|Sahal Mahfudz (1937-2014)|
In the mid-1990s, they began to redefine the role of Muslim scholars trained in the field of traditional Islamic learning in order to bring them in tune with the demands of the present-day Muslim world in order to help them respond more effectively to the challenges faced by their constituency of mainly rural-based Muslims from peasant backgrounds.They, in turn, groomed the next generation of NU cadres who have been making name as intellectuals in their own right since the regime change of 1998, which heralded the post-Suharto Reformasi era. This resulted in the somewhat unexpected situation where scholar-activists from the traditionalist Islamic milieu overtook their intellectual peers from the modernist camp in terms of progressive and innovative thinking about the role of religion in the contemporary world (for an article by a young NU member on occasion of Sahal Mahfudz's death, click here). These ideas continue to be pushed by NU-affiliated organizations such as The Wahid Institute, named after another former NU leader, and first democratically elected president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid. Led by Ahmad Suaedy and Ahmad Rumadi, it focuses on the monitoring of human rights and religious freedom in Indonesia.
|Funeral of NU leader K.H. Sahal Mahfudz|
A happier event can be reported from the modernist side of the Muslim intellectual spectrum in Indonesia.
|M. Dawam Rahardjo|
During his student years in Yogyakarta, he was a member of the 'Limited Group', a discussion forum convened by the later Minister of Religious Affairs, Abdul Mukti Ali, and one of the key figures in the 'Movement for the Renewal of Islamic Thinking' (Gerakan Pembaruan Pemikiran Islam). Started in the late 1960s by the then chairman of the largest Muslim student organization HMI, Nurcholish Madjid, it functioned as an incubator for a strand of innovative thinking that has few parallels anywhere else in the Muslim world. Over the years, Dawam Rahardjo became one of the leaders of the progressive wing in the Muhammadiyah, the most important modernist Muslim mass movement in Indonesia, eventually serving on the organization's Central Board, until 2005, when the conservative bloc swept to power (for more on the struggle of progressive modernist Muslims see also the post of 10 January 2013).
|Dawam Rahardjo receiving Yap Thiam Hien Award 2014|