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


In early October 1945 the Poentjak Pimpinan Masjoemi Batavia (Masyumi Jakarta Leadership Summit) declared a perang sabil against the Japanese and the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA). According to a Dutch overview of the Malay press in West Java, Masyumi was calling upon Indonesians to work towards unifying religion and state.[1] This call was not an isolated case.

While Van Mook was informing The Hague that nationalist groups in Java had radicalized, displaying ‘hard fanaticism’, Kiyai Haji Hasjim Asj’ari, founder and chairman of Nahdatul Ulama and now chairman of Masyumi’s Majelis Sjoero, issued a declaration of holy war against the Dutch. Published on 20 November 1945 in Kedaulatan Rakyat,[2] this declaration called upon all Muslims to defend the newly independent Indonesia from the ‘infidels who obstruct our independence’ and the NICA. Such a defence was declared an individual duty (fared al-‘ain), and whoever died in the fighting was to be a martyr.[3] At the Nahdatul Ulama congress, held in March 1946, it was decided that all Muslims - men and women, adults and children, armed and unarmed - living within a 94 km radius from occupied areas had the individual religious duty to fight the Dutch. For those living outside the given distance, theirs was instead a collective duty (fard al-kifaya)[4] The legal grounds for this resolution were found in the fact that Indonesia had been declared ‘land of Islam’, dar al-Islam, in 1936, making the defence of its territory and population against infidel invasions wajib.[5]

Asj’ari’s fatwa also announced that ‘whoever divides our unity is liable to be killed’. The view that ‘splitters’ should be equated with apostates was derived from the idea that whoever undermined a united front was ‘a Dutch agent’. It is not far-fetched to suggest that this was a veiled accusation of the nationalists’ readiness to cooperate with Dutch colonial authorities.[6]

The modernist wing, in charge of Masyumi’s central board, was reluctant to endorse Asj’ari’s fatwa, declaring a jihad against the Dutch, and to call the whole community to such a duty. The central congress had already rejected a motion proposed by the Kaoem Moeslimin Indonesia Angkatan Sendjata (Indonesian Muslims Armed Group) to declare ‘war on the way of God’ (jihad fi-sabilillah) a collective religious duty.[7] However, it felt compelled to endorse the pressures advanced from several quarters[8] and supported the plan to prepare the Islamic community for such a jihad.[9] To show its support of this plan, the congress decided in favour of creating a new armed wing, the Sabilillah (lit. ‘on the path of God’), which was a special corps of the Tentara Keamanan Rakyat (TKR, People’s Security Army) placed under the direct supervision of Masyumi to support the already active Hizboellah.[10]

These steps confirmed the party’s general understanding of jihad as a duty to be pursued only by a portion of the population - namely, the armed-youth wings - whilst the rest of the population was to concentrate on ‘studying the social sciences’ and entering the world of politics. Studying and engaging in politics were crucial as Masyumi leaders believed that change was only possible through political action.[11] As Harun Nasution has argued, the modernists sought to create an Islamic state by first preparing its society, whilst the traditionalists believed it impossible to create an Islamic society without first establishing the appropriate government structures.[12] In the revolutionary context of 1946, this distinction was to become blurred, and Kartosuwiryo’s explanation of Masyumi’s strategy will show the uncompromising primacy of independence.

Masyumi’s dedication to establishing an independent Islamic state was constantly emphasized in the pages of its bulletin al-Dji- had. Beginning in February 1946, this periodical conducted a propaganda campaign in support of a holy war, the hijrah policy and an Islamic state, or darul Islam. On 13 February it celebrated the prophetic migration to Medina and Muhammad’s defence of the Islamic city-state as models of political action, suggesting that readers should rise in an Islamic revolution as a free and independent ummah ‘demanding freedom for its religion, people and islands’.[13]

