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NURCHOLISH MADJID (March 17, 1939 – August 29, 2005), Indonesian scholar and advocate of religious tolerance. Nurcholish is among Indonesia’s most daring theologians. His vision of Islam is pluralistic, tolerant, and intended to meet the spiritual needs of a modern urban population. Like other modernist thinkers, Nurcholish roots his theology in the doctrine of tajdid or a return to the Islam of the prophet Muhammad. Unlike other modernists he is more concerned with spirituality than with ritual and social behavior.
Born in east Java, Nurcholish is a scion of one of Indonesia’s most celebrated families of Islamic scholars. He was educated at traditional Islamic schools (pesantren) and at the modernist school at Gontor, which emphasizes English and secular subjects as well as the traditional Islamic curriculum. He received a B.A. from the State Institute of Islamic Studies in Jakarta in 1968. From 1966 until 1971 he was chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Students Association. He studied with Fazlur Rahman at the University of Chicago, receiving his Ph.D. in 1984 with a dissertation on Ibn Taymiyah’s understanding of the relationship between reason and revelation. In the early 1990s Nurcholish held positions at the State Institute of Islamic Studies in Jakarta and the Indonesian Academy of Sciences.
Nurcholish’s thought is highly controversial. In the 1 960s he challenged the “modernist” position that advocates a literal application of the Qur’an and hadith in contemporary society. As an alternative he advocated a return to the spirit or underlying principles of Islam as a guide for contemporary conduct. In 1970 he introduced the concept of “Islamic secularization.” This does not mean secularization in the Western sense, but rather the desacralization of certain aspects of human life and knowledge, which, in view of the spirit of Islam, are not properly religious. During this period Nurcholish was influenced by two American scholars, the sociologist Robert Bellah and the theologian Harvey Cox. Older, shari`ah-centered Indonesian modernists, including Nurcholish’s mentor Mohammad Natsir, were outraged.
In numerous publications Nurcholish has emphasized the concept of Islamic brotherhood and has attempted to extend the boundaries of the Muslim community as broadly as possible. He is a strident opponent of all forms of sectarianism. In his dissertation and in Indonesian publications based on it he emphasizes the philosophically tolerant side of Ibn Taymiyah, who is better known for his polemical castigations of popular Islam.
He describes his work as an attempt to apply the universal Islamic values in the cultural and historical context of contemporary Indonesia. In a series of recent works Madjid has denounced sectarian and fundamentalist groups as cults and defined Islam as being nothing more nor less than submission to God-a definition that allows him to apply the word “Islam” in discussions of Christians and Jews.
Nurcholish’s call for an inclusive, tolerant Islam and for dialogue with other faiths is a bold attempt to resolve the problems of bigotry and intolerance that plague not only Islam but also other major religions. Although he has many supporters among Indonesian intellectuals, the virulent polemics his works incite indicate that such an idealistic vision will be at best difficult to realize.
[See also Indonesia.]
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Barton, Greg. “The International Context of the Emergence of Islamic Neo Modernism in Indonesia.” In Islam in the Indonesian Social Context, edited by Merle C. Ricklefs, pp. 69-82. Clayton, Australia, 1991.
Federspiel, Howard M. Muslim Intellectuals and National Development in Indonesia. New York, 1992. Includes biographical data and English summaries of Nurcholish’s works.
Hasan, M. Kamal. Muslim Intellectual Responses to “New Order” Modernization in Indonesia. Kuala Lumpur, 1980. Critical analysis of Nurcholish’s early works, including English translations.
Nurcholish Madjid. “The Issue of Modernization among Muslims in Indonesia from a Participant’s Point of View.” In What Is Modern Indonesian Culture?, edited by Gloria Davis, pp. 143-155. Athens Ohio, 1979. Autobiographical account of Nurcholish’s student years.
Nurcholish Madjid. and Civilization). works.
Islam: Doctrin dan Peradaban (Islam: Doctrine Jakarta, 1992. Collection of Nurcholish’s major
MARK R. WOODWARD

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nurcholish-madjid/
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