A study of the religio-political thought of Abdurrahman Wahid

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In this study, I examine the methodological foundations of neo-modernist thought in Indonesia, focussing, in particular, on the thought of the contemporary Islamic intellectual, Abdurrahman Wahid. In discussing this newly established form of Islamic thinking, I analyse the contentious issue of the relation between state and organized religion within the context of pre- and post-independence Indonesia. Abdurrahman argues, through the articulation of a socio-cultural approach, that the antagonistic relationship between state and Islam can be overcome. By focussing on this controversial question and the methodology of Indonesian neo-modernist thinking, I examine the potential of Abdurrahman's religio-political thought to address the current predicament of the Muslim community in Indonesia. Abdurrahman's approach, which both attempts to reconcile the relationship between state and Islam and reinterpret Islamic teachings within the context of modern challenges, is, however, incapable of producing a genuine reconstruction of contemporary Islamic thought. In illustrating this assertion, I employ the historicist understanding of the Islamic heritage - al-Turath - in an attempt to contribute towards the development of an Islamic awakening discourse. I demonstrate that historical analyses can unearth the epistemological and ideological contents of the Islamic legacy, which has shaped the consciousness of the modern Muslim mind. It is concluded that the recovery of the greatness of Islamic civilization can only be achieved through a historicist understanding of the epistemological structure of the Islamic heritage.

Includes bibliographical references.