Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007


The whole world is particular about economy which is considered as the main source of life. Every nation and every country strive hard to strengthen their economic situation. When the economy of a country is strong, the country will advance in many other fields like industries, technologies and even military. The strong economy enables a country to take over another country. Little wonder, economy is always the focus of all the world leaders.

The muslim world are also in the race. They are also strengthening their economy. Many via the capitalist system introduced and supported by the Western countries and the Jews. The muslim forget that Islam has its own economic system which is far better than the capitalist. Under islamic economy, God is the essence.

The capitalist’s main focus is profitability per se. The concept of love and care in undertaking business decision is almost non existing. Economy as an ibadah is unthinkable. As such, capitalists will compete vigorously to increase their profits and minimize their losses even by stepping on others.

Unfortunately, many muslims are also in the same school of thought. Instead of taking God as the guidance, we try to compete with the capitalists on their own platform which is created by them to generate income for themselves. The result? We always failed and face further diminution.

Muslims must reassess their economic focus and guidelines. Taqwa is the foundation upon which all business decisions and planning should be constructed. The Islamic economic and financial systems are meant to protect human, and to promote love and care, unity among all, bringing peace and harmony here and the hereafter.

Monday, March 19, 2007


One day the Messenger of Allah (PBUH: peace be upon him) asked his companions: “Which of God’s creatures possess the most amazing iman (faith)?”

“The Angels,” answered his companions.

“How would the Angels not have faith in Allah when they are always close to Him,” replied the Messenger in disagreement.

“The prophets,” answered the other companions.

“How would the prophets not have faith when words of God are revealed unto them?” the Messenger disagreed.

“We - your companions?” the companions suggested.

“How would you not have faith when I am always amidst you?” retorted the Messenger.

Finally the Messenger decreed: “The creatures with the most amazing iman are those who live after me. They have never met me but they declare faith in me. They love me more than they love their children and elders. They are my Ikhwan (Brothers). They read the Quran and are faithful to all its contents.”
(Related by Abu Ya’la)

“O Abu Bakr,” the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) asked, “Do you not long for my Ikhwan since they also love you because you are my companion?”
(Related by Ibnu Hajar Asqalani)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) continued: “Good tidings for those who meet and declare faith in me. And sevenfold good tidings for those who declare faith in me but have never met me.”
(Related by Ahmad)

Let it be known to you, that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) longs for a tha’ifah (group) from amongst his ummah near the end of time; an ummah whose morals are akin to the prophets’ and who remain steadfast to the ways of the siddiqin (righteous). They are the strange ones among the general Muslim population.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007



An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad - part 7

Notes and References:

1 For details on Darul Arqam’s material achievements, see Darul Arqam, 25 Years of Darul Arqam: The Struggle of Abuya Syeikh Imam Ashaari Muhammad at Tamimi (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbitan Abuya, 1993), chapter 13;
Muhammad Syukri Salleh, “An Ethical Approach to Development: The Arqam Philosophy and Achievements,” Humanomics, 10/1(1994), 25–60; “Allah’s Bounty: Al-Arqam sect draws strength from business empire,” Far Eastern Economic Review, September 1, 1994.

2 Rufaqa’ Corporation Sdn. Bhd. (profile), Rawang, n.d.; “Former Al-Arqam redefines itself,” New Sunday Times, April 30, 2000;
“Banned Al-Arqam cult thriving under business umbrella,” Straits Times, February
9, 2002;
Muhammad Syukri Salleh, “The Businesses of Islamic Movements in Malaysia” (Malay), Pemikir 31(2003), 142–8.

3 Ustaz Ashaari’s enforced expulsion to Labuan made headline news in Berita Harian, February 7, 2002.
On his success in Labuan, see: “Ashaari expands influence in Labuan” (Malay), Buletin Utama, April 21–24, 2002; “Residents plead that Asa’ari’s placing be revised” (Malay), Berita Harian, September 5, 2002;
“Al-Arqam followers’ lifestyles need to be monitored” (Malay), Berita Harian, November 28, 2002; “What is lost by Asyaari’s prosperity(Malay),

4 For related issues, see Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “Political Dimensions of Religious Conflict in Malaysia: State Response to an Islamic Movement,” Indonesia and the Malay World 28/80(2000), 32–65;
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “Sufi Undercurrents in Islamic Revivalism: Traditional, Post-Traditional and Modern Images of Islamic Activism in Malaysia – Part 2,” The Islamic Quarterly LXV/3(2001), 177–98;
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “Diverse Approaches to Rural Development in Malaysia: The FELDA and Darul Arqam Land Settlement Regimes,” Islamic Culture LXXV/2(2001), 57–92.

5 ‘Millenarianism’ refers to the belief in an awaited utopia on earth founded upon the predicted coming of a messiah. In the Christian context, “millenarianism” refers to the belief in the 1000 years when Christ will reign on earth, as foretold in the Book of Revelation. See Mohamed Yusoff Ismail, “The Mahdist Phenomenon is Universal”’ (Malay), Utusan Malaysia, July 21, 2000; Justus M. van der Kroef,
“The Messiah in Indonesia and Melanesia,” The Scientific Monthly, 75(1952), 161–5; Vittorio Lanternari, The Religions of the Oppressed: A Study of Modern Messianic Cults (New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1963); and Ed Dobson and Ed Hindson, “Apocalypse Now? What Fundamentalists Believe About the End of the World,” Policy Review, 38(1986), 16–22. For reports on Doomsday cults, see “Inside the Cult of Death,” Time, April 7, 1997, and “Nostradamus Predicted that the World Would End this Summer: Why are so Many Japanese Taking him Seriously,” Time, July 5, 1999.

6 Literally, “al-Mahdi” means “the rightly guided one” and is also referred to as Al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, i.e. the Expected Mahdi. See Wilfred Madelung, “Al-Mahdi,” in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. V, Charles E. Bosworth et al. (eds.) (Leiden: E.J. Brill), 1230–8; and Zeki Saritoprak, “The Mahdi Tradition in Islam:
A Social-Cognitive Approach,” Islamic Studies, 41/4(2002), 651. For hadiths on al-Mahdi, see Ibn Kathir, The Signs Before the Day of Judgement (London: Dar Al Taqwa, 1991), chapter 6; Abdullah ibn As-Siddiq,
Jesus, Al Mahdi and the Anti-Christ (New York: As-Siddiquyah Publishers, 1985); and Amin Muhammad Jamaluddin, The Armageddon War and the Advent of the Mahdi (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Pustaka Syuhada, 2001), chapter 3.

7 The Dajjal represents the Islamic version of the Antichrist: the epitome of evil who will tyrannically rule the world for 40 days before being slain by Jesus Christ. Unlike Christians, Muslims have never believed that Jesus was crucified. Instead, he was said to have been raised by God to the heavens at the same time that Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, was made to assume Jesus’ physical characteristics and ultimately died on the cross. The Dajjal will exert influence over the whole world, causing pandemonium for 40 days, entering every city except Mecca and Medina, tempting the world’s population to follow the false religion by performing miracles akin to magic, and leading the Jews into war against al-Mahdi. During this fifth of al-
Mahdi’s wars, Jesus Christ will descend onto earth, join al-Mahdi in battle and eventually kill the Dajjal.
Death of the Dajjal will be the apogee of al-Mahdi’s feat. After al-Mahdi’s seven wars, Gog and Magog appear. Gog and Magog are two Turkic tribes currently restrained behind a barrier built by Zulqarnain, the popular Islamic equivalent of Alexander the Great. Upon collapse of the barrier, Gog and Magog will disperse, spread corruption, destroy plants, and commit atrocities. God, in response to prayers said by Jesus, kills them by sending a kind of worm in the napes of their necks. For a chronicle of these eschatological events, see As-Siddiq, op. cit., chapter 3; Ibn Kathir, op. cit., 41ff; and Jamaluddin, op. cit., chapter 4, 184–206.

