The Agenda of NU-Muhammadiyah

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By: Dr Gun Gun Heryanto M.Si

Two major Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah held their Congresses in a close proximity of time. The 33rd Congress of NU took place on 1-5 August in Jombang, East Java; meanwhile, the 47th Congress of Muhammadiyah took place on 3-8 August in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

The history of Indonesia has been colored by the contribution of NU and Muhammadiyah, both institutionally and personally by their members. Both organizations played significant, far-fetched roles, even before the establishment of Republic of Indonesia. Thus it is highly important to give a new meaning to both organizations in context of the future’s national agenda.

The existence of NU-Muhammadiyah in many aspects were considered a blessing for Indonesian society. Both organizations posed as the example for the practice of Islam that was tolerant and humble, instead of furious. Various efforts in thought and practicality done by both organizations could be felt. Despite having differences in historical and methodological approaches, both organizations had empowered civil society in Indonesia.

Looking to the initial establishment of NU, the organization was established on 31 January 1926 by KH Hasyim Asy’ari as an organization of the Ulama. A well-known Indonesianist Mitsuo Nakamura once voiced his positive opinion on NU. According to him, NU was structured based on principles of autonomy and independence of its main components.

NU was not derived from any other organizations. It was founded in a unique framework (Mitsuo Nakamura, 1996: 72). The belief of NU in the tradition of Sunni had provided autonomy for the Ulama and strengthen the institutionalization of this tradition in the face of NU’s structural organization.

Religious traditionalism had made NU selective in various situations. It gave the organization ability to adapt with its external surrounding. In a opposing political situation, NU served as articulator for political stagnancy to people whose rights were neglected. This ensured NU to survive in every regime, and even more, to contribute.

Ever since KH Hasyim Asy’ari had firmly written the Book of “Qanun Asasi” (lit. trans. “The Basic Principle”) and continued with “I’tiqad Ahlusunnah Wal Jamaah”, NU had never stopped to give directives to Indonesian society. As well, the organization always strived to become an incubator for the face of “tolerant Islam.”

The same goes to Muhammadiyah. Ever since its establishment on November 1912 in Kauman, Yogyakarta by KH Ahmad Dahlan, this organization had continously developeda unique preaching model. From time to time, Muhammadiyah had promoted Amar Makruf Nahi Mungkar and had sought to transform the Islamic teaching. Islam went beyond the dimension of individual piety and moved towards the dimension of social piety.

Through numerous majlis, institutions, and autonomous bodies, Muhammadiyah had performed together with NU the effort to build Indonesian nation in terms of education, economy, culture, social, and politics.

Muhammadiyah and NU was dubbed as “The Gatekeeper” for Indonesia’s muslim majority, protecting it from penetration of various information, ideological propanganda, theological provocation, and political as well as economic exploitation. NU had emphasized the concept of Islam Nusantara (“the archipelagic Islam”), while Muhammadiyah created the recognition for the concept of Islam Berkemajuan (“the progressive Islam.”)

Both concepts, as written in The Force of Fantasy Restoring the American Dream by Ernest Bormann (1985), could be categorized as Symbolic Convergence Model, in which there was a collective awareness being raised.One of the way was through its rhetorical vision.

Both Islam Nusantara and Islam Berkemajuan were not merely a matter of choices of words. They expressed the ideological framework from NU and Muhammadiyah for Indonesia. Through Islam Nusantara, NU defined Islam in Indonesia as civilised, wise, discerning, and tolerant.

Through Islam Berkemajuan, Muhammadiyah wanted to show the steps of Islam ahead, Islam’s motivation to move forward, to progress, and to obtain the ability of organizational reflexivity. Both organizations, indeed, were complementary to each other.

The moment of Congress for NU and Muhammadiyah was need not to be seen only as a mechanism for circulation of the elites, but more, as the time to re-adjust both organizational agenda parallel to the national agenda in the contemporary world.

However in a couple of times, severalnon-substantial differences were exaggerated as if NU and Muhammadiyah were in hostile situations towards each other. There has also been manipulation of power and politics done by individuals.

Penetration of politicians to the bodies of NU and Muhammadiyah had been going on, starting from the central on to the subbranch. These politicians’ effort to pull NU or Muhammadiyah in to the political game took various forms, ranging from transforming both organizations on becoming political parties to “borrowing the big name” of both organizations to create a political party or two.

Both organizations’ national agenda ahead should be about strengthening the strategy in terms of religion, economy, social, politics, and culture to cure our nation that is now in ill. First thing first, both organizations should formulate a way forward in pushing effort to eradicate corruption.

As two major organizations, NU and Muhammadiyah must become the frontliner of the civil movement’s corruption eradication. For example, both organizations could become the catalyst in realizing the principle of reverse verification in the field of law enforcement.

Secondly, both organizations should ensure that their cadres who wish to pursue a career in politics serve in a civilized manner. Politics in a basis of Islam that has nature of rahmatan lil ‘alamin (Islam as blessing for the universe) and free from corruption.

Thirdly, both organizations must ascertain real working agenda in order to answer the social dynamics that is currently getting more complex.

Play it well in the Congress, NU and Muhammadiyah!

The writer is lecturer of Political Communicationin UIN Jakarta and executive director of The Political Literacy Institute.

This article is published in Opinion column of REPUBLIKA, Saturday 01 August 2015.

Translated by Ichsan