation. There was a marriage with a pious wife in 1987. Aa began a business as a preacher in Bandung in 1990. His formal knowledge of Islam and Arabic is poor, but he has a good sense of homour and practical insight in human problems. Already in 1992 Times magazine labelled him as 'Indonesia's Holy Man'. In 2000 he held his first sermon at SCTV, in 2001 his first great talk in the national mosque of Indonesia, Istiqlal in Jakarta.
Hoesterey has a chapter 2 with the title: Popular Psychology and Religious Wisdom. He also compares Aa Gym with televangelists and with other self-help gurus. There is some and even now and then a strong Muslim flavour in his teaching. Frequent Qur'anic quotes are in Arabic, but there is no talk about application of shari'ah. After the terrorist attacks in Poso he once preached in a Christian church and his concern for harmony and unity in Indonesia is sincere.
Hoesterey acknowledges that Islam in Indonesia is part of a global religion with the Arab countries as the centre. But newer developments should not always be explained by this Arab background. Like ESQ Training (Emotional Spiritual Quotient) of Ary Ginanjar has more affinity  to 'the American pop psychology of Daniel Coleman, also much content of Aa Gym is taken from self-help programmes in the international psycho-market.
Hoesterey started research in 2006 and after about one year it became known that Aa Gym had taken a second wife and his imperium of some 700 employees collapsed within a few weeks. The researcher was present and gives a fascinating story of the scandal. Aa Gym recovered slowly but never became as famous as before. What a case for a researcher, to be so close to so dramatic changes in the subject of the research!
The first chapter of the book looks like a hasty collection of all kind of broader theories. That is necessary, apparently. I liked mostly the balanced narrative of this surprising development of a major personality in modern Indonesian Islam.