8 Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, A Short History of the Revivalist Movement in Islam (Lahore: Islamic Publications, fifth edition, 1981), 33–4; Yohanan Friedmann, Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thought and its Medieval Background (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), chapter 4.

9 Derek Hopwood, “A Pattern of Revival Movements in Islam?,” Islamic Quarterly, 15/4(1971), 151.
Beliefs concerning the Expected Mahdi never became an essential part of the Sunni creed, unlike in the Shi’ite sect, whose historiography contains strong arguments and beliefs pertaining to various aspects of al-Mahdi.The subject matter on al-Mahdi is absent from the two most authentic hadith collections of Bukhari (d. 870) and Muslim (d. 875), such that medieval systematic theologians scrupulously avoided discussion on al-Mahdi. See H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers, Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974), 310–11; Maududi, op. cit., 45–51; Madelung, op. cit., 1231, 1235; K.H. Sirajuddin Abbas, The Sunni Creed (Malay) (Kota Bharu: Pustaka Aman Press, sixth edition, 1991), 128; Saritoprak, op. cit., 673–4.

10 On Sufi conceptions of al-Mahdi, see Muhammad Labib Ahmad, Who is Imam Mahdi? (Malay) (Singapore: Pustaka Nasional, 1980), 29–31; and Saritoprak, op. cit., 659–60. For accounts of anti-colonial movements in peripheral Muslim lands, see Justus M. van der Kroef, “Javanese Messianic Expectations:
Their Origin and Cultural Context,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1(1959): 309; Lanternari, op. cit., 213–14; Edward Mortimer, Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam (London: Faber and Faber, 1982), 73–9. On the arbitrary division of Muslim lands into a center and periphery, see Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “Islamic Resurgence: An Overview of Causal Factors, A Review of ‘Ummahtic’ Linkages,” IKIM
Journal, 9/1(2001), 30–8.

11 Al-Maududi, op. cit., 43–4, 147–9; Muhammad Labib Ahmad, op. cit., 32–45.

12 Aurad Muhammadiah refers to a tariqah (Sufi order) founded in Mecca in the early twentieth century by Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Al-Suhaimi (b. 1259 AH), a scholar of Javanese-Arabic descent who moved to Singapore and eventually settled down in Kelang, Malaya. See Mohd Taha Suhaimi, The History of Syeikh Muhammad Suhaimi’s Life (Malay) (Singapore: Peripensis, 1990). Tariqah involves systematic chanting of dhikr (remembrances of God) as practiced by Sufis: practitioners of tasawwuf, i.e. the branch of knowledge in Islam enjoining the purification of the soul (tazkiyah al-nafs) in attaining the true meaning of God and the self. See Ashaari Muhammad, Aurad Muhammadiah: The Conviction of Darul Arqam (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerangan Al-Arqam, 1986), 10.

13 BAHEIS, An Explanation to the book ‘Aurad Muhammadiah: The Conviction of Darul Arqam’ (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur, 1986); BAHEIS, The Deviation of Darul Arqam’s Theology (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur, 1993); Ashaari Muhammad 1986, op. cit.; Ashaari Muhammad, Be Careful in Making Allegations (Malay), (Kuala Lumpur: Penerangan Al-Arqam, 1989); Berita Harian, July 16, 1994; The Star, August 6, 1994.

14 Sufis regard yaqazah with the late Prophet Muhammad as a karamah (miracle) accorded to the awliya’ (saints) (Ashaari Muhammad 1986, op.cit., chapter 6). In the Aurad Muhammadiah, the practitioner acknowledges, after the conventional kalimah shahadah, the additional figures of the righteous caliphs viz. Abu Bakr (d. 635), Umar (d.6 44), Uthman (d. 656), and Ali (d.661), and of the future al-Mahdi (ibid.,
chapter 9). Tawassul refers to the practice of invoking intermediaries, usually saints, when making do’a (supplication) to God. The issue of the permissibility of tawassul has long been a source of contention between Islamic traditionalists, who allow it,and Islamic modernists, who forbid it; see Sirajuddin Abbas, op. cit.,
284–301, 316–26. Tahlil refers to religious chantings that testify that Allah is the One and Only God. The tahlil of Aurad Muhammadiah refers to specific chantings recited rhythmically in congregation by practitioners of the Aurad Muhammadiah on Thursday and Sunday nights, and include the controversial phrases: “O Saints of God, do listen, help us for the sake of God, do listen” (Ashaari Muhammad 1986, op.
cit., 119–27, 143–51).

15 Ashaari Muhammad, Who is the Mujaddid of the Fifteenth Century? (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerangan Al-Arqam, 1987), 648–54; Ashaari Muhammad, My Contemplations (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerangan Al-Arqam, 1988), 257.

16 Mohd. Taha Suhaimi, op. cit., 67, Ashaari Muhammad 1986, op. cit., 178; Ashaari Muhammad 1989, op. cit., 48–9, 84.

17 Ashaari Muhammad 1986, op. cit., 179–80; Ashaari Muhammad 1989, op. cit., 50–1. The People of the Cave refer to seven unitarian Christian youths who fled from the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius (reigned 249–51 AD), ending up in a cave in Asia Minor where they were put to sleep for 309 years. Their story is told in the Qur’an (Al-Kahf 18: 9–26). In a hadith narrated by Ibnu Abbas, the People of the Cave are said to be the assistants of al-Mahdi, such that they must now be in occultation waiting for the realization of their eschatological role. On the contrasting Twelver Shi’ite view of al-Mahdi’s occultation, see Sirajuddin Abbas, op. cit. 127–8.

18 On Tamim al-Dari’s encounter with the Dajjal, see Ibn Kathir, op. cit., 48–51, and David J. Halperin, “The Ibn Sayyad Traditions and the Legend of Al-Dajjal,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 96(1976), 223. On Shaykh Hasan al-Iraqi’s encounter with al-Mahdi, see Ashaari Muhammad 1986, op. cit., 171–3; and Madelung, op. cit., 1236–37.

19 Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, The Malaysian State of the Youth of Bani Tamim: Secrets of the Glorious Ummah (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Abuku Hebat, 1999), 115; Ashaari Muhammad, Exploring the Islamic Administrative System (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbitan Hikmah, 1993), 188, 200.

20 The previous two quotations are from Ashaari Muhammad, Allah’s Schedule for the Muslim Ummah (Kuala Lumpur: Bahagian Pengeluaran Minda Syeikhul Arqam, 1993), 38–40.

21 Ibid., 41–3; Darul Arqam, Message from the East, 18–20; Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, The Malaysian State of the Youth of Bani Tamim, 124–6. In support, often quoted is the hadith, “A people will come out of the East who will pave the way for the Mahdi” (Ibn Kathir, op. cit., 22).

22 Ashaari Muhammad, The Implementation of Hudud Law in Society (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbitan Hikmah, 1992), 88–97; Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, The Malaysian State of the Youth of Bani Tamim, chapter 4.

23 Ashaari Muhammad, Thoughts to Change Attitudes (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerangan Al-Arqam, 1990), 249–55; Ashaari Muhammad, Allah’s Schedule, 30–1; Ashaari Muhammad, President Soeharto Follows the Schedule of Allah (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbitan Abuya, 1993), 11–12.

