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Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, known as Hamka (born in kampung Molek Sungai Batang Maninjau, West Sumatra February 17, 1908 - and died in Jakarta July 24, 1981) was a prominent Indonesian author, ulema and politician. His father, syekh Abdul Karim Amrullah, known as Haji Rasul, led and inspired the reform movement in Sumatra upon his arrival from the holy land Mecca in 1906.. In 1970's, Hamka was the leader of Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia besides Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

In the Dutch colonial era, Hamka was the chief editor of Indonesian magazines, such as Pedoman Masyarakat, Panji Masyarakat, and Gema Islam.

He was given the title Buya, derived from the Arabic word Abi or Abuya meaning Father or someone respectable. Hamka was only getting a relatively low education in Maninjau Elementary School. He reached only until grade 2. But when he was about 10 years old, his father founded the Thawalib or religious teaching school in his hometown Padang Panjang. Hamka then learned and mastered Arabian language. He also took mentors from famous Muslim scholars such as Syeikh Ibrahim Musa, Syeikh Ahmad Rasyid, Sutan Mansur, R.M. Surjopranoto and Ki Bagus Hadikusumo.

At the beginning Hamka worked as a religion teacher in 1927 at a plantation in Tebing Tinggi, Medan and also in Padang Panjang around the year 1929. Hamka then worked as a teacher in University of Islam, Jakarta and University of Muhammadiyah, Padang Panjang from 1957 to 1958. After that, he became the rector in High Institute of Islam, Jakarta and given the title Professor from University of Mustopo, Jakarta. From 1951 to 1960, he was given in the position as a Religion High Officer by the Ministry of Religion, Indonesia, but he deliberately step off from the position when the former Indonesian first President Sukarno asked him to choose between taking up with the position of civil employee or becoming a political activist in Muslim organization Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia (Masyumi).

Hamka was an autodidact in many subjects such as philosophy, literature, history, sociology and politics, both from Islamic side and Western side. With his skillful ability in Arabic language, he mastered the works from those Middle Easterners high scholars such as Zaki Mubarak, Jurji Zaidan, Abbas al-Aqqad, Mustafa al-Manfaluti and Hussain Haikal.

Through his skill in Arabic Language also he examined the works of French, British and German scholars such as Albert Camus, William James, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Toynbee, Jean Paul Sartre, Karl Marx and Pierre Loti. Hamka was a hungry reader and like to do discussions with famous figures in Jakarta such as HOS Tjokroaminoto, Raden Mas Surjopranoto, Haji Fachrudin, Ar Sutan Mansur and Ki Bagus Hadikusumo, while sharpen his talent as a gifted and talented public speaker.

Islamic Activist

Hamka also active in the Islamic movement through Muhammadiyah Organization. He was following the belief of Muhammadiyah since 1925 to fight off ‘khurafat’, ‘bidaah’, ‘tarekat’ and other misinterpretation and mistreatments of the Islamic teachings for the Padang Panjang region. Starting the year 1928, he became the leader of Muhamadiyah Organization branch in Padang Panjang. In 1929, Hamka established a training center for preaching in Muhammadiyah and two years later he became Muhamadiyah Consul in Makassar. Following the year, Hamka was elected to be the leader of Leadership Committee of Muhammadiyah in West Sumatera by the Muhammadiyah Conference, replacing S.Y. Sutan Mangkuto in the year 1946. He had reorganized the development in the 31st Muhammadiyah Congress in Yogyakarta in the year 1950. In 1953, Hamka was chosen to be the counselor in Muhammadiyah Center. On July 26, 1977, the Indonesian Religion Minister Prof. Dr. Mukti Ali elected Hamka as the Leader of Majlis Ulama Indonesia (The Counsel of Muslim Scholars of Indonesia) but then Hamka resigned from this post in the year 1981 when his advices were ignored by the Indonesia government.


Hamka’s political activities started in 1925 when he became the party member in Islamic Trade Political Party. In 1945, he helped to fight-off the efforts from Netherlands to return to Indonesia through campaigns, speeches and participated in guerrillas’ war in the jungle. In 1947, Hamka was elected leader of Indonesian National Defence Force. He then became Masyumi Constituent and became the main speaker in The Grand Public Election in 1955. Masyumi Party was then banned by the Indonesian Government in 1960. There was a misunderstanding between Hamka and then Indonesian President Sukarno about whose side was Hamka in, in the controversy pro-contra Malaysia. From the year 1964 to 1966, Hamka was imprisoned with in-house prison by President Sukarno. Hamka was actually felt grateful for his time in jail. He was always saying, “If I wasn’t in prison, then I wouldn’t have had the time to finish writing the Al Azhar’s Tafsir (translation and teachings of the ‘Koran’). Hamka started to write and finish the Tafsir, which then would turn out to be his greatest scientific work. When he was out from jail Hamka was elected as a member of the National Committee of Integrity Conference, Indonesia, a member of The Indonesian Hajj Travel Committee and a member of National Culture Association, Indonesia.


Other than his activities in the religious and political sectors, Hamka was also a journalist, a writer, and a publisher. Since the 1920s, Hamka was working as the journalist of several newspaper such as Pelita Andalas, Seruan Islam, Bintang Islam and Seruan Muhammadiyah. In 1928, he was the editor-in-chief of the magazine ‘Kemajuan Masyarakat’. In 1932, he became the editor of the magazine ‘Al-Mahdi’ in Makasar. Hamka also once became the editor for the magazine Pedoman Masyarakat, Panji Masyarakat and Gema Islam.

Hamka also wrote a number of Islamic scientific works, novels and short stories. His biggest scientific works, ‘Tafsir al-Azhar (5 volumes) and many of his novels captured the public’s attention and became the standard text books all the way to Singapore and Malaysia. Among these works are the novel ‘Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijck’, ‘Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’abah’ and ‘Merantau ke Deli’.

Hamka was awarded with several titles, both national and international scope such as the title ‘Doctor Honoris Causa, from University of Al-Azhar Cairo Egypt, 1958; Doctor Honoris Causa, Universitas Kebangsaan Malaysia, 1974; and the title ‘Datuk Indono’ and dan ‘Prince Wiroguno’ from Indonesian government.

Hamka died on July 24, 1981, but his works and influence are still present until today, especially in the growth and modernization of Islam. Not just as a scholar and a writer in his country, but he was also highly appreciated in Malaysia and Singapore.