From Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 up until today, the relationship between Indonesian nationalism, Islam, and modernity has been a key subject of...

From Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 up until today, the relationship between Indonesian nationalism, Islam, and modernity has been a key subject of debate. One of the central figures in this debate was the great writer, journalist, public intellectual – and pious Muslim from Minangkabau, West Sumatra, Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, better known by his pen-name, Hamka. Largely self-taught, Hamka was one of Indonesia’s most prolific writers. Between the 1920s and his death in 1981 he penned novels, short stories, biographies, memoirs, self-help books, travel books, histories, and many studies of Islam, including a famous thirty-volume commentary on the Qur’an. In Hamka’s Great Story: A Master Writer’s Vision of Islam for Modern Indonesia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2016), James R. Rush traces the development of Hamka’s thinking as expressed through these works against the backdrop of Indonesia’s tumultuous modern history, including late Dutch colonial rule, the Japanese occupation, the Indonesian revolution, the Sukarno years, and the New Order military dictatorship under Suharto.

Since the end of the New Order regime in 1998 some scholars have referred to a “conservative turn” in Islam in Indonesia. Listen to James Rush explain how an appreciation of Hamka and his influence in twentieth century Indonesia can help us better understand what is happening in Indonesian Islam today.

Listeners of this episode might also enjoy listening to:

  • Vanessa Hearman, Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia.
  • Anthony Reid, A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads.

Patrick Jory teaches Southeast Asian History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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