Changing Images of Three Generations of Azharites in Indonesia 9789814376860

The focus will be on three different generations of Indonesian scholars and 'Ulama who have studied in Cairo, and i

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Changing Images of Three Generations of Azharites in Indonesia

Table of contents :
I. Introduction: The Cross-regional Networks of Islam
II. Islamic Networks in Colonial Times
III. Religious Officialdom in a Secular State
IV. The Generation of Indonesian Students Today: Between Petro- Islam and Rising Fundamentalism

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Changing Images of Three Generations of Azharites in Indonesia

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies was established as an autonomous organization in 1968. It is a regional research centre for scholars and other specialists concerned with modern Southeast Asia, particularly the multi-faceted problems of stability and security, economic development, and pqlitical and social change. The Institute is governed by a twenty-two-member Board of Trustees comprising nominees from the Singapore Government, the National University of Singapore, the various Chambers of Commerce, and professional and civic organizations. A ten-man Executive Committee oversees day-to-day operations; it is chaired by the Director, the Institute's chief academic and administrative officer. The Social Issues in Southeast Asia (SISEA) programme was established at the Institute in 1986. It addresses itself to the study of the nature and dynamics of ethnicity, religions, urbanism, and population change in Southeast Asia. These issues are examined with particular attention to the implications for, and relevance to, an understanding of problems of development and of societal conflict and co-operation. SISEA is guided by a Regional Advisory Board comprising senior scholars from the various Southeast Asian countries. At the Institute, SISEA comes under the overall charge of the Director, who is guided by an advisory committee comprising senior regional scholars.

Changing Images of Three Generations of Azharites in Indonesia

Mona Abaza University of Bielefeld



Catalo guing in Public ation Data

Abaza, Mona. Changing images of three generations of Azharites in Indonesia. (Occasional paper I Institute of Southeast Asian Studie s; no. 88) I. Musli ms-In dones ia-Int ellect ual life. 2. Scholars, Muslim -Indo nesia - Biography. 3. Islamic learning and schol arship - Egyp t- Cairo . 4. Jamia 'at al-Azhar. I. Title. II. Series. DS501 159 no. 88 1993 sls92-91981 ISBN 981-3016-46-9 ISSN 0073-9731

Published by Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Heng Mui Keng Terrace Pasir Panjang Singapore 0511 All rights reserved. No part of this public ation may be reprod uced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior consent of the Institute of South east Asian Studies.

© 1993 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies The responsibility for facts and opinions expressed in this publication rests exclusively with the author and her interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the Institute or its supporters. Typeset by The Fototype Business. Printe d and bound in Singapore by Stamf ord Press Pte Ltd.

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Introduction: The Cross-regional Networks of Islam II Islamic Networks in Colonial Times III Religious Officialdom in a Secular State IV The Generation of Indonesian Students Today: Between Petro-Islam and Rising Fundamentalism

I 3 13

Notes References The Author

31 41 47



This study summarizes ideas developed in a Ph .D. thesis presented to the Faculty of Sociology, University of Bielefeld, Germany. I am thankful to Professor Hans-Dieter Evers for having super vised the thesis and fo r his encouragement. I would also like to thank Dr Sharon Siddique of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for having commented extensively upon the thesis. She furnished me with subtle detail s about Islam in Indonesia. The members of the Indonesian embassy in Cairo were very helpful in supplying me with material and tracks of old Indonesian Azharites. I am indebted to the former Cultural Attache, Dr Azmar Agoes and Mr Masri Bid in, a member of the embassy and ai-Az har and a Dar al 'U ium graduate, for their support and co-operation. I take this occasion to also thank Professor William Roff for his critical comments on my thesis which have been inva lu a ble in the writing of this study. My gratitude also goes to the Deut sc he Forsc hungsge meinsc haft for having financed the project on "Cultural Exchange and Muslim Education: Indonesia n Students in Cairo", which was kindly directed by Professor Eve rs. The ge nerou s financi a l support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for the publication of this stud y is also g ra tefully ac knowledged .



Introduction: The Cross-regional Networks of Islam

In recent years Islamic internationalism (Schulze 1983, Siddique 1985) has become a subject for analysis. There has also been much discussion about how Islam has been reshaped by local culture. In fact, it is generally understood that the elements of unity in Islam have come to be mediated by the differences and controversies between regions and various ethnic and cultural entities. Indeed, within the framework of homogeneity in orthodoxy, one is tempted to forget that there exist variations in Muslim social life which are experienced alongside regional, cultural and linguistic differences. The tendency to view homogeneity in terms of Islamic orthodoxy, and variety in terms of geographical differences leads us to forget that there have always been generational differences in the nature or character of ideal scholars and types of Islamic intellectualism. Such variations, one might argue, perhaps have denominators which lie beyond the rigid borderlines of religious beliefs and scholarly learning in Islam. We will argue here, however, that these variations result from broader societal change. Colonial rule and the introduction of capitalist relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the bureaucratic rule of new nation-states and their ideologies in the 1950s and 1960s, and access to the global media and information networks from the 1980s might also be considered as factors influencing the physical, psychological and spiritual attitudes of religious scholars and intellectuals. This study explores how these societal factors have shaped the variations in Islamic ideals which are to be found at the generational level. The focus will be on three different generations of Indonesian scholars and 'Uiama who have studied in Cairo, and in al-Azhar in particular. This form of religious exchange no doubt has been established through the cross-regional networks of "high culture" in Islam, implying an element of unity in this educational pursuit across generations. A closer look at these different generations would reveal, however, that although an !4/im from Morocco can understand his Indonesian colleague perfectly, ideological differences can be observed between various generations of 1



'Uiama from the same country. Such generation al di ffe rences a re, however, not limited to Indonesian 'Uiama . In the following sections three di fferent period s will be di scussed: the colonial times when Islam ic reformism had a great impact and reactivated scholarship in the Middle East and the world of Southeast Asia; the immediate post-colon ial period when Azharites played a paramoun t role in state functions ; and the seventies and eighties when Islam was affirmed by the wealth of oil-produc ing countries in the Arab Gulf. The immediate post-colonial period saw the institutiona lization of Islam and the extension of networks at the state level in many Muslim countries. One could say that this period witnessed the birth of religious bureaucracies in both Egypt and Indonesia. The seventies and eighties, on the other hand, witnessed radical changes which have led to the emergence of a new type of student with fundament alist inclinations.

II Islamic Networks in Colonial Times

The revolution which occurred in the transport system at the end of the nineteenth century, the opening of the Suez Canal, the greater global mobility of populations, progress in printing, and the monetization of colonial economies which benefited certain classes in the periphery, are all factors which can be cited to explain the growing impact of the Middle East on the world of Southeast Asia. These practical factors went hand in hand with ideological ones which encouraged the traffic of ideas, the proliferation of magazines, and the multiplication of student travellers, as well as the flourishing of the Haj industry. The appearance of these practical factors coincided with the birth of modernist reformist Pan-lslamism advocated by al-Afghani and 'Abduh, which attracted a vast audience in the Southeast Asian world. 1 Panlslamism was not only a political movement, but it also had a material impact on education in both Egypt and Indonesia. It led, for example, to the explosion of magazines, and the expansion of the market of Islamic writings. In both Egypt and Southeast Asia, reformist ideas also played a significant role in shaping nationalism. 2 The impact on Southeast Asia of modernist ideas at the beginning of this century, the widening circulation of magazines, 3 and of networks created in the field of education, the press, and literature have been widely analysed by Noer (1973), Boland (1971), Roff (1967), and Mohamed A. Zaki (1965). William Roff (1970) has pointed to the significance of Cairo for Indonesian and Malay students in the 1920s, who later held important positions in the religious sector. He observed that their number increased as a result of both economic and political reasons. 4 Their number continued to grow, in particular after independence and more than tripled in the period of the seventies. Cairo during colonial times, and particularly in the 1920s, provided a fertile ground for the Southeast Asian students to express freely their anti-colonial sentiments. This, we are told, was the main reason why they preferred Cairo to any other place (Roff 1970, pp. 74-84). What interests us here is how the "new commodification" (Schulze 1987) 3



of Islam along the North-South axis 5 led to the expansion of market s and the distribution of books between the Middle East and th e Malay world ." The Muslim intelligentsia's fight for space within the sphere of cultural production, which was already settled by the West, contributed greatly to the extension of institutional networks within the Middle East and outside it. This fight also created its own rationalization processes. It is clear that at-Afghani urged his followers to write and publish. While 'Abduh stressed the fact that a new elite (or a new type of 'Ulama, or a "middle group") was required to stimulate change (Hourani 1962, pp. 109-40), he also seems to have advocated the importance of technological training. In addition, he suggested that "true" Islam should be taught in government schools to escape the traditional system of education (Ecce! 1984, p. 147). What interests us, however, is not whether 'Abduh was innovative or not, as the eminent orientalist Gibb 7 has argued; it is rather to see how his ideas stimulated the intensification of relations between Muslim countries. Suffice it here to draw attention to the similarity between the Egyptian periodical, ai-Manar and its counterpart in the Malay archipelago a/-Imam, 8 which appeared in Singapore eight years after a/-Manar (Roff 1967, p. 59). Al-lmam played a role in establishing in Singapore the Madrasah al-Ikbal al-Islamiyyah, which was run by an Egyptian named Othman Effendi Rafat, and the school borrowed much of its prospectus from Egypt (ibid., p. 66). From about the 1930s, the influence of Cairo upon the Indonesian intelligentsia became very strong (Boland 1971, p. 213). The personal biographies of reformist leaders and intellectuals in Indonesia show how having contacts with al-Azhar circles and getting acquainted with Arabic works were important factors which stimulated debates about the possibility of creating an Islamic state. How Cairo influenced the Indonesian intelligentsia and how the rationalization process worked itself out in the Indonesian context will now be explored more fully in the examination of various biographies.

