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Some Advice

By:
Muhammad Hasyim Asy’ari
Document type:
Speech

Related Content

Some Advice

Muhammad Hasyim Asy’ari

Commentary

Kyai Haji Muhammad Hasyim Asy’ari (Java, 1871–1947) is widely regarded in Indonesia as one of the most respected religious leaders of the twentieth century. Educated in his father's school in Java, with further studies at Mecca, he founded and taught at several pesantren (seminaries) in East Java and was a primary organizer of the Nahdlatul Ulama (Renaissance of the Religious Scholars) association in 1926, leading that organization until his death in 1945. He was active in nationalist politics, usually calling for greater unity among Muslims in the independence movement. Asy’ari was a transitional figure between traditionalism and modernism in Muslim religious thought. He held tightly to the importance of the traditional Muslim schools of law, stating that they held the vital truth about Islamic doctrine. At the same time, he left room for new interpretation by scholars who were appropriately trained and who stayed within traditional bounds. He introduced new teaching methods in his schools and encouraged his son and his favorite students to undertake further experimentation in subject matter and styles of teaching. He attempted to seek reconciliation with modernists, but was usually rebuffed by them; at the same time he apparently convinced many in the Muslim community at large of his sincerity. The selection chosen for translation, a 1935 speech delivered to the Nahdlatul Ulama organization Asy’ari helped to found, appeals for harmony between traditionalists and modernists. Asy’ari describes the Islamic community as all-inclusive and tolerant, though his opponents did not view him or his efforts as achieving these goals.1 Harry J. Benda, The Crescent and the Rising Sun (The Hague, Netherlands: Van Hoeve, 1958), pp. 151 and forward; Aboebakar Atjeh, Sejarah Hidup K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim dan Karangan Tersiar (Biography of K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim and His Various Writings) (Jakarta, Indonesia: Kementerian Agama, 1957); Lathiful Khuluq, “K.H. Hasyim Asy’ari's Contribution to Indonesian Independence,” Studia Islamika, volume 5, number 1, 1998, pp. 46–67; Lathiful Khuluq, Ajar Kebangunan Ulama: Biographi K.H. Hasyim Asy’ari (Training Religious Scholars: Biography of K.H. Hasyim Asy’ari) (Yogyakarta, Indonesia: LkiS, 2000).

In the name of God, the beneficent, the merciful.

From the lowest and the most contemptible servant of God, namely Muhammad Hasyim Asy’ari. May God forgive him, his parents, and the entire umma [Muslim community]. Amen.

To my respected Muslim brothers, ‘ulama’ [religious scholars], and ordinary people. Peace, God's mercy and blessing be upon all of you.

The news has reached me that among you there is rage, slander, and conflict at present. I know the reasons for this condition. Surely this happens because they have changed and replaced God's book, the Qur'an, and the hadith [sayings] and sunna [practice] of the Prophet, even though God, the most merciful, has stated: “The faithful are surely brothers, so restore friendship among your brothers.” [Qur'an, Sura 49, Verse 10]

Nowadays, some members of the umma regard their Muslim brothers as enemies and do not want to improve brotherhood, but rather to destroy it. The prophet has stated: “You should not be jealous of others; you should not divide people; you should not quarrel; all of you should be God's servants who are close to one another.” [Unfortunately,] people nowadays are envious, angry, divided, quarrelsome, and hostile to each other.

O, you ‘ulama’ who have fanatically supported narrow opinions! Abandon your fanaticism concerning contentious matters, since even the greatest scholars held more than one opinion about them. One stated that every ijtihad [rational, in this case scholarly, interpretation] is correct, while the other mentioned that even though only one interpretation can be correct, those who engage in such interpretation can still be rewarded, even though the end product of thinking is incorrect.

I ask my brothers to leave behind their clique mentality and abandon passions that are destructive. Fight for Islam by giving all your strength, and overcome them who slander the Qur'an and the attributes of God. Fight against those who teach harmful knowledge and who harm faith. Indeed, it is an obligation [for Muslims] to fight against those people. So, let us, brothers, sacrifice ourselves to meet these obligations.

O, all believers!

Before you stand infidels who deny God. They fill every corner of the country. Who [among you] is ready to engage in dialogue with them and guide them to the right path?

O, ‘ulama’!

Your discipline is the application of religious thought, and in that effort there are those who are stubborn.

Brothers, indeed your obstinacy in religious knowledge and the quarreling among you to gain a particular view are not appreciated by God, the most high! And such obstinacy and quarreling are also not appreciated by the Prophet, peace be upon him. If you [follow such a path, indeed] your real motivation is fanaticism, conflict, and hatred for one another.

If Imam [Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad] Shafi‘i [767–820], Imam Abu Hanifa [circa 699–767], Imam Malik [ibn Anas, 710–796], Imam Ahmad [ibn Hanbal, 780–855], [Abu’l-‘Abbas] Ibn Hajar [al-Haytami, 1504–1567], and [Muhammad ibn Ahmad] Ramli [circa 1511–1595] were still alive, they would certainly condemn your behavior and distance themselves from you and from your behavior. All of you surely see the great number of ordinary people—only God the greatest knows their number—who do not perform prayer five times a day, whereas according to Imam Shafi‘i, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmad they will be punished [in the Hereafter for that failure] by having their throats cut. You certainly cannot deny this, for certainly you yourself see your neighbor who does not perform prayers, and there are even those in our own group who, more and more, neglect their prayers and put them aside.

