Muhammadiyah and Anti-Pluralism Issue

Muhammadiyah and Anti-Pluralism Issue: A Dispute of Muhammadiyah’s View on theTeaching of Ahmadiyah

Written by: Herri Mulyono


Muhammadiyah’s strong support towards MUI decree and Moslem World League Robithah ‘alam Islami declaring the misleading of Ahmadiyah arises anti-pluralism issue on Muhammadiyah movement. The support which is also shown up by the statement of chairman of Majelis Tarjih Central Board of Muhammadiyah saying that the teaching of Qodiani Ahmadiyah is also concluded to be misleading[1], is claimed that Muhammadiyah has already gone out from its commitment and against the freedom of new understanding on religion.

After the Muktamar Banda Aceh 1995, Muhammadiyah carries out the duty of enhancing the religious understanding from the classical era, scholastic, modern, up to advanced modernity on the basis of normative and historical analysis. The implication of after-Muktamar Banda Aceh 1995, Majlis Tarjih and Development of Islamic scholar consider of necessity to the extent of understanding and examination on religious issue and Islamic scholar.[2] However, Muhammadiyah’s support toward the MUI decree in relation with the misleading of Ahmadiyah’s teaching, is committed to deny Muhammadiyah’s regard on the development of thought and Islamic scholar especially after Muktamar Banda Aceh 1995.

The teaching of Ahmadiyah which was delivered originally by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in some views is understood as a new understanding of Islam whereby Mirza Ghulam Ahmad argued that there should be more understanding by the term “khataman nabiyyin” or the closing of God’s prophets. The issue of Ahamadiyah’s misleading concepts arose when Mirza Ghulam Ahmad committed himself as the last prophet that in his view point the term “khataman nabiyyin” mentioned in Qur’an refers to the closing of God’s teaching of Islam rather than the closing of prophet in physical assumption. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad also reasons that there is no single verse saying that Muhammad is the last prophet by which the existence of final prophet has still been waited.

In sum, it might be understood that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s teaching of Ahmadiyah basically is likely a new understanding of Qur’an verses and is supposed to respond as plurality in term of religion understanding. By this regard, Muhammadiyah’s decision to support MUI decree to cut off the spreading of Ahmadiyah teaching and practices, is seen as the denial of Muhamadiyah’s commitment on pluralism and arises the issue of Anti-Pluralism.

The Normative Concept of Pluralism

As the basis of normative concept, the holy Qur’an states two main aspects related to pluralism. The first aspect relates to the illegality of the conduct of pluralism in the contexts of religious relation as well as communal interaction. The two contexts of pluralism within the Qur’an are carried out by two verses; they are al-Baqarah (chapter 2) verse 148 and al-Maidah (chapter 5) verse 48.

“To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good. Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you together. For Allah hath power over all things”. (al-Baqarah (chapter 2) verse 148)

“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single People, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you; so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;” al-Maidah (chapter 5) verse 48.

The first fragment of surah al-Baqarah verse 148, li kullin wijhatun huwa muwalli^ha^ is literately translated as “To each is a goal to which Allah turns him;” The word to each within the fragment refer to each religion, society or other community that people attend. In relation to political view, the term to each might also deal with government or particular authority that provides rules and policy.

Within surah al-Maidah verse 48, God emphasizes the variety of ways of living, rules, government, idealism, or other particular life scholar by his saying, “To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah has so willed, He would have made you a single People, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you;“. In this term, the existence of differences in life is supposed to be responded as God’s willingness and has to become the nature of life.

To sum, the above two verses are some of evidences which can be undertaken as references on the issue of pluralism. By the two verses, Islam opens wide interactions among people with different background of religion, ideas, life understanding, or other governances.

Muhammadiyah and Pluralism

In Muhammadiyah’s principle, the essence of Islam is regarded as God’s teaching, which has to undertake as social life principles as well as human spiritual principle.[3] The teaching of Islam regards variety in scholar and practices of the religion and in many social life aspects by which tolerance has to be the main factor in responding such differences. Muhammadiyah philosophy of tolerance declares that there is no single group or ideology which is able to claim as the single truth. This philosophy is undertaken in concept that every individual is constrained to spaces, time and understanding of Islam as the sequence, some people ideology shall be invited to complete some other weaknesses.

