Citation for Natsir, Mohammad

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Woodward, Mark R. . "Natsir, Mohammad." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 17, 2022. <>.


Woodward, Mark R. . "Natsir, Mohammad." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 17, 2022).

Natsir, Mohammad

Mohammad Natsir (1908–1993) was an Indonesianintellectual, journalist, and politician. Natsir was among the first Indonesians to receive a modern European education. He attended Dutch primary and secondary schools where he acquired a solid grounding in European philosophy as well as fluency in Dutch and English. Like most educated Indonesians of his generation, Natsir was a fervent nationalist; he was also a Muslim idealist. Like the Egyptian reformer Muḥammad ʿAbduh, Natsir held that a return to the intellectual and scriptural traditions of classical Islam is essential for the modernization of Muslim societies.

Natsir was affiliated with Persatuan Islam, an exclusivist organization that combined modern education with Islamic fundamentalism and maintained cordial relationships with fundamentalist organizations in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. He was a prolific author, writing more than ninety books and hundreds of articles. The tension between modernism and fundamentalism is apparent in many of Natsir's works as well as in his political career.

Natsir understood the nation-state as a tool for constructing an Islamic society. He emphasized the relationship between a just society and the rewards of heaven, arguing that the use of the Qurʿān and the sunnah of the prophet Muḥammad as a sociological model was the means through which both could be attained. Unlike naive fundamentalists, Natsir explicitly rejected the notion that the Qurʿān provides the basis for an administrative system. He played an active part in Indonesian politics from the 1920s until the dissolution of his political party (Masjumi) in 1958. From 1958 to 1961 he was affiliated with a Muslim-led insurrection centered in Sumatra. He was imprisoned between 1962 and 1966.

Following his release, Natsir founded Yayasan Dewan Daʿwah, a missionary organization and publisher of books and periodicals promoting his theological and social agendas. Natsir devoted the remainder of his life to writing, preaching, and facilitating the construction of mosques and schools. He remained active in international Islamic organizations until his death in 1993.

Indonesians often distinguish between the young Natsir of the period before 1958 and the older Natsir of the post-1966 era. The young Natsir is revered for his devotion to Indonesian nationalism and development and his struggle to establish a more explicitly Islamic social system. Even those who hold vastly different theological views, including Nurcholish Madjid, recognize Natsir's enormous contributions to Indonesian Islam.

The older Natsir was the most outspoken and articulate proponent of fundamentalism in contemporary Indonesia. His theological rigidity limited his ability to respond creatively to the social and political realities of the modern Indonesia he had done so much to create. In his later years, Natsir became increasingly anti-Christian, blaming Indonesia's Christian community for the establishment of Indonesia as a secular rather than an Islamic state. Although Muslim fundamentalists continued to revere him as “the light of the Muslim community,” many Muslim intellectuals felt that he had become too intransigent to contribute further to the struggle for an Islamic society. Yet however much younger intellectuals may criticize Natsir's theological and political programs, few would question his personal integrity or his devotion to Islam and Indonesia.



  • Burns, Peter. Revelation and Revolution: Natsir and the Panca Sila. Townsville, Australia, 1981. Analysis of Natsir's writings and political career of the pre-1958 period.
  • Federspiel, Howard M.Persatuan Islam: Islamic Reform in Twentieth-Century Indonesia. Ithaca, N.Y., 1970. Provides insight into Natsir's theology.
  • Gardner, Paul F.Shared Hopes, Separate Fears: Fifty Years of US– Indonesian Relations. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996.
  • Hefner, Robert W.Civil Islam. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000.
  • Noer, Deliar. The Modernist Muslim Movement in Indonesia, 1900–1942. London, 1973. Authoritative study of Indonesian Islamic modernism, which includes discussions and partial translations of Natsir's early works.
  • Roadnight, Andrew. United States Policy towards Indonesia in the Truman and Eisenhower Years. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

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