24 Ashaari Muhammad, Allah’s Schedule, 42–3; cf. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “The Malay-Islamic World in the Thought of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad,” in Proceedings of The Second International Malay Studies Conference, Volume 1 (Malay), Abdullah Hassan (ed.), (Kuala Lumpur: DBP, 2002), 10–12.

25 Darul Arqam, 25 Years of Darul Arqam, 175–7. Overall, Ustaz Ashaari’s theory concurs with the hadith, “Islam will return to its place of origin like a snake returning to its hole,” as quoted in Darul Arqam 1992, op. cit., 4.

26 Ashaari Muhammad 1987, op. cit., xiv, 43.

27 Darul Arqam, Al-Arqam in the International Media (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Penerangan Al-Arqam, 1989). For details on Darul Arqam’s expenditure, human capital, and assets in Southeast Asia, see Darul Arqam, 25 Years of Darul Arqam, 184, 186, 198; and Muhammad Syukri Salleh 1994, op. cit., 36, 44–5, 48–50.

28 Ashaari Muhammad, Strides of the Struggle (Malay) (Kuala Lumpur: Jabatan Syeikhul Arqam, 1991), chapter 12; Ashaari Muhammad, Presiden Soeharto Follows Allah’s Schedule.

29 On the Ustaz Ashaari-Abdurrahman Wahid meeting, see Kebenaran, 7/1 (1999), quoting from the magazines Tempo, October 24, 1999, and DR, 11/XXXI/25, October 1999. For Rufaqa’ Indonesia’s success stories, see the five-page report in the Jakarta-based magazine, Gatra, 2–3/10, December 2003. Two Indonesian books promoting Ustaz Ashaari’s thought are Abu Muhammad Atta’, The Youth of Bani Tamim: The Precursor of Imam Al-Mahdi (Malay-Indonesian) (Jakarta: Penerbit Giliran Timur, 1998) and Abdurrahman R.Effendi and Gina Puspita, Abuya Syeikh Imam Ashaari Muhammad At Tamimi: Is He the Mujaddid of This Century? (Malay-Indonesian) (Jakarta: Penerbit Giliran Timur, 2003).

30 Ustaz Ashaari believes that Ghafar Baba has a significant role to play in “Allah’s Schedule”. See Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, “Reforming PAS?,” Aliran Monthly 23/6(2003), 13. On the USA’s weakening from within, see Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid 2002, op. cit., 13. On Ustaz Ashaari’s predictions pertaining to Anwar Ibrahim, see Shuib Sulaiman, PM Dr. Mahathir on the Brink of Downfall (Malay) (n.p.: Merbok
Enterprise, 1994), 40, 70, 84–92; and Zabidi Mohamed, Tersungkur di Pintu ‘Syurga’: The Untold Truth and Inside Story of Al-Arqam and I.S.A. (Detention Without Trial) (Kuala Lumpur: Zabidi Publication, 1998), 151.

31 Greg Barton, “Neo-Modernism: A Vital Synthesis of Traditionalist and Modernist Islamic Thought in Indonesia,” Studia Islamika 2/3(1995), 1–75; Greg Barton, “Indonesia’s Nurcholish Madjid and Abdurrahman Wahid as Intellectual ulama: The Meeting of Islamic Traditionalism and Modernism in neo-Modernist Thought,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 8/3(1997), 323–50.

32 Quoted in Ashaari Muhammad 1987, op. cit., 3; and Ashaari Muhammad, Allah’s Schedule, 31; cf.Saritoprak, op. cit., 659.

33 Muhammad Nejatullah Siddiqi, “Towards Regeneration: Shifting Priorities in Islamic Movements,” Encounters: Journal of Inter-Cultural Perspectives 1/2(1995),24.

The End

An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad - part 6


Ustaz Ashaari’s thought represents a unique blend of Sufi traditionalism and progressive reformism characteristic of modernist Islamic thought. While devoted to the practice of Aurad Muhammadiah, Ustaz Ashaari’s Sufism was not a separate discipline to be pursued for innate spiritual values and mystical experiences. Instead, Sufism is the vehicle to transform individual selves towards perfection as members of the Ummah actively implementing Islam as a comprehensive way of life. Ustaz Ashaari’s messianism rejects a complacent attitude towards the future, as had been feared by the modernists, but rather encourages economic activism as a preparation for the better times ahead promised by the advent of a mujaddid. Ustaz Ashaari’s educational background and doctrinal standpoints are avowedly traditionalist, yet, his views and actions in implementing them hardly subscribes to the traditionalist “closing of the door of ijtihad” doctrine. If we take two Indonesian organizations, Muhammadiyyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), as extreme and opposing poles in a spectrum of Southeast Asian Islamic thought, Ustaz Ashaari lies somewhere in the middle. He is neither a modernist in the manner of Muhammadiyyah, nor a traditionalist in the style of NU. But veering closer towards traditionalism, he is best described as a neo-traditionalist, just as Abdurrahman Wahid of NU has been called a neo-modernist.31 The cordial, if brief, meeting between Abdurrahman and Ustaz Ashaari in 1999, referred to above, adds substance to the existence of a confluence of ideas in contemporary Southeast Asian Islamic thought. The coming together of traditionalism and modernism may never have been closer than in the most recent times.

Among Malaysian Islamic thinkers, Ustaz Ashaari distinguishes himself as being the most futuristic, in a peculiarly most Malaysian-oriented manner. Admittedly, futuristic thought has been part of the cultures of nations which strive to be progressive. It is in the spirit of Islam to be forward-looking, as shown by the Qur’an: “The Romans have been defeated, in a land close by, but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious….” (Ar Rum 30: 2–3). This spirit is a far cry from the romanticism that has developed in Muslim reflections on the history of the Ummah, contributing to its protracted decline. While this fact is accepted by Islamic scholars, hardly any have come forward with a critically futuristic perspective of the course of the Ummah. Ustaz Ashaari arguably offers such a perspective.

Notwithstanding the political controversy it has aroused, Ustaz Ashaari’s futuristic thought should have been valued as an immense intellectual contribution to Islamic thought in general, and to Islamic eschatology in particular. Based on the huge body of eschatological hadiths, Ustaz Ashaari offers fresh interpretations, which, in legal matters, would have amounted to the practice of ijtihad. Very different from philosophers whose scholarly theories are left to successive generations to interpret and realize them, Ustaz Ashaari himself mobilizes people towards the
accomplishment of his messianic theories. In doing this, he is able to make sure that the principles of his thought are adhered to without misrepresentation. His followers have been taught to strive for the qualities as mentioned in the hadith: “There will always be a ta’ifah (community) from amongst my Ummah, that will practice the way of truth, they will not be destroyed by their detractors, until the Day of Judgment.” They are utterly convinced that theirs is the path of God. Combined together, futuristic thought and action by convinced devotees become potentially subversive, and find ready enemies within the existing political establishment.