This same month, the party congress unveiled the two pillars of its political agenda: an unshakable dedication to the formation of a darul Islam, that is an Islamic state, and a commitment to do so through parliamentary consultation. This approach was reaffirmed by the party’s manifesto in June 1947,[14] and maintained well into 1948,[15] further strengthened by the temporary character of the 1945 constitution and by Soekarno’s pledge to establish a representative democracy. Masyumi accepted the Republican constitution as a ‘stepping stone’ towards the realization of Islamic ideals in the state; it recognized Pancasila’s harmony with Islamic principles;[16] and it laid out its domestic and international agendas as a mixture of mild pan-Islamism, democracy and spreading Islamic teachings in Indonesian society through education and dakwah (Islamic propaganda).[17]

In this spirit, over the following months al-Djihad often suggested that Masyumi was the most prominent agent of Islamization of the Republic, and that an Islamic state was the ‘logical’ solution for Indonesia.

The magazine articulated its dedication to the formation of an Islamic state as such:

If 33 years ago Islam was only a final coating, considered as just enough to function as a link between organizations, now it is not like that. This Masyumi has a 100% Islamic soul, the spiritual connection among all Masyumi members is Allah’s religion, Masyumi’s flag is the crescent and the star on a red and white background, Masyumi’s aim is the darul Islam, or an Indonesian Republic based on Islam.[18]

Regarding its commitment to parliamentary consultation, it held that:

Now Indonesia is independent, and the Republic is shaped to be based on the people’s authority. Although the Constitution does not fulfill yet the desires of the Islamic community, for the time being this is enough, and we are happy and grateful. But Masyumi is aware that the majority of Indonesians are Muslims, and feels responsible for their safety and feels obligated to provide them with

an Indonesian state based on Islam.[19]

The idea that the 1945 constitution was temporary was also supported by the belief that elections to form a new constitutional assembly (konstituante) would be held soon after the Dutch left the country. This new text, then, had to be drafted following ‘the desires of the Islamic community’. It is on these foundations that Masyumi intended to re-open the debate with the secular nationalists whilst at the same time giving its support to Soekarno. Masyumi, in fact, endorsed Soekarno’s representative-democratic system, and it based its political opposition on the conviction that the party’s large base would - given an electoral opportunity - affirm its political standing and bring forward the necessary changes to establish the Islamic state.

Although Kartosuwiryo’s Garut speech, Haloean politik Islam, delivered in June 1946, affirmed mainstream Masyumi policies, his name did not appear among the party’s executives at a meeting held in Yogyakarta on 7 November 1946,[20] perhaps anticipating the fracture with the party board that would ensue later in 1947.

