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[Book Reviews] Understanding Miswari Banta Leman’s Figure and Productivity as Intellectuals of Young Muslim Scholars from Aceh

Miswari is a very productive figure in the research of Islamic studies. This essay will focus on Miswari’s productivity in producing several works to develop Islamic thought in Indonesia. Miswari almost every year publishes works, be it in the form of books or scientific journals.

Although was struggling during his achievement toward a doctoral degree, Miswari has written many books on Islamic Studies. This, in contrast to some of my colleagues, is where their dissertation is the ultimate work. After that, he did no more serious work from the results of his contemplation.

Reflective writing is a writing model that tries to understand various things, such as learning in discovering scientific theories. Therefore, the process of writing this is aimed at expanding or disseminating common sense knowledge to anyone. The process is straightforward. 

When the writer reflects on the phenomena or problems that arise in his mind, the writer will try to understand them differently. Although he may not understand theorizing substantively, he is developing philosophical thinking. This process of contemplation is closely related to a person’s reading level.

I guess that Miswari is an accomplished reader. He said the habit of reading had started since taking his undergraduate studies at Abulyatama University in Banda Aceh. Lucky. Miswari then continued his studies at one of the campuses, Paramadina University, which has become one of the granaries for developing Islamic intellectuals in Indonesia.

 In recent years, Miswari has finished his doctoral studies at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta. The experience of interacting with books will lead him to stay in touch with writers or researchers in the fields occupied by Miswari whichis a fundamental process for aspiring Islamic thinkers.

Almost all Islamic thinkers are those who devour books or other quality readings. When I discuss with Miswari, he always says if this book or that. He was familiar with the peculiarities of each Islamic thinker. Not infrequently, he responded to what I said with the words: “meuphom…meuphom…meuphom… (understood…understood…understood…). This proof of understanding is what I got in reading some of his works. Miswari sent almost all his books to me. 

Therefore, I  suspect that Miswari is a “new pearl” in Islamic studies in the Nusantara. Even though he comes from remote areas of Aceh, he has succeeded in changing his destiny and thoughts so that many people can recognize him.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Miswari held many webinars, which various groups attended. He became a moderator. Some participants even acknowledged HW’s greatness in reading the discussion program. Humorous. Homely. Critical thinking.

That is the impression I got while I was a resource person or participant in an event moderated by Miswari. He can capture various issues in society to be raised as a topic of discussion. The direction of the study of Islamic thought, through the role of Miswari, has changed from Darussalam as the center of academic discourse in Banda Aceh to Langsa.

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Miswari continues to produce works in Islamic thought. The ideas in each of his works roll beautifully. The readings and references are getting more pious. The analysis in each of his writings is getting sharper. For the younger generation in Aceh who want to pursue Islamic studies, the figure of Miswari can be used as a good example.

Nowadays, looking for a figure for the younger generation of Muslims to pursue Islamic studies in depth is not easy. This is because the trend of Islamic learning is no longer through the luminous pattern, but learning Islam is only for personal piety. What often arises is the attitude of being satisfied with what is already known.

It is rather challenging to find a professional who never loses their thirst for this study among those willing to pursue Islamic studies. The content and issues in HW’s book show consistency in Islamic studies. If only a few young Muslim generations in Aceh follow Miswari’s footsteps, religious life in this province is far from a genuine claim.

The above conditions will also break the view that Islamic thought has stagnated in Indonesia. Along with the problems of the Islamic movement, which has fallen into the assumptions of the caliphate problem. So anything that refers to the substance of Islamic studies tends to be considered against the state. Of course, this problem arose not only in the Reform Order but since Indonesia’s independence. 

The issue of placing Islam in the state is not as smooth as the national tradition. The emergence of post-independence Islamic thought is to respond to state problems. Meanwhile, pre-independence tended to fill ammunition for patriotism in the nation.

Moreover, in the last two decades, Islamic thought in Indonesia has not shown encouraging developments. After the death of Gus Dur or Cak Nur, the situation of Islamic studies is more likely to meet the campus administration. All learning traditions are directed at the fulfillment of quantitative targets. Scholars pursue Scopus. 

The education leadership at PTKIN are no exception, struggling to achieve with rankings. Meanwhile, social interpretations of ummah problems tend to be confined to the results of conceptual engineering in the era of modernism alone. Whether we realize it or not, this situation is very detrimental to the transformation of Islamic thought in Indonesia.

Figures like Ahmad Wahib are complicated to find. Historical contemplators like Kuntowijoyo are hard to replace. Words that invite critical thinking in the style of Gus Dur are scarce nowadays. Thoughts that leapfrog the times of Islamic scholars today are difficult to find. Finally, recycling the works of Islamic studies is challenging to enter the realm of philosophy to produce new theories in this study. 

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As a result, Islamic studies are no longer independent but depend on the state’s interests. When this condition is never criticized, then what emerges is Islamic studies which only serve state power.

