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Ahmad Wahib’s Renewal Islamic Thinking in Indonesia in Perspective of Abdolkarim Soroush

 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 (http//www.seraj.com).
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 Islamic thinking.
Wallahu a’lam bi shawab.

Andriansyah, researcher staff of Epistemology at IIIT Indonesia



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