Chapter LXXXIII renaissance in indonesia

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T lie three centuries during which it was ruled by the Portuguese, the Spaniards, and the Dutch form the dark age of Indonesia's history. All the

energies of the Indonesian leaders were concentrated during these years on the problems of political emancipation on one side and social and religious reform on the other. This account of the modern renaissance in Indonesia

is, therefore, an account of the political renaissance of that country and of the modernist movements which indirectly influenced the course of that long­

drawn and bitter struggle. The memories of that conflict and the experience gained during this period influenced the present generation in its religious

Renaissance in Indonesia

and cultural outlook and its approach to social and economic problems. As religion played an important part in the movement for political emancipation, reference will also be made here and there to religious reforms.

At present ninety per cent of the population of Indonesia professes the religion of Islam but it took several centuries for Islam to become the main religion in that country. As it has been shown in an earlier chapter, the credit for the spread and popularization of Islam in Indonesia goes to the Sufis of various orders.' The Sufi interpretation of Islam very well suited the cultural background of the Indonesians in whose life and thought the deep influences of Hinduism and Buddhism, which had at one time been the principal spiritual forces in Indonesian society, were deeply embedded.

The commercial intercourse between Indonesia and other Islamic countries, particularly India, Arabia, and Egypt, led to a closer cultural collaboration with the Muslims in other parts of the world. Many Indonesians went to holy places for the annual pilgrimage and some of them stayed there to complete their studies or to settle down there permanently. It was these Indonesians who imbibed deeply the tenets of Islamic religion and later on tried to combat the un-Islamic practices which had crept into Islam in their home country. This led to a purist movement in the country insisting on a closer conformity with Islam. "Mecca," says Snouck Hurgronje, "has been well said to have more influence on the religious life of these islands than on Turkey, India, or Bukhara."z How deeply attached to their old customs and traditions even the modern educated Indonesians are is well illustrated by the statement of a prominent Indonesian lady who, while addressing the members of the British Women Association, remarked "that the Indonesians were indeed proud of their old customs and traditions and wished to preserve them in spite of their Islamic religion adopted about seven centuries ago."a

The Indonesian national movement is of recent origin. Before the beginning of the fourteenth/twentieth century, there had been isolated and sporadic outbursts of armed resistance to the rapacious exploitation of the Indonesians by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, such as those of Dips, Nagara, in the province of Djocjkarta,4 Tenku `Umar,b Imam Bondjol,e etc. The first organized political movement started in the first decade of this century. There were many factors responsible for the development of Indonesian nationalism and political consciousness which materially affected the course of the Indonesians' struggle as also the political structure of Indonesia after it had been won.

1 For the role of farigahs in general, see H. A. R. Gibb, An Interpretation of Islamic History, p. 11; Muslim World, Vol. XIV, No. 2, January 1955, p. 130.

2 Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, Shirkat-i-Qualam, Lahore, p. 407.

a Indonesia Today, Vol. II, No. 6, Nov.-Dec. 1959, p. 19.

