Mas Mansur, nationalist and religious hero

A. Junaidi*

K.H. Mas Mansur (1896-1946): Perjuangan dan Pemikiran (K.H. Mas Mansur (1896-1946): His Struggles and Thoughts), Darul Aqsha, Penerbit Erlangga, 2006. Bahasa Indonesia

A model on how religiosity and nationalism blend harmoniously can be seen in the personality of the country’s hero Mas Mansur as written by Darul Aqsha in his book K.H. Mas Mansur (1896-1946): Perjuangan dan Pemikiran.

The biographical book, which is partly based on the writer’s thesis at the University of Indonesia’s School of Cultural Sciences, tells about Mas Mansur, who once led the country’s second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, from 1937 until 1943.

Mas Mansur’s religious and nationalist views can be seen through his poem in Arabic about patriotism, which was taught to his students at the Nahdlatul Wathan (The Awakening of the Mother Land) school (page (81).

According to Mansur, a faithful person should love her or his country. “”Hubbul Wathan Minal Iman (To love the motherland is part of the faith”” states one verse of Mansur’s poem).

Even after resigning from the school, Mansur established Hisbul Wathon (Nationalist Group) school in the 1940s.

Born on June 25, 1896, Mansur moved from his hometown of Surabaya to Muhammadiyah headquarters in Yogyakarta after he was appointed as chairman of the organization in 1937, replacing founder and first chairman Ahmad Dahlan.

Highly respected for being “”a modernist cleric””, Mansur was honored for his significant contribution to the country’s independence.

At that time, in a rather simplified way, Muslim modernist groups were represented by Muhammadiyah, while traditionalists were linked to Nahdlatul Ulama.

Studying Islam in Mecca and Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Mansur built a close relationship with noted figures of different backgrounds, including nationalist youth leaders such as Sutomo, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta, as well as Muslim leaders.

After resigning from his post as Muhammadiyah chairman, Mansur moved to Jakarta and, along with Sukarno, Hatta and Ki Hadjar Dewantara, established Putera (Pusat Tenaga Rakyat, or The Center of People’s Force) during the Japanese occupation in 1943.

Mansur was then appointed as a member of the 68-member BPUPKI (Badan Penyelidik Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia or The Assessment Agency for Preparation Efforts of Indonesian Independence) which was established on Aug. 9, 1943.

Mansur passed away on April 25, 1946 and was buried in Surabaya.

Darul’s book does not only tell about superficial history of Mas Mansur, which was undeniable, but also his thoughts that could be discussed further.

The writer, who is also a researcher at The Jakarta Post, also describes Mansur’s thoughts on several topics, including religion, God, logic, mankind, women and time.

On the women issue, according to the book, as a cleric in the early part of the 20th century, Mansur had a relatively progressive view in that he supported the equal position between women and men (page 105).

However, in the contemporary era, Mansur’s views, which defend polygamy to prevent Muslim men from committing adultery, could be questioned.

With regard to polygamy, the book did not mention the name of Mansur’s second wife. Mansur reportedly continued with a speech in Medan, North Sumatra when he was informed about the death of his second wife.

Despite strong data and wide bibliographical sources, the absence of footnote numbers in chapters one and two could disturb readers.

For preliminary readers, however, the book is very helpful to understand the early Islamic movement in Indonesia, particularly to learn about Muhammadiyah and one of its key leaders over the years.

If it is not the only one, the book is among few books that delved on Mas Mansur, his struggle and thoughts.

The Jakarta Post
Sunday, May 2, 2006

*Journalist of The Jakarta Post


3 thoughts on “Mas Mansur, nationalist and religious hero

    • The independence of this country from the Western colonialists had been struggled by Muslims in the archipelago for centuries with their blood, tears, prayers and… souls and properties… Thanks for your comment, Nining. Best regards.

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