  • [1] ‘Overzichten van berichten betreffende het republikeinse leger in de Maleise pers vanWest-Java 1945 Oktober-1946 April’, p. 34, AMK Supp no. 78, NA.
  • [2] Kedaulatan Rakyat [hereafter KR], 20 November 1945 in Amiq, ‘Two fatwas on jihad againstthe Dutch colonisation in Indonesia: A prosopographical approach to the study of fatwa’, StudiaIslamika 5-3 (1998), p. 86.
  • [3] Islamic fiqh categorizes actions in five groups: haram (prohibited), makruh (contemptible),mubah (permitted), mustahabb or sunnah (recommended). The wajib/fard (obligatory) actionsare further distinguished between those that pertain to the individual (fard al-ayn) or those thatfall upon the entire community (fard al-kifaya). Nahdatul Ulama literature refers to the ‘jihad resolution’ as being released either at the NUJava and Madura congress held in Surabaya on 22 October 1945, or possibly at the Central Javacongress held in Purwokerto from 26 to 29 March 1946. al-Djihad, 2 April 1946; Amiq, ‘Twofatwas on jihad’, pp. 87-9.
  • [4] ‘Resoloesi tentang djihad’, al-Djihad no. 30, 2 April 1946.
  • [5] This opinion was given by Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Ra’is, who is described by Amiq asthe mufti of the Hadramis, via a fatwa that was later sent to Nahdatul Ulama leaders. The fatwawas eventually approved by the NU Banjarmasin congress in 1936; Amiq, ‘Two fatwas on jihad’,pp. 90, 108-9.
  • [6] This approach is explicit in Kartosuwiryo’s 1949 ad-Daulatul Islamiyah and Manifesto politikno. 1/7, in which Republican leaders and supporters are accused of being ‘Dutch agents’, andthus enemies of war.
  • [7] ‘Kaoem Moeslimin Indonesia Angkat Sendjata’, KR, 15 October 1945.
  • [8] During the khutba for Idul Adha (mid November 1945) in Bandung, Kiyai Abdoessalamhad called on the large crowd to fight a holy war against the Netherlands; in ‘Militaire, politiekeen economische gegevens uit de Maleise pers betreffende de residenties Batavia, Buitenzorg,Krawang, Bandung, Surakarta, Djokjakarta, Semarang en Kedu’, p. 11, AMK: Supp no. 76, NA.
  • [9] ‘60 Miljoen kaoem Moeslimin Indonesia siap berdjihad fi Sabilillah’, KR, 9 November 1945.
  • [10] ‘Barisan Sabilillah’, KR, 17 November 1945.
  • [11] ‘Masjoemi, toelang poenggoeng Republik Indonesia’, al-Djihad no. 26, 28 February 1946.Members of the Masyumi branch in Cicalengka were reportedly shouting - during a party meeting in early January - ‘Freedom and paradise’; in: ‘Militaire, politieke en economische gegevensuit de Maleise pers betreffende de residenties Batavia, Buitenzorg, Krawang, Bandung, Surakarta, Djokjakarta, Semarang en Kedu’, p. 16, AMK: Supp no. 76, NA.
  • [12] Harun Nasution, ‘The Islamic state in Indonesia: The rise of the ideology, the movement for its creation and the theory of the MASJUMI’ (master’s thesis, McGill, Montreal,1965, pp. 76-7).
  • [13] ‘Revoloesi Islam’, al-Djihad 24, 13 February 1946. In addition to several articles publishedthroughout the year 1946 (see, for example, ‘Revoloesi Islam’, 13 February and ‘Peperangansekarang soedah djadi fardoel ‘ain’, 20 April) the magazine also published boxes containingadvertising slogans such as SIAP sedia untuk berdjuang fiSabilillah, Djihad Sabil, Daroel Islam itoelahtoedjoean kita, Berdjihadlah! FiSabilillah!
  • [14] ‘Rencana dari Masjoemi’, 20 June 1947, Arsip Kementrian Pertahanan 1946 [hereafterKemPert], no. 1045, ANRI.
  • [15] ‘Cursus Masjumi’, 27 April 1948, Arsip Kepolisian Negara 1947-1949 [hereafter KepNeg],no. 514, Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia [hereafter ANRI], Jakarta.
  • [16] As the Pancasila were never modified, this became a common exercise for Muslim intellectuals and scholars in the early 1950s.
  • [17] Noer, ‘Masjumi: Its organization’, pp. 70-5.
  • [18] ‘Masjoemi, toelang poenggoeng Republik Indonesia’, al-Djihad no. 26, 28 February 1946.This was also worryingly reported by Dutch sources; see ANP-Aneta Bulletin, ‘Centering in deMasjoemi in Indische [archipel]’, Documentatie dienst van ANP-Aneta 10 October-27 December 1946, pp. 423-7.
  • [19] ‘Gemeene Be(e)st kita sabil! Masjoemi haroes djadi Chalifah di Indonesia’, al-Djihad no. 26,28 February 1946. The congress was held in Solo, on 13 and 14 February 1946.
  • [20] Soekiman, Masjkoer, Zainoel Arifin, Djojomartmo, K.H. Abdoel Wahab, Oesman, Mawardi,Soedjono and Dahlan. al-Djihad, 09 November 1946, appended in ‘Regerings Voorlichtings-dienst, Government Information Service, D.N. 718’, [1946], APG no. 997, NA.
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