Ironically, since Ustaz Ashaari’s prolonged detention, scholars have come forward with ideas similar to Ustaz Ashaari’s theory of “Malay leadership of the Ummah.” For example, Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, an Indonesian formerly at Malaysia’s International Islamic University (IIUM), came up in 1994 with the book The Malay Ummah: The New World Power of the Twenty-First Century (Malay), which asserted the potential of Malay-Muslims and outlined the planning required of them to lead the Islamic resurgence in the coming millennium. Professor Hashim Musa of the University of Malaya, in a Berita Harian (April 24, 2001) article, “Malays Should Bear the Duty of Preserving Islamic Civilization” (Malay), argued: “Malay-Muslims, almost half a billion in number, form the largest Muslim group in the East. In the history of Islamic civilization, the center constantly changes, from Arabia to Turkey, North Africa, Spain and Central Asia. Now signs show that the center has begun to shift to the East. Are we, the Malay-Muslims, as the biggest Muslim group in the East, prepared to bear the responsibility and trust in maintaining and contributing towards the rebuilding of an Islamic civilization of global standard in this third millennium?” Similar remarks concluded his paper, “The Empowerment of Malay Civilization as the Basis for Constructing a Malaysian Civilization” (Malay), presented at the Second International Malay Studies Conference in Beijing, China, in October 2002.

Within the Ummah, the feasibility of Ustaz Ashaari’s theory can be deducted from the following recognition of Southeast Asian Muslims by Muhammad Nejatullah Siddiqi, an eminent Saudi Arabian-based economist:

The Muslims of South East Asia – of Malaysia, Indonesia, and possibly the Muslim minorities in resurgent China – are better equipped to lead the process of regeneration than the rest of the Muslim world. They are uncommitted to any powers. They are unconstrained by promises to keep and debts to repay. Their approach to Islam is simple and elementary – something which besides its disadvantages also keeps them away from the strangulating hold of a scholarship unfit to lead in the
modern world. They can learn. Many others can hardly so. And most important of all, they are already on the road to economic prosperity, security and strength – something which may elude other Muslim countries for a long time to come.33

An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad - part 5

The Southeast Asian Connection

Darul Arqam’s influential presence in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia since embarking on its international era in the 1980s has been well documented.27 Ustaz Ashaari’s protracted sojourn abroad (1988–94) resulted in the expansion of Darul Arqam’s influence to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and France. Large sections of Darul Arqam publications were increasingly devoted to colorful pieces of coverage of overseas visits by Darul Arqam leaders and their meetings with journalists, intellectuals, government officials, and political leaders from, among others, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Jordan, China, and Uzbekistan. Sizable Darul Arqam communities developed in these countries, but everywhere, in line with Ustaz Ashaari’s theory of Malay leadership of the Ummah, leadership of the overseas bases and settlements remained in the hands of Malays, many of whom were students. Following among the non-Malay local populations was modest.

The heavily transnational orientation in Darul Arqam’s map enabled Ustaz Ashaari to elaborate his political principles and global ambitions without restraint, reaching a crescendo in 1994, and ultimately prompting the Malaysian political establishment to demand his extradition and detention under the ISA. Notwithstanding his extensively transcontinental travels, Southeast Asia’s pivotal position in Ustaz Ashaari’s geo-political thought and agenda was irreplaceable.
Dividing the world into three zones, viz. the tropical areas such as Southeast Asia, the dry and rough areas such as the Middle East, and the four-season areas such as the West, he analyzed each zone in terms of its peoples’ varied attitudes and cultures. Southeast Asians’ gentleness, conditioned by its mild climate, made them receptive to truth even at a time when the Islamic empires have fallen. Ustaz Ashaari praised President Suharto of Indonesia for his latest tilt towards Islam, and interpreted such changes as indicative of his place in “Allah’s Schedule” as the forerunner to Ratu Adil (Just Prince), the popular Indonesian equivalent of al-Mahdi.

As a measure of its success in Southeast Asian neighboring countries, the repression of Darul Arqam was lamented by the countries’ grassroots population, especially those who had benefited from its investments and social work. Cordial relations were cemented through mixed marriages between Darul Arqam’s Malaysian and non-Malaysian nationals. At the national level, only the Brunei government followed the Malaysian government’s line of declaring Darul Arqam an illegal entity. In Indonesia and Thailand, Ustaz Ashaari’s followers freely continue their business and educational activities. Their publications continue to propagate messianic messages from Ustaz Ashaari, whose version of “Allah’s Schedule” remains the central theme in his overseas followers’ transnational priorities. The coverage by these foreign-based publications shows that Ustaz Ashaari’s political clout and stature overseas is significant. For example, Jakarta-based Kebenaran revealed the meeting between Abdurrahman Wahid and Ustaz Ashaari in the latter’s home in Bandar Country Homes, Rawang, during which Abdurrahman consulted Ustaz Ashaari on the prudence of his candidacy in the 1999 Indonesian presidential election. It is from Rufaqa’ Indonesia, whose economic success has been phenomenal, that books pushing through Ustaz Ashaari’s messianic thought are being produced and distributed to Malaysia.29

In Labuan, Ustaz Ashaari continues to receive visitors from all walks of life and nationalities. Foreign scholars have included Dr. Abdussalam Harras from Morocco (May 2002), Shaykh Abdul Ghafur from Uzbekistan (October 2002) and Dr. Imaduddin Abdurrahim, an Indonesian modernist (April 2003). The author’s examination of notes taken from meetings between Ustaz Ashaari and his business directors reveal that the future roles of Southeast Asia in general and of Malaysia in particular remain important in his messianic thought. For example, among Rufaqa’ members, the meeting between Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad and Shaykh Abdul Ghafur in Labuan has been touted as the historic encounter between the youth of Bani Tamim and al-Harith Harrath, signifying al Mahdi’s imminence.

Although messianism does not surpass taqwa as the priority in Ustaz Ashaari’s struggle, it bolsters his followers’ conviction, especially when contemporary events are linked to his prognostications. These include predictions of Anwar Ibrahim’s entry into the ruling party and government, of the Soviet Union’s downfall, of the decline of Khomeini’s influence in Iran after 10 years, and of the persistence of the Iraq–US war. Prior to Anwar Ibrahim’s shocking dismissal as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998, Ustaz Ashaari had told Anwar that he would fail in his quest to become Prime Minister. As to the recent global scenario, the terrorist threat to the USA’s own soil as exemplified by the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, has been taken to verify Ustaz Ashaari’s prediction that “America would be weakened from within.” However, Dr. Mahathir’s resignation as Prime Minister and replacement by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2003, severely tested Ustaz Ashaari’s followers’ conviction, as Ustaz Ashaari was known to have held the belief that Ghafar Baba, the once Deputy Prime Minister (1987–93), would eventually become Prime Minister amidst internal political turmoil.



An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad - part 4

Ustaz Ashaari earnestly espouses the theory of the reverse flow of Islamic resurgence: that the ultimate revival of the Ummah will be generated from the periphery towards the Islamic heartlands of the Middle East. In Ustaz Ashaari’s geographical map, the ikhwan from Southeast Asia will bring Islam to asoibs – followers of al-Mahdi, but lower in rank to the ikhwan, in Khurasan – an area interpreted as a long stretch of land encompassing most of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, parts of Iran and Pakistan, and extending until the region of Yunnan in China. While the numbers of ikhwan reach a maximum of 500, asoibs may approach thousands in quantity. Not restricted to Khurasan, asoibs may also be found in the East. Hence Southeast Asia and Khurasan function as the pulse and backbone respectively of the Islamic resurgence. The meeting between the youth of Bani Tamim and al-Harith Harrath – al-Mahdi’s guide in his mission of returning Islam to Mecca, is regarded as portending an imminent coming of al-Mahdi. The widely publicized trips made by Darul Arqam to Uzbekistan and Yunnan in 1992–3 were part of exploratory expeditions into Khurasan in search of al-Harith Harrath and asoibs. In conjunction with the launching of its “Khurasan Operation,” Darul Arqam inaugurated its International Center in Islamabad, Pakistan in January 1992. The scenario above has been detailed out:

From this base, Darul Arqam concocts plans and strategies to explore Khurasan further, especially Uzbekistan, since a lot of hadiths on the period near the end of time are related to Uzbekistan. For instance, the hadiths on the fortunate land of ma waraa un nahar, asoibs, al-Harith Harrath, and the unfurling of the Black Banner, which signify the near coming of Imam Mahdi. Ma waraa un nahar – the land behind the river, according to the ulama is situated between Samarqand and Bukhara. More accurately, ma waraa un nahar is situated in Termez, a small town at the side of the Amu Darya river [in Uzbekistan].... It is here that asoibs are being prepared. According to signs of hadith, asoibs in Uzbekistan will combine forces with Islamic strivers from the East especially, and also with Islamic activists from other parts of the world. Then they will move together to Syam [Greater Syria]. From there, they will proceed to Haramayn: the Forbidden Lands of Mecca and Medina.