Then, what is the significance and the need of quarreling about trivial religious matters which are also disputed by the experts of Islamic jurisprudence? On the contrary, you do not differ concerning some specific matters which are certainly forbidden by all scholars, such as fornication, usury, drinking alcohol, and the like. There should be no argument here, except between Imam Shafi‘i and Shaykh Ibn Hajar [on minor points of interpretation]. Such arguing only creates division in the unity of faith and destroys your brotherhood. It gives the ignorant power over you. It diminishes your authority in the eyes of the people, especially those of poor character. These foolish people will humiliate your honor by saying impolite and improper things about you.

These people have suffered ruin because of you ‘ulama’. And you yourselves have suffered great harm because of your own great sin [of quarreling with one another].

O, ‘ulama’!

If you see people doing good deeds based on the opinions of the great teachers of the past, or accepting their word as truth without examining original sources, even if the teacher's opinion is not really correct, then, even if you do not agree, do not insult such people, but guide them in a nice way! Certainly those who [insult others with such condemnation] violate God's commands and commit great sin. Those who do that destroy the integrity of a nation and close every door to [communal] well-being.

Further, God forbids His believing servants to be hostile toward one another. Rather, give others advice on the ill effects of improper thought and behavior, that is, how certain actions will lead to sad events and bad consequences. God stated: “And do not ever be hostile to one another because hostility will cause brittleness, and cause your authority to disappear.”2 [This may be a paraphrase of the Qur'an, Sura 3, Verse 103, or Sura 8, Verse 46.—Trans.]

O, Muslims!

Indeed, current events can be used as an instructional device; and the lessons drawn from this source are far from insignificant. Wise people are able to make use of and take advantage of such everyday experiences and events, even more than the preaching of some sermon givers and the advice of those [legalists] proffering it. Take events to heart that occur before our eyes each and every day. Do we not regret [certain] actions? Are we not be aware of drunkenness [in our midst]? Don’t we make mistakes? And are we also aware of [instances of] our own success, based on helping one another and unity? These positive cases exist because of clean hearts and pure intentions. Or will we continue to be divided, to be hypocrites: outwardly pleasant, inwardly hostile, hearts full of hatred and legacies of deep resentment.

Indeed, our religion is one: Islam! Our legal allegiance is one: the Shafi‘i [school of Islamic legal scholarship]! Our region is one: Java!3 [Religious scholars of Asy’ari's generation used “Java” to refer to all of Indonesia, following the practice of the Arabs.—Trans.] And we are all Sunnis.

So I swear by God, in truth, that your feeling of hateful dissension is woefully apparent, and that this constitutes a great danger to our progress.

O, Muslims!

Fear God and return to the book of God, behave according to the way of the Prophet, and establish good models of conduct in order that you be successful, even as the early Muslims before us were successful. Fear God and help each other in matters of goodness and piety. Do not abet others in sin and abomination. God will reward you in His mercy and grace. And do not be like people who say, “We have heard,” but actually are not listening.

May good will be with us from the beginning to the end [of this congress].

Bibliography references:

Kyai Haji Muhammad Hasyim Asy’ari, “Beberapa Nasehat Kyai Haji Muhammad Hasyim Asy’ari” (Some Advice of Shaykh Hasyim Asy’ari), in Pesan-Pesan Dua Pemimpin Besar Islam Indonesia (The Messages of Two Great Leaders of Indonesian Islam), edited by Abdul Munir Malkan (Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Medio, 1986), pp. 16–20. Text of a speech delivered in 1935. Translation from Indonesian by Lathiful Khuluq. Introduction by Howard M. Federspiel.

Notes:

1. Harry J. Benda, The Crescent and the Rising Sun (The Hague, Netherlands: Van Hoeve, 1958), pp. 151 and forward; Aboebakar Atjeh, Sejarah Hidup K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim dan Karangan Tersiar (Biography of K.H.A. Wahid Hasjim and His Various Writings) (Jakarta, Indonesia: Kementerian Agama, 1957); Lathiful Khuluq, “K.H. Hasyim Asy’ari's Contribution to Indonesian Independence,” Studia Islamika, volume 5, number 1, 1998, pp. 46–67; Lathiful Khuluq, Ajar Kebangunan Ulama: Biographi K.H. Hasyim Asy’ari (Training Religious Scholars: Biography of K.H. Hasyim Asy’ari) (Yogyakarta, Indonesia: LkiS, 2000).

2. [This may be a paraphrase of the Qur'an, Sura 3, Verse 103, or Sura 8, Verse 46.—Trans.]

3. [Religious scholars of Asy’ari's generation used “Java” to refer to all of Indonesia, following the practice of the Arabs.—Trans.]

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