Various Roles of Muslim Preachers in Indonesia

Ence teaches in Nurul Falah Islamic Elementary School Sirnajaya Village, Sukaraja, Tasikmalaya Regency, Thursday (1/23/2021). He is one of the low paid Qurran teachers in Tasikmalaya. (ACTNews/Eko Ramdani)

Hand over assistance
Illustration. Hand over assistance to 1,000 Muslim preachers. (ACTNews/M. Ubaidillah)

ACTNews, JAKARTA – Didin Hafiduddin wrote in his book Dakwah Aktual (Actual Preaching) that if people pay attention to the Quran and sunnah, dawah occupies the main, central, strategic, and decisive place. The beauty and suitability of Islam with the times are largely determined by the dawah activities carried out by its people.

People who preach are usually called dai (Muslim preachers). However, according to Cholil Nafis, Head of MUI (Indonesian Ulema Council) for Preaching and Fraternity Sector, when delivering his remarks at the launch of the National Movement for Indonesian Preachers’ Prosperity (GNSDI), the meaning of dai is very broad, not only people who lecture on the pulpit but also include Muslim Scholars, Kiai, Ustaz who teach the Quran, imams of prayers, and the caretaker of mosques.

It is also known that the spread of Islam in Indonesia was due to the preaching carried out by previous scholars, such as Wali Songo in Java, Hamzah Fansuri, and Nuruddin Ar-Raniri in Aceh, Syamsudin Al-Sumatrani, and Sheikh Muhammad Arsyad Al-Banjari in the mainland of Borneo. In addition to the great scholars, Islam in Indonesia also spreads through religious activities in mosques and small prayer rooms leads by Kiai.

For example, when Minangkabau children reach puberty, they go to a mosque to study Islam. In Java, children go to the prayer room or to the house of the Ustaz to learn the Quran and Islamic teachings.

Muslim Preachers as a unifier of the nation

During the struggle for independence, the role of Muslim preachers in igniting the spirit of the students and the community to defend independence was felt. One of the most popular examples is the Jihad fi Sabilillah Resolution initiated by KH Hasyim Asy'ari and Nahdlatul Ulama figures.

The Fatwa of Jihad fi Sabilillah states:

"Fighting against and resisting the invaders is fard al-Ayn  (compulsory) which must be done by every Muslim be it men, women, children, armed or not, who are within a 94 km circle from the entry point and position of the enemy. For people who are outside the circle, the obligation becomes fard al-Kifayah (communal obligation).”

Metro Rijal Fadhli and Bobi Hidayat, lecturers of History Education FKIP Universitas Muhammadiyah, in their research published in the Journal of Swarnadwipa Volume 2, Number 1, 2018 concluded, the fatwa implies that there is no reason for every Muslim who do not have obstacles according to the Shari'a to avoid obligations of jihad.

“The implications of K.H. Hasyim Asy'ari politically affirms Indonesia's sovereignty as a country that is free from all forms of colonialism," wrote Rijal and Bobi.

Currently, the role of the Muslim Preacher as a unifier of the nation is no longer to expel the invaders but to maintain the unity of Indonesia. According to the former Chairperson of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Ma'ruf Amin, who is currently the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, dawah should bring people together.

"Dawah builds unity and harmony in society, the life of the nation by paying attention to existing principles and agreements such as Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, theologies of harmony, and harmonious narratives," said the Vice President.

In addition, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of the Muslim preacher is also crucial. Cholil Nafis said that during the pandemic, 

Muslim preachers' role is to straighten the faith. According to him, not a few people consider the virus to be a punishment and a catastrophe. We must change that opinion must be changed.