Imam Ashaari at-Tamimi is convinced that if the revival of Islam at the end of time can be portrayed as a human body, the East is the pulse (life) while Khurasan is the backbone. In other words, the East acts as the initiator and leader of the resurgence, and Khurasan becomes its supporter and prime auxiliary. The East–Khurasan combination, or specifically, the joining of forces between asoibs from the East under al-Mansur (the man of Bani Tamim) and the chosen asoib (leader of asoibs)
from Khurasan, viz. Al-Harith Harrath.... [is] the closest sign of the advent of the supreme leader, Imam Mahdi. With the fall of Russia and the weakening of America, Islam is gradually on the rise. Each step of decline of the infidel system is accompanied by a step of rise of Islam.... happening especially in Malaysia. This is exuberating news to be relished by the East, Khurasan and the entire world. Now it is the East’s turn to lead the promised revival. This is what Imam Ashaari at-Tamimi
and Darul Arqam have been trying to prove.

Needless to say, Ustaz Ashaari does openly aspire to become the youth of Bani Tamim, the precursor of al-Mahdi, and does encourage his followers, and Malay-Muslims in general, to accomplish the dignified status of the ikhwan, and failing that, asoibs. In fact, he has taken action in what he understands would trigger events unleashing God’s eschatological schedule which he calls “Allah’s schedule for Muslim Ummah”: the title of a bilingual tract published in 1993 in conjunction with Darul Arqam’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. The millenarian activity of establishing the youth of Bani Tamim as Malaysia’s political leader and al-Mahdi as the leader of the Ummah has been checked temporarily by the confinement of Ustaz Ashaari and state repression of his followers. As the “head” of the fifteenth Islamic century draws to a close, very little time is left for Ustaz Ashaari to realize his eschatological schedule. By Ustaz Ashaari’s own count, the “head” of a century, during which a mujaddid is promised, comprises a period of 25 years.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad - part 3

The third peculiarity of Ustaz Ashaari’s messianism is his conviction that Southeast Asia plays a dominant role in determining the course of Islamic resurgence towards the end of time. Holding that the Malay–Indonesian world is the “East” referred to in hadiths and scholarly opinions, Ustaz Ashaari is thereby convinced in a Malaysian provenance of the youth of Bani Tamim. This belief is founded upon the hypothesis that many Sunni Arab families emigrated to the Far East to flee from persecution during the last century or so, such that a possibility arises that inter-marriages between Bani Tamim emigrants and Malays actually produced Bani Tamim generations with diluted Arab features. Added to this is circumstantial evidence obtained from personal encounters and dialogues with foreign ulema who express the view that the level of Islamic consciousness among the masses in Malaysia is comparatively higher than anywhere else in the Ummah. Logically, if the present constitutes a period near the end of time, the East mentioned as the provenance of the youth of Bani Tamim has to be one in which Islam is fertile at grassroots level. Best fitting the picture among Southeast Asian nation states, Malaysia’s pivotal role, and the position of Malays as its core ethnic group, in the final resurgence of Islam are practically destined.

Is Ustaz Ashaari claiming the mantle of the youth of Bani Tamim for himself, and claiming his followers to be the ikhwan of the youth of Bani Tamim and thereby of al-Mahdi? This was arguably insinuated in several statements, and most strongly in the employment since 1993 of a new personal title, viz. Abuya Shaykh Imam Ashaari Muhammad at-Tamimi; the surname “at-Tamimi” clearly suggesting Bani Tamim origins. Even if Ustaz Ashaari was suggesting that he is the youth of Bani Tamim who is destined to lead an Islamic state in the East, no scriptural justification exists to incriminate him theologically. Problems encountered with the authorities relate to the doctrine’s political implications, that Ustaz Ashaari is destined to lead Malaysia in the not too distant future. Yet, inner conviction does not necessarily lead to the adoption of organizational methods which can readily be transplanted from one structure to another; in Darul Arqam’s case, from a Muslim-oriented movement structure to a multi-racial state structure. No evidence exists of tangible preparations made by Darul Arqam to wrest power via militant or electoral means. As far as Ustaz Ashaari is concerned, if destined to become Malaysia’s leader one day, it will be through God’s will, triggered by the taqwa of his followers.

To Ustaz Ashaari, futuristic hadiths, on which his futuristic thought is based, are to be understood in the aspirational sense. Muslims are encouraged to aspire and exert themselves into realizing the qualities of figures touted to become history makers. It is not impossible that God grants them, due to their taqwa and efforts, the particular vocation which is open to Muslims. Even if it was proven in time that they are not the individuals mentioned in the hadiths, both human and systemic reforms effected by them can still be benefited. But the pursuit of such
aspirations has to be realistic. Since al-Mahdi’s name and physical characteristics have been specified by hadiths, it is unwise for Muslims lacking those traits to bear Mahdist aspirations. It will be more realistic doctrinally to strive to become the youth of Bani Tamim whose traits and features have been shielded from public knowledge. Or rather, in line with Ustaz Ashaari’s interpretations, they have been purposely kept open for aspiring takers to endeavor to achieve the post. An example often quoted by Ustaz Ashaari is the hadith relating the downfall of Byzantine
Constantinople to “a good King, a good army and good people,” which was only realized at the hands of the Ottoman ruler, Muhammad al-Fatih, popularly known in the West as “Mehmet the Conqueror,” in 1453. In the more than 800 years between the conquest and the Prophet Muhammad’s death, his Companions and succeeding generations never stopped trying to accomplish God’s promise on Constantinople. The most illustrious Companion who was martyred during his vain attempt to conquer Constantinople was Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, whose fatal expedition was launched during the reign of the first Umayyad caliph, Mu’awiyah Abu Sufyan (d. 680).

Therefore, while Ustaz Ashaari refrains from categorically making exclusive claims for his followers as the “chosen people” of the Ummah, he does explicitly mention Darul Arqam’s endeavor to realize the steps needed to qualify themselves as the ikhwan of the youth of Bani Tamim:

"We in Darul Arqam are striving to realize this promise. After striving for the resurgence in the East, we headed towards Khurasan in great numbers, just as Allah seized the area from the hands of the Communists. Khurasan is the place for the flapping of the black banner from the East where there is a man, al-Harith Harrath, as mentioned in the hadith. We want to be the first to meet him."

to be continued...