Islamic Modernism and Indonesia Those Indonesian scholars who visited Cairo played an influential role in translating and interpreting Arabic works into Indonesian, and thus contributed to the formulation of Islam within the state discourse (see Boland 1971,. pp. 161-64, 2l2). For instance, Raden Fathu-1-Rahman Kafrawi, a Javanese who studied in Cairo,. founded the periodical Seruan Azhar. He became influential in t11t Masjumi party in Java after World War II, and was later appointed Minister o~ 'Rdigion. Mahmud Junus, another graduate .of .81-Azhar, became; head o£ the Department of Religion after independence, ancHatel'llead.oftbe-.lslamicEclucation Division (Roff 1970,



pp. 76 , 77 ). Thu s, the Middle East g raduates played an influential role until World War IP Another student, Djanan Tayeb, was the first Indonesian to obtain the >.J. Iamiyya deg ree from a l-Az har in 1924. H e later became the Chief Editor of Seruan A ;,:har and an acti ve parti cipa nt in Djami'ah al-Chairiah alta labijja al-Azharia al-Djawah , or the Welfare A ssociation of Jawa Students at the Universit y of al-Azhar (Roff 1970, p. 73) . He seem s to have made contacts with M. Hatta, Sunaryo, Sartono, and Wiryono, whom he met in Rotterdam in 1926. Seruan A zhar mention s that Djanan Tayeb was elected a member in the first Islamic co n ference held in Mecca in 1926, during the reign of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud (Seruan A zhar, 1926, pp. 211-13). In 1926 Djanan left Cairo for Mecca, where he was appointed as 'A/im to teac h in al-Ma sjid al-Haram . There he started an Indonesian school, Madrassa Indonesia al-Makkiah , which operated for forty years (Miqdami, 1404-1405 H, 1983-1984, p. 150). He became the President of the Council of Shura of Indonesia in Mecca (majlis shura Indonesia fi umur ud-din bi Makkah a/ mukarramah) . Djanan died in Mecca in 1945. 10 lllustrative of a later generation is Muhammed Rashidi (Rasjidi) who was born in 1915 in Kotagede, Yogyakarta. He studied in the Muhammadiyah school in Malang . In 1931 he went to study at al-Azhar, but under the advice of Kahar Muzakkir (see below), he joined Dar a! 'Ulum (Cairo University). In 1934 he undertook private lessons with Sayyed Qutb, the ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, and studied with Shaykh Mustapha Abdel-Raziq in the faculty of philosophy. He later obtained a B.A. from Cairo University. We are told that in his philosophy class at Cairo University there were only seven students - three Egyptians, two Albanians, one Sudanese and Rasjidi, the only Indonesian (Soebagijo 1985, p. 7). 11 In Indonesia, he taught in Pesantren Luhur, and became the director of the Islamic library in Jakarta. In 1946 he became the first Minister of Religious Affairs, and the period of his tenure in this post has been labelled as "positive for the Islamic community" (Boland 1971, p. 108). He was also among the first ambassadors to be sent to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan after independence. He studied at the Sorbonne under the supervision of Louis Massignon, and obtained a Ph.D. in 1956. The title of his published thesis was "Documents pour servir a l'histoire de !'Islam a Java" (Documents to benefit the History of Islam in Java) (1977). 12 Rasjidi recalls the close cultural relationship which existed between Cairo University and France which was one reason why he pursued his studies in France (Soebagijo 1985, p. 53). He also taught at McGill University, Canada, between 1958 and 1963. From 1965 to 1978, he represented the Indonesian delegation in the World Muslim League, and became the director of its office in Jakarta (Amal F. Zarkashi 1986, pp. 443-44).



Anthony Johns has classified Rasjidi as be longing to the Mus lim intellectual establishment, with conservative lean ings (Johns 1987, p. 279). Johns has suggested this by pointing to Rasji di 's criticism of the diary of the late Indonesian journalist, Ahmad Wahib, who had expressed daring and critical thoughts and questions concerning Islam in modern tim es. Indeed, Rasjidi symbolizes a generation of state religious offic ia ls who had close links to official religious organizations. Al-Azhar, in fact, must be viewed as representing the bastion of official orthodox Islam. However, this does not contradict the fact that there are opposing views in orthodoxy. A third biography, which hints at how the intellectual life in Cairo helped shape political ideas at the time of the formulation of the newl y independent state, is that of Professor Kahar Muzakkir. Born in 1903, in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, he travelled to Cairo to study and entered Dar al 'Ulum in 1925. He stayed in Cairo for twelve years and was a student political activist and member of various associations. He was the leader of the International Association of Muslim Youth and also participated in the publication of Seruan Azhar (Nakamura 1977, p. 2). Muzakkir was in contact with Sayyed Qutb and the Muslim Brothers, as well as the Wafd 13 party in Cairo.' 4 After independence, he played a crucial role in establishing higher education in Indonesia and was the founder of the Islamic university, Sunan Kalijaga, in Yogyakarta (ibid., p. 3). Interestingly, he also played a crucial role in shaping the Jakarta Charter of 1945 and he was among the nine signatories. Together with Wahid Hashim, he advocated the further Islamization of the Charter. The Charter represented a compromise between the nationalist wing and the Islamic group (Boland 1971, pp. 26, 33-37). For many former Indonesian students who studied in Cairo during the 1930s and 1940s and who today hold positions in the state-managed Islamic universities in Indonesia, this period is seen as the most fertile in terms of political activism. A case in point is Harun Nasution, a knowledgeable witness to intellectual life in Cairo in the forties. Prof. Nasution was the rector of the State Institute of Islamic Studies (lAIN) in Jakarta in 1989, and he has written extensively on Islamic philosophy, theology and mysticism. He speaks fluent classical Arabic and his long experience in Cairo has allowed him to gain deep insights into Egypt's political and cultural life of the 1940s and 1950s. Nasution's doctoral dissertation, titled "The Place of Reason in 'Abduh's Theology: Its Impact on His Theological System" was submitted to McGill University in 1968. In 1939, his father had sent him to study at al-Azhar, where he registered in the Qism a/- 'am (the general department). There he followed the halqa system. 15 Originating from Bukittinggi, he had the



example of prominent Indonesian scholars such as Mahmoud Yunus, Mukhtar Yahya, a nd Bustami A. Ghani who were among an older generation trained in Cairo (Nasution 1988, p. II). Nasution recalls having faced problems as a you ng Indonesian as he understood very little Arabic and thus had to take private ·lessons (Nasution 1988, p. 13). 16 In 1940 Nasution obtained a degree from ai-Azhar which allowed him to regi ster in the faculty of Usul ud-din (Theology). With the outbreak of World War II, he was forced to interrupt his third year of studies as a result of financial difficulties . After Indonesia achieved independence, he registered in the American University in Cairo (AU C), where he studied Social Sciences. The curriculum at AUC, according to Nasution, was better organized than that at ai-Azhar, and was based on modern teaching methods. Though Harun Nasution reported that he had great respect for his shay kh teachers at ai-Azhar, such as Shaykh M. Abu Zahra, a prominent Azharite, he hinted that he preferred the modern curriculum of the American University in Cairo where he obtained his B.A. Indeed, he felt that after having studied for a few years at al-Azhar his religious knowledge was not satisfactory and it was too easy for him to obtain the Ijazah from ai-Azhar (Nasution 1988, p. 15). That was why he moved to the American University in Cairo. Prof. Nasution seems to have a more modernist view and argues that those who choose to go to Egypt are usually more modernist than those who study in Mecca. 17 Cairo was for him the centre of political activity. He was an active member of the Indonesian Students' Association. 18 As young Indonesian student s, Nasution and his friends came in contact with different political leaders, from the Wafd part y (liberal), to the Misr al Fatat (the National Socialist) party, as well as with the Muslim Brothers. They also had close contacts with 'Abdel Rahman 'Azzam, the then General Secretary of the Arab League, particularly at the time they were setting up the Association of Independent lndonesia. 1 ~ Yet another case in point is Fu'ad Fakhruddin, who represents an interesting contrast to Prof. Nasution. He is perhaps more conservative and more suspicious of the Western methods of education. Prof. Fakhruddin has held several diplomatic posts in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. He has also worked in the Islamic World League, and was recently elected to the Egyptian Majma'a al-Lugha ai-'Arabiyya (the Academy of Arabic Language). It is exceptional for a foreigner to be a member of this elitist academy and, indeed, Prof. Fakhruddin is the only Indonesian member. His election no doubt reflects the sophisticated level of Arabic knowledge which Prof. Fakhruddin has acquired during his long stays in the Middle East. He himself has stated that he feels as an Egyptian not only when he speaks classical Arabic but also when he speaks the Egyptian dialect.



Prof. Fakhruddin was born on 18 August 191 8 in Bukittinggi . Hi s father, who was an 'A iim , sent him with his uncle to Ca iro in 1928. The young Fu'ad was 12 years old when he entered the Nithamiyyah schoo l in ai-Azhar, founded by Mohammed 'Abduh. He obtained his B.A. there. Th e fact that he was so young when he went to Cairo was an important factor in his quick assimilation to Egyptian culture. In fact, he later marri ed an Egyptian and lived for many years in Cairo. In 1936 he became an active member of the Djami'a h ai-Chairiah, but in Cairo he also worked for the Shell company, and for bus companies to earn his living. In 1947 he was appointed to the diplomatic section of the newly-formed Indonesian government. During the sixties he worked in Cairo and had close contacts with Shaykh Shaltut (then rector of alAzhar). He was also a member of the Masjumi party until it was banned by Soekarno. Prof. Fakhruddin is now teaching in lAIN, Jakarta, and has written extensively on Islam. Although both Prof. Nasution and Prof. Fakhruddin belong to the same generation, they differ in their wo rld-views. This is perhaps because the former had a more Western-oriented education. For instance, Prof. Nasution would argue that Muhammed 'Abduh was in fact a mu'tazi/ite with qadariyah leanings. 20 In this argument, he would place M. 'Abduh, the reformer and moderniser of Islam, in the same intellectual tradition as early Islamic streams of thought, which were considered by orientalists as rationalist ideas under the influence of Greek philosophy. Prof. Nasution has argued that 'Abduh has been misundersto od in Indonesia because people are influenced by jabariyah ideas, or predetermination, or fatalism (Nasution 1985, p. 9). Nasution's interpretatio n of 'Abduh is quite interesting but controve rsial. Prof. Fakhruddin, in contrast, maintains a more orthodox stand when arguing about questions relating to women's attire in Islam, or against certain Shi'i practices performed in Indonesia, or when di sagreeing with the provocative line of Abdurrahma n Wahid, the chairman of the Nahdatul Ulama who wants to alter certain religious practices. The biography of Youssef Sa'ad, a permanent employee in the Indonesian embassy in Cairo, 21 and a living memory of colonial times, also provides interesting insights into a whole generation of Indonesians who, to escape colonialism, sought refuge in Egypt. Youssef Sa'ad was born in 1919, in a small village in Padang. As a child he studied in apesantren. He arrived in Cairo in 1938, when he was 19 years old. He and his father had gone to Mecca on a pilgrimage by ship. In those days, he said, such a trip took many months, and cost about 20 pounds per person. From Mecca, he decided to go to Cairo to study. "During that time Cairo was the centre of knowledge and civilization, and Saudi Arabia was still poor. They used to receive food from the Egyptians,"



said Youssef in an ironical manner. Although he had many relatives in Mecca, Youssers dream as a young man was to study in Cairo. At that time his father owned a religious bookshop and the young Youssef used to send him all sorts of religious books. When he first arrived in Cairo, Youssef registered in al-Azhar. He recalls that all teaching was then done in the mosque, in the system of halqa. In 1940 he decided to study in Cairo University, at that time called the Fu'ad University. He registered in the faculty of Arabic literature where he obtained his degree, "because Cairo University was more modern and better organized". He, of course, read extensively the works of liberal intellectuals such as Taha Hussein, and Ahmed Amin. He recalls jokingly how as a Fu'ad University student he dressed in the Turkish tarbush, and like many of his friends at the time, participated in demonstrations against colonialism. According to him, he decided to fight colonialism everywhere after his uncle was exiled by the Dutch to a remote island because fifty pistols had been found in his home. Like Prof. Fakhruddin and Nasution, Youssef Sa'ad believes that the political atmosphere of the 1940s was rich because it gave him the opportunity to come into contact with various political parties, from the Wafdist to the Misr a! Fatat (the National Socialists). He also recalls that there were some students who had contacts with the communists, but they were only a few. The majority of students were influenced by the Muslim Brothers. Youssef was an active member of the Indonesian Students' Association. He recalls the time when H. Agus Salem went to Cairo after Indonesian independence to build relations with the Egyptian regime. He also recalls collective political action with other student organizations (and possibly even the Egyptian communist party which was quite active in the Suez Canal). Workers in the Suez Canal collaborated with the Indonesians and refused to fuel and give ammunition to passing Dutch ships. 12 As the biographies of these three men suggest, the intellectual atmosphere during colonial times in Egypt was strongly influenced by liberal thinkers, such as Thha Hussein, who were students of 'Abduh (Hourani 1962), as well as by the Salafi Movement which consisted of the followers of Rashid Rida, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. During this period, secular Western educational institutions were established, which also allowed a ..rationalist" view of Islam to flourish. These institutions played a significant role in the creation of a nationalist culture of the period and later became centres for the development of nationalist ideologies. Thus, a young generation of Muslim scholars in the 1930s and 1940s was not only shaped by Islam and its religious institutions but also by secular institutions. Indeed, without the secular nationalist impact, the intellectual tradition which these scholars represent would not have emerged. The impact of Dar al 'Ulum, and Cairo University in general, was starting to be felt in