4 For details, see Vlekke Nusantara, A History of the East Indian Archipelago, pp. 1, 265-69, 281.

5 Nur Ahmad Qadri, Tamaddun-i Indonesia, Vol. I, pp. 464-68.

6 Ibid., pp. 449-52.



A History of Muslim Philosophy

Renaissance in Indonesia

Of the modern Islamic reform movements in other countries that of.Mubam­mad 'Abduh in Egypt had a very deep influence on Indonesian thought and way of life. The Dutch tried to prevent the inflow of books and newspapers published in Egypt and other Arab countries as they were afraid of the "dangerous pan-Islamic ideas" which these writings contained. In spite of their vigilance the Egyptian periodicals al-Manor, al-' Urwat al- Wuthga, al-Mu'yyad, al-Siydsah, al-Liwa, and al-'Adl were smuggled into Indonesia and were widely read. Scholars like Imam Bondjol, H. Jalal al-Din Tayyib, Mukhtar Lutfi, H. H. Amarullah brought back with them modern Islamic ideas current in Islamic lands and particularly those introduced by Mubammad 'Abduh and Jamal al-Din Afghani in Cairo. Indian modernist writings were equally welcome and widely read.' The main aim of the Indonesian Muslims who were caught up in the current of modern reformist movements in Islamic countries was to purify Indonesian Muslim society from the indigenous unorthodox practices. They had to combat at the same time the Dutch educated intelligentsia who were gradually becoming indifferent towards religion, and regarded Islam "as a religious and cultural anachronism and an obstacle to progress." The Christian missionary activities and the large number of missionary schools subsidized by the Dutch posed another difficult problem for the Indonesian religious and educational reformers. "Every new period in the history of civilization obliges a religious community to undertake a general revision of the contents of its treasury," remarks Snouck Hurgronje, "and the situation in Indonesia called for the establishment of religious, social, and political organizations to rehabili­tate Islam and combat the contaminating influences of Western impact." The "pesantran" or madrasah which followed the traditional Muslim pattern of education played a very important role in building up the Islamic character of the Indonesian Muslims, while the Western system of education which touched only the upper stratum of Indonesian society did much to broaden their outlook, rationalize their thought, and prepare them morally and intel­lectually to fight for the liberation of their country from centuries of colonial exploitation.

One of the most active and popular organizations for socio-religious reform was Mubammadiyyah founded by Kiaja Haji Abmad Dachlan in November 1912 at Jogjakarta, which met with a relatively wide response. It rapidly grew in popularity as is shown by the large number of its branches in various parts of the country. The objectives of the organization were similar to those of the Salaf iyyah in Egypt-the purification of Islam as practised in Indonesia of the customs, rituals, and beliefs which were derived from the Hindu and Buddhistic religions and also from the debased Sufi doctrines; a rationalized

' Concerning the influence of the West upon Indonesian Islam, see C. C. Berg, "Indonesia" in H. A. R. Gibb, Whither Islam?, London, 1939; Harvey S. Benda, The Crescent and the Rising Sun, Cornell University Press, 1955; W. F. Wertheim, Effect of Western Civilization on Indonesian Society, Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, 1950, and also his Indonesian Society in Transition. '

interpretation of orthodox Islamic doctrines; the reformation of Muslim educational system; and the defence of Islam against external attacks. This movement aiming at a rationalist interpretation of orthodox Islamic doctrine

built up a network of schools. The organization later included a wide range of social services-free clinics, relief for the poor, orphanages, and publication of

the Qur'an. The organization, as a matter of policy, did not take active part in the political problems with which the Indonesians were faced. In practice,

however, "the progressive Muslim social concepts which it sought to advance could not be divested of the political consciousness of its members and of the

pupils taught in its many schools. It was a still, but deep, tributary of the stream of political nationalism and quietly but substantially nourished and strengthened that stream."


The degree of religious homogeneity in Indonesia which Islam had brought

about was an important factor in the growth of national movement. Islam served both as a symbol of social unity and as an ingroup solidarity against imperialistic foreign aggressors in a country where, in spite of diversity of race, language, and religion, the national feeling was strong. While the Dutch Govern­

ment and the Christian organizations in Holland gave moral and material assistance to the Christian missions established in Indonesia, the Government

did not allow the purely Muslim societies or organizations to propagate freely the principles of Islam. Besides the Muslims, there are in Indonesia about two million Chinese Buddhists, two million Christians, one million Hindus especially

in the Island of Bali, and a large number of animists. According to Wertheim, "it was possible to sustain the paradox that the extension of Islam in Indonesian

Archipelago was due to the Westerners. The arrival of Portuguese power in the area made the princes embrace Islamic faith as a political move to counter

Christian penetration."9

Islamic modernist movements, especially in Cairo, as already mentioned,

found ready response in Indonesia. In 1329/1911 the Indonesians studying in the international Islamic milieu of Mecca and Cairo carne back saturated with

pan-Islamic ideas which made them ill-disposed towards the European administrative system and the European way of life. The Dutch Government,

too late in the day, decided to give the Indonesians the benefit of Western education and greater association with the government of the country in the hope of neutralizing the influence of Islamic revivalist movements. By giving

8 G. M. Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, Cornell University Press, New York, pp. 87-88. See also Bousquet, A French View of the Netherlands Indies, pp. 2-5.