An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad - part 2

The second distinctive feature of Ustaz Ashaari’s messianism relates to his placing unprecedented emphasis on the purported advent of a “youth of Bani Tamim,” a mysterious figure who has been described in hadiths as hailing from the East and serving as al-Mahdi’s main vizier. Even though the appearance of this assistant of al-Mahdi has been foretold in hadiths, a historical examination of Messianism in Islam reveals a complete lack of attention given to such a figure, whom Ustaz Ashaari believes will establish an Islamic state in the east as the foundation for al-Mahdi’s leadership of the Second Ummah. The advent of al-Mahdi, as a matter of principle, must be preceded by the success of the youth of Bani Tamim, who will eventually hand over political power to al-Mahdi. In other words, the youth of Bani Tamim is the lesser savior whose political triumph will usher in more significant victories at the hands of the principal savior, al-Mahdi. The youth of Bani Tamim’s triumph in the East is therefore a necessary condition for the advent of al-Mahdi. Previous claims to the Mahdiship can be categorically repudiated by pointing
to their lack of a revivalist predecessor from the tribe of Tamim.

Perhaps due to the vagueness of the identity of the youth of Bani Tamim, whose pedigree and physical characteristics, unlike al-Mahdi’s, are scarcely elaborated in hadiths, no messianic truth-seeker or power-seeking pretender has been eager to come forward and claim his rank. Furthermore, unlike al-Mahdi, who is described in hadiths as a caliph who magnanimously distributes money without counting it, the youth of Bani Tamim is not associated with power and wealth he can willfully dispense. In the manner of a tug boat which paves the way for larger vessels, the youth of Bani Tamim merely opens avenues for and introduces al-Mahdi to the Ummah.
His main accomplishment: a state propped up by devoted followers known as the ikhwan (brothers), is prepared for al-Mahdi, not for himself. As such, staking a direct claim for the Mahdiship is misguided. Sincere revivalists should instead be healthily aspiring for the coveted position of the youth of Bani Tamim, as urged by Ustaz Ashaari:

Based on hadiths, we are also informed that the revival of Islam in the East happens in the hands of a man from Bani Tamim (Qurayshy clan) [sic]: the man who will hand over the black banner to Imam Mahdi. This means the struggles of the man of Bani Tamim and of Imam Mahdi are closely related, connected and occur in succession. Perhaps the relationship between the prophets Aaron and Moses provide a fair comparison. I see both the man of Bani Tamim and Imam Mahdi as being concurrent mujaddids. [Any member of] the Muslim Ummah should make the effort to become the man of Bani Tamim as mentioned in hadiths so that the schedule of Allah happens in his hands.

There is nothing wrong or extreme in competing to become the anointed man; this is the way it should be. But if we are not capable of accomplishing such high ambitions, we must search for another more able person. When such a person clearly exists, we must follow him and assist his struggle. There is no need to devise some other method...... Please feel welcome to grab this opportunity. The identity of the mujaddid or the man of Bani Tamim has not been fixed. This means that whosoever has the chance to qualify as the man of Bani Tamim.

Based on his study, Ustaz Ashaari enumerates some characteristics of the youth of Bani Tamim and the ikhwan:

He is of Arab ancestry, hailing from the Quraishy clan of Bani Tamim. But he has very few Arab features as a result of his lineage having been mixed with non-Arabs [via marriage].... His female followers appear like black crows, while the men wear turbans and green robes. The sight of them moving together in groups is awe-inspiring. The black banner which he carries in the East also flaps in Khurasan: a country behind a river (ma waraa un nahar). This means he is the leader of the same movement in the East and in Khurasan.... The Eastern-born leader will approach a man waiting for him in the country behind the river, called al-Harith Harrath. As the outcome of his struggle, the man of Bani Tamim obtains the reins of government in one of the countries in the East. It is this ruling power that will be handed over to Imam Mahdi.

to be continued



An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


The Messianism of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad

On August 5, 1994, the National Fatwa Council (NFC) of Malaysia unanimously ruled that Darul Arqam’s teachings had deviated from Islam. Of the 10 charges of theological deviationism directed against Darul Arqam, two broad issues were of primary significance, viz. the theological validity of the Aurad Muhammadiah12 and the nature of Darul Arqam’s belief in the messianic advent of al-Mahdi. These issues had consistently been the sources of contention between the official religious authorities and Darul Arqam, as revealed in public statements by representatives
of the Islamic Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department (BAHEIS: Bahagian Hal Ehwal Islam Jabatan Perdana Menteri), and the heated exchanges that took place between both sides in the form of books, booklets and documents on the matter.

Technically, Aurad Muhammadiah enjoins the recitation, individually after each daily prayer, of seven verses in the correct order, preceded by the first chapter of the Qur’an. These verses, four and three of which are to be read 10 and 50 times respectively, are together a collection of Qur’anic verses, the kalimah shahadah (the attestation of faith: “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”) and a salawat (salutation of peace upon the Prophet Muhammad). But controversy arose as to the belief that the Aurad Muhammadiah was taught directly by the deceased Prophet Muhammad to its founder, Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Al-Suhaimi, during a yaqazah – direct communication, in a state of consciousness, between two human beings, one or both of whom may have been deceased and therefore present in spiritual and not physical form. Two further allegedly deviant ritual practices of the Aurad Muhammadiah are, its allegedly longer kalimah shahadah, and the practice of tawassul as contained in its tahlil.

On the issue of messianism, three fundamental points distinguish Ustaz Ashaari’s millenarian beliefs from past messianic trends. Firstly, his conditional belief that Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Al-Suhaimi, whose grave is said to exist in Kelang, Malaysia, is in fact being “kept” alive in the spiritual world by God to prepare for his reappearance as al-Mahdi. Based on the prevailing chaos in the contemporary world and the prediction made by Jalal al-din al-Suyuti (d.1505) that al-Mahdi would appear around 1407 AH, Ustaz Ashaari believes that al-Mahdi is the anointed savior of the fifteenth Islamic century, and the last in the list of celebrated mujaddids. Ustaz Ashaari’s postulation that the founder of the Aurad Muhammadiah is the most plausible candidate for the Mahdiship is based on arbitrary suggestions made by his grandson Mohd. Taha Suhaimi, upon circumstantial evidence tracing his ancestry to the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah, and on physical features and a name which accorded with the description of al-Mahdi in hadiths, as testified by those who met him in his lifetime. One of them, known as Kiyai Mahmud, was said to have personally heard Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah Al-Suhaimi’s prognosis that the resurgence of the Aurad Muhammadiah, after a brief decline following his occultation, would occur under the leadership of a man named “Ashaari Muhammad.”

Ustaz Ashaari’s belief in the Mahdiship of Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah al-Suhaimi apparently puts it on a similar terrain with the Twelver Shi’ites, who also believe in the occultation of al-Mahdi prior to his promised reappearance. From the Sunni perspective, no scriptural justification exists to support the theory of al-Mahdi’s occultation. In defense, Ustaz Ashaari cites the precedence of the Prophet Jesus and the People of the Cave, both of whom were thought to have died by their contemporaries but who in reality are being kept by God in an unknown world until the moment of their destined re-emergence.17 Furthermore, al-Mahdi’s antithesis, the Dajjal, is also arguably in occultation. This view is based on a lengthy hadith which tells how Tamim al-Dari, a Christian convert to Islam, was stranded during a voyage in a remote island where he met and spoke with a beast shackled in a monastery. The creature claimed to be the Dajjal, as was verified by the Prophet upon hearing Tamim’s story. Some Sunni ulema and Sufis did share Ustaz Ashaari’s view of al-Mahdi’s occultation. Supporting evidence for this include a statement from Ibn ‘Arabi (d.1240) and the testimony of Shaykh Hasan al-Iraqi (d.1525), whose personal encounter with Al-Mahdi was cited by Ustaz Ashaari.

to be continued....