Egyptian society. Cairo University was a counter pole to al-Azhar and attracted Indonesian as w.~ll as Egyptian students. Critical Islamic writings by Taha Hussein, Ahmed Amin, 23 and Ali Abdel-Raziq, who were considered secular thinkers and who criticized the archaic methods of al-Azhar, had a strong impact on the national universities. These "secular writers" produced interesting encyclopaedic treatises about Islamic civilization. Through the secular modern system it was possible to study Islam in scientific terms. In fact, Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a product of Dar al 'Ulum education. Indeed, he advocated the new type of religious education which he himself had received at that institution (see Aroian 1983, p. 3). Indonesian students were not exempt from these developments. Significant numbers of Indonesian students could readily be found studying at secular institutions. For instance, during Abdul Kahar's (a Dar al 'Ulum graduate) stay in Cairo, two of his cousins were living with him, one studying in the American University in Cairo and the other in the Faculty of Commerce at Cairo University. Another member of his group was studying comparative religion at Cairo University (Nakamura 1977, p. 7). Similarly, although Prof. Nasution is an Islamic writer, a profile of his education also reveals that not all Indonesian graduates opted for the strictly religious alternative. As noted earlier, Indonesian students in Cairo became politically active and were influenced by a number of political groups and currents. Both Prof. Nasution and Prof. Fakhruddin, for example, have stated that they wrote in the local Egyptian newspapers, attended political meetings in Cairo and met important political figures to ask for their support for Indonesian independence. These two informants said that the Wafdist (liberal) ideology had as important an impact on Indonesian students as the Muslim Brothers. The prevailing emphasis on the impact of the Muslim Brothers' ideology on students no doubt has led to an undervaluation of the impact of liberalism. While a good number of Indonesian students were influenced by the Muslim Brothers, it is not true that liberalism played an insignificant part as it is sometimes made out. The reformist Zainuddin Labai al-Janusi, as Deliar Noer has noted, was more interested in the life and activities of the Egyptian nationalist Mustafa Kamel than 'Abduh or Rida, and even translated his biography (Noer 1973, pp. 41-42). 24 Roff, on the other hand, argues that there existed at that time a close association between the communist movement and revolutionary Islam, as evidenced in the events commented upon in the Seruan Azhar (Roff 1970, p. 78). We are also told that Egypt, during King Farouk's reign, was among the first countries to recognize the independence of Indonesia. Indonesians who witnessed this development reported that Farouk's decision was the result of the groundwork which the Indonesian Students' Association had



already laid in Cairo. In fact, it is not a matter of chance that 'Abd alRahman 'Azzam, the General Secretary of the League of Arab States, in his speech in the Ewart Memorial Hall at the American University in Cairo in 1946, advocated the independence of the Arab states. 'Azzam also stated that the League would fight for the freedom of Indonesia, the only Third World country mentioned in the whole speech (Anouar AbdelMalek 1970, pp. 213-18). During this period many Asian countries saw in the international Muslim network a useful source of solidarity. Thus, in 1947 Haji Agus Salem travelled to several Muslim countries in search of support. This resulted in the recognition of Indonesia by many Muslim countries (Woodcroft-Lee 1984, p. 67). This period also witnessed the convening of an increasing number of conferences to support the case of Third World countries. In summarizing some of the prevalent features of this generation, we may state that within the cross-regional Islamic networks of colonial times, a religious scholar was formed who, whether adhering to Western modernism or to an inward view of Islam, remained influenced by the intricacies of the discourse of Islam and modernity as it emerged in Egypt in the second half of the nineteenth century. What was more important than the struggle between tradition and reformation of the dogma of Islam, however, for this generation of al-Azhar-trained Indonesian scholars was the advent of a new world of national independence in which Islam would have to play a new role in founding the institutions and underlying ethics of a national society. From here we will then be able to follow up with the question on how the discourse on the institutional formation of Islam shaped the generation of scholars who were most active in the post-colonial period when the building of a nation required a new generation of Muslim state officials.

III Religious Officialdom in a Secular State

A comparison between Indonesian President Soekarn o and Egyptian President Nasser reveals fascinating similarities in the common search for legitimacy of a modern state, based on both religious and historical traits rather than on communal and traditional patterns of solidarit y. In this respect, an analysis, for instance, of the discursive level of the Bandung conference would be much more significant to understanding political rule in post-colonial countries than "anthropologistic" interpretations25 (for the discourses of the Bandung conference, see Bennabi 1956). Both Soekarno and Nasser referred strongly to Islam as well as to Afro-Asiatism as a form of nationalism. Both men often stated that they were believers. Yet, it is interesting to note that , as they matured, they developed a growing suspicion towards the intermingling of religion and politics. Islam, thus, remained in the rhetoric to enhance the idea of secular nationalism (cf. Lacouture 1971, p. 166; and Legge 1975, p. 251). 26 Both leaders then played an ambivalent role in the use of religious symbols for the purpose o f etatization . ~ It is important to mention here that as in colonial times, the bargaining over the legitimacy of Islamic di scourse was divided between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Nasser claimed an Islam which entailed an Arab dimension but also "with Socialist principles of Ju stice and Equality" (Yatikiotis 1965, p. 123), whereas Saudi Arabia claimed a more Salaji, 2s and capitalistoriented type of Islam . In the sixties, Nasser and Soekarno tried to establish a coalition a gainst the Salaji-oriented movement. This led in 1965 to the creation of the Islamic World Organization in Jakarta. In turn, in 1962, Ill of the Salafi 'Uiama politicians and intellectuals of thirty-one Muslim countries met to oppose the Soekarno/ Nasser alliance and to enforce th e Wahabi vision of Islam (Schulze 1983, p. 35). It is in the context of th e creation of these new nation-states and their attempts to manage Isla m that we should understand the institutional exchange between Egypt and Indones ia. While ma ny of the conse rvati ve 'Uiama in Egypt strongl y resisted 7




the 1952 regime and its reforms, a significa nt sec tion of 'U/ama - in particular during the time of Shaykh Shaltut 29 - welcomed its reform s. As Yatikiotis puts it, certain Azhar shaykhs, such as Ahmed Hassan al-Zayyat and Shaykh Shaltut, enthusiastically carried out the regime's policies (Yatikiotis 1965, p. 144). It is in the context of the Bandung and successive Afro-Asiatic conferences that the regime came to utilize ai-Azhar in international politics. Interestingl y enoug h, the government attacked the traditional 'Uiama by arguing that al-Azhar must be internationalized, because it did not belong only to Egypt but to the entire Muslim world. Moreover, al-Azhar, it was argued, had to play a missionary role in sp reading religion and science in Africa (Crecelious 1966, p. 41). 30 Thi s internationalization argument went hand in hand with the secularization of al-Azhar (beginning with the enactment of the 1961 law) and the subsequent arrests of the Muslim Brothers, who constituted a threat to the regime. Shaykh Shaltut became a pioneer in reviving ai-Azhar and giving this old institution an international flavour 11 within the ideological framework of the newly created Nasserite state. His messages were derived from the philosophy of the revolution (see Lemke 1980, pp. 234-36). It was during that period that ai-Azhar shaykhs were described as religious ambassadors. They often travelled with official Egyptian delegations. In 1955, Nasser attended the Bandung conference with Shaykh Hassan AI-Baqouri (Majallat ai-Azhar, 1955). In 1956, the Shaykh of ai-Azhar participated with the Egyptian delegation in the Indonesian Independence Day celebration (Majallat ai-Azhar, vol. 27 [1956], p. 108). It was on one of these travel s that the Shaykh of al-Azhar requested that an article about the conditions of Hadrami s be written in the Azhar journal, Majal/at ai-Azhar (see vol. 33 [1962], p. 1022). The journal was used for disseminating news from all over the Mu slim world, including India, Pakistan and Africa . Shaykh Shaltut himself undertook several trips. In 1961 he visit ed Indonesia, where he inaugurated the famous ai-Azhar Mosque in Jakarta . He also visited Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Paki stan, Libya , Somalia, Nigeria, and Mali (Lemke 1980, p. 236). Similarly, thi s peri o d witnessed a boom in conferences. Egyptian s were also se nt all over Africa and Asia as preachers, and teachers of the Arabic languageY In 1927, a section in charge of preaching and guidance, dar a/-wa'th wal-irshad, was created within the Ministry of Interior to help the police to establish order. Shaykh Shaltut later brought it under the general administration of ai-Azhar in order to extend it s function s to educa tion and the sending of preachers (a/-Azhar [1964], pp. 364- 65). Following the 1952 revolution in Egypt, the government decided that it should extend it s influence in the Arab world and other Mu slim areas through an institution



like al-Azhar. Accordingly, government subsidies fo r foreign students were increased from 15 ,000 Egyptian pound s to 375,000 pound s (Ecce! 1984, p. 297). By 1952, the sect ion in charge of preac hing and guidance, dar al-wa 'th wal-irshad, included about 300 preachers. After independence, their number increased. The postings or assignment s of these preachers were determined by the demand from the given countries, and undertaken through the ministries of foreign affairs and embassies. In 1959-60, there were about 3,022 Egyptians in African and Asian cou ntries. The number of foreign students studying in Egypt in the same year numbered 14,349 (Yatikioti s 1965, p. 154). The education system in Egypt , in particular, the technical universities, and those teac hing secular subjects, became a great magnet for the Arab and African world. Indonesia, on the other hand, witnessed th e in stitutionalization of Islam soon after independence. Thi s institutionalization allowed the expansion of networks with the Muslim world (see Noer 1978). The Ministry of Religious Affairs was founded on 3 January 1946. Details of the internal controversies between the secu lari st and the Islamic state-oriented intellectuals and the particular situation which led to the creation of this mini stry have been analysed in detail by Boland (1971), Noer (1978) and van Nieuwenhuijze (1958) . 3.1 What interests us, however, is the fact that since the creation of this mini st ry, mo st of the ten M inisters of Religio us Affairs have studied in the Middle East. The first Minister, Muhammed Rashidi , st udied in Egypt. So did the second Minister, Abdul Mukti Ali, who atte nded Dar al 'U lum J" (see Ahmed Shalabi 1982, p. 159) and McGill University. Ali could indeed be labe lled as a religious technocrat. He advocated the modernization of Islam. The other eight ministers, according to Noer, were trained at vario us religious sc hools in Saudi Arabia and ai-A zhar (Noer 1978. p. 16). Religious education was also institutionalized after independence. Mahmud Junu s. another Cairo graduate, who headed th e Normaa / Islam of Pad a ng during the Dutch period, developed an ed ucat iona l plan as head of the Is lamic section of the provincial office. Ge ne ra l subjects were taught with religious ones (ibid .. p. 29). An attempt to co-o rdinate religious sc hools wa_s embodied in legislation in 1950. In 1951 the Isla mi c State University, called Perg uru an Tinggi Agama Islam Nege ri (PTAIN) was founded and it was later integrated into the Institute Agama Islam Negeri (lAIN), or the State In stit ute of Is lamic Religion (ibid ., pp. 33 - 35). Havi ng provided a brief outline o f the major in stitutional developments o r th e day. we now turn to the minutiae of act ua l experiences of Indonesian students in Ca iro in the 1960s. We will focus he re on the experiences of Abd urrahm a n Wahid, the chairman of the Nahdatul Ulama (NU) . His