9 Quoted by M. Eostein, Statesman's Year Book, 1937, p. 1176.



A History of Muslim Philosophy

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the Indonesian population, at least its elite, a Western education, it was hoped, the new generation would turn away from Islam towards cultural association with the Dutch. It was hoped that "the pan-Islamic idea which has not yet taken a great hold on the native aristocracy of Java and the other islands will lose all the chance of existence within this milieu when those who compose it have become the free associates of our civilization." 1e

The struggle of the Philipinos, the success of Kemal Ataturk in Turkey against Western military powers, the activity of the Congress party in India, the rising tide of anti-Western Chinese nationalism represented by Dr. Sun Yet Sen, the industrialization of Japan and that country's victory over Russia in 1323/1905, all combined to quicken the rising tide of national movement in Indonesia. Indonesian students studying in the Netherlands in particular and in Europe in general were strongly impressed by Dutch political ideas of civil liberties and the democratic flavour of the government there. The writings of Bukharin, Karl Marx, Hegel, and Stalin influenced the handful of Indonesian students studying in continental Europe. The American Revolution of 1192/ 1778, the French Revolution of 1204/1789, and the Russian Revolution of 1336/1917 had a profound effect on the Indonesian people and shook them out of their apathy and complacency.



The First World War considerably strengthened national consciousness in Indonesia. Numerous national organizations and parties throughout the country took a leading part in giving shape to their latent aspirations and canalizing the pent-up discontent in a nation-wide struggle for freedom. The organizations included the Budi Utomo (1326/1908), Minahasa Association (1330/1912), Nena Muria Organization (1331/1913), Muhammadiyyah Move­ment (1337/1918), National Indies Party (1338/1919), Indonesian Social Democratic Association or N.I.V.B. (1335/1916), Sumatra Association (1337/ 1918), Society of Students (1338/1919), the Christian Ethical Party of Miai (1341/1922), and the Nationalist Party of Indonesia (1346/1927). The Jambi revolution of 1345/1926, the Padang Congress of 1341/1922, the Pan-Islamic Congress of 1344/1925 at Bandung, the Budi Utomo Congress of 30th July 1924, and the Indonesian Students' Association in the Netherlands-all struggled for national emancipation. Freedom from economic stranglehold of the colonial government was the common objective of most of these organi­zations.

The war led to the loosening of the ties which had formerly bound Indonesia to Europe and consequently Indonesia formed mercantile connections

10 G. M. Kahin, op. cit.

with other countries round the Pacific Ocean. Even before and during the war, demand for political freedom of Indonesia was openly voiced by the Indonesian leader, Tjokroaminoto, at the first National Congress of 1335/1916. The war compelled the Dutch Government to change its policy towards Indonesia. In 1335/1916, the Netherlands Parliament passed a bill for the institution of the Volksraad at Jakarta. In May 1918, van L. Stirum remarked, ". . . the road has been taken, never to be abandoned, toward the goal of responsible government in Indonesia itself which, in concert with the Volksraad, shall have the right to take final decisions in all matters which are not of general imperial [State] concern. In proper time and degree, so far as is compatible with due appreciation of the consequences of each new step, we must proceed directly toward this end."

The National Indonesian Party and the Budi Utomo demanded the con­vocation of a provisional parliament to frame a new democratic constitution. For this purpose, the Revision Commission was appointed by the Government on 17th December 1918. In June 1920, the Commission submitted its report to the Government and the following main proposals were made to be included in the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: -

(1) Recognition of Indonesia as an independent part of the kingdom, the

centre of gravity of the government being shifted to Indonesia itself.

(2) Elevation of the Volksraad to the status of a general co-legislative

representative body to be constituted by election.

In the military field, the World War had increased the importance of the defence problem in Indonesia. Compulsory military service was introduced in Indonesia in 1339/1920, but, by the regulations of 1341-42/1922-23, it was imposed only upon Europeans and not upon natives or foreign Orientals. As a result of the war, an energetic propaganda for an Indonesian army was carried on by an Indonesian Commitee of Defence.

Economically, the war had far-reaching consequences in the economic life of the country. In Indonesia the price of food-stuffs rose and this made the Government intervene to prevent the rising spiral of prices.


