Ijtihad and Innovation in Neo-Modernist Islamic Thought in Indonesia

Author: 
Prof. Abdullah Saeed
Publication: 
Journal of Christian-Muslim Relations, 10
Publication Date: 
1997

This article briefly explores three models of ijtihad (independent reasoning in Islamic jurisprudence) followed in contemporary Islam: text-based, eclectic and context-based ijtihad, and attempts to sketch the features of the environment within which each model functions. The key aim of the article, however, is to examine the context-based model of ijtihad which is utilized by neo-Modernist Muslims in Indonesia, to identify a number of their major concerns and to highlight the nature of the reform agenda the neo-Modernists are pursuing. Though this agenda may be seen by many Muslims to be problematic and even dangerous, it is gaining ground in Indonesia, particularly within the younger generation who have had the opportunity of combining traditional Islamic scholarship with modern Western education. The article examines these issues of interest on the basis of interviews conducted during 1995 in Jakarta with two leading Muslim intellectuals: Nurcholish Majid, the leading neo-Modernist thinker, and Abdurrahman Wahid, the leader of the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama.