Reorienting Sufism: Hamka and Islamic Mysticism in the Malay World

Sufism has shaped the history and social lives of the Malays—one of the largest Muslim populations in the world today—for many centuries. But in recent decades, reformist and modernist forces have challenged the role of Sufism as a pivotal aspect of Malay–Muslim life in their pursuit to purify Islam from what they perceived as external influences that have crept into the age-old faith. This has given rise to polarizations within local Malay societies.

This article examines the intellectual interventions and contributions of a prominent Indonesian scholar and religious reformer, Haji Abdul Malik bin Abdul Karim Amrullah (1908–81), popularly known as “Hamka,” amidst the debates over the place of Sufism in the Malay World. The author shows how Hamka sought to reorient Sufism in the Malay World by offering fresh interpretations of the origins, parameters, and purposes of Sufism.