experiences are representative of those of Indonesian students in the sixties, and reflect more broadly ·some political and social changes which were taking place in Indonesia and Egypt. Abdurrahman Wahid is the son of the famous H.K. Wahid Hashim. Born in 1940, he was educated in many pesantren. In 1964, he was sent on a government scholarship to study in Cairo and remained there until 1966. He then went to study in Baghdad, Iraq (1966-70). Abdurrahman Wahid manages and owns a pesantren in Jakarta. Since 1984 he has been repeatedly elected to the leadership of the Nahdatul Ulama. Abdurrahman Wahid is indeed a person of encyclopaedic knowledge. He speaks excellent Arabic and has acquired a sophisticated sense of Arab culture, although he never managed to finish his studies in al-Azhar because of the poor organization in the university. "My studies at al-Azhar were never real ones," notes A. Wahid. He nevertheless attended courses in Arabic studies and shari'a, and built personal contacts with famous shaykhs. He points out that he followed many halqas and did most of his learning outside the university. Abdurrahman Wahid also benefited from the Egyptian national library, Dar al-Kutub, and many other Western libraries in Cairo, such as the American centre, and the French centre. Perhaps because he was not formally registered at al-Azbar he could be critical of the 'Ulama, who, according to him, were more state employees than religious guides. He later obtained a degree from Iraq. Cairo gave A. Wahid a great opportunity to enjoy the intellectual life of the sixties. "We knew, and saw the world through Cairo," he observed. The Middle East was at that time divided between Beirut as the centre of business and Cairo as the centre of 'ilm (knowledge, both religious and secular). Cairo offered to A. Wahid an opportunity to read both turath (heritage) books35 and modern Islamic literature. He could also follow the interesting debates that were going on between the secularists, communists and the more traditional religious leaders. While acknowledging that Nasser had banned political parties, he praised the Nasser period for allowing intellectuals to express themselves freely in the mass media. He insisted that Nasser allowed a greater freedom of expression but within the official channels created by the state. Nasser's slogan to construct "a thousand factories and a book every six hours" fascinated the young Wahid. "Cairo was at that period boiling and exploding in terms of intellectual activities." Indeed, from an Egyptian perspective, A. Wahid can be viewed as a Muslim intellectual who expresses Nasserite inclinations - that is, he advocates the supremacy of the nation without disregarding the importance of the role of the Islamic Ummah .36 He has followed with great inter~st the debates of such Egyptian liberal intellectuals as Zaki Naguib Mahmud, Soheir al Qalamawi, and Shawki Deif. He acknowledges that he was stimulated by the struggles



that were taking place between innovative, young writers and the more traditional sections of al-Azhar. Wahid is far from being a traditional 'A lim, and is very critical of the traditional Azharites who do not appreciate his journalistic writings. He is certainly critical of some of the theses of Muhammed al-Bahi' (an Egyptian German-trained Azharite who held official positions in al-Azhar during the Nasser era), and his stance of advocating the creation of an Islamic state for other Muslim countries. Al-Bahi' himself enjoyed a prominent official position in al-Azhar during the secular regime of Nasser. Al-Bahi' had argued that opponents of the idea of the Islamic state were imitators of orientalists. Abdurrahman Wahid counters that this is a questionable matter because one can oppose the Islamic state on other grounds. He mentions the example of Ali 'Abdel Raziq's book which pleads for the abolishment of the Caliphate and was strongly attacked in Egypt because it is grounded to some extent in ideas imported from the West. According to Wahid, Abdel Raziq's arguments are based on concepts such as equality, justice and shura, which are all principles in Islam. Some of the Azharites of the older generation have commented that Wahid writes on too many diverse subjects, such as football and other mundane subjects, which is surprising for an 'Aiim. His ideas in all likelihood also contradict the traditionalist position of the Nahdatul Ulama organization. Abdurrahman Wahid is aware of the priority of national (Indonesian) concerns which are often neglected by the Islamists who give supremacy to the Islamic Ummah. It is indeed very difficult to categorize A. Wahid. In fact, in his writings, he is quite aware of the limitations and "indoctrinations", a term he uses to classify national ideologies such as Nasserism (Wahid 1985, p. 272). Unlike many Muslims, he is highly aware of the predominance of the nationalist question in IndonesiaY This has perhaps to do with the intellectual milieu he experienced in the sixties, which has made him aware that consciousness of nationality is the prime mover for Indonesia (Wahid 1985, p. 9). Cairo was also interesting to A. Wahid because it offered a middle path between the Bourguiba regime in Tunisia, which was quite hostile to certain Islamic practices, and the conservative Wahabi Saudi Arabia, which he found too rigid. But Cairo was also a cosmopolitan centre, and his passion for cinema and the arts could be satisfied by the vast selection, from the French films of J.L. Godard and F. Truffaut, to the rich Egyptian cinema of the sixties, which adapted Naguib Mahfouz's novels into movies. During that time, realism in Egyptian cinema influenced a whole generation of movie-goers throughout the Middle East. 38 At the same time, Russian novels translated into Arabic, including novels by Tolstoy and Gorky, were sold at incredibly cheap prices. One could attend meetings in which . Khaled Mohiaddin (leader of the Nasserite-Leftist coalition),



or the prominent sc holar Shaykh M. Abu Zahra participated. Language courses in French and English were also available. At a more political level, A. Wahid was also able to represent Indonesia in the Non-Aligned Movement during this period. All of these activities filled A. Wahid's time and were a source of great inspiration. "During our times, there were debates among Indonesian students about existentialist philosophy, there was a camp standing with the works of Sartre and another with Camus. These debates were taking place in the free intellectual atmosphere of Cairo. Now all this is over, the atmosphere and the types of students have changed, things have degenerated." Abdurrahman Wahid is also very well acquainted with Egyptian sociologists, such as Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and Hassan Hanafi, whom he met at several conferences. Wahid is the prototype of the intellectual 'A/im who would certainly have greater affinity with an Egyptian Hassan Hanafi (Sorbonne-trained philosopher) than a traditional Azharite 'Aiim.l 9 Taking Wahid as a yardstick, we have glimpsed at the very secular outlook of the scholars of this generation. This outlook could well be defined in terms of the emerging contradictions between Islamic education and modernist Western interpretations and orientations regarding the application of Islam to the needs of a newly established bureaucratic machine of the national state apparatus. With this generation, Islam was instrumentalized into a programme of cultural mobilization and orientation of the masses for national purposes. One might simply characterize these scholars as having no legitimacy from the point of view of Islamic orthodoxy, or as being too enamoured of secularism. Such a bald characterization, however, distorts the true role that these scholars have played in the development of Islam. Encapsulated within the intricacies of change between the Soekarno regime and the "new order" of the military, they captured very well a midway stand "for Islam as a means for cultural innovation of the society.

IV The Generation of Indonesian Students Today: Between Petro-Islam and Rising Fundamentalism Symbolically, the 1970s represent an era when "Third Worldism", nationstate building, and secularist ideologies came to be criticized for failing to achieve their stated goals. The Nasser regime seemed to have played an ambivalent role in religion. The state had always made compromises with religion: Islam was declared the religion of the state, but shari'a law was interpreted under the cover of secular law. In short, the regime wanted to formulate religion according to its own political aims (Rodinson 1966, p. 240). This ambivalence and "utilization of religion" to promote foreign politics and to mobilize the clergy to propagate the ideology of the regime so as to create missionaries of socialism among the people (ibid., p. 242) became problematic in the seventies and eighties, when the state, through its use or manipulation of religious symbols ended up creating its own opposition. 40 It was during the seventies and eighties, therefore, that many intellectuals, in the centre as well as in the periphery, became even more critical of "Third Worldist" ideology and secularism. 41 This, however, was felt more strongly in the Middle East than in Southeast Asia. Perhaps the defeat of the Arabs in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war represented the climax for all Middle Eastern societies, when all previous values were criticized. Secularism and modernism, as well as Pan-Arabism were debated, and a strong return to religious values was expressed. According to Laroui, many intellectuals attributed the Arab defeat to the fact that any type of imported social organization, such as that under Nasser, could only lead to failure. This explains the birth of the concept of Asala (authenticity), which was held to be an indigenous reaction against the West. It should also be noted that this trend was not only expressed by the lslamists but also by many disappointed liberals and Marxists who seem to have suffered from successive crises of ideology beginning as early as 'Abduh's time (see Laroui 1988, p. 83). During his early period of governing, M. Anwar al-Sadat apparently used the fundamentalist groups in the university to counteract the Leftist 19



and Nasserite elements. He also gave more freedom to former members of the Muslim Brothers, allowing them to return to Egypt. Later, they formed their own party. Islamic periodicals, such as a!-Da'wa and a/'/tissam, saw the light under Sadat. These periodicals were later sanctioned by the regime. Scholars such as Fu'ad Zaqariyya (1987) have also pointed to the fact that the state in the 1970s strongly attempted to manipulate religious symbols in a more dangerous and obvious manner than during the Nasser period. The religious discourse overflowed many domains of the state apparatus, as well as the mass media. Religious programmes and periodicals, produced both by the state and the opposition, were given wide circulation and more broadcasting time. Religious programmes were also screened on television. Nevertheless, al-Azhar, during the Sadat period, rallied blindly behind the regime and supported Sadat's policy that "there is no politics in religion nor religion in politics" (Ajami 1983, pp. 14-15). At the same time, many high officials of this institution of higher learning worked as economic advisers and counsellors to newly established Islamic investment companies and banks 42 (Roussillon 1987-88, p. 310) - a development that evoked strong criticism among the intellectuals, especially because of their dubious economic activities. 43 The decline of Islamic socialist ideologies in the sixties coincided with the rise of the oil boom countries, led by Saudi Arabia. The success of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was decisive in shaping a conservative form of Islam in the seventies. On the other hand, the success of the Iranian revolution provided an example of a radical form of Islam which was criticized by the Saudi pole. Their legitimate claim over Islamic discourse was strongly disputed by the Iranians, who advocated a radical Islam, and a conservative Saudi Petro-Islam. 44 In the mid-sixties, the Islamic World League (rabitat al-'Alam al-lslami) was created by King Feisal of Saudi Arabia. With the growth of petrodollars, many institutions were created. These institutions extended their domain into publishing and funded projects, organized conferences, built mosques and schools (see Siddique 1985, pp. 339-40). The Islamic World League seems to have played a significant role in Southeast Asia in four areas: establishing shari'a courts; consolidating missionaries, or Da'wa 45 , creating a co-ordination mission called Lajnat at-tansiq a/-'ulya Ii-I- munazzamat a/-lslamiyafi-1- 'a/am (The High Commission of Co-ordination of Islamic Organizations); and offering humanitarian aid to Muslim countries (Schulze 1983, pp. 37-45). The real impact of such Saudi-financed organizations in Egypt and Indonesia is difficult to judge. There is a prevalent view in Egypt that some fundamentalists are indeed financed by external powers, and this is often a view promoted by the regime. However, such arguments are