An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


Messianism in Sunni Islam

As a subject, the phenomena of messianism and millenarianism have never been short of controversy. At the popular level, they have been associated with the world of celestial happenings, ancient prophecies, and Doomsday cults, which have often ended tragically with mass suicides and other violent aftermaths. These appeared to have multiplied dramatically with the advent of the new millennium, occurring near in time to such heavenly events as the passing of comets Halley in 1986 and Hale-Bopp in March 1997; the conjunction of planets in May 2000, and the closest approach of Mars to the earth in August 2003. Most anthropologists would describe messianic movements as a universal manifestation of social protest, being religions of the oppressed, disappointed, marginalized, and desperate communities. Yearning for a swift crumbling of the present social order, such victims of capitalist-based modernization were prone to pin their utopian hopes for a future golden age on a certain savior, whose miraculous coming and feats may have been foretold, if only vaguely, in medieval texts. Indeed, outbursts of millenarianism may be detected in all major religions and civilizations.

Islamic millenarian expectations have revolved around the figure of Imam al-Mahdi, the messiah whose advent near the end of time has been pronounced by many hadiths, i.e. sayings or actions of the Prophet Muhammad as reported by his companions or wives, and passed through successive Muslim generations until ultimately compiled. In fact, eschatological hadiths relate that, chronologically, the proclamation of al-Mahdi will be followed by specific events, viz. the appearance of the Dajjal, the descent of the Prophet Jesus who will kill the Dajjal, the appearance of the destructive tribes of Gog and Magog, and the rule of al-Mahdi over the world for five or seven or nine years and followed by that of the Prophet Jesus for 40 years, after a series of triumphant wars against the infidels. Ultimate peace will only prevail under the leadership of al-Mahdi and Jesus Christ, when Islam will reign supreme over the world. Following the passing away of al-Mahdi and Jesus Christ, Islam will decline again, until the moment when believers’ lives are taken away by God, such that the Great Hour, i.e. the physical destruction of the planet earth, will be experienced only by unbelievers.

In orthodox Sunni Islam, scholars have discussed the subject of al-Mahdi in conjunction with the famous hadith regarding the promised mujaddid (reformer), as narrated by Abu Hurayrah and found in the collection of Abu Dawud: “Allah will raise, at the head of each century, such people for this Ummah as will revive its Religion for it.”

This explains the fact that Mahdist expectations have been strongest during the beginning of every Islamic century.8 Mahdism has come to embody not only a theological belief in the coming of a final deliverer towards the end of time, but also a political belief in the destiny of the Ummah to undergo regeneration under the Mahdist leadership of a centennial mujaddid. Hence for instance, the Umayyad caliph Umar Abd al-Aziz (d.720), conventionally regarded as the mujaddid of the first Islamic century, was also referred to in respectable religious circles as al-Mahdi. Hopwood describes the Sunni version of al-Mahdi, vis-à-vis the Shi’ite view, as a “mujaddid (renewer)…. who is not necessarily the harbinger of the Last Day but a more humble figure to guide the Ummah back to the right path.”9

Discussions revolving around the concept of al-Mahdi in Sunni Islam have exacted most interest from Sufis, who regard al-Mahdi as the last and spiritually greatest saint. Consequently, many Mahdist revivalist movements have had Sufi origins and inclinations. In fact, these movements were at the forefront of anti-colonial uprisings in the peripheral Muslim lands, whose societies had been severely disaffected by Western capitalist intrusion and military domination. While retaining a spiritual orientation, such movements took up many aspects more conventionally identified with modernist reformism, such as flexibility in opening the gates of ijtihad (independent reasoning) and an uncompromising rejection of foreign innovations, which had infiltrated traditional Sufi orders. Examples are the Diponegoro revolt in Dutch Java (1825–30), the Sanusiyyah agitations in late nineteenth-century Libya, and the anti-British Mahdist revolt in the Sudan (1881–5).10

In short, all messianic movements have up till now been proven in time to be not Mahdist in the scriptural sense. But this does not mean they were not Mahdist in orientation, in the sense of their having derived political inspiration from the apocalyptic belief in al-Mahdi. Therefore, the Mahdist doctrine wields not only theological significance, but is also valuable in generating reformist movements, particularly in times of economic and social discontent when the longing for a golden age becomes pervasive. The very idea that al-Mahdi’s coming as a divine promise is assured raises collective social hopes of Muslims and motivates them to work for the betterment of the Ummah, despite seemingly irreversible setbacks. In this sense, Mahdism encourages activism rather than a passive acceptance of the status quo. Very much a taboo to standard-bearers of official Islam, it has been and can still potentially be a powerful political weapon of Muslim revivalists.

Nonetheless, in the past century, Sunni Islamic movements have evidently discarded Mahdism, deeming it as irrelevant, from their agenda of resurgence. Mahdism has been relegated to the realm of fringe Sufi groups, Shi’ites, and heterodox movements. Contemporary revivalists have raised legitimate concern at the detrimental effects of past bogus claims by Mahdist aspirants,11 but the existence or even abundance of Mahdist pretenders does not necessarily mean Mahdism constitutes a deviation or represents a liability to Islamic resurgence. This is borne out by the social and economic activism of Darul Arqam and Rufaqa’ Corporation in Malaysia.


An article published in
Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’ (ed.) (2006),
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Chapter 11: pp. 195-212

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought reflects the variety of trends, voices, and opinions in the contemporary Muslim intellectual scene.


This chapter discusses futuristic aspects in the messianic thought of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad, who is well known among circles and observers of Southeast Asian Islam as the founder-leader of Darul Arqam, an Islamic movement banned in August 1994 by the Malaysian authorities for allegedly embracing and spreading heterodox teachings. Ustaz Ashaari subscribes to a unique vision of Southeast Asia as the future center of Islamic civilization in the post-modern world.

This essentially messianic vision has been procured via a rigorous study of hadith literature and empirical knowledge gained during overseas tours. Ustaz Ashaari’s thought becomes particularly important against the background of global messianic expectations as the new millennium meets the early phase of the Islamic century. In addition, Ustaz Ashaari’s method of relying on contemporary economic prowess belies the economic backwardness befalling Muslims worldwide and the economic downturn affecting Southeast Asia since 1997.

Ustaz Ashaari strives to realize his vision through his establishment and leadership of movements that exhibit unconventional methods of managing economic and social development. Founded in 1968 as a small religious gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Darul Arqam had developed, by 1994, into a self-styled economic empire commanding huge influence among the national socio-political elite. In material terms, its tangible accomplishments were phenomenal, certainly for a movement that professed to operate on a strictly Islamic basis.1 Until its demise in 1994, Darul Arqam, albeit being Malaysian-based, acquired a heavily transnational orientation, revolving especially around Southeast Asian countries. Convinced that an economically developed Islamic
state and society would eventually come about in Southeast Asia, Ustaz Ashaari’s followers throughout the region have continually sustained Islamic-oriented businesses and companies under various names, before gradually regrouping them under the aegis of Rufaqa’ International Limited in 2002. In Malaysia, continuous retention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) of their leaders, consistent state monitoring, and the closing down of their communal villages have not prevented Ustaz Ashaari’s followers from shifting ground towards erecting economically successful urban Islamic communities.

Under the restriction order imposed on him, Ustaz Ashaari cannot move from his designated district of residence, viz. Gombak (1994–2002) and since February 2002, Labuan island, off the Bornean coast of the state of Sabah. He has to remain indoors after 6 p.m., and all visitors have to be screened by the specially allocated security officers. He has to report to the nearest police station once a week.
However, out-of-district breaks may be and have been given upon special requests made due to unforeseen circumstances, such as family death and illnesses. Needless to say, such requirements have greatly hampered communication between him and his followers.

