By Islam Mohamed
Indonesia-based Muhammadiyah charity is one of the largest religious entities in the world as it has an approximate 25 million Indonesians. The non-governmental organization plays a major role in disseminating the values of Islam and among Indonesian and its communities abroad.
In an interview with al-Margea, Sheikh Zaki Rashid, the head of Muhammadiyah’s branch in Egypt, speaks about the organization’s intellectual origins, influence, philosophy, position in the Indonesian society.
First, could you explain to us the ideology of the association in more details?
- We adopt the Islamic philosophy of charity (which is called Maaon) as it is stipulated in the Holy Quran. The name of the philosophy was named after chapter No. 107 in the Holy Quran. The philosophy includes principles of good treatment of the orphans, advocating the feeling of the poor, giving charities. The organization founder Ahmad Dahlan was interpreting the meaning of Maaon chapter and asked his students to adopt and apply the chapter’s teachings in 1912. Since then, the foundation was established on these basics.
Could you tell us more about the “Islam Bertujuan ” or “progressive Islam” that was promoted by the Charity?
- This philosophy sheds the light on renewing the religious discourse, enhancing scientific, economic, Islamic religion. Unfortunately, some people accused the charity of violating the Islamic teachings, when the charity called for establishing schools instead of just having mosques for educating the Islamic sciences.
Why most of charity’s members live in urban cities not the rural areas?
- At the beginning, the charity focused on the cities, where people were more attracted to modernization and progress. But now we have branches in rural areas as well. We have 172 universities and tens thousands of schools. The number of Muhammadiyah is higher than the public ones.
How many members the charity has?
- According to the latest statistics, the number of members reached 25 million Indonesians.
Do you have branches outside Indonesia?
- We have no branches abroad except among the Indonesian communities in other countries. However, there are two other associations- unrelated to our charity- in Thailand and Singapore copied our philosophy. But we are going to open a university to Malaysia.
What about the religious schools?
- We have a number of religious schools and a religious center for issuing the fatwas [Islamic decision]. In general, the charity adopts the ideas of Egyptian Imam Muhammad Abduh and the intellectual Mohammed Rashid Rida.
Where does the funding come from?
- Islamic endowment is our main source of funding. For example, one of the philanthropists allocates a piece of land to the charity for educational projects. Also, the fees of schools and hospitals are being allocated for building other projects. Moreover, we have private hospitals for the rich; the revenues of these private hospitals are spent on charitable hospitals.
Do you seek applying Islamic laws in Indonesia?
That is not our business. All we seek is to see our country safe and secure.
Do you have specific demands that should be met by the government?
- We do not want to change the state’s regime, but we think that the all should work on raising the level of education, improving the citizens’ health, and upgrading the economy.
What about your participation in the political life?
- We are not a political party and we do not have a political party that represents us.
But, a number of Muhammadiyah members assumed high political positions, most notably the charity’s secretary general Ameen Rais, who served as the president of the Indonesian parliament for five years… What do you think?
- The members have the right to participate in the political life, and we do not impose on them any specific political agenda.