‘Buya Hamka: Vol. 1’ (2023) Ending, Explained: How Did Hamka Become An Important Figure In Indonesia?

The lives of historical figures often lend themselves to the cinematic form, as there are great stories that can be told through this medium. Films like Gandhi and Che are proof that the political history of a place can be depicted through these historical figures, and the Indonesian film Buya Hamka does so in a grand fashion. It tells the real-life story of Indonesian freedom fighter and Muslim scholar Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah, who later went on to be known as Buya Hamka. The film is supposed to be a three-volume biopic on Buya, chronicling his whole journey from his childhood to his death. Buya Hamka: Vol. 1 begins when Buya is already married and lives away from his aging father. From fighting the Dutch through his subversive literature before World War II to facing the Japanese during the war, Buya Hamka: Vol. 1 paints a complete picture of both Buya’s struggles and his achievements while he strives hard to make Indonesia an independent nation.


Spoilers Ahead

Plot Synopsis: What happens In The Film?

Buya Hamka, born Abdul Amrullah, is both a dutiful husband and a leader of the Muhammadiyans in West Sumatra. The year is 1931, and his wife, Raham, is one of the main reasons why he has come so far in his life. Hamka is a devout Muslim and is certain that without the Muslim ethic, Indonesia’s future is doomed. So, he has become a leader of the Muhammadiyans. They respect him for his knowledge, courage, and righteous conduct. Hamka cannot be bought through the temptations of wealth or flesh. When a man comes to ask him to marry his daughter as his second wife, he refuses, as he feels he could never love any woman as much as he loves Raham and hence wouldn’t do justice to the second wife. Such is the character of the man. When he starts to write his books to influence the minds of the public, he has to move to Medan, and Raham has to stay back to look after the kids in Padang Panjang. During his absence, Hamka’s faith is tested, and the Dutch army inches closer to putting him in jail.


Why Didn’t Hamka Return To Raham?

Buya Hamka had two great ambitions when he left for Medan. Firstly, there was his magazine ‘Pedoman Masyarakat’ (loosely translated as ‘Guiding the Society’), which he wanted to publish, and secondly, there was ‘Akidah Tauhid’ that he wanted to complete. Being a Muslim scholar, it was his treatise on Islam. Being in Medan, he didn’t know much about his family’s condition. Raham was an obedient wife and understood the gravity of Hamka’s mission. He was ultimately a freedom fighter, and this was the beginning of a long battle. She didn’t communicate to Hamka that their eldest son, Hisyam, was ill. She may have expected Hisyam to get better, but suddenly his condition deteriorated, and he passed away. She finally wrote to Hamka, and he was distraught. But could he have stopped his entire work of publishing the magazine? Maybe yes, but he chose not to. It wasn’t as if he didn’t care about his son’s death. His spirit was on the verge of breaking, but as he had faith in Allah, he knew it was a test. The necessary thing for the nation was that he continued to publish the magazine so that the people of Indonesia realized that freedom was not just possible but imminent. He was writing against the Dutch army, which had occupied Indonesia. Hamka only got a chance to return when the editing was complete, and he apologized to Raham for not returning. She must have been made of steel, as she’d buried her son alone and also understood why Hamka couldn’t return at that time.

How Did Hamka Reconcile With His Father?

It is hinted that the relationship between Hamka and his father will be explored in a much more expansive way in the next volume of the biopic. In this film, however, we do get to see Hamka’s father, who was not too pleased with his life choices. He didn’t address Hamka by looking at him directly, perhaps because he had been deeply hurt by him. When Hamka started to write his modern religious interpretation, which tweaked the Sufi stream of Islam, his wife advised him to consult Hajj Rasul, Hamka’s father. Rasul was a scholar in his own right, and when Hamka met his father, his reluctance was clear. But when he urged his father to educate him on Islam and what he understood by ‘Fiqih’ and ‘Mantiq,’ Rasul felt elated that his son had finally come to seek his guidance on a subject that was so close to his own heart. It was like he had finally come home and apologized. Rasul, who hid behind his grumpy persona, immediately agreed that he would guide Hamka to the best of his knowledge. Rasul died a happy man, and Hamka had a genuine moment with him before his death.


How Did Buya Hamka Gain The Respect Of The Indonesian People?

Even though Buya Hamka worked tirelessly for the Indonesian people, at one point, they accused him of being a traitor. Hamka had instigated the masses against the Dutch, but when World War II broke out, the Japanese army took over Indonesia. It wasn’t apparent that they would lose the war, but they did promise that Indonesia would be a free country. They didn’t fulfill their promise, and Hamka, who thought the Dutch going away would solve his nation’s problem, found himself in a dilemma. Hamka had grown popular as he met with other leaders such as Bung Karno and Abdul Karim. The Japanese called Hamka to their meeting to honor the Japanese Emperor and asked him to pray to face the east, whereas it was against Hamka’s religion to offer prayers to anyone except Allah, let alone change the direction of his prayer. Nakashima, the Japanese Governor, made him an offer that he would release the religious leaders and freedom fighters and not even disturb their religious practices, but Hamka had to remain loyal to Japan. Hamka thought that getting the political and religious prisoners released was a priority for the nation, which is why he accepted the deal. He wasn’t aware that his own people would turn against him.

Soon after, his party accused him of taking favors from the Japanese and being a traitor to the Indonesian cause, when in reality, they didn’t know how much he suffered and that he agreed to Nakashima’s deal only because he loved the nation. As he didn’t want the infighting to continue, he accepted to be demoted from the position of leader and was made consul. He wasn’t even called into the mosques from then on to preside as the Imam, and this was absolutely heartbreaking for him. But he marched on, and Raham was always by his side, making him realize that one day they would see the truth. As the war ended and Japan surrendered, Hamka finally saw the Indonesian flag hoisted high. He continued his noble endeavors, and people saw that there was no evil bone in his body. He didn’t take any help from his neighbors and continued to live a hand-to-mouth existence. When a member of the nearby mosque offered him some money, he sold his books to justify taking them, and he did so for his family. They should not bear the burden of his righteousness. One night, he was finally called to be an Imam in the mosque, and Raham accompanied him.


The task wasn’t over for Buya Hamka just yet. He had the strength of the masses behind him once again. The Dutch were coming back after the war to occupy Indonesia once again, and a great orator was needed to galvanize the masses. Hamka rose to the occasion, and this time, he had to instill in the population a will to fight. The next volumes of Buya Hamka will depict how he became part of the resistance. His childhood would also be explored, including how a simple boy became one of the most renowned Muslim scholars in the world and also became a respected freedom fighter.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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