SALAFISM AND INFLUENCE OF THE MIDDLE EAST IN INDONESIA:
Religious Affiliation, Activism, and Development
Ferry M. Siregar
(Lecturer in STP Graduate Program, Pontianak in FISIP Universitas Prof. Dr. Moestopo (Beragama), Jakarta)
This paper discusses issues on transformation process of Salafi Movement in Indonesian. In addition, a focus also will be on an examination of how the movement influences directionally to the Salafism. It also focuses on religious affiliation, activism and its development. This paper shows to what extent ideological factors have played a role in directing the activism and formation of the salafism in Indonesia. This analysis also examines how the orthodox doctrine provided the foundation could attract hundreds and even thousand of studens, called santri and santriwati from many areas of Indonesia and even abroad.
The term ‘salafism’ describes a movement that seeks to return to what its adherents see as the purest form of Islam, that practiced by the Prophet Mohammed and the two generations that followed him. In practice, this means the rejection of unwarranted innovations (bid’a) brought to the religion in later years. The formation of those variations seems influenced by the political reality in Indonesia and Middle Eastern countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen as stated by Shaikh Abdurrahman Abu Bakar, a Muslim scholar (ulama), “al-harakah al-salafiyah hiya min al-mazhahir al-siasiyah, wa laisat diniyah” which means that the Salafi movement is a political phenomenon, not a religious one.
Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab is considered as the first figure in the modern era to push for a return to the religious practices of the salaf as-salih or “righteous predecessors”. He worked on a call to return to what he believed were the practices of the early generations of Muslims. His works (especially Kitab at-Tawhid) are still widely read by Salafis around the world today, and the majority of Salafi scholars still reference his works frequently. After his death, his views flourished under the generous financing of the House of Saud and initiated the current worldwide Salafi movement (Abou el-Fadl, 2005: 79) There are some prominent scholars of Salafism. They include Muhammad Nashiruddin al-Albani, and Muhammad bin Shalih al-Utaimin, as well as several men who are still actively teaching: Rabi’ ibn Hadi al-Mudkhali, Shalih bin Fauzan al Fauzan; and one scholar based in Yemen, Muqbil ibn Hadi al-Wadi’i.
Besides, one of the other leading figures of Salafism is the former Grand Mufti Saudi Arabia Ibn Baz whose complete name Abu ‘Abd Allah Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman Al-Baz. He was born in the city of Riyadh in Dhul-Hijjah 1330 H/ 1909 CE. He memorized the Quran in his early age and then he acquired knowledge from Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Latif Aal-Shaykh, Salih ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal-Shaykh and Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Aal-Shaykh who, in his time, was the Mufti of Saudi Arabia. He was appointed President of the General Presidency of Islamic Research, Ifta, Call and Propagation, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He also held the position of Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.
Ibn Baz had undertaken a number of charitable and other activities, such as his endless support for da’wa organizations and Islamic centers in many parts of the world, the establishment and supervision of schools for teaching the Quran, the foundation of an organization that facilitates marriage for Muslim youth, and the popular radio program in which he discussed many current issues and answered questions from listeners as well as providing fatwa if needed. Ibn Baz was a speaker both in public and privately at his mosque (Saudi Gazette, May 14 1999). His influence on the Salafi movement was huge. Most of the prominent judges and religious scholars of Saudi Arabia today are former students of his. He has been respected by salafi adherents from all-over the world, including Indonesia.
Ibn Baz even sent his student, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ‘Abd Allah al-‘Ammar to meet Muhammad Natsir, the former prime minister and the founder of the Dewan Dakwah Islam Indonesia (the Islamic Propagation Council of Indonesia to propose the establishment of institute, later known as the Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Islam dan Bahasa Arab (the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Knowledge) in early 1980. Through the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, it opened a new branch in Indonesia. Natsir welcomed that idea. The hosting place is Jakarta, the capital of Republic of Indonesia. This Saudi’s university branch was agreed by Natsir then followed by facilitating the project. It helped to strengthen Indonesia in Islamic studies and also gave far more Indonesian students access to academic facilities available in there (Furkon, 2004: 173). The LIPIA and the DDII then became the supporting institution for disseminating salafi teachings.
