MUHAMMADIYAH.OR.ID, JAKARTA – The 19th and 20th centuries marked a significant shift in global consciousness towards colonialism and nationalism. This transformation also played a role in forming new nation-states in the Middle East, alongside weakening the Ottoman Empire’s influence.
In the Syam region, which includes Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine, new nation-states emerged under international law – Lebanon in 1943, followed by Jordan and Syria in 1946, and Palestine in 1948 (alternatively dated as 1988).
Before these nation-states emerged, Palestine was a sacred place and a melting pot of three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with a historical presence dating back to the 2nd century CE.
This harmonious coexistence began facing a challenge with the advent of Zionist ideology. According to Harb (2012), in 1886 and 1902, the Ottoman Caliph Sultan Abdul Hamid II rebuffed Zionist leader Theodore Herzl’s proposals for transferring Palestinian land to the Jewish community.
Nonetheless, the Zionist movement persisted, ultimately leading to a significant influx of Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the 1930s through the Haavara Agreement.
1931 World Islamic Congress: A Response to Zionist Concerns
The Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration in 1917 marked the start of provocations aimed at acquiring Palestinian land and establishing Zionist dominance. These agreements also triggered a geopolitical transformation across the Middle East.
With the issuance of Sykes-Picot, Arab nations became divided, while the Balfour Declaration prompted massive Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine. This led to various provocations and the seizure of Palestinian lands.
The World Islamic Congress was convened in Jerusalem in December 1931 in response to these challenges. Attended by 130 delegations representing 22 Muslim countries, this congress was initiated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Amin al-Husayni and the leader of the Indian Khilafat Movement Maulana Shaukat Ali.
Notably, Amin al-Husayni later supported Indonesia’s independence efforts in 1944 through international radio broadcasts from Germany.
Amin al-Husayni, who served as the Congress President, discussed various topics. These included the significance of sacred sites, like the Buraq Wall, the role of Al-Aqsa University as a center for Islamic education, the Hijaz Railway, Islamic media, the establishment of a Muslim Congress Constitution, the biennial or triennial congresses, and a call for the boycott of Zionist Jews.
Abdul Kahar Muzakkir from Muhammadiyah Leads Southeast Asian Islamic Delegation
Abdul Kahar Muzakkir of Muhammadiyah played a central role in the significant congress, responding directly to the request of Palestine’s Mufti, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni.
Abdul Kahar Muzakkir was invited due to his prominent standing in the Islamic world, cultivated during his study at Al-Azhar in 1925. His activities, especially his advocacy for the independence of Indonesia and Malaysia through Egyptian newspapers like al-Ahram, al-Balagh, and al-Hayat, earned him recognition.
Abdul Kahar Muzakkir, at 24, led the Islamic delegation from Southeast Asia, accompanied by Abubakar Al-Asy’ari from Malaysia. In addition, Abdul Kahar Muzakkir was selected as the congress secretary, strategically promoting Indonesia’s struggle with the Islamic world.
H. M. Rasjidi, as cited in Hakiem (2020), mentioned Kahar Muzakkir’s role in garnering Middle Eastern support for Indonesia’s independence. Muzakkir’s efforts contributed to Egypt’s recognition of Indonesia’s independence on March 22, 1946.
Lukman Hakiem, in his 2020 book “Learning from Key Figures and Events in Our Nation’s History,” quoted H.M Rasjidi, underlining Kahar Muzakkir’s role in garnering Middle Eastern support for Indonesia’s independence. His efforts contributed to Egypt’s recognition of Indonesia’s independence on March 22, 1946.
Results of the 1931 Congress of Islamic Communities: Addressing Colonialism and Zionism
The congress, which lasted two weeks, decided to elect an executive committee and proposed the formation of branches worldwide for Muslim communities. This congress laid the groundwork for establishing the World Moslem Conference (Muktamar al-’Alam al-Islamy), formally initiated in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1951, with representation from 40 countries.
The 1931 World Islamic Congress emphasized the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, including the Buraq Wall, and the significance of Palestine for all Muslims. It also planned to establish Islamic land corporations to prevent Zionists from buying land in Palestine and condemned Western imperialism in Muslim countries.
“Zionism, ipso facto (by the fact itself), is an aggression that undermines the well-being of the Muslim community, directly or indirectly leading to the displacement of Muslims from their control over the lands of Islam and its sacred sites.”
Despite the congress resolutions against Zionism, global Islamic efforts to counteract it were deemed mainly unsuccessful. The Palestinian people continued to endure colonization and underwent a transformation from a majority to a minority due to systematic massacres since the Nakba in 1948, followed by Shabra and Shatila in 1982, Gaza in 2007 and 2021, and a genocidal tragedy occurring after October 7, 2023.