The Muhammadiyah Society, one of the world’s largest religious entities and the largest influential group in Indonesia, has an approximate membership of about 25 million Indonesians and plays a major role in establishing the values of Islam in the Muslim-majority country and among Indonesian communities abroad.
In his interview with the Reference, Sheikh Zaki Rashid, the head of the branch of the association and one of the Indonesian community in Egypt, speaks about its intellectual origins and its influence, exploring the characteristics of its philosophy known as the Maon, its intellectual project and the size of its contribution to Indonesian society. He also spoke about the association’s concept of progressive Islam, which it considers as its slogan in its religious call, its position on the Indonesian state, and its position on political participation, as follows:
Firstly, can you please explain to us in detail the ideology of the association at first?
We adopt the “Maon philosophy”, taken from the surah of the same name in the Holy Quran, which urges the assistance of the orphans and the needy, and the assistance of those in need, as a foundation of the Islamic religion. Therefore, we focus on the service side as a basic method of preaching. A famous story is that Hajj Muhammad Dahlan, the founder of the Society in 1912, repeatedly explained the interpretation of the “Maon” to his disciples more than once. They asked him: Why have the same words been repeated while they were explained before? He replied: Why did not you work in accordance with these words until now? There comes the philosophy of converting Qur’anic verses into reality, and the foundation of the association in order to mobilize efforts to serve the Community.
What is the definition of progressive Islam promoted by your association?
It means updating the ideologies of Muslims and paying due attention to education, technology and economy and not focusing on religious education. Unfortunately, some have accused the founder of violating the teachings of the Islamic religion when he began calling for the establishment of schools instead of just the mosque rings, and when this began spreading among the citizens of the Indonesian cities.
Why are most of the association’s members concentrated in urban areas and not the countryside?
At first, the focus was on cities, because their people were more attracted to the call for modernization and progress, but now we are in rural areas as well, and our educational institutions are spread all over the country. We have 172 universities and tens of thousands of schools, more than the number of government schools.
How many members do you have now?
According to the latest statistics, the number of members of the Association is 25 million Indonesians.
Do not you have branches outside your country?
We have no branches abroad except among the Indonesian communities in other countries, but there are Islamic associations whose ideas and philosophies have been copied from us in Thailand and Singapore, without any organizational links between us and them. But we are now opening a university in Malaysia.
What about religious schools?
We have a number of madrassas, and we have a religious sector whose task is to issue fatwas. They are a reflection of the ideas of Imam Muhammad Abdo and the thinker Mohammed Rashid Rida, who call for the service of society and the advancement of the nation.
Where does the funding come from?
The funding comes through Islamic endowments. For example, we use the fees of schools and hospitals to build other projects. For example, we have private hospitals for the rich, whose fees we use to build hospitals for ordinary citizens.
Do not you seek to apply the provisions of Islamic law in Indonesia?
This is not our business. Everything we seek is to see our country as a safe and secure town.