Traditionalist and modernist orientations of Islam in Indonesia are often associated with two Islamic mass organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. Although these two organizations have often pursued different social and political ends in postcolonial Indonesia, the global Islamic revival in Indonesia has witnessed a partial rapprochement between the two, resulting in overlapping belief and practice and more flexible modes of identity and belonging. In practice, NU and Muhammadiya’s orientations of traditionalism and localization on the one hand, and modern or progressive Islam on the other, are unstable, shifting, and converging. Nonetheless, they are deployed as stable and fundamentally different orientations legible as political and ideological identity markers.
In this paper, I will focus on pilgrimage (ziarah) to the grave of Ahmad Dahlan (d. 1923), Muhammadiyah’s founder, in Karangkajen, South Yogyakarta, one of the city's oldest Muhammadiyah strongholds. Drawing on nine months of ethnographic research, I will discuss Dahlan’s grave as a site where the NU-Muhammadiyah binary is contested and where boundaries are re-drawn. Within Muhammadiyah, the legitimacy and benefits of ziarah are controversial, although prominent members defend a kind of ziarah detached from traditionalist practice. Meanwhile, self-identified NU traditionalists do ziarah to Ahmad Dahlan’s grave, explicitly claiming Muhammadiyah’s founder as one of their own while simultaneously being fearful of being antagonized by Karangkajen’s modernist residents who supposedly have a history of attacking pilgrims. Members of each group are thus able to make use of elements associated with the other while reinforcing the perceived existence of two distinct orientations.