difficult to substanti ate. In the earl y seventies in Egypt, the poorer classes, and in particular the student s of the national universities, adopted the Islamic dress, the hijab~ 6 (I slamic attire), because it offered the jama'at Jslamiyya (the Islamic fundamentalist groups in the nat ional universities) an economic alternative to exorbitantl y expensi ve Western clothes, which only a small minority could afford. In the eighties, however, the Islamic dress took a different, more sophisticated form. It could be observed that the middle and wealthy classes adopted an expensive and fashionable sort of Islamic attire. With the flourishing of the Islamic investment companies in the eighties, which promoted Islamic shopping centres and Islamic dress, a new "Islamic" form of consumerism was observed on a more bourgeois level. One can argue that these new classes, which display growing consumerist appetites have strongly to do with the Saudi Arabian influence on Egyptian society through, for instance, remittances of returning migrants from the Gulf countries.47 Al-Azhar also seems to have received a significant amount of funds from Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and 1980s. The former Shaykh Abdul Halim Mahmud also appeared to have worked closely with Saudi Arabia (Pipes 1983, p. 299). Many Indonesian students in Cairo today receive scholarships from various Middle Eastern oil-producing countries. In addition, both Saudi Arabia and Libya have reportedly financed projects in Malaysia (Pipes 1983, p. 314). To attribute the dramatic changes of the seventies and eighties purely to monetary factors would be too simplistic and is not a sufficient explanation for the overall phenomenon of Islamization. Indeed, the radical Iranian version is of no less importance. With the modern phenomenon of the internationalization of Islam, observers have pointed to the increasing networks of student associations and bodies overseas (Nagata 1984, pp. 58-60, 103). As for Indonesian students in Cairo, they maintain close links with the Azharite students' associations in Holland, but they also have networks in Germany and England. Their residence in Cairo allows them to come into contact with many Southeast Asian students and there currently exists an Association of Southeast Asian Students in Cairo, which builds links among different Muslim Southeast Asian nationalities. Robert W. Hefner's empirical findings seem to suggest that, under the New Order in Indonesia, a new process of Islamization has been taking place in various regions in East Java which has created tensions between orthodoxy and popular-magical forms of religion (Hefner 1987, p. 536). This may seem surprising in view of the fact that Golkar (the ruling functional group), as he notes, may have been hostile towards Muslims who have expressed criticisms against Pancasila. More control in the religious sector at the local level has been achieved, and state-sponsored dakwah activities also seem to have increased significantly (ibid., p. 544). Hefner's



study helps to clarify many points concerning Indonesian students in Cairo who come from the rural areas. The sudden increase in their numbers in the seventies and eighties is definitely related to the recent process of Islamization. For instance, the 1966 records of the Indonesian Association in Cairo reveal that there were only 36 students, while in 1987, there were about 730 students. Indeed, a similar process of Islamization in Egypt through the rural Azhar institutes, the missions organized by the state, can be observed. In short, the international political situation, including the role of Saudi financing and the growing critique of ideologies, as well as the governments' attempts to manipulate religion, became decisive factors in shaping the discourse on Islam in both the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Islamization has swept the whole Muslim world and it is taking a modern shape - modern in terms of its use of "body language" as a form of social protest, a phenomenon which is not confined to Islamic fundamentalism. Many of these movements can be compared to other non-Muslim religious revivalist ones.48 Here, one could argue that the success of the Iranian revolution and the role of the modern mass-media in transmitting impressive pictures of fighting men and women created a new model for many young Muslims. One could add here that fundamentalism has little to do with "authentic" Islam, or with a historical continuation of certain features of Islamic civilization. It is rather an expression of the problems of youth in Third World countries. Be they in Cairo or Indonesia, fundamentalism offers a way of facing economic problems and participating in modern life-styles. I have here attempted to depict the cultural and intellectual atmosphere of the seventies and eighties to prepare the reader for a description of the "life world" of the Indonesian students in Cairo. The cultural atmosphere of the sixties produced students who were interested in the Non-Aligned Movement and in participating in conferences in Algeria under the auspices of Ben Bella. The way they dressed, as one can see in old photographs of the Association of Indonesian Students in Cairo, was a modern sixties-type dress and women generally did not cover their hair. The intellectual atmosphere allowed Camus and Sartre to be discussed and read. The seventies and eighties, on the other hand, gave birth to a different type of student. First, their numbers had doubled or tripled. Their social backgrounds were perhaps also different from those of the students of the 1960s. Furthermore, all discourse, literature, and dreams were fully shaped by Islam as a political ideology during that period. Islamic ideology overwhelmed all the spheres of thought and language, including the discourse concerning development. Of course, the range of literature read by the students also differed. In the seventies and eighties students' reading interests were oriented towards the Muslim Brotheu, such as Qutb, and the Pakistani



thinker, Mawd udi . Perhaps most students did not have the benefit of reading the secular counterparts of such writers as Qutb and Mawdudi. The wo rks of Ali Shariati, and Khomeini also figured in their reading lists. Whet her the shape of this reading list has mainly to do with their stay in Cairo is a di fficult question to answer. In fact , we are today witnessing the globalization of culture, and such readings are available in the West as well as in many Muslim countries, 49 including Indonesia. Indeed, Indonesia is one of the most significant markets for Islamic book production in Southeast Asia, and many Muslim intellectuals are familiar with Islamic literature without having to travel to the Middle East. To date, the al-Azhar University is one of the most significant institutions hosting foreign students from all over the Muslim world. According to the Egyptian press, Azharite students numbered 5,000 in 1989. We are told that in 1983, there were 3,697 foreign students. There were 417 students from the Middle East, 1,648 from Africa, and 1,243 from Asia. These figures appear to underestimate the true numbers. 50 Informants have reported that the Malaysian community in Cairo consists of 1,200-1,500 students, while the Indonesian students number about 750. There are also about 300 Filipinos, and 54 Singaporeans, 51 as well as students from Brunei, Thailand, and a few Chinese from China. More important, however, is the large number of Egyptian Azharites who are sent as missionaries, teachers and preachers. In 1989, there were 29 Egyptian Azharites working all over Indonesia. These exchanges have contributed and still contribute today to an ongoing process of Islamic institutional formation: upon returning, students may apply what was learned at al-Azhar or take part in cultural innovations at the individual level. In 1987 there were 722 Indonesian students in Cairo 52 as well as 40 post-graduate M .A. and Ph.D. students. 53 In that year no new Indonesian students with scholarships came to Egypt. The year was marked by elections in Indonesia and the government was reluctant to encourage study in the Middle East. Indonesian students in Cairo reported that the regime in Indonesia was suspicious of everything that had to do with Islam and the Middle East. They felt that the government was attempting to cut down the number of scholarships and weaken relations with al-Azhar, while strongly encouraging study in the West. All the informants said that they were discriminated against vis-a-vis Western-educated post-graduates.54 Many students also felt that al-Azhar was considered an alternative for less privileged Indonesians. As many say, it is still cheaper to study in al-Azhar than in private universities in the Middle East, or in universities in Europe. 55 Although the number of Indonesian students in Saudi-Arabia was higher than in Egypt (904 students), all the students there said that Cairo would have been their first choice. However, the majority of Indonesian students in Saudi Arabia are enrolled in primary and secondary



schools. Some pesantren in Indonesia offer scholarship s for study in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. 56 Composite Image of the Contempo rary Indonesian Studen t What are Indonesian students in Cairo like today? This can best be answered by providing a composite picture of the "typical" or "average" Azharite student of the eighties. This composite picture has been drawn from field-work conducted in "Kampung Melayu" 57 in Cairo during the period March-Sep tember 1988 and April 1989. During the period of fieldwork , the present author conducted interviews and actively observed a variety of student activities, including feast gatherings and the day-to-day experiences of female students. Interviews and discussion s with several members of the staff of the Indonesian embassy were also conducted . The student who seeks knowledge in Cairo today would likely be in his early twenties, or perhaps be even younger. 58 In compariso n to the older generation of Azharites who in general came from Sumatra, the students who study in Cairo today come from various regions in Indonesia. Thus, family backgroun ds vary widely among students. A student may likely come from Jakarta. His parents could have close contacts in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which would make it easier for him to obtain an Azhar scholarship . 59 Alternatively, the student might belong to the asli betawi communit y in Jakarta (the original Jakartans) who are genuinely more religious than other communit ies in the city and keep close contacts with the Middle East through family networks. 60 He or she might also come from Sulawesi, Kalimanta n, Yogyakart a or Aceh, following the path of his father or uncle who is an older Azharite. He or she could have relatives among the Southeast Asian communit y (the Jawa) in Saudi Arabia - relatives who would support his stay in Cairo financially and encourage him. His father or mother might be teaching in an lAIN. Most often, however, his parents would be involved in da'wah activities in the religious sector. If the student comes from Sumatra, it is also very likely that his father is a trader. Significant differences can also be observed in Arabic language proficiency, educationa l backgroun ds and motivation s for coming to study in Cairo. Students might have freshly arrived from a pesantren in Java, such as the pesantren Gontor in Eastern Java. Because its certificate is recognized by al-Azhar, a student from that pesantren is directly accepted as a first-year student at al-Azhar. 61 The student might also have acquired a B.A. from an Islamic university in Indonesia, the lAIN, and have a fairly good command of spoken and written Arabic. While some students may seem serious about their studies and religious concerns, others might be in Cairo only because their parents think that it is the most convenient



way for their child to obtain a degree and have access to the established religious sector. Some student s do not reall y appear to worry much about their studies in Cairo as they have a job waiting for them in their parents' shop or business, or a job in a pesantren when they return to Indonesia. Differences can even be noticed in small details, such as the dress of female students. Some female students follow the "Islamic" dress codes more strictly, while others remove the Islamic head-dress when travelling. The latter, however, constitute a minority - the majority of female students would always have their hair covered. Not all female students arrive from Indonesia wearing the Islamic dress. Nevertheless, once they are in Cairo they adopt Islamic dress, conforming to social pressures. Failure during the first few years of university is very common. The first year, in particular, is considered the most difficult for the young student. A lack of proficiency in the Arabic language as well as the complex administrative procedures at al-Azhar are major stumbling blocks which students must overcome. During the first year many students might fail, or arrive too late, to register. Stories of students who collapsed and returned to Indonesia in their first year are also frequently heard. However, it is difficult to find out the exact number of those who returned. Reportedly, only about 30 per cent of Indonesian students manage to finish their studies. 62 It is common to encounter students who, after four or five years of study in Cairo, return to Indonesia without any certificate. 63 Students with higher educational qualifications (such as those who have degrees recognized by al-Azhar and who are accepted into the third year) appear to face less disappointment and failures. Students who strive to succeed at al-Azhar also tend to stress that they come from modest backgrounds and that their parents had made important sacrifices to send them to study in Cairo. Many of these students show much initiative, acquiring a sophisticated command of the Arabic language and culture and overcoming significant administrative difficulties at al-Azhar. It is usually those students who go on to post-graduate studies who are the most politicized and "intellectual" in orientation. They read carefully the debates in the press about the decaying state of education at ai-Azhar and the Muslim world. They take advantage of their stay in Cairo to read secular or liberal literature, or just Islamic literature, which tends to be critical of the clerical body of al-Azhar. Some of these students are interested in the writings of the liberal thinker Zaki Naguib Mahmoud. When asked for their opinion about the fact that Mahmoud has been criticized as a "secularist" by the fundamentalists, three students argued that the whole debate on "secularism" was based on wrong premises. These students noted that Mahmoud had been labelled as a "secularist" merely because he had advocated a scientific approach. Islam, they argued, was compatible with science. Mohammed Imara 64 and the late 'Abdel



