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Home arrow Religion arrow Islam and the making of the nation: Kartosuwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia


In the previous chapter, I mentioned that the connections between the Middle East and Southeast Asia were kept alive by the circulation of pilgrims, students and printed material, which stimulated a vibrant exchange of ideas across these regions. I also showed that debates within Sarekat Islam often touched upon issues involving the wider Muslim world. As far as Kartosuwiryo himself is concemed, there is not much evidence of direct contact with Middle Eastern modernists or activists. However, there is enough evidence to suggest a degree of influence that goes beyond ‘parallel development’, as instead argued by Howard Federspiel in the case of Persis leader Ahmad Hassan and Hasan al-Banna, for example.[1] In this section, I do not suggest any causality or a direct reproduction of Middle Eastern patterns in Indonesia, but simply wish to highlight instances in which foreign developments were brought to bear upon Kartosuwiryo’s ideas since the late 1920s.

It is worth noting that C.A.O. van Nieuwenhuijze, in his Aspects of Islam in post-colonial Indonesia, mentioned that whilst he was in Egypt at a meeting with Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in 1950 he was questioned on the Darul Islam movement of West Java. Van Nieuwenhuijze defined their enquiries as an interest

supported by a good deal of rather detailed information, it seemed.

In fact, would it not be surprising if no relations existed between movements, each so well settled - even though not legally - in its own society?[2]

In more abstract terms, Boland also suggested possible influences from the Muslim Brotherhood and Abu Ala Mawdudi on the Darul Islam.[3]

I could find no indication of Mawdudi’s influence on Kartosu- wiryo. However, some evidence of direct contact between Hasan al-Banna’s group and the Indonesian community in Cairo can be found in the existence of the post-independence group named, in Arabic, Lajnatul-Difa’i’an Indonesia (Committee for the Defence of Indonesia, in Indonesian: Panitia Pembela Indonesia). It appears that Hasan al-Banna participated in its establishment, together with other Brotherhood leaders and the Palestinian leader Muhammad Ali Taher in October 1945. Further, when in April 1946 the Indonesian Republic’s delegation visited Cairo, the delegates were received by al-Banna and dozens of Brotherhood members.[4]

The military publication Penumpasan pemberontakan D.I./T.I.I, S.M. Kartosuwiryo di Jawa Barat, itself a collection of Darul Islam documents’ reproductions, as well as accounts produced after Kar- tosuwiryo’s capture, report that in the 1950s Kartosuwiryo’s intention was to first consolidate his authority on the archipelago, and then to build relations on the international level with Malaysia, Pakistan and Egypt. Once linked with movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Indonesian Islamic state would have been able to establish a pan-Islamic dewan Khalifatullahfil’ardi (Council of God’s Caliphate on Earth), which would assume a federal structure with a rotating leadership of two-year terms.[5]

Finally, I would like to add some reflections on Kartosuwiryo’s use of one specific term, sji’ar Islam, between 1929 and the mid 1940s. As explained below, this has a wide range of meanings. Although at first glance ‘Nasib ra’iat Tjitjoeroek’ (published in Fadjar Asia on 11 May 1929) might seem no different from other articles in which Kartosuwiryo invoked Islam as the solution to all social problems, it is worth noting that he uses the word sji’ar. In traditional fiqh (jurisprudence), this term was used to define the mark of sacrificial animals, pilgrimage ‘stations’, and sumptuary laws. Though the use of this word has been increasingly common in Islamist circles since the 1970s, it had not been present in the Indonesian context in the preceding decades, leading scholars to believe that it had been introduced only during the Islamic revival period. I have, however, encountered the term on several occasions, from this 1929 article to the Sikap hidjrah pamphlet, and the Soeara MIAI magazine during the Japanese occupation. In its contemporary usage and in Kartosuwiryo’s understanding, the term indicates a complete implementation of Islamic precepts, equating the expression Islam kaffah. What is most relevant to this study is that it appears that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was using this sense of the term sji’ar Islam in their early days.[6]

  • [1] Howard M. Federspiel, Islam and ideology in the emerging Indonesian state: The Persatuan Islam(Persis), 1923-1957 (Leiden: Brill, 2001), p. 121.
  • [2] C.A.O. van Nieuwenhuijze, Aspects of Islam in post-colonial Indonesia: Five essays (The Hague/Bandung: Van Hoeve, 1958), p. xi.
  • [3] BJ. Boland, The struggle of Islam in modern Indonesia (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982), p. 147.
  • [4] Rizki Ridyasmara, ‘Yang pertama kali mendukung kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia 1945’,Maja,la,h Saksi 4-21 (18 August 2004), (accessed 5 May 2009).
  • [5] Dinas Sejarah TNI, Penumpasan pemberontakan, pp. 80-1.
  • [6] For the above information on sji’ar Islam I am indebted to Michael Feener, who is researching this subject.
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