Islamic World in the Scholars’ Work (A Reflection on Peacock, Hassan, and Woodward’s Account)
By: Moh. Syifa Amin Widigdo
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
To observe the world of Islam would be an exciting, challenging and enduring project due to Islamic world is rich culturally and colorful sociologically. In fact, the study of Islam around the world is not only dealing with a wide range of symbols, beliefs, rituals, and other religious practices but also concerning with the religious values, norms, motives, ethos and world views which influence deeply toward human’s civilization.
However, some scholars try to carry out research digging Islamic phenomena in some regions. Firstly, Riaz Hassan focused his study on the conception of Islam and society in Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan. Then, James L. Peacock conducted the survey on Muslim Puritans phenomena in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Lastly, Mark R. Woodward interested in researching normative piety and mysticism in Java, Indonesia. The main questions properly addressed to those studies will be; beside the differences among them, what are, if any, the common issues among them? What are their uniqueness and distinct ideas? How do they show the Islamic concept of the world and the image of Islam? This paper besides aims to elucidate some points answering questions above, it also in turn intends to attach brief critics and comments strengthening some approaches and propositions in those works.
The Common Grounds and the Strengths
In the first place, it appears that the spirit of reformism within religion and society is the shared issue among Hassan, Woodward, and Peacock. It can be grasped from their accounts which show in certain extents some similar evidences, terminologies, and findings. The first scholar, as sociologist, characterizes a certain type of religiosity which holds a strong religious commitment (piety) and practice Islam rigorously as “Scripturalist-Puritanism” or fundamentalist. This style of religiosity is generally represented by Ulama. Similarly, the second researcher, better known as an Indonesianist, notices that people who highly concern with the shari’ah, ritual, and certain modes of behavior are considered as normative piety or normative Islam. They prefer to perform shari’ah manner in order to guide their daily life rather that other moral conducts. Then the third social scientist finds the trend of religious behavior which is more paying an attention towards the idea of salvation, collectivism, legalism, scripturalism, and purification. He employs an appropriate terminology to call this phenomenon, namely religious reformism or Puritanism.
Furthermore, they also indicate an agreement in identifying the opposing
criteria of religious behavior. According to Hassan following Ernest Gellner,
unlike fundamentalist, which is well represented by Ulama, there are also people
who carry out hierarchical ecstatic medianist style in Islam which is introduced
by Saints. The predicate for this style of religiosity is syncretism. In
consonant with this respect, Woodward also finds some religious practices which
are based on the ‘secrete doctrine’. It is a mystical path to gain the truth and
salvation which is usually used by Sufi.
Firstly, it is comparative sociological studies of contemporary Muslim societies. By this way, Hassan undertakes a systematic comparative investigation of everyday beliefs of Muslims with special reference to the middle classes in a number of social settings. As a result, he found that Muslim World is undergoing a religious renaissance with the evidence that the number of religious piety is increasing in many countries. Nevertheless, such piety is actually constructed by the influence of global and societal condition. Global condition is mainly characterized by a hegemonic cultural pattern of the West. It renders Muslim communities to reassert their Islamic identity. While social condition refers to the social construction includes dissatisfaction with the slow and often negligible progress made by national government. It also makes people to strengthen their own ideology and in-group feelings.
axiomatic structuralism is an inspiring approach toward religious studies. This
analysis might be a critique toward Geertz and Durkheim since the first concerns
with the social basis of individual behavior and symbolic communication while
the second emphasizes on the relationship between system of social relations and
those of religious belief and action. Axiomatic structuralism, in fact, pays
much attention to the power of an axiomatic organized system of knowledge
instead of social basis or social relation thereby social organization,
political constellation, and some others can change.
The world view
view is a conception of the world rather that behavioral inclinations. It can be
seen from Hassan’s Faithlines that question about how to be ideal Muslim as
individual or social is very important. The idea of Muslim piety refers to the
notion of how to be a good Muslim as a person and the concept of Muslim ummah
indicates a great endeavor of Muslims as a community to form high civilized
society. In turn, it will influence the image of Islam in public domains.
apparently clear that the image of Muslims society is colored by binary
oppositions which is made by scholars themes regarding the existing phenomena.
Montgomery Watt which is quoted by Riaz Hassan categorize Muslims into two types
of self-image, namely; fundamentalist and liberal. The first maintains intact
the belief that Islam is a complete, sufficient, and final religion whereas the
second tries to correct that conviction in some respects. Another categorization
made by Hassan is the differentiation between High Islam and Folk Islam which
resemble to the scripturalist-puritan and pluralistic-flexible in their
conclude, in spite of various point of departure of studying Islam, the three
scholars share similar issues when citing the socio-cultural category of Muslim
societies, namely Puritanism. Hassan labels this type as Fundamentalist
(following Watt’s notion of self image of Islam) while Woodward calls it
normative piety and Peacock explicitly names this category as Muslim Puritan.
This term refers to certain religious behavior and culture ranging from
religious purification, psychology of rationalization, purging of rituals to
hold firmly al-Qur’an, al-Hadiths, and Islamic Shari’ah generally.
they also conceptualize certain type of Muslim ideas and images. In fact, Muslim
world in Hassan’s account endeavors to be an ideal Muslim either in individual
level or community ones. To Woodward, the predicate of Muslim is not only
belonged to those who practice a piety normatively but also attributed to who
hold modern mysticism or syncretism. All of them are Islamic in Javanese
society. For Peacock, the world of Muslim reformists is fuelled by the idea of
salvation, a sense of community, and a sense of strictness toward rule and time
scheduling. Those notions subsequently derive the portrait of Islamic world.
Indeed, Islam seems to be more colored by binary opposition ranging from
fundamentalist-liberal (Hassan), normative piety-mystical orientation
(Woodward), to purists-syncretists (Peacock).
Hassan, Riaz, Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society, Karachi. Pakistan: Oxford Pakistan Paperbacks, 2003.
Woodward, Mark. R., Islam in Java: Normative Piety and Mysticism in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1989.
Peacock, James L., Muslim Puritans: Reformist Psychology in Southeast Asian Islam, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 1978.
Ibrahim, Anwar The Asian Renaissance, Kuala Lumpur: Times Books International, 1996.
Pals, Daniel L., Seven Theories of Religion, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Connolly, Peter (ed.), Approaches to the Study of Religion, London and New York: Cassel, 1999.
Paden, William E., Interpreting the Sacred: Ways of Viewing Religion, Boston: Beacon Press, 1992.
Geertz, Clifford, The Religion of Java, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1976.
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