The adoption of Malay as the national language was another important factor in the development of national movement. The extensive use of the Indonesian language as the medium of expression throughout Indonesia was made pro­gressively. Kia Hadjar Dewantoro, the founder of Taman Siswa, introduced it first in his school curriculum. In 1347/1928, the Indonesian youth at their Congress swore to have one country, Indonesia; one nation, the Indonesian; and one national language, the Indonesian language. In 1344/1925, the Indo­nesian members of the Volksraad demanded the recognition of Indonesian as



A History of Muslim Philosophy

Renaissance in Indonesia

the official language of the country. In October 1942, an Indonesian Language Commission headed by Dr. Muhammad Hatta, was founded by the Japanese. In August 1945, the Indonesian language was formally declared the State language." The national Red and White flag of Indonesia became the symbol of the patriotic liberation movement.'2 The Indonesian Raya (Indonesian National Anthem) acted as an inspiring and unifying factor.

The proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia in 1364/1945 was made an official national movement and its visible symbols-the national flag and the national anthem-helped to join the Archipelago's many local patriotisms together into an all-embracing patriotism.

The discriminatory policy employed by the Dutch in the political, economic, social, and cultural fields and the consequent resentment against colonialism fanned the flames of discontent'3 Discrimination in the economic sphere was even more galling and filtered down to the masses. The economic exploitation of the national wealth of the country by the Dutch capitalists and the in­creased poverty of the vast population living on rich soil provided another source of discontent.

In education, the Indonesians were provided with far fewer facilities than European children, for in the quick growth of Western education amongst the masses the Dutch saw a potential danger to the continuance of their dominant position.

The nationalistic educational institution, commonly known as Taman Siswa (Children's Garden School) established by Kia Hadjar Dewantara on 3rd July 1922, served as the training ground for the ideological preparation for the popularization of the Indonesian national movement. Kia Hadjar Dewantara maintained that the culture of a nation could be bent but could never be broken. Wisdom, beauty, art, and science from abroad were welcome. Everybody, he said, who learns a foreign language gains access to a new world, but foreign elements should be absorbed into native life, enriching the already existing treasures of national civilization. He built up at least 250 schools all over Indonesia without any government or foreign help.

Muhammadiyyah institutions developed the political consciousness of its members and its pupils. The Muhammadiyyah movement, founded by H.Ahmad Dahlan on 18th November 1912, had established 29 branches with 4,000 members and built about 55 schools in 1925; 150 branches with 10,320 members in 1928; 209 with 17,550 members in 1929; 267 with 24,383 members in 1931;

11 Ubani, "On Indonesian Language," Merdeka, No. 17, I. S. I., New Delhi, 12th November 1947, p. 8.

12 The hoisting of the Red and White Flag was prohibited by the Dutch, but it was flown publicly in Jakarta in October 1928 during the Indonesian Youth


13 In 1939, there were 400 Indonesians and 100 Dutch who took the examination for entrance to the Government School of Civil Service: 23 Dutch and 3 Indonesians were accepted.

and 750 (316 in Java, 326 in Sumatra, 79 in Celebes and 29 in Borneo) with 43,000 members in 1935. It had set up 126 schools and as many clinics in Java which treated 81,000 patients in 1929. In 1930, there were considerable Muhammadiyyah schools and colleges in Sumatra. The Dutch colonial govern­ment tried to hamper the development of national educational institutions by issuing an Ordinance in 1342/1923 under which the Government assumed control of all privately-owned schools, numbering about 2,000-2,500 in 1357/ 1938 with 100,000 to 500,000 pupils.

The Dutch administration had deliberately starved the educational system. "This tended," says John Gunther, "to keep the people in subjection, and to prevent the normal growth of political aspirations. Dutch policy, it has been said, was 'to keep the bellies of the people full, their minds empty.' Indeed, the record of the Dutch in education was indifferent, and illiteracy reached ninety-five per cent."14

The growth of the national press and radio was the chief means for the propagation of the ideals of nationalistic struggle for freedom and emanci­pation of the fatherland.

The appearance of the newspaper Madan Pryayi (Civil Servants' Paper) at Bandung was indicative of the desire of the Indonesians to have their own periodicals and dailies as vehicles of expression of their desire for independence.

