Andriansyah, "Ahmad Wahib’s Renewal Islamic Thinking in
Indonesia in Perspective of Abdolkarim Soroush"
International Institute of Islamic
Thought Indonesia, Vol. 2, No.5, May 2003
Generally, there are three groups of Islamic thinking in Indonesia. The
First, they who render Islam should be as doctrine applied universally;
meta-historic; definitive; and self-sufficient. Hence, they do not need
Islamic renewal. Islam was gave answers for all of problem questions of
life in worldly even in hereafter, which was described by The Koran and
Sunna those has dependable (Hadith As-Shahiha). The declining of Islam—for
those who belong to this point of view—is due to distortion of applying
Holy Koran. Therefore, discerning The Holy Koran comprehensively and
reading textually-literally, as well as applying it without reserve, is
the answer for better future for Islamic society. This group frequently
called as fundamentalist in Islam.
The Second, they who render Islam should be as doctrine, nevertheless they
do not neglecting system and tradition values of Islam or custom attribute
where they come from. Human was born with certain tribe, nation, language,
colored, habit, custom, are not obstruct whom to embrace Islam as long as
they affirm it. It is not a deviation, but just considering tradition as
system and Islamic values. This group called as traditionalist in Islam.
The last one, they who render Islam should be only as ideal type, whereby
the application of system and Islamic values adjustable with life
fluctuation in space and time. In their point of view, the implementation
of Islamic tradition that implemented by Moslem before this present time
must be criticized and should able to be rethink. Accommodation to system
and modern values in Islam reconsiderates and turn up as a component would
not be apart from the way of life. The old Islamic systems and values were
obsolete in order to answer the present problems. Henceforth, those must
to be renewable. Religion is nothing without interpretation based on
historical and cultural context. In point of view of this school, religion
was presumed as something has limits that are different from secular
thing. So, religion must be secularized, because religion was private
business. The school frequently called as modernist or neo-modernist in
Islam—now well known as liberal Islam. The Islamic renewal they promote
actually bring out a controversial case to Muslim society. From the
controversial triggered various thinking both pros and cons.
The three groups above were having different opinion in what meaning of
Islam they refer. The question is: which kind of meaning of Islam that
always disputed among them? Does religion renewable?
Hence, the aim of my article is to describe the ideas of Ahmad Wahib about
these problems. Ahmad Wahib was born in November 9, 1942. He was growing
in eastern Java (Madura Island) where the traditional Islam has its
stronghold, but since childhood until adult, he was growing in several
cultures, faiths, and religions. Together with Nurcholish Madjid, Djohan
Effendi, and Abdurrahman Wahid, Wahib was the one of prominent Islamic
thinkers. Australian scholar, Greg Barton, classified them as liberal
Islamic thinkers. The idea of Wahib’s renewal Islamic thinking occurred on
his diary that published posthumously in 1981, entitled Pergolakan
Pemikiran Islam: Catatan Harian Ahmad Wahib (Islamic Thinking Discontent:
The Diary of Ahmad Wahib), edited by Djohan Effendi and Ismet Natsir. His
diary is the only source for me to reconstruct his thought, especially in
Islamic renewal. I use Abdol Karim Soroush’s theory as my analysis.
In Ahmad Wahib’s point of view, Islam was the unchangeable and adequate
concept. This is to say that Islam was universal and eternal. The
definition envisages Islam as what it is should to be, das sollen [p.19].
In this term, Islam was defined as impeccable concept; pass by particular
epochs and places (beyond space and time), shalih li kulli al-zaman wa al-makan.
The paragon of Islam—that Ahmad Wahib refer to—was the Islam where going
into source of ethic and morality that could enlighten and inspire human
spirituality. Islam is not an institution that regulates code of conduct
and legacy, specifically in life. Because code of conduct and legacy
created by human or society in particular place and time that is conform
its historical setting, and as the result of circular interpretation of
system and Islamic values. Islam just contains ultimate values that are
inspired human (p.20).
Thence, Ahmad Wahib believes that Islam in this meaning i.e. Islam
according to the God, would not be reached, because human was immanent
within space and time, whereas God and His word was transcendent (p.27).
Hence, the only our task is to close Islam according to our creed and our
interpretation about the ideal Islam that untouchable. Islam according to
the Allah just could we ladder to not reaches or gains to. Islam that
described by Qur’an and Sunna is not an authentic Islam, it is just
formulation of Islam at that time where historical setting responded,
anyhow Qur’an and Sunna contains the perennial ultimate values. So, the
Islam what we embrance is not Islam according to the creator, but we must
say: “it’s Islam on our perspective and yours maybe different.” Ahmad
Wahib stressed on depending Islam that never change, the changing demands
in time and space not on the validity of the earlier revealed sources.
It’s sociological problem not ontological.
In line with Ahmad Wahib’s reasoning, I argue that Ahmad Wahib was made
differentiation between religion and human knowledge about religion. The
abstraction of religion is not religion authentically, but knowledge about
it. His work has similarity with what has done by Abdolkarim Soroush, the
Iranian contemporary Islamic thinker. Abdolkarim Soroush theorized
differentiation between Islam and human knowledge about Islam into his
theory, viz. The Theory of Expansion and Contraction of Religion. Hossein
Kamali stated on his theory that put three principles: firstly, The
Principle of Coherence and Correspondence: Any understanding of Religion
(whether correct or incorrect) bears on the body of human knowledge and
tries to be in coherence with the latter. Secondly, The Principle of
Interpenetration: A contraction or expansion in the system of human
knowledge may penetrate the domain of our understanding of religion.
Thirdly, The Principle of Evolution: The system of human knowledge (i.e.,
human science and philosophy) is subject to expansion and contraction
Indeed, throughout this theory, Ahmad Wahib would like to give and take in
his Islamic renewal project, which always over loaded by controversial and
chronic. Ahmad Wahib was positioning in this issue stand on two extremes,
both secular thinker and fundamentalist in Islam. Ahmad Wahib still give
chance to religion to be a part in order to change social condition.
Secular thinker made a mistake when they exclude religion, whereas
religion emerged by immanent realm, beside its transcendent. Meanwhile,
fundamentalist hopes too excessive, due give task to religion
immeasurable, whereas realm always changing. So, as a conclusion: the main
object of renewal is human perspective and knowledge, not religion itself.
Perhaps, it will reduce antagonistic relation among several groups of
Wallahu a’lam bi shawab.
researcher staff of Epistemology at IIIT Indonesia