Rahman al-Sharkawi, 65 who was strongly criticized by al-Azhar for his Marxist leanings, are also popular writers. The literature of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (Sayyed Qutb in particular) as well as of Islamic historian s such as Hu ssei n Mu 'niss, Ahmed Shalabi, or ideologues such as Fahmi Huwaydi (a former Muslim Brother who has now taken a more liberal stance) or Mohamm ed al-Bahi are also read by Indonesian students. These students (who to my understan ding are a minority) also appear to be familiar with occidental works on Islam as well as contemporary Islamic literature, such as the writings of the late Fazlur Rahman. It is among this category of students that one would find rich Islamic libraries containing both turath (translati on, heritage, tradition) literature and modern Islamic works. It is most likely that once this kind of student completes his M.A. or Ph.D. at al-Azhar, he will join the lAIN to teach, undertak e journalis m and translation work, or preach, or undertak e all of these activities . If he obtains training in the West after completing his studies at ai-Azhar, his future in Indonesia is decidedly secure. These students, it would appear, are a link between the Middle East and the rising Muslim intelligentsia, who are very active in the socio-political life in Indonesi a today. 66 AI-Azhar is still considered the manarat ul-ilm (the headlight of science), the ka'aba of 'ilm, and knowledge of the Arabic language still commands great respect in Indonesia . Innovatio n in Islam is, moreover, linked in many ways with Cairo, and the tradition launched by Muhamm ed Abduh concerning the opening of the door of itjihad. In his argumen t in favour of modernizing the Islamic laws of inheritan ce in Indonesi a, Abdurrah man Wahid quotes as an example the reform of the Egyptian law of inheritance in 1931 to allow women to be given endowments. The image of Cairo as the centre of religion and culture, of book marketin g and production, is still a predomin ant one. Many Indonesian students state that they enjoy the freedom of the press and the large number of publications which circulate in Cairo. Even those who did not manage to finish their studies (and there are a considerable number of these) view Cairo in a positive light. In Cairo they were able to gain a better knowledge of Arabic, which they could use in Indonesia, and to buy many books. "In the end we did not come for the Shahada (the B.A. certificate) but to seek 'ilm", and this need not be restricted to the university, many would argue. However, not everyone feels positive about his experiences in Cairo. As mentioned earlier, a substantial number of students fail to complete their studies. Typically, such a student possesses educatio nal qualifica tions which are not recognized at ai-Azhar. The disorganized nature of the course of study and the emphasis on a..rigid system of rote learning, in addition to the difficult Qur'an examination, all contribu te to the



student s' dissatisfaction . Students also appear to face humiliating difficulties whenever they have to deal with the ai -Azhar bureaucracy. Feelings of di sappointment are no doubt also com pounded by the fact that many of their Egyptian counterparts have ended up at al-Azhar because they failed to gain admission to any other university. Faced with these disappointments and difficulties, it appears that some students veer towards involution and inflexibility in thought Y Students who have failed to obtain a certificate, in particular, tend to seek a purified and simplified version of Islam that might ease their difficulties in Cairo.68 Because such students are not within the university system, they must seek religious solutions or guidance on their own. Attending the lectures or ha/qas of the shaykhs in different mosques in the district of Madinat Nasr in Cairo typically becomes their major source of learning. This reliance on such informal channels of learning means that their understanding of Islam may not follow official channels. Such students, in contrast with their older counterparts who perhaps read religious literature together with the works of Western thinkers like Camus and Sartre, would consider the reading, let alone debate and discussion on Western secular books, as dangerous. In contrast to the Indonesian students in Cairo today, it might be interesting to look at the opinion of an older Azharite who has a different vision of Cairo and its religious and cultural life. Abdurrahman Wahid, for instance, has stated that the experiences of his generation were very different from those of the Indonesian students today. During colonial times, they were mostly influenced by the Muslim Brothers. According to him, the period of the sixties was shaped by more secular, Third Worldist ideas. The period of the eighties was characterized by a fundamentalist tone. Abdurrahman Wahid has also argued that during his time (the sixties) the students had a more intellectual orientation and seem to have had different concerns compared to the students today. He also hinted that he has a low opinion of the current academic standard of the students. This is due perhaps to the fact that stricter criteria were used previously for sending students to Cairo. It also probably reflects the fact that the whole intellectual atmosphere of the mid-sixties was different. The Dilemma of Al-Azhar Education In recent years, the official Egyptian press has raised the issue that al-Azhar university is facing a serious educational crisis. 69 The press has pointed to the alarming problem of the growing academic mediocrity of the Azharite students. Their level of Arabic and religious knowledge is described as deplorable. 70 The standard Azharite student is depicted as no longer



knowledgeable about the Qur'an and the A /fiat Ibn Malik . ~ ~ The general tone of the critique is that the students are no longer fit for preaching and teaching jobs. The Egyptian press has also highlighted the fact that ai-Azhar has always played a missionary role in the Muslim world and that any foreign student is a potential ambas sador of Muslim culture, but that this role has in recent times been weakened by the "crisis" of the educational system. Since ai-Azhar seems to accept students with low grades in the secondary examination, their competence is consequently questionable. Some 'U/ama have even gone as far as to advocate that "handicapped" students should not be accepted in ai-Azhar since, according to them, the presence of such students devalues or undermines the credentials of other students. However, the 'Uiama did not specify what sort of handicap they meant. The implications of such a policy would not be insignificant as al-Azhar has provided poor, handicapped and blind people in Egypt with the opportunity to Jearn the Qur'an, and hence a chance to earn a living. Interestingly enough, many 'Uiama and ai-Azhar staff have argued in recent debates about ai-Azhar that the crisis lies in its secularization and its transformation into a university in the same image as the national university. They maintain that Nasserite laws are aimed at threatening the authority of the 'Uiama. The secularization of ai-Azhar 72 would paralyse the will of the 'Uiama who would thus abide by the political orientation of the regime. In other words, ai-Azhar has merely become a governmental, bureaucratic institution (Ahmed Ibrahim al-Baathi, and Mahmud aiShathli 1987). As a counter argument, it has been suggested that the crisis of ai-Azhar represents only one part of the whole problem of education in Egypt, and that this is more broadly linked to the problem of the declining role of the state in providing services. In fact, the level of education and teaching, and the competency and living conditions of students are in a deplorable state all over the country. 73 Those who had criticized the secularization of al-Azhar in the sixties had also questioned the egalitarian aspect of al-Azhar's regional institutes 74 which had given students from rural backgrounds greater access to higher education that they had been deprived o f for centuries. The crisis does not originate from the modernization of al-Azhar per se, but rather from the way in which modernization has been pursued (Ahmed al-Hifnawi, ai-Gumhuryya, 7 June 1987). It has been argued on the other hand that the creation of the dual system (combining secular with religious subjects) has produced graduates who do not excel in either. The subjects of Arabic language, theology, and shari'a are still taught using archaic methods. The secularization policies have completely ignored issues related to methodology and the introduction



of a scientific, historical perspective (Ahmed Shalabi, Shabab Biladi, 8 February 1986). As ai-Azhar accepts students with low secondary grades, it has been implied that pursuing a religious career corresponds to low academic competency. This is compounded by frequent high rates of failure during the different university course years. In 1986/ 87, only 25 per cent of the 15,758 al-Azhar secondary students managed to pass the secondary examination, while 32.5 per cent of the students then specializing in religious subjects were transfer cases, that is, they had been transferred from the technical faculties to the religious faculties after having failed the first year course at the university for several years (Hassan Abdel 'Al., ai-Ahram, 12 October 1987). Moreover, high rates of failure could be observed in the religious faculties. 75 Another important point frequently raised has been the deplorable economic, moral and social conditions which Azharite students, and in particular foreign students, face in Cairo. The Egyptian press has described the living conditions in Madinat al-Bu'uth (the students' hostel town) as very poor. Before 1989, a student, on average, received a scholarship of 40 Egyptian pounds, 76 of which he had to pay a sum of about 30 pounds for food and housing in the Madinat al-Bu'uth. African students seemed to complain the most as many of them hardly received any assistance from their families. Accounts have been given of students who are forced to hand-copy whole textbooks because they cannot afford to buy them. Delays in cashing the scholarship are very frequent and the press cites pathetic examples of despairing students (see Mohammed Abdullah AlSiman, ai-Ahrar, 4 November 1985). We are also told that many students are forced to work in the Gulf countries as migrant workers; in the case of the Indonesian students, the pilgrimage industry seems to offer an important fmancial resource. Though the standards of living of the Indonesian students are better than those of the African students - they are able to obtain healthy food through their networks, maintain clean decent flats, dress fashionably, possess some consumer durables, and maintain themselves as a distinct population - their lives in Cairo are not without problems. It was difficult to obtain information on the rate of failure among the Indonesian students, but a significant number were obviously depressed after having failed several years of coursework and had decided to return home even without the certificate. From 1981 until 1988, only 9 Indonesians completed their Ph.D. and 24 completed their M.A. in Egyptian universities. Apparently, this is a lower figure than that for the period of the sixties. During the 1930s and 1940s, it was quite common for Indonesian students to first register at al-Azhar and later on, being attracted by the modern system of Cairo or 'Ain Shams Universities, they would transfer to a secular education. Cairo



University attracted many foreign students in the sixties and a significant number of Indonesian theses were submitted at different Egyptian universities during this period. The national universities offered an important alternative for the students who sought a different system from the one at al-Azhar. There are a few cases of al-Azhar graduates who decided to continue post-graduate studies in the national universities after having complained about the tedious administrative procedures of al-Azhar. Until 1981 scholarships were offered by Dar al 'Ulum to Indonesian students. This is no longer the case. The registration fee for the national universities was suddenly raised and required payment in hard currency. Thus, it cost about US$3,000 to register in Dar al 'Ulum or Cairo University. The 1987 records reveal that there were six Indonesian students registered in Dar al 'Ulum. Most of these students were working in the embassy, the Indonesian cultural centre, or the local Indonesian radio stations. 77 Students who come to Cairo hope that they wiJI deepen their understanding of Islam. They expect to encounter debates between the 'Uiama and students. However, many are disappointed and some have complained on an individual basis about their problems to the shaykhs. But the problem remains. The students say that they end up studying "yellow papers" (meaning antiquated Islamic literature) which are of little help in understanding contemporary problems in Muslim societies. Nevertheless, in spite of criticisms expressed by the students, al-Azhar remains one of the most important centres of religious learning in the Muslim world. It is still prestigious to state that one has undertaken such a journey in the search for knowledge.


I. For example, Ahmad Dahlan, the founder of the Muhammadiyah Movement,

was strongl y influenced by 'Abduh's writings. Through the Arab community in Indonesia, magazines and writings such as af!urwat al-wuthqa (The Indissoluble Bond), which was published by al-Afghani and 'Abduh in Paris in 1884, and which was suppressed by the Dutch authorities, found a clandestine distribution (Noer 1973, pp. 32-57). 2. Many of 'Abduh's followers in Egypt - such as Qassem Amin, an advocate of women's emancipation - played an influential role in the flourishing of secularist and nationalist ideas. Interestingly, the 'Abduh-influenced Muhammadiyah Movement in Indonesia had a more "religious" bent. 3. For a discussion of the role of the Malay journals (Seruan Azhar, and Pileban Timour) published by the Southeast Asian students in Cairo, see Roff (1967), p. 225 .