In 1997, Ustaz Ashaari registered a private limited company, Rufaqa’ Corporation, based in Bandar Country Homes, Rawang, Selangor, without relying on assets and capital from the disbanded Darul Arqam. Beginning with herbal-based health products, Rufaqa’ focused upon establishing small and medium enterprises based in “Islamic townships,” which refer informally to Rufaqa’’s conspicuous string of business premises dominating parts of industrial estates.
Within a few years, and despite prevailing economic uncertainty, Rufaqa’ quickly expanded to all states in Malaysia. Today, with its multiple business networks operating 40 different types of businesses, Rufaqa’’s business enterprises arguably constitute the best among economic initiatives offered by Islamic movements in Malaysia.

Despite stern denials, the state, still seeing Ustaz Ashaari as a threat to national security, has constantly leveled accusations that Rufaqa’ was trying to revive Darul Arqam, and in February 2002, banished Ustaz Ashaari and his immediate family to Labuan. In Labuan, business opportunities for Rufaqa’ have been blocked by the local authorities, but Rufaqa’ has managed to outwit the state by conducting businesses using the licenses of local Chinese businessmen oblivious as to Rufaqa’’s alleged heterodoxy and willing to cooperate with Rufaqa’. Muslims in Labuan have been persuaded by federal agents to desist from any communication and business links with Rufaqa’, but through the non-Muslim business network, Rufaqa’ now handles one bakery and five restaurants in Labuan. Having brought with him part of Rufaqa’s physical and human capital, reports have emerged detailing Ustaz Ashaari’s “luxurious” lifestyle and rapport with Labuan’s grassroots communities.

Ustaz Ashaari has achieved economic success by strenuously maintaining a taqwa-based approach to business and development. Literally taken to mean “the fear of God”, taqwa is stated in the Qur’an as being the source of God’s help, through which all of Muslims’ triumphs are effected. For example,

“If the people of the towns had but believed and feared Allah, We should indeed have opened out to them (all kinds of)blessings from heaven and earth. But they rejected (the truth) and we brought them to book for their misdeeds” (Al-A’raf 7: 96) and

“And for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out, and He provides for him from (sources) he never could expect… And for those who fear Allah, He will make things easy for them” (At-Talaq 65: 2–4).

Rufaqa’’s business meetings were seen to focus primarily on the relationship between taqwa and “God’s bank,” by which is meant that through taqwa, God will shower bounties on business enterprises undertaken in the name of the struggle for God.

Without going into the doctrinal controversies surrounding the proscription and eventual disbandment of Darul Arqam, the author now wishes to look at traits in the messianic worldview of Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad differentiating his movements from not only contemporary resurgent Muslim trends, but also from previous messianic movements.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Do not make Ramadahan an eating festivities, do not make Ramadhan a month where sleeping is the daily rituals and do not make Ramadhan when after a short prayer at night, the activities to follow on is the casual endless chatting. After the seeming endless chatting, everyone returns home to sleep, forgetting to get up during the night to be close to God.

Ramadhan is not only to revive the night or to suffer from hunger during the day and being under exhaustion. Ramadhan is meant for us to revive our minds, our hearts and souls with the feeling of being with God. Ramadhan is the joyous times for our souls to feel subservience towards Him, to feel low down with Him, to have the feeling of weakness towards Him, and to have the feeling of being small towards God the AlMighty.

Ramadhan is the time to revive our hearts to feel humble, to fear God, to love God, to feel being with God always. Ramadhan is the time to make our souls have the feeling of compassion towards others, loving and caring for others, to sympathise with those in hardships and those unfortunate ones.Ramadhan is the time to deepen our feelings of being sinful towards Him, having fear to do anymore wrongdoings. Ramadhan is the time to feel God's Supremacy, to feel His Awesomeness and His Strength. Ramadhan is not just actively doing the physical rituals which seem good on the exterior while the inner aspects are neglected and in darkness.

What is important is to keep our souls alive, having an inner enjoyment. God does not see the exterior or the outside but He sees what's inside.God wishes to see what's inside the human soul as to whether his soul has the feelings of being with God. Fasting during the day, night prayers being performed, Quran being read all to enlighten the soul which has been in darkness. Reciting the zikir should not be just an utterance but it comes with inner feelings. To do zikir is not just at the tongue but the heart is saying it as well, felt in the heart. To do the zikir is not at the tongue but what's remembered inside the heart.

The arrival of Ramadhan is for the purpose of reviving the heart which has been dead all this while. Hopefully, with a month of Ramadhan to revive the heart, it will last for another year. Then as the next Ramadhan appears the same thing happens again where the dead heart is revived to last for another year. This is for the normal person who is indifferent and negligent. For someone with taqwa where his soul is always alive, the coming of Ramadhan is the time for him to upgrade his position with God.

But if Ramadhan comes without any effort to revive the inner souls, the exterior seems joyous, the exterior being lighted up with various physical rituals while the inner rituals left unattended, during the times outside the month of Ramadhan, sad to say, the heart will be left in darkness for the whole year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Latest Book

Latest Book “BUAH FIKIRAN USTAZ HJ ASHAARI MUHAMMAD” [Thoughts of Ustaz Hj Ashaari Muhammad] Volume 2 [hard cover] composes more than 60 collections of lectures with assorted topics which includes Tafseer of Surah Al Fatehah, Tasawuf, Knowing your Prophet S.A.W, Prayers (Solah), Educations In Islam, A Struggle (Perjuangan), Kinship, Organized Community, Leadership and General topics.

Information about the book:
Writer: Ustaz Hj Ashaari Muhammad
Publisher: Penerbitan Minda Ikhwan
Number of Pages : 620
Price[hard cover]: RM50.00
Language: Malay

“Many Muslims nowadays are bewildered, cant differentiate between Islamic Thoughts/Opinion and the Muslim Community’s Thoughts/Opinion. Islamic thought consist of any topics ranges from education, economic, culture, community, administrative, communication, development, infrastructure and etc.. But all these should be derived from Iman [faith] with the discipline of Islamic Syariah [Divine Laws]. If not, then; its not considered as an Islamic Thought, although it has been the talk of Muslim leaders, the intellectuals or even the Ulama’s [scholars].

Muslim Community must be vigilant because, some of the community leaders, intellectuals and Ulama’s [Scholars] nowadays, their mind have already been distorted because they study Islam form Universities which has been established by the West. Islamic teaching which had been taught, not only didn’t derive from Iman [faith] and Islamic Syariah [Divine Laws], the knowledge also has been “deviated” by the enemies of Islam, over there.

May this book, which how God wants it, till it will erode the views that contradicts the view of Islam and also, cleansing thought of Muslim Community that has already been damaged by the enemies of Islam. Hope that the confusions will be answered and hopefully, dear readers will get to know what is Islamic Thought by reading: Buah Fikiran Ustaz Hj Ashaari Muhammad Siri 2 [Thoughts of Ustaz Hj Ashaari Muhammad] Volume 2]"

For more information or ordering the book, please call
Dr Nor'Aini (019-3141074)
En Jazmin (019-6696447)
or email to

Book review:
To those who have read the book entitled “BUAH FIKIRAN USTAZ HJ ASHAARI MUHAMMAD” [Thoughts of Ustaz Hj Ashaari Muhammad] Volume 2, we would like to hear your comments and review about the knowledge and the message that was presented in the book mentioned.For review, you can send an email to or