Muhammadiyah’s concept of pluralism and tolerance as its response to pluralism is regarded from the existence of Islam that provide explicit and implicit contexts of Qur’an understanding by which many people would have different argumentations in particular implementations. The Islam teaching of ijtihad is encouraged in Muhammadiyah to motivate the openness and critical behavior towards different thoughts and understanding. Ijtihad is responded as an alternative to provide readiness of Moslem to come across towards particular modern situation by having basic guideless from the holy Qur’an and sunnah.

Muhammadiyah religion pluralism in Jainuri’s view point is established as consequence of relativity principle in understanding Islam which has been developed by the founders of Muhammadiyah in relation to plural behavior in Moslem society.[4] Religion pluralism has to live and sustain the life harmony by which people can live together in different understanding on particular issue. However, religious pluralism which is developed by Ahmad Dahlan was seen in terminology of differences of religion externally rather than differences in Islamic practices. Although, Muhammadiyah internal pluralism is acted out in harmony relation with those that have similar ideologies.

The Corridor of Pluralism on the Ahmadiyah Issue

In writer’s point of view, the concept of pluralism in religion should be seen in scope of external pluralism and internal pluralism. What is meant by external pluralism in this view is by regarding differences in embracing particular religion like Islam, Christian, Hindu and some others. Responding to such pluralism, Islam teaches us to do so through some verses in the holy Qur’an as below:

“When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.” (an-Nisa verse 86)

“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and we shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.” (al-An’am verse 108)

“And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury); but say, “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (al-Ankabut verse 46)

The above three verses in the holy Qur’an shows the teaching of Islam in the view of behaving toward external pluralism. Throughout the verses, Islam teaches us to keep mutual relation among religion and the prohibition to deliver any abuses toward people with different religion. Dialogue is also encourage to solve any arising problems in religion interaction in daily conducts as well as in establishing appropriate understanding among the believers.

In other internal pluralism, Islam also teaches us to behave differences related to daily practices of Islam in daily life. Islam considers “ijtihad” as the basis principle to solve any problems arises within Moslem life after the prophet by referencing to al-Qur’an and sunnah. Ijtihad is seen as media to accommodate human’s understanding of the holy Qur’an in daily life context beside to provide judgment on particular cases. What supposed to examine is the conduct of Ijtihad is in term of the application of the holy Qur’an in communal situations, not in relation with God’s existence and other mentioned in the five basic principles of Islam and the six principles of Iman.

Hence, by regarding the two concepts of religion pluralism, the existence of Ahmadiyah arises to be new religion despite of its statement for being other scholar of Islam. Ahmadiyah case should be seen in Ijtihad point of view that the understanding of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad towards the Qur’an terminology related to the “khataman nabiyyin” could not be accepted as it is out of the corridor bordered by the five basic principles of Islam and the six principles of Iman. The ijtihad on such understanding conducted by MUI and Moslem World League Robithah ‘alam Islami provides judgment of the misleading of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s understanding of Qur’an verses and has to be forbidden as it endangers further practices of Islam. Thus, the pluralism related to Ahmadiyah issue cannot be tolerated as supposed not to mention as internal religion pluralism.

In brief, Muhammadiayah’s support on MUI decree is considered as right direction as shall not to behave as anti-pluralism. Muhammadiyah’s decision shall be seen as an effort in keeping the originality of the teaching of Islam.

[1] Tempo Interaktif. July 21st, 2005. Available at

[2] Anjar Nugroho, S.Ag. ___. Muhammdiyah dan Pluralisme Agama: Membaca Gagasan Toleransi dan Interaksi Antar Umat Beragama. Makalah tidak diterbitkan.

[3] Ahmad Jainuri. 2002. Ideologi Kaum Reformis. Surabaya: LPAM. P. 112. Also mentioned in: Hamdan Hambali. 2006. Ideologi dan Strategi Muhammadiyah. Yogyakarta: Suara Muhammadiyah. P 5-88.

[4] Ibid. P. 124.


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