The return of the LIPIA graduates who had completed their studies in Saudi Arabia marked the birth of the rise of Wahhabi-Salafi generation in Indonesia. Among them are DDII Cadres such Ahmad Faiz Asifuddin, Aunur Rafiq Ghufran and Chamsaha Sofwan. Chamsaha Sofwan, known now as Abu Nida. After working for a while as a muballigh (muslim preacher) at DDII headquarters in Jakarta, he received a scholarship through DDII to study at the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Riyadh. While there, he became the assistant of Abdul Wahid at the DDII office. Since Abdul Wahid was the liaison between DDII in Jakarta and many Islamic organizations in the Middle East, it enabled Abu Nida acquired a wide range of contacts among Islamic organizations and Islamic funding agencies in particular. It was through the DDII office in Riyadh that Abu Nida’ was introduced to the Kuwaiti-based organisation, Jam’iyya Ihya al-Turath al-Islami (Revival of Islamic Heritage Society).
The Salafi foundations received considerable financial support from Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Abu Nida set up the as-Sunnah foundation in 1992. Through the As-sunnah Foundation, da’wa activities and the founding of halqas and dauras were pursued to promote the salafi da’wa. More and more university students joined the da’wa activities. Aware of this development, Abu Nida and his closest companions published As-Sunnah, the first Salafi Periodical to appear in Indonesia in 1994. As-Sunnah addressed Wahhabite doctrines and fatwas promulgated by Saudi Arabian religious authorities concerning beard, television, radio and the like. There are other salafi publishing houses in Indonesia such as Pustaka al-Sofwah, Pustaka al-Haura, Maktabah Salafi Press, Penerbit an-Najiyah, Pustaka al-Tibyan, Pustaka al-Atsari and so on (Hasan, 2006: 54-56).
The salafi activities in Indonesia is successful to attract the interest of foundation executives in the middle east. The Lajnat al-Khairiyya al-Musharakah was set up to impose Kuwait’s will on the incorporation and coordination of muslim preachers, particularly graduates of Middle Eastern Universities, and to channel social and philantrophic aid to the orphans and impoverished people. Besides, these main activities, it sponsored the building of the numerous mosque and Islamic centers and promoted the translation and publication of Islamic books. Its activities covered vast areas in Indonesia. There is also the Jam’iyyat al-Birr, a United Emirates-based Salafi foundation linked to Saudi Arabia. This foundation has developed various educational institutions at different levels including the Islamic kindergarten, the Islamic Primary school, the Islamic Secondary School, and the college for the study islam and Arabic Language. The Muassasat al-Haramayn al-Khayriyya (Haramain Charitable Foundation), a Saudi-based institution backed by the Saudi religious establishment operating under the supervision of the Minister of Islamic affairs, Endowment, Da’wa and Guidance of Saudi Arabia, and the Jam’iyyat Ihya al-Turath al-Islami (Reviving of Islamic Heritage Society), a Kuwait-based institution, are among the supporting foundation for Salafi Da’wa. This emergence of such foundations contributed to the growth of the salafi communities.
The term salafism come from Arabic word ‘salaf’. Usage of salafi was used by early Islamic scholar. It is translated as righteous predecessor or pious ancestor. In Islamic terminology, it is generally used to refer to the first three generations of Muslims; the Sahabah, the Tabi‘in and the Taba‘ at-Tabi‘in. These three generations are looked upon as examples of how Islam should be practiced. The meaning of salaf also pertains something that happened in the past then developed to become Islamic mazhab that takes the sayings and behaviors of the prophet Muhammad and his companions in the past as the fundamental basis for its teachings. In the next development, the term ‘salafism’ describes a movement that seeks to return to what its adherents see as the purest form of Islam, that practiced by the Prophet Mohammed and the two generations that followed him. In practice, this means the rejection of unwarranted innovations (bid’ah) brought to the religion in later years. Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab is considered as the first figure in the modern era to push for a return to the religious practices of Salafism.
There are directional influences of Middle East Salafism networks to the indonesia’ salafism. There are also many variations in salafism as well. The formation of those variations seems influenced by the political reality in Indonesia and Middle Eastern countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The directional influences of Saudi salafism to Indonesia pesantren come from the intellectual networks through Middle East universities, funding agency and personal donation. DDII’s establishment in 1967 became the way for the spreading of Salafism.
