Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)

Review Article: 2021 Vol: 24 Issue: 1S

A Comparative Analysis of Regional Political Model of Islamic Development in Indonesia and Malaysia

Heri Kusmanto, Universitas Sumatera Utara


This article presents a comparative political model of Islamic societies between Indonesia and Malaysia. The political model of Islamic development was primarily determined by the ideology and the leader’s thought and strategies, although the strategy is often meant as the preaching efforts. In Indonesia, the preaching of Muhammadiyah is different with Al-Washliyah. Muhammadiyah is the Islamic society which struggles the religion purification and modern thoughts without depending to the Mazhāb, while the Al-Washliyah keeps using the Mazhāb as the ideological thoughts. The both Islamic societies use a holistic preaching strategy and keep their political distance against the government. This is contrary with the Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia (Perkim), an Islamic society that has significant role in Islamic development and preaching activity in Malaysia. There is no political distance between the Perkim and government. In fact, most of the Perkim leaders are part of the government. Those difference in phenomena are interesting to analyze especially the difference in ideology and developmental politics through Forum Group Discussion (FGD) approach. The findings showed that the difference of political orientation and leader’s thought were the main factors of the difference of developmental politics in regard with the political distance against the government which was as a part of the strategic development. Differently, the absence of political distance between Perkim and the government indicates their poor political involvement, because it is merely focused on the Islamization efforts. 


Developmental Politics, Islamic Society, Muhammadiyah, Al-Washliyah, Perkim, Comparison


The role or participation of the development has been studied by the social scientists, especially regarding its relation with the role of civil society or Non-Government Organization in society. Moreover, a number of studies have been reported about the role model of developments to empower society, to reduce the poverty and to enhance the participation, etc. Nonetheless, the political direction and orientation of Islamic civil society in the developments are still less studied.

The political model of development carried out by the Islamic organizations in Indonesia seems to have an identical model. They move under the same strategy i.e., preaching (lectures, education) and other activities, such as economics, health, and various other charitable endeavors. In fact, several Islamic community organizations like Muhammadiyah and Al-Washliyah carry out different development goals. Kusmanto (2017) indicated that although the political models of development were identical, they actually had different ideological orientations and roles of actors, indeed they had different goals.

Muhammadiyah is a modern organization which its thought is not dependent to the four Mazhāb in order to emphasize the ma'ruf and nahi munkār in all activities, while Al-Washliyah represents an Islamic organization with traditional views that continue to use the Islamic thought in every activity. Their attitude is very moderate and more concerned with the life of the congregation.

The both of organizations adopts several verses from the Qur'ān as their fundamental thought of movements (Kusmanto, 2017).

Development politics is defined as the direction or orientation towards the choices of development in terms of ideology, actors, approaches, systems or ways, strategies or models (Kusmanto, 2013). Many organizational policies look similar but they actually have different value of orientations. Previous studies showed the comparison of the Islamic organizations in Indonesia and Malaysia, such as Perkim. Perkim is an Islamic organization in which its fundamental thought is based on the four mazhāb likewise the Al-Washliyah in Indonesia, however, Perkim was established to carry out an Islamization.

Indonesian Islamic organizations tend to take political distance from the government authorities, even they explicitly declare their political independence towards the government. On contrary, Perkim does not take political distance, even it attracts the leaders of the country as the Chairperson of the domestic branch or the Prime Minister as the Chairperson of the Central Perkim in Malaysia. This practice has been carried out since the beginning of the establishment of Perkim to strengthen the power base of Perkim so that the Islamization process can be carried out effectively.

Muhammadiyah and Al-Washliyah carried out the process of Islamization in Indonesia from the beginning of its establishment, taking political distance from the government. This attitude is carried out to show that their organization is not a political organization but a society organization that aims to carry out cultural Islamization of society through preaching strategies. In meantime, they will carry out political activities through the political parties.

Islamic Civil Society: Role and Perspective

The researches of Islamic organizations have generally been placed in the context of Islamic civil society to investigate the characteristics of independence or self-reliance and volunteerism of Islamic organizations. Muhammad AS Hikam (2000) wrote the relationship between Islam and civil society and democracy. This study was a collection of various writings published in Media Indonesia newspaper, about the struggle of Islam in many aspects of life in the New Order era. Issues discussed included the issue of Islam and the challenges of social pluralism and national unity, Islam and human rights, Islam and modernization, Islam and the fundamentalism movement, Islam and civil society in democratization efforts. This paper showed that the Islamic organizations actually had a large role in determining the process of government or democracy.