Islamic thought has always emerged as part of the vis–vis state. The journey of Islamic thought in Indonesia emerged outside the state system, becoming a positive opposition force against rival discourses. Various works appeared in the New Order era, which can be used as examples. Tension always arises in the relationship often occurs. 

However, because of this condition, the vibration of Islamic thought is so strong. However, when thoughts are frightened by various “ghosts” concepts from the state, not a few people have started to leave the study of Islamic thought in Indonesia. Because when conducting this study, it will be considered intolerant in the process, which leads to a situation of radicalism, to the point of terrorism.

HW’s efforts in this book are to fill the void in the study of Islamic thought, which has begun to be abandoned by many Islamic scholars in Indonesia. We hope this study will not be “haunted” by various frightening concepts from the state and its regime. Because of the dialectic of thought, various new interpretations will emerge of the dynamics of Islamic studies in this republic. 

Finally, I congratulate Miswari on this work, and hopefully, it can be used as a reference in the study of Islamic thought in the archipelago. Likewise, I hope that this work will not be the last work of Miswari.

Furthermore, Miswari again asked me to provide a Preface to his book entitled Teologi Terakhir (The Last Theology). In this work, Miswari again presents a theological thought landscape, a tradition of Muslim scholarship. I will not comment on the contents of this Miswari book. I do not know why Miswari asked me to participate in some of his magnum opus works. 

Miswari wants to position himself as a Muslim scholar who wants to write some issues in Islamic Studies from beginning to end. Therefore, reading Miswari’s work is as if we were invited to enter Miswari’s way of speaking in written language.

Writing a “heavy” topic through literature exploration is not an easy job to do, especially if the writer does not master how to speak and think systematically. How to speak and think well must be done for those who pursue the philosophy of science. This is one of the hallmarks of Miswar’s expertise as a philosophical researcher. 

In addition, Miswari also pursues the science of Sufism as a scalpel in understanding the inner atmosphere of a thinker or poet of thought. I have been teaching in Darussalam for almost a decade. Among my students, only a few are consistent in understanding and deepening the study of the philosophy of science and Sufism. 

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Therefore, I rarely recommend that my students enter studies like this.

This study area does not promise a fantastic job for the reviewer. They will feel alone in the crowd. This is because this work is not widely seen by the younger generation of Islam, especially among Muslim millennials. This is because studying the study of thought requires a scientific spirit that cannot be lost. 

The study of thought requires work to force a relatively broad scientific insight. He must be able to see a problem from multiple perspectives. This, of course, demands a solid horizon of thinking from scientific foundations. Therefore, not many who pursue the study of thought can become prospective thinkers.

Changes in human civilization are mainly carried out by thinkers who sit quietly in their scientific daydreams. The above conditions are caused by them not wanting to be istiqamah (consistent) in their scientific efforts. 

However, if they continuously pursue this science, it is predictable that they will become the enlightenment of the ummah in the future. Because they have become ideas or ideas as a force that will change a person’s perspective, this is the most significant merit of a thinker or poet.

 As a result, they struggle with various worlds of ideas, which can be used as a tool to change society.

What Miswari does is narrate various ideas of significant figures in an academic narrative. This writing itself is a scientific exercise for Miswari. The more things that are done as a scientific proces of a prospective thinker, the stronger the scientific foundation of the candidate will be. He is in the process of putting his name and legacy in the ranks of the figures he is studying. 

Not surprisingly, this effort provides its preoccupation for the author as a traveler in the Sahara field of science. He is very likely to be thirsty with his scientific odyssey and ascent. The end is that when he reaches the end of the culmination of his journey in studying the masters of knowledge he studies, it will make him more wise and virtuous. This attitude and nature of virtue and wisdom led the author to become a prospective scholar.

In this context, I would like to congratulate Miswari on his achievements in producing some very enlightening works for all readers. Hopefully, this work can help with honest insight and sharpen the analysis of the issues and content presented by Miswari in this work. 

Lastly, for Miswari, I would like to say that the end of the odyssey of knowledge is always the edge of happiness that is difficult to express in words, namely when the Owner of Knowledge gives sparks of His Knowledge through unexpected things, which will lead the Traveler of Knowledge to stages that only he experienced.

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad (KBA) has followed his curiosity throughout life, which has carried him into the fields of Sociology of Anthropology of Religion in Southeast Asia, Islamic Studies, Sufism, Cosmology, and Security, Geostrategy, Terrorism, and Geopolitics. KBA is the author of over 30 books and 50 academic and professional journal articles and book chapters. His academic training is in social anthropology at La Trobe University, Islamic Political Science at the University of Malaya, and Islamic Legal Studies at UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. He received many fellowships: Asian Public Intellectual (The Nippon Foundation), IVLP (American Government), Young Muslim Intellectual (Japan Foundation), and Islamic Studies from Within (Rockefeller Foundation). He is based in Banda Aceh and can be reached at ceninnets@yahoo.com.au

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