Home » A South Sulawesi hero and villain: Qahhar Mudzakkar (Kahar Muzakkar) and his legacy

A South Sulawesi hero and villain: Qahhar Mudzakkar (Kahar Muzakkar) and his legacy


The Darul Islam rebellion against the central Indonesian government in the immediate post- independence period was largely dependent on charismatic leaders who came to prominence during the struggle against the Dutch. The charismatic leader of this rebellion in South Sulawesi was Qahhar Mudzakkar (also spelt “Kahar Muzakkar”), whose conflict with the central government and army began in 1950 when he was overlooked as commander of a special Sulawesi brigade and many of the Sulawesi guerrillas who had fought against the Dutch were discarded as the Indonesian Army restructured. Qahhar led the men into the jungle and began a rebellion that would last for 15 years. In 1953, he proclaimed an Islamic state, thus joining the Darul Islam movement. Important factors in the rebellion’s genesis and momentum were bitterness at the perceived injustice and rejection of Qahhar and the Sulawesi guerrillas by the central government and army and increasing Javanese hegemony in the region. Other causal factors debated include Islam, various political ideas, and several South Sulawesi cultural concepts. What seems clear is that Qahhar had developed ideas that were seemingly incompatible with “traditional” notions of South Sulawesi culture. He preached a form of “Islamic socialism,” aimed to implement strict shari’ah law, eradicate aristocratic titles, pre-Islamic rituals, and Sufi orders. Forty-eight years after his death, Qahhar Mudzakkar continues to divide opinion and inspire new generations. The paper focuses on three main aspects of Qahhar Mudzakkar and his legacy. The first examines traditional leadership in South Sulawesi, including the cultural characteristics expected of leaders and draws comparisons with the 17th century. The second examines memories and perceptions of Qahhar and the rebellion related to me by people who lived through the period. The third looks at how Qahhar is perceived and the role he plays in modern day South Sulawesi, particularly in local politics as many see Preparatory Committee for the Application of Islamic Laws (KPPSI) as a continuation of Qahhar’s struggle. The head of KPPSI is Abdul Aziz Qahhar Mudzakkar, a son of Qahhar Mudzakkar.



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