4. Alfian notes that the Aceh war was also another factor which stimulated interest in talab a/!i/m (travel in search of knowledge). Many 'Uiama lost their lives in this war and their schools were destroyed. The children were then sent to religious schools in Minangkabau (West Sumatra), Java, and a few to schools in Egypt (Alfian 1985, p. 83). 5. Schulze has argued that the tradition/ modernity dichotomy was a creation of late nineteenth century European discourse. The taqlid (imitation)/ ijtihad (interpretation) dichotomy, we are told, were Islamic categories which owed a lot to Europe's conceptualizations and visions of Islam (Schulze 1987, p. 189). By presenting a purified version of Islam, as 'Abduh attempted to do, the Muslim intellectuals advocated the use of European patterns of thinking (ibid., p. 200).

Schulze's argument minimizes the material impact that the modernist movement had upon the extension of publication as well as upon the intellectual life of many Muslim countries. That the modernist movement had developed out of a challenge/response situation does not contradict the fact that it had created an independent rationalization process. The rethinking of Islam through the nahda (the Arab renaissance) has not merely led to the reformulation of ijtihadltaqlid alongside European patterns of rationalization. Indeed, it was at-Afghani who pointed to the crucial notion of 'ilm (science, knowledge),









which was strongly denied by Orientalists, as an indispensable pillar in religious thought in Islam. It is within this pattern of 'ilm that the nahda thinking contributed to the modernization and rationalization of scholarship and intellectual life in Muslim countries. Should we condemn then the evolution of the liberal age in the Middle East as a mere imitation of Western ideals that offered no genuine contribution to the development of both secular and religious education? Concerning the growing role of Egypt in Islamic publications at the beginning of the century, Matheson and Hooker (1988) have pointed to the significant role the nineteenth century Patani (now southern Thailand) 'Uiama played in writing and circulating Jawi literature. A large number of Kitab Jawi seems to have been produced in centres in the Middle East (Cairo-Mecca), or reprinted from Egyptian books for circulation. The Patanis maintained very close links with the Middle East, through travel and studying in the centres. Many of their works were published by Egyptian publishing houses, such as Dar Ihya'ai-Kutub ai-'Arabiyyah. It has been common for Orientalists to underestimate the political significance of 'Abduh's work. Gibb wrote the following about 'Abduh: In relation to the traditional orthodox structure of belief, he was no innovator. He was not like ai-Ghazali, a man who framed the line of synthesis by which a body of ideas hitherto outside the orthodox faith could be incorporated in it or accommodated to it. It is sometimes difficult for an outside observer to see why his teaching was so enthusiastically received and so influential on the one hand and so tenaciously opposed on the "other" (Gibb 1978, p. 121). Here, it is interesting to note that Geertz, in the Religion of Java, quotes Gibbon the idea that "'Abduh was no innovator in relation to the traditional orthodox structure" (Geertz 1976, p. 137), thus reflecting similar assumptions. For a discussion of the impact of Egypt upon the first editor of at-Imam, Shaykh Moh. Jalaluddin ai-Azhari, see Roff (1967) p. 60. Moh. Jalaluddin al-Azhari came from Minangkabau and studied in Mecca and Egypt for four years. ldris used the case of Kiyayi H. Mas Mansur, who was one of the most prominent leaders of the Muhammadiyah Movement, to illustrate the role of the Middle Eastern graduates in the 1928 generation of intellectuals and elites. K.H . Mas Mansur was born in Surabaya in 1896 and at the age of twelve was sent to Mecca. He then went to Cairo where he came into contact with nationalists. When he returned to Indonesia he preached reformist ideas and attacked magical practices (Safwan Idris 1982, pp. 158-59). The biographical information on Djanan has been culled from Roff (1970) and an interview with his son, Mr. Anwar Tayeb Djanan on 23 August 1988 in Cairo. Mr Anwar Djanan is today a Saudi citizen who keeps close contacts with the Jawi community in Saudi Arabia. His wife is also a Saudi citizen of Jawi origin. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and works in a bank. He maintains close contacts with Cairo because his father studied in ai-Azhar. He visits Cairo once or twice a year. He also keeps contact with his relatives in Indonesia.



II. Rasjidi also attended seminars given by the secular thinker Taha Hussain, as the photographs in his biography reveal (Soebagijo 1985). Indeed, the fact that Taha Hussain, then Dean of Cairo University, had studied in France was a significant factor in Rasjidi's decision to study in France after completing his studies in Cairo. 12. For further details about his relationship with the French Orientalist Massignon and his stay in France, see Soebagijo (1985), pp. 53-57. 13. The Wafd is one of the more liberal, right-wing parties that existed before the 1952 revolution. 14. It is also interesting to note that Muzakkir's son, Mr Rifqi Abdul Kahar, who is currently a lecturer in the Islamic University of Yogjakarta (not the JAIN), and residing in Kotagede, had been in Cairo during the period 1972-74. Prof. Muzakkir had sent three of his children to study in various centres in the Middle East. Mr Rifqi stated that if Mecca is considered the centre of religious teaching, Cairo for many Southeast Asians is the centre of 'ilm. A tradition is maintained among Azharites that when a father or uncle travels to Saudi Arabia or Egypt, the son follows the same path (interview with Mr Rifqi Abdul Kahar, 8 March 1989, Kotagede, Yogjakarta). 15. Ha!qa means "circle". It is the traditional way of teaching in Islam where the students sit at the steps around the shaykh and take notes. 16. In fact, Nasution first went to Mecca for pilgrimage and then to Cairo. For further details about his studies and life in Cairo, see his biography (Nasution 1988, pp. 13-16). 17. Concerning Nasution's critical and interesting views on the traditional and, according to him, Middle-Age lifestyle in Mecca and his strong desire as a youngster living in Mecca to travel and study in Cairo, see Nasution (1988), pp. 11-12. 18. For more details about student activities in Cairo, see Nasution (1988), pp. 15-16. 19. Interview with Prof. Harun Nasution, 25 February 1989, in Jakarta. 20. The qadariyah were those who opposed the Ummayyad regime in early Islam and criticized their court life. They were associated with the belief that man has power over his acts and that destiny belongs to man alone. Therefore, those who commit sin are infidels. Later on, the term qadariyah became synonymous with mu'tazi/is. Qadariyah is also the opposite of djabariyya or mudjabira, which means: "upholders of djabr, the divine 'compulsion', which creates man's acts, good or bad, so that nothing is attributed to the man who performs them" (Encyclopaedia of Islam 'ilm a/-ka/am , p. 1142). 21. Among the staff members of the Indonesian embassy in Cairo there is a significant number of graduates of al-Azhar, Cairo and 'Ain Shams Universities. Some of them have lived in Cairo for more than fifteen years, and participated in the Suez canal tripartite war. Others witnessed the 1967 Arab defeat in the Arab-Israeli war, and some were even at the front during the 1973 war. They are extremely knowledgeable of Egyptian politics and were themselves involved in one way or another as reporters or students. Their sons and daughters have also studied in Egypt. 22. Interview with Mr Youssef Sa'ad, 4 October 1987, Indonesian embassy in Cairo.



2:1 . Ahmed Ami n\ w ritin g~ seem to be quite popular in Indonesia . He is also ver\' o ft en quoted in th ese~ produced by the Ind o nesian students in Cairo. 24 . A I-Janusi was born in Su r uga n Padang in 1890. He established a school called Dinijah in 19 15. 25. Geer tz's Islam Observed (1968) represents an important contribution to Islam a nd co mpa ra ti ve studies of Third World countries. Geertz elaborates a cultural perspective by traci ng the evolution of Islam in two totally different cultures: IV1orocco a nd Indonesia. In these countries the intrinsic cultural and historical dimen sio ns a re reflected in the nature of rule and legitimation in the newly~.:reated states. From referen ce to both history and folk beliefs, Geertz has ex tended his comparison to modern leaders in these two countries. Thus, the legitimacy of King Muhammad Vis viewed as relying on traditional symbols, with the Sultan as " the chief-marabout of the country" (ibid., p. 77), while the Indonesian Soekarno is viewed as a highly scientific man, possessing great knowledge in different areas, who argued that politics, art, science, and religion a re indisso luble (ibid., p. 117). 26. The sa me would apply to the newly created African states in the sixties, which a ltho ugh having a majorit y of Mus lims, based their legitimacy on secular co ncepts (see McKay 1965, pp. 164-66). 27 . However, in contrast to Nasser, Soekarno expressed clearer pro-Marxist leanings. "I am a convinced nationalist, a convinced Moslem, a convinced Marxist," said Soekarno (Dahm 1969, p. 200). Nasser was a strong anti-Marxist and he politically persecuted the members of the Communist Party. 28. Sa/afi, from a/-sa/af a/ salih, means the exemplary early Muslims. It also implies a purist vision of Islam. 29. Shaykh Shaltut became the Vice Rector of al-Azhar in 1957 and Rector in 1958. Previously, Shaykh Shaltut had opposed the monarchy and had always expressed the desire that ai-Azhar should be independent from the throne. His advocacy of reform s led to his dismissal from ai-Azhar (see Lemke 1980, pp. 53-54). During the Nasser regime he was seen a s enthusiastically carrying the slogans of the regime. His writings pointed to exploitation, oppressive ca pitalism, Islamic socialism and al-Azhar as a protector of Arabism . Shaykh Shaltut is the best example of the religious ambassador. 30. Crecelious has brilliantly analysed the controversial relationship which existed between the 'Uiama and the modern state of Egypt as well as the problem of modernizing and integrating al-Azhar with societal changes. He brilliantly pointed to the 'Uiama's obstructionist and isolationist policies vis-a-vis the Nasserite-appoint ed state employees. See Crecelious (1972). 31. This does not apply only to al-Azhar University. In fact, with the growing influence of pan-Arab and non-alignment ideas, Egyptian universities have become a great centre of attraction for many Middle Eastern and African countries. 32. A "boom" in travel from Southeast Asia to the Middle East was also evident during these years. As mentioned earlier, in 1948, for example, H. Agus Salim travelled to the Middle East in a bid for recognition of newly independent Indonesia. Later, in 1952 Mohammed Natsir travelled to the Middle East and




35 .

36. 37.