In 1340/1921, when the National Movement made itself felt in Sumatra (west coast), appeared the newspapers Banih Merdeka (The Seed of Freedom) at Medan, and Sinar Merdeka (The Ray of Freedom) at Padang Sidenpuan. The Apirakjat (The Fire of the People), Sinar Hindia (The Ray of Indonesia), the Api (Fire), the Njala (Flame), and several other newspapers made their appearance. The very names of these papers were symbolic of the passionate and all-absorbing desire for freedom.

The Indonesian journalists like R. M. Titoadisuyo, right down to young journalists like Hatta, Subardjo, Nazir Pamontjak, Mustafa, were pioneers in the fight for national emancipation and independence. Articles on the Indonesian struggle for independence were published by them in European newspapers and magazines, while the Indonesians abroad served as foreign correspondents of Indonesian newspapers. During the Japanese occupation (1361/1942-1364/1945) the national press was involved in the Japanese pro­paganda machine. It played an important role dining the national revolution against Dutch imperialism and inspired the masses with the spirit of self­determination and national self-respect.

The development of transport, communication, and the increased geo­graphical mobility of the people as well as ideas of modern economic organi­zation in Indonesia were equally helpful in the spreading of the national movement. Frequent contacts with the nationalist leaders of different countries in international conferences and the League of Nations had stimulating effects

14 John Gunther, Inside A8ia, 1942, p. 349.



A History of Muslim Philosophy

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in promoting discontent among Indonesian intelligentsia and patriots. In 1341/1922, the Sarekat Islam (S.I.) led by 'Abd al-Mu'iz and H. Salim established close relations with the Indian National Congress and adopted the policy of non-co-operation. The S.I. also sent delegations to the World Islamic Conference at Mecca in 1343/1924 and at Cairo in 1345/192615




Nationalist Party of Indonesia.-The Persatuan National Indonesia (P.N.I.) was founded in July 1927 by Dr. Soekarno at Bandung. This party was essentially nationalistic, with a definite aim-Indonesia Merdeka, that is, the liberation of Indonesia from the colonial yoke through a popular movement deriving its strength from indigenous force and ability. The moving spirits behind the P.N.I. were the repatriated members of the Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Indonesian Union)16 in Holland and other members of General Study Club at Bandung. Soekarno was the leader of the propaganda activities of the party and he soon made his mark not only as a great orator but also as the natural leader of the masses.

In 1347/1928, the propaganda activities of the P.N.I. were extended to cover small towns and villages, and leaders were sent out to remote places to meet and talk with the masses at their native haunts. For this purpose, the P.N.I. set up a sort of People's University, in which members were given courses in propaganda work. Within one year the party had as many as 600 members.

The P.N.I. leaders now stressed the idea of Indonesian unity in their speeches, using the Indonesian language and adopted for their party the white and red flag with the symbol of a bull's head on it.

The P.N.I. endeavoured to form a national front. For this purpose, they took the initiative in the organization of a federation of nationalist societies, composed of political parties, in December 1927, in order to unify and co­ordinate the activities of the member societies. The Indonesian Association in Holland was meanwhile appointed as their advance post for foreign pro­paganda.

In May 1928, in his speech before the Volksraad, the Governor-General alluded to the propaganda carried on by the P.N.L, calling it "a revolutionary nationalistic propaganda," and hinting that its revolutionary nature would hurt its own cause. In December 1929, the Government searched the houses

15 Members of the Communist Party attended the Pan-Pacific Labour Conference

under the Commintern auspices at Canton in June 1924. The Indonesian nation­alists were represented at the Conference of the League against imperialism in Brussels in February 1927. It coincided with large-scale arrests and deportations of the nationalist leaders of the revolution in 1926-27 in Java and Sumatra.

16 G. M. Kahin, op. cit., pp. 88-89.

and offices of the P.N.I. leaders. Fight persons were arrested, four of whom including Soekarno were later prosecuted.

The members of the P.N.I. split up into two groups after the official dissolu­tion of the party. Those rallying around Sartono organized a new party called the Partai Indonesia (Partindo) at the end of April 1931. The Partindo had the same aim as the dissolved P.N.I., that

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