Post Makassar: Any Young Hamka?

Prof. Dr. Hamka

[This article was published at The Jakarta Post, Aug. 25, 2015]

The 47th Muhammadiyah muktamar (congress) held in Makassar from Aug. 3 to 8, attended by approximately 300,000 cadres and supporters, has ended. This is the third muktamar held in Makassar; the first time was in 1932, and the second in 1971.

Muhammadiyah’s 21st congress in 1932 was important for the development of the tajdid movement, particularly in the case of South Sulawesi. Moreover, at that time Indonesia was still under the rule of the Dutch.

This was also an important period in which the organization was growing rapidly in all regions of the colony. In 1932, the Makassar branch of Muhammadiyah was visited by a young cleric from West Sumatra named Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, later known as Buya Hamka.

Hamka was sent to Makassar in 1932 at the request of the organization’s Makassar branch. His task: to stir people’s enthusiasm to attend the 21st congress in Makassar.

According to the researcher Mustari Bosra, no less than 5,000 observers attended, indicating their enthusiasm to know this organization more closely. Four branches and 39 groups were formed a year after the congress, where previously there were only two branches and 15 groups. The number of schools and mosques under its banner also experienced rapid growth.

The Makassar branch took advantage of this brilliant young scholar. After the congress they founded the Madrasah Tsanawiyah (MTS) and Muallimin School in Makassar, and two years later in 1934 they established a school in Majene. Hamka himself became the first principal of the school in Makassar. By 1941 there were dozens of schools set up in Sulawesi alone.

The 1932 Congress is important for several reasons. First, its youth wing, Pemuda Muhammadiyah was founded at this congress.

This movement actually came from the then fast-growing educated youth movement named Siswo Proyo Priyo.

Second, in this year, they decided to publish a newspaper named Adil (just) run by the organization’s Surakarta Third branch. This congress was also the last in which KH Ibrahim was chairman. KH Ibrahim led the Muhammadiyah between 1923 and 1932, elected as chairman at 10 consecutive annual congresses.

If we read the first chapter of the famous novel by Hamka, Tenggelamnya kapal van der Wijck (The Sinking of the Van der Wijck ship) and read the love tragedy of the characters, Zainuddin and Hayati, we can see that all of Hamka’s knowledge about the places, names and traditions of Makassar were acquired during his time there, though the novel was published in 1938.

While in Makassar, Hamka also translated and published a novel titled Laila dan Majnun (Laila and Majnun), a classic love story from the great Persian poet: Nizami Ganjavi. Hamka also founded two magazines in Makassar; Tentera (Soldiers) and Al-Mahdi. In this year Hamka also published a book entitled Arkanul Islam (The Foundations of Islam).

During his stay in Makassar (1932-1934), Hamka also engaged in some conflicts through the media. The main issue was that the Partai Sarekat Islam (Party of Islamic Association) issued a decision to remove all Muhammadiyah members from the party.

In South Sulawesi, this conflict was reported in the Al-Wafd newspaper belonging to the PSI and the Tentara Islam (The Army of Islam) newspaper owned by Muhammadiyah.

Through Al-Wafd, HA Mawangkang — a member of the PSI — criticized Muhammadiyah as being too cooperative with the Netherlands, and receiving subsidies from the colonial government.

Hamka responded through Tentara Islam by criticizing Yusuf Sammah and other PSI members who “can only brag” and “do not show real work”.

The rapid development of the Muhammadiyah as seen in South Sulawesi today is the result of the hard work of the founders, scholars, cadres and supporters of the organization over more than a century.

Hamka’s contribution must be appreciated. He visited Makassar at the young age of 24. Hopefully the recently concluded 47th congress will give birth to a new generation with individuals as brilliant as Buya Hamka: a scholar, poet, philosopher and writer remembered in the republic’s history.

The writer chairs Hasanuddin University’s branch of the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front (KAMMI) and is an officer of South Sulawesi’s Interfaith Weather Station. He studies history at the Faculty of Humanities, Universitas Hasanuddin in Makassar.

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