Paki stan to propagandize the Indonesian ca use. In 1954. Harsono Tjokroamin oto, Nur St. l skandand ar and o th ers a lso travelled to the IV!iddle Eas t a nd Paki sta n (Woodcraft-Lee 1984, p. 83). 1 have no intention here of assessin g the success or fa il ure of this M inistr y. However, Noer has pro vided ome crit icism concernin g appo intments, a nd the promotion a nd tran sfer of perso nnel , where affili a tions to groups such as the NU a nd favouriti sm seem s to have played a rol e (Noe r 1978, p. 15). ldri s' biograph y of Mukti A li does not mention that he st udied in the Midd le East, but in Karachi, Pakistan (Safwan Idris 1982, p. 300). T he Ministry of Waqf and al-Azhar Uni versity invited Abdul Mukti A li, when he was the Minister of Religious Affairs, to come to Egypt to discuss general problems related to the organization of religion in Indonesia (ibid ., p. 17). Turath mean s " heritage" or " tradition ". In terms of turath books, he read, for insta nce, Yakout a/ Hamawi, Tabaqat Ibn Saad, a nd modern Islamic literature. He, nevertheless, expressed criticism aga inst Soekarno's manipulation of Islam and communism . Many Mus lims had clashes with Soekarn o o n the national q uestio n. T hey held that the Urnmat ai-ls/am was wid er than nationa li st requirements wo uld

demand. 38. Here, it is important to m ention th a t th e ex porr to A rab co untries of Egyp tia n cinema and art in the sixties was a prominent fea ture of cinema exc hanges in the reg io n a t the time. 39. Interview with Abdurrahman Wahid , Nahda tul Ulama quarte rs, J L Kramar Raya, Jaka rt a, 23 Februa ry 1989. 40. This ca n also ex plain why cert a in sta te miss io nari es a nd teac he rs in the sixti es. although represe nting the Nasser regim e a broad. expressed in the eighties gre a t hate and disdain towards the Nasser era . 4 1. One has to me ntio n here La ro ui's impo rt a nt o bse rva ti o n th a t in a ll contem pora ry so.:ieties in rece nt yea rs t here has been a grea t disillusionment concerni ng ideo log ies. Bo th libera lis m a nd rvta rxis m have proved their inability to be uni ve rsa list id eo log ies vis-a-vis na ti ona list .:o nsiderations. for insta nce (la ro ui 1987. p. 86). 42 . In re.:e nt yea rs in Egyp t, m a ny lslami.: investm en t .:ompanies were set up. These .:o mpa nies ma naged to a ttrac t more than a million in ves tors a nd o ffered ve ry hi gh int erest rates th at reac hed 30 per .:ent. They a lso made ample use of Isla mic sloga ns and publicity in th e m ass med ia. As hraf Saad, head o f th e Saad Co mpa ny, appeared in th e offi cia l press in so-ca lled Islamic dress (turban a nd gallabeyyah, the long white dress) _signing co ntracts with state o ffi cia ls a nd private ca pita lists. Rosa a/- Yousse}: as well as ai-Ahram allqtissadi a re periodicals which recentl y co ndu cted a fierce at tack again t th ese companies, cl a imin g that th ey were e ngaged in se mi-criminal act ivities (hashish dealing, smu gg ling hard currency, M a fi a- type ac ti viti es mo nopo li zing the propert y market) . For mo re de ta il s, see Rusa ai-Yo ussef (7 July 1987 a nd 13 Jul y 1987). Because o f th e eno rm o us amo un t of cap ital fl ow in g to the West through the ~e compan i e~. the state took me a~ ures to ha lt th eir act ivities in 1988.


I H RLI- ld- NI RAl i O N'> O f- A7 H AR ITE" S I N I N DONES IA

a~ wel l a~ ~o m ~ fe male m e mber ~ who had spent eight or ten years in Ca iro a nd obtai ned an rvi. A. fro m a i-A zhar. hi. There are today va ri o us pesantren a nd Isla mi c uni versiti es in In do nes ia whi ch have ~:, t a b li ~ h c cl co n1 acts \l'i th a l-A zhar. O ne ca n therefore find in a i-Azhar ~ tud e nt :, who had stu di ed in vari ou s madrasah and th e Pendidika n Guru Aga ma. l-o r furt her de tail!> abou t the va rio us reli gious pesantren a nd sc hoo ls in lndon e-, ia, see Dh o fi er 1980. pp. 364- 65. 62. It wa> no t po ~s i b l e to check thi Info rm ati o n emp iricall y. 63. Recentl y, th e Ind onesian embassy in stituted a new po li cy of sta mpin g th e pass po rt > o f stu den ts who fail ed th e sa me term of stud y for more than three yea r ~ so th at th ey wo ul d have to re turn to Indo nesia . 64 . Mo hamm ed !mara co mpil ed th e wo rk s o f a i-Afgha ni, 'Abdu h, a nd their fo ll owe r Ras hid Rid a. He also wro te ex tensively abo ut Islam a nd political theory. Hi writin gs hi ghlightin g th e anti-imperali st aspect of Islam have appeared in ai-Azhar publi cati ons. However, he does not seem to be appreciated by the ~ on s er v a ti ve secti o n o f Azha rites. 65. 'Abele! Ra hm a n al-Sharkaw i is a noveli st, play wri ght and journalist. Among hi s most well -k now n wor ks are Muhamm ed the Proph et of Freedom , and The Earth , a rea li st novel abo ut th e Egy pti an pea santr y. He has written extensively abo ut Islamic fi gures such as th e Fo ur Ca lifs, and th e schools o f law in Islam. He is ve ry popu la r and o ften qu o ted among th e stud ents. My impressio n is th at student s have te nd ed to ignore his literary talent as a novelist and playwri ght and know very litrl e about hi s Ma rxist lea nin gs a nd the ge nerati on of int ellectu als he rep resent s. They merely use hi s Islami c works because th ey are wriu en in simple language a nd con stitute stimu la tin g read ing. 66. One co uld menti on th e "Empath y Siud y G ro up" (1989) in Ja karta , which in cludes some members o f th e Majlis Ula ma Indo nesia, such as A. Wa hid and Quraishi Shih ab (Ph .D. fro m al-Azhar and fo und er o f I he Sulawesi Association in Ca iro in 1976) , and Nurcholish Madjid as we ll as man y intellectu a ls who had li ved in th e Midd le East. Thi s gro up was fo rm ed beca use ma ny Muslim intellectua ls felt th e need to di scuss, free ly a nd democrati ca ll y, religio us topi cs whi ch apparentl y we re abused by th e press. 67. I have o ft en observed, for instance, th a t th e stud enl s refu sed 10 d iscuss the interpretati ve contradi cti o ns o f tex ts in I he hi sto ry schoo ls o f Isla mi c lea rnin g. T his a ttempt to evade th e intri caci es o f Islami c hi sto ry co in c id e~ with a tress on ritua l a nd th e rul es o f " body" co nduct in Islam. 68. For example, some studems who represented th e ha rd fundam entalist lin e refu sed to speak to a fe male researcher. These students, however, we re a min oril y. Students we re ge nera ll y ve ry co-o perati ve. 69 . Th e ideo logical dimension o f th e crisis is o f no less impo rt a nce. l n recent years the a uthorit y o f al-Azhar has bee n threa tened by fund ament alist gro ups who view th e im tituti on as hypocriti cal in it s stance towa rd s th e rulin g regime, and as hav in g no credibilit y in reli gio us matters. Th e Islamic symbo l> a nd habit s whi ch fund amentali sts praise are ma inl y d irected against th e 'U/am a of ai-Az har (see Kepel 1984) . Unti l recent ly, fund ament a li st gro ups co n ~ id e red the fa t was from the Mufti of Egypt as invalid . On th e oth er hand , secular



71. 72.

73 .



a nd Muslim inte llectual s have a lso directed virul ent a tt ac ks aga inst a i-Azha r for its cor rupti on , and for the shaykhs' abuse o f power in iss uin g farwas. They believe th a t a i-Az har is to be bla m ed for the spread o f th e fundam ent a list ph enome no n. They argue th at the 'Uiama's stat eme nts and positions are contradictory, saying that th e 'Uiama a re like the C hri stian clergy in the Middle Ages, ce nso rin g interes ting Is lami c work s and issuing jar was acco rdin g to the co nvenience of th e regime. It is beca use a i-Azhar has not succeeded in its rol e in diffu sing the " right " teachings th a t such a di storted ve rsio n of it - that is, fundamentalism - has em erged . The 'Uiama have a lso been acc used of being concerned only with censoring books, and film s about th e Prophet, or plays about the character of ai-Hussain (see Hussain Amin 1987, p. 133) while ignoring a serious crisis of thought in the Muslim world. Hussain A hmed A min, an Egyptian intellectual, has written an article entitled "W hy did the position of the religious men deteriorate among the Muslims" (Hussain Amin 1987 , pp. 120-44), in which he traces hi storicall y the subordin a ti o n of th e men of religion to political power and their a lienation with the introduction of the secular system. These attacks are also made by many Egyptian intellectuals against the religious body (see Hussai n Amin 1987 ; Faraj Fuda, a/-Aha/i, 23 March 1988; Mahmud Ismail, a/-Ahali, 10 September 1986). In fact, th e ai-Azhar Uni versity " mal a ise" is not a new iss ue. It has been a n issue since the beginning of the century, when al-Azhar beca me increasingly a liena ted with the founding of different "secular" inst itutions whi ch wo uld serve the interests of the modern na tion-state, such as Da r a l 'Uium, The School of Kadis (judges), a nd th e King Fu'ad Universit y (Cairo University). The press has directed it s attack m a inl y aga inst the religious faculties. The Azhar techni cal, medi cal a nd la ng uage faculties enj oy a hi gh reput at io n . However, there are distin guished professors teac hin g religious subj ects who a re recogni zed internation a ll y, such as Prof. 'Aisha Abdul Ra hm a n (Bint a l Sha ti'), now teaching in Morocco, who is co nsidered a prominent writer in the Mus lim wo rld. She is the fir st woman in co ntempora ry tim es to have written a co mmen ta ry of th e Qur'an. A boo k used to teac h Arabic grammar. For further details a bout the organization a nd sec ul a ri zation of a i-Az ha r, see Ecce! (1984) a nd C recelious (1966). It is importa nt to note that Egyp ti an uni versities are ver y different from the European univers ities. In ce rt a in faculties, the huge numbers of st udents, whi ch ca n reach two or three thousand per c lass, a re cru shed into a hall that ca n sea t on ly 500 students. Obviously, this situa tion is a nightm a re for a nyo ne wanting to teach seri o usly. The ve ry poor creativit y exhibited in the pla nning of programmes, the e mph as is on rote learning , the lack of any scientific resea rch an d the teac hers' tendency to re ly sole ly o n their own books as the main so urce of lea rning are a ll cha racte ristics of ed ucation not only in a i-A zhar but in th e who le ed ucat io na l system in Egyp t. T here are hundreds of seco ndary institutions and p rov incia l bra nches of a i-Azha r University (Saad E. Ibra him 1988, p. 637). T he reg iona l Azhar institutes were estab lished to offer greater oppo rtunit y for educat ion to the



rural population. The difficulties these institutes encounter are similar to those faced by the educational system as a whole. 75. Students failed on average between two and seven years (or one term per year) at the faculty of Theology. One-third of the graduates of Arabic Language completed their studies after having failed between two and seven years. However, the number of those who dropped out and never obtained a degree is not mentioned. Only 13.5 per cent of the students completed their studies without failing any ac~demic year. As for the faculty of Shari'a and Law, only 16.4 per cent completed their studies without failing any year (Mustafa Guweli and Ibrahim Filifal, Shabab Biladi, 30 May 1984). 76. As mentioned previously, the Azhar scholarship was raised in 1989 from 40 Egyptian pounds to 100 pounds. This raise, however, appears to have been outstripped by increases in the cost of living. 77. Another alternative for post-graduate studies is the Institute of Islamic Studies, which was set up in 1979 by Shaykh Abdel Halim Mahmoud, the former Shaykh of ai-Azhar. The Institute offers a post-graduate programme in Islamic Studies. Informants reported that the curriculum there is better organized than at ai-Azhar.


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