DDII’s influence was gotten through the international contacts of Mohamed Natsir who was a Muslim leading figure in the Indonesian independence movement. DDII became the main institution in Indonesia for distributing scholarships from the Saudi-funded Rabita institution to study in the Middle East (DDII brochure, 2004). DDII was also encouraging the translation of works by salafi scholars into Indonesian. Besides, the LIPIA introduced program sending the prospective students to continue their study in Saudi Arabia. The LIPIA students included men who have become some of Indonesia’s best-known salafi leaders. Many students became Muslim preachers (da’i). This Saudi’s university branch was also agreed by Natsir then followed by facilitating the project. It helped to strengthen Indonesia in Islamic studies and also gave far more Indonesian students access to academic facilities available in Saudi Arabia. The return of the LIPIA graduates who had completed their studies in Saudi Arabia marked the birth of the emergence of Wahhabi-Salafi generation in Indonesia.
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Saudi Gazette, May 14 1999
DDII Brochure 2004
 This paper is part of and summarized from the author’s paper presented to the 3rd Asian Graduate Students Forum at National University of Singapore, July 28-29, 2008.
 Dewan Dakwah Islam Indonesia – DDII (The Islamic Propagation Council of Indonesia).
DDII was established in 1967. It became the institution for the spread of Salafism. DDII’s influence was gotten through the international contacts of Mohamed Natsir who was a leading figure in the Indonesian independence movement, a former prime minister, and former head of the Masjumi party that was banned by late Soekarno’s regime in 1960. Once Masjumi was banned, Natsir turned to finding ways to promote Islam through non-partical ways and DDII was his choice. He became vice president of the Karachi-based World Muslim Congress (Mutamar al-Alam al-Islami) in 1967 and a member of the Jiddah-based World Muslim League (Rabita al-Alam al-Islami) in 1969. Natsir saw three major targets of Islamic da’wa activities: pesantrens, mosques, and university campuses. In 1968 a training program aimed at university instructors who themselves were graduates of Muslim student organizations was held. The program began with 40 instructors from universities in the Bandung area who assembled at a dormitory for Muslim pilgrims in Kwitang, outside Jakarta. In 1974, DDII began a more systematic campus-based initiative called Bina Masjid Kampus (Lutfi, 2002). Bina Masjid Kampus became influential in 1978, when the Soeharto government closed down university political life which was later making the campus mosques became a refuge for would-be activists. DDII became the main institution in Indonesia for distributing scholarships from the Saudi-funded Rabita institution to study in the Middle East (DDII brochure, 2004). DDII was also encouraging the translation of works by salafi scholars into Indonesian. Over the next decade, DDII helped distribute Indonesian translations of books by such writers as Hasan al-Banna, Yusuf al-Qardawi, Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim ideologues of Egypt and A’la Maududi of Pakistan. The salafi intellectuality of the late 1970s and early 1980s on university campuses, together with Saudi’s scholarships to study in the Middle East created the way to salafi recruitment in Indonesia throughout the in the next decades.
The Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Islam dan Arab – LIPIA (The Institute of Islamic and Arabic Knowledge)
The LIPIA’s current address is at Jalan Buncit Raya, South Jakarta. It was initially founded by Saudi Decree No. 5/N/26710 as the Lembaga Pengajaran Bahasa Arab (the Institute for Arabic Teaching (LPBA, 1985: 8). In effort to intensifying its campaign for Wahhabism, LIPIA introduced program sending the prospective students to continue their study at Medina Islamic University and the Imam Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. Through this program, more than thirty of its graduates could continue their study at those two universities every year (Hasan, 2006: 49). The first LIPIA students included men who have become some of Indonesia’s best-known salafi leaders such as Abdul Hakim Abdat, Yazid Jawwas, Ainul Harits, Ja’far Umar Talib, Yusuf Utsman Baisa and so on. Many students became Muslim preachers (da’i), on university campuses, among other places, and there was a particularly strong relationship between LIPIA and outreach activities on the campus of the University of Indonesia in Jakarta (Damanik, 2002: 206). LIPIA’s influence on the spread of the salafi movement was already huge in terms the numbers of graduates. By 2008, it was estimated that LIPIA had produced closer to 5,000 graduates and even more.