In another study, Hefner (2009) reported the political struggle of Islamic civil and democratization efforts in the early days of the New Order until the fall of the Soeharto’s government. This study concluded that Muslims in Indonesia had many differences both in ideology, socioeconomic level, and political tendencies. In addition, Muslims in Indonesia had a power orientation and a great impact on the emergence of many different Islamic social organizations and political parties which eventually indicated as the pluralism. The importance of having influence in power is the reason for Muslims to accept democracy and freedom. Hefner noted Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) as the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia has a large role in providing direction and shape to the future of Indonesian society.

In other studies the idea of civil society was emerged from the Islamic terminology in lieu of the term of civil society. Nurcholish Madjid (1999) explained the importance of civil society as the main pillar of a democratic political life which could establish relations with the State. Azyumardi Azra (2000) wrote normative understanding of the civil society, as a civilized society. It was very important to be able to realize civil society in a democratic national life with cultural strategies.

The concept of civil society is different as if it is compared to the study of civil society as proposed by Akram Diya 'Al-Umari (2000) about the civil society at the Prophet Muhammad’s the time. Civil society was formed through the Prophet’s hijrāh along with his followers from Mecca to Medina. This hijrāh formed a community of brothers through the ties of Islamic aqeedāh while relations between groups or people who are ethnically or religiously dictated through Mitsaq al-Madināh, a constitution in the institutionalization of the city of Medina. Regulations that are prevalent in a country were apparently not obeyed by the Jews. This historical presentation clearly showed that civil society was essentially a state in the concept of a modern state, not merely a civilized society (Salleh, 2003).

Political Model of Development: Orientation and Strategy

The politics of Islamic development differs from the conventional developmental politics which are only emphasized on the aspects of achieving of capitalistic and materialistic matters. In turn, it raises many paradoxes, whereas the Islamic perspective has a more comprehensive approach to achieving a better life either in current world or in the afterlife.

Currently, the analysis of development has been placed in a narrow perspective, namely from the economic point of view, hence, it is almost certain to negate the role of political actors who have specific orientation or interests that influence the development choices. Therefore, the political perspective of the development is needed to analyze the development, because it only looks at the economic processes (Kusmanto, 2017).

The politics of development is a political choice which contains the direction or orientation, strategies, models, ways, systems and roles of political actors. Political choice of several alternatives, ranging from basic issues, namely epistemology and ontology (Warjio, 2013). The politics of development as a concept is needed to explain the ways (politics) or certain strategies / streams used in the context of development to achieve its goals. This particular method or strategy can be carried out by the state, institutions / organizations or political parties, so that the development is actually the result of political processes carried out by the government with other instruments such as institutions, political parties or even community groups (Warjio, 2013).

The existing development as the political product and processes becomes more important to be studied. There are conflict of interests from the political actors, the formation of identity to the establishment of ideology. These political actors are not individuals but they are also groups or countries. They can reflect the interests of certain individuals, local, national, and even foreign interests. Their ability to influence other political actors in the political process, will determine the development will be generated or carried out in accordance with the ideas or ideology and their interests as a representation of where they come from. The stronger their power or authority plus their ability to play a bargaining politics the greater the chance they get the product of the political process, or the opposite is development (Warjio, 2016).

Political Model of Development of Muhammadiyah and Al-Washliyah

The development of Islamic civil society of Muhammadiyah was undergone from the upper-middle class of societies like the trader and scholar societies. Therefore, the financial funding devoted for societal activities was easier to be mobilized around the societies. Through the mobilizing funds, they were able to establish a number of institutions aimed to accommodate the society needs, such as the Islamic schools, cooperation, orphanage and nursing houses, clinical health, and hospitals, etc (Hambali, 2006). In spite of those established social facilities, they also performed an economic ijtihād in order to emphasize the implementation of Islamic conceptual thoughts in establishing and developing economic activities, such as in the development of Shari’āh People’s Credit Bank, Baitul Māl Wattanwil, etc. (Jurdi, 2010).

The concept of developmental politics of Muhammadiyah was mostly driven by the cultural movements of Islamic modernization. The concept perceived Muhammadiyah as an ideal thought which was far from political movements (Nashir, 2006). Although Muhammadiyah was not considered as an ideology, however, it often dealt against with the ideological concepts and urgencies along with its development. Discussion forums were always held regarding its role of Islamic ideology on the National Principles, Islamic society, and the concepts of Islamic politics (Suwarno, 2002).

As the ideological thoughts, Nashir (2006) noted that the suggestions to carry out tajdḭd in Muhammadiyah had been agreed in the 37th Congress of Muhammadiyah in 1968 that was held in Yogyakarta. The tajdḭd was included of ideology (beliefs and life-goals), struggling for independence, and economic efforts. Nonetheless, the use of “ideology” term was still avoided, alternatively they used the terms of “beliefs and life-goals” as the ideological concepts. This was aimed to avoid the misinterpretation of ideology in accord to the National Principles.

