The Challenge of Religious Pluralism in Malaysia with Special Reference to the Sufi Thought of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad

Authors

  • Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid Universiti Sains Malaysia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/cis.v9i1.26766

Keywords:

Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad, Sufism, Malaysian Islam

Abstract

Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad (1937-2010) was a sufi leader best remembered for the controversies surrounding his eschatological teachings which led to the Malaysian government’s banning of his organization, Darul Arqam, in 1994. Loved by admirers but reviled by the state, Ashaari’s influence cut across ethnicity, nationality and religion. While the transnational dimensions of Ashaari’s activities were well-known, aspects of ethno-religious pluralism in his thought, as conveyed in a multitude of written works published independently, have mostly escaped the attention of analysts and casual observers alike. With contemporary Malaysian Islam being invariably understood via ethnically slanted lenses, it would not have occurred to most people that a Malay-Muslim religious personality would actually subscribe to pluralistic conceptions of society which are liable to be interpreted as undermining conceptions of Malay-Muslim hegemony dearly held by the ruling establishment of the day. This chapter seeks to bring to the fore features of Ashaari’s thought which exemplifies integration between Sufism and political realities as conditioned by nation state-defined categories.

Author Biography

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid is an Associate Professor and Chairman of Political Science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He obtained his BA and MA from the University of Oxford and the University of Leeds respectively, and earned his PhD in Politics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, in 1998. He teaches undergraduate courses at USM in political science and manages as well a postgraduate course, "Islam in Southeast Asia," for the M.A. in Asian Studies at the School of Social Sciences. He has held visiting research fellowships in Singapore and Australia, participated in international research projects and published in leading international journals. His recent book chapters are “Malay Racialism and the Sufi Alternative” in Melayu: The Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness (Maznah Mohamad and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, eds.; National University of Singapore Press, 2011), “Religion, Secularism and the State in Southeast Asia” in Thinking International Relations Differently (Arlene B. Tickner and David L. Blaney, eds.; Routledge, 2012) and “The Aurad Muhammadiah Congregation: Modern Transnational Sufism in Southeast Asia” in Encountering Islam: The Politics of Religious Identities in Southeast Asia (Hui Yew-Foong, ed.; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013). He recently completed a chapter on Middle Eastern Christians for the Oxford Handbook on Christianity in Asia, due to be published by Oxford University Press. His publications earned him a Ma’al Hijrah (Islamic New Year) academic excellence award from USM in 2010.

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Published

2015-09-30

How to Cite

Hamid, A. F. A. (2015). The Challenge of Religious Pluralism in Malaysia with Special Reference to the Sufi Thought of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad. Comparative Islamic Studies, 9(1), 9–40. https://doi.org/10.1558/cis.v9i1.26766

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Section

Special Issue: Articles