The ideological movements had formed the developmental politics of Muhammadiyah in all aspects such as in Islamic preachings, education, social and economic (Syaifullah, 1997). On another side, the concepts of developmental politics of Al-Washliyah initiated by the Islamic scholars were to spread the Islamic teachings and thoughts, and prevent the Christianization in North Sumatera (Nasution, 2001). Then, they built educational infrastructures ranged from the Islamic kindergarten to the Islamic universities, orphanage and nursing houses. In addition, the cooperation and Baitul Māl Wattanwil were also established, but those economic efforts were not as large as the Muhammadiyah (Ja’far, 2011).

Initially, the Al-Washliyah was merely an organization established and developed in North Sumatera (Ja’far, 2014). This organization was apparently able to develop and sustain in Jakarta since the Colonialization era, Old Order, New Order, until the current reformation era. It indicated that Al-Washliyah had given a lot of significant contributions on the developmental activities for all societies in Jakarta, together with Muhammadiyah and other Islamic organizations (Ja’far, 2014).

Al-Washliyah is an Islamic organization that emphasizes the cultural movements as the role model of developments to spread the Islamic ideology and thoughts (Ja’far, 2011). The Islamic ideology as the essential thoughts of cultural movements is apparently more effective in developing the Islamic culture than the movements of Islamic formality which desire the rise of Islamic State (Ja’far, 2011). It is noteworthy that this kind of developmental politics are the main factor of the sustainability existence of Al-Washliyah, from the Dutch Colonialization until the current reformation era.

Political Model of Development between Muhammadiyah, Al-Washliyah and Perkim: Comparative Analysis

Both of the Muhammadiyah and Al-Washliyah organizations clearly have different ideological tendencies because each only focuses on certain concerns that are considered important to be carried out. At the level of strategy, the both organizations take the same way to make holistic efforts and to preach, but keeping their political distance with the government. However, it does not mean that they are not allowed to have political power and fight for the interests of Islam. The members of these two organizations are allowed to carry out political activities through political parties. This kind of political model of development is generally carried out by many Islamic organizations in Indonesia.

On the other side, Perkim which was established in Malaysia has been trying to find government support from the beginning by electing the Prime Minister as the Chair of Malaysia's Perkim and the Chief Ministers as the leaders of the Perkim branches. Thus, there is no political distance between Perkim and the rulers or the government and as if Perkim is part of the power itself.

Perkim was founded by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1960 because of his concern over missionary activities, zending, zing, Lion Club, Rotary Club or similar activities managed by the non-Muslims. It was thought that their activities would cause a lot of apostasy among the people. Malaysian Muslim. The early history of the formation of the Perkim gave a strong sign that the Perkim would always be associated with the Malaysian leadership with the purpose of preachings. The holistic emphasis on preachings has indeed become a strong color of Perkim especially in the context of emulating missionaries and social humanitarian organizations developed by the non-Muslims. Preaching becomes the main political strategy of Islamic development carried out by Perkim, because preaching gives the right enlightenment in the Islamic way of life and Islamizing that which is not yet Islam becomes an obligation or responsibility that should not be avoided by every Muslim individual or community or Muslim community become the main virtue.

Preaching will be more effective if it is carried out by government authorities, this thought has become a tradition of Perkim leadership. The leadership of the Perkim under the Malaysian government authorities continues today and has proven to be effective in the process of Islamization of Malaysia. Perkim leaders do not use Perkim as a mass base of voters in political activities such as elections or grand choices. Perkim is really used as a means of preaching to Islamize the Malaysians through preaching itself, education, protection for converts, giving social assistance, collecting zakat and endowments for preaching or other forms they call Islamic virtues.


Comparison of orientation, strategy and political model of regional development showed that each organization had a partial ideological orientation emphasizing some Islamic values that are considered the most important to be implemented or practiced. In addition, they agreed to take preaching as the main strategy in carrying out Islamic development. The difference lies in the political model of development implemented in Indonesia and Malaysia. In general, the Islamization carried out by the actors of Indonesian Islamic community organizations such as Muhammadiyah and Al-Wasliyah used the model of taking political distance against the authorities and establishing their organizations as social organizations.

Whereas the Malaysian Islamic community organizations such as Perkim do not take political distance from the authorities and even have a tradition to position Malaysian government rulers as leaders of Perkim, so that Perkim members no longer need to involve in politics to ensure the achievement of Perkim's goals effectively.

In fact, Perkim is far more effective in achieving its goals, especially in the Islamization of non-Muslims as the main mission or proselytizing goal of Perkim, whereas in Indonesia with many Islamic social organizations with a number of members, it can reach around 50 percent of Indonesia's population. The percentage and many members of political organizations are even mired to make power and wealth their interests, not to fight for the interests of Islam.


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