Caliphate and sharia law

Mohamad Abdun Nasir ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 05/10/2008 10:34 AM  |  Opinion

This newspaper ran an article by Muhammad Ismail Yusanto, a spokesperson of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), about sharia and the caliphate (April 23), as a reaction to an article written by Bramanto that appeared several days before. Such a discourse is very healthy. We can have different views and the readiness to appreciate other views — although probably we do not agree at all — and an exchange of views will be very helpful not just to promote Islam as a tolerant religion but also to enrich people’s horizons.

With this strong spirit to enrich our horizons, I am interested in joining the debate on the issues of sharia and the caliphate.

HTI offers two central discourses: the establishment of a caliphate and the application of sharia law. Both seem to be inseparable; without a caliphate, the sharia application will never be totally accomplished. Therefore, both are complementary to each other. These grand themes in fact constitute the global discourse applied by most Hizbut Tahrir movements in the world and have become the main idea that links their global ideological ground and commonality.

To the HTI, the caliphate constitutes a basic Islamic political institution that will unite all Muslims in the world regardless of their ethnicity, language or culture into a single community called the ummah, which is headed by a caliph. In this view, a caliph merely serves as a God’s representative on earth whose duties are to obey God’s commands and realize His rules.

Consequently, it denies modern secular political thoughts such as democracy and nationalism. Democracy is seen to be contrary to God’s sole sovereignty. Moreover, inconsistencies and double standards in the realization of democracy have strengthened Islamists’ criticism of it. Similarly, nationalism, as a logical consequence of the emergence of nation-states, is rejected because it is a Western invention contrary to the concept of ummah.

However, if we closely examine politics in Islam, it is obvious that there is no such strict concept of political Islam like a caliphate. It is a historical creation rather than a normative concept. The power transformation from the Prophet to the subsequent four caliphs took place in different ways.

Abu Bakar became the first caliph through a public pledge of allegiance by the majority of Muslims.

Umar, the second caliph, was elected by a team comprising seven members. While Usman and Ali, the third and the fourth caliphs, reigned after being preceded by political chaos. In this period, a caliph was strictly appointed through a familial lineage. Following this pattern, there is no fixed political system in Islam. It was during the Muslim empires that the concept of caliphate took its firmest definition, formulated through the writings and work of Muslim scholars and jurists who served for the caliph.

As for sharia, with the open era and democratization in Indonesia after reformasi, several Muslim political parties and organizations wish to retrieve the seven lost sharia words — the obligation to implement sharia for Muslims — once incorporated in the Constitution but later deleted.

Although this effort has never been successful in the national context due to lack of a national consensus and disagreement among Muslims themselves, it works on provincial and regional levels.

Some local governments have successfully imposed sharia law in regional ordinances and bylaws. Despite its blurry and weak conception, sharia does apply in certain provinces and regencies, like Cianjur, Tasikmalaya and Garut in West Java and in Bulukumba, South Sulawesi. Each sharia ordinance has addressed different legal issues in different regions, and thus reflects the disparity and partiality of the sharia legal conception.

This has become a major critique, that the sharia application lacks fundamental conception and articulation and thus is ineffective. This reflects more the vested interests and ambitions of politicians rather than idealism. Political parties and Islamic organizations that support this issue are a minority.

Islam in Indonesia is not monolithic, but pluralistic. It consists of diverse Islamic organizations, political affiliations, languages and ethnic-cultural identities. The majority of Muslims represented by the two largest Muslim organizations in the country, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which decline the idea of an Islamic state, remain moderate. This suggests that the majority of Muslims remain obedient to “Indonesia’s diversity in unity” and are attempting to develop Islam in this pluralistic manner. Both sharia and the caliphate thus appear to be less than popular to the Muslim majority.

The writer is a lecturer at Mataram State Institute for Islamic Studies and a Fulbright scholar who is pursuing his PhD in religion at Emory University, Atlanta. He can be reached at sier1975@yahoo.com

source: www.thejakartapost.com

Responses to ‘Fitna’ film

Geert Wilders is a die-hard masochist who enjoys dispensing “Dutch treat”.
NENNETH CHEN
Jakarta

Muslims only wonder why Wilders disrupts the quiet of others while he is never interrupted. I think he is just seeking fame for himself by sacrificing the peace. Congratulation, Wilders. See you in hell.
HM SABAR SS PRAYA
Jakarta

In fact the protests against the anti-Islam film have been going on not only at Jakarta’s Dutch Embassy but also at the Dutch Consulate in Medan.

It is not a matter of maturity or immaturity of Indonesian Muslims, but the feeling of togetherness and brotherhood with Westerners, mainly Europeans, as a part of the global community that should be maintained.

The incorrect opinion on Islam must be buried to create a global life of harmony.
ABDUL RAHIM
Tangerang, Banten

The less violent protests against Fitna do not indicate the growing maturity of Indonesian Muslims. It indicates the growing faithless of them.
RIZWAN DARMAWAN
Bandung

Being a Muslim, I hate people who humiliate Islam without any knowledge about it. Fitna is mockery, reflecting the producer’s madness for popularity.
SUYADI
Jambi

I’m a Christian and absolutely condemn Fitna as made based on like and dislike. I hope Muslim clerics still continue to give cool and fresh sermons (da’wah).
L.L. BIE
Purwodadi, Central Java

I think Fitna will hurt Muslims and it may spark conflicts.
SETYO DEWI UTARI
Bandung

The government bans Fitna, but Ahmadiyah followers in many areas like Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara and Kuningan, West Java, still get harassed even by officials of local governments.
RIKA
Jakarta

Until now, seven mosques belonging to Ahmadiyah Muslims, located in Kuningan, West Java, are still closed by the local government, claiming for the sake of safety.

It is ridiculous. While the government and Muslims in this country condemn the film Fitna, they still allow violence against Ahmadiyah followers.
GUNAWAN AHMAD
Tangerang

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/node/165689

Indonesian support Obama

I see that many people of Indonesia support Obama in USA  election. Obama has ever lived in Indoneisa. He knows much about Indonesia. He has ever educated in Jakarta. He experienced the condition of pluralism in Indonesia.

I think that Obama is a symbol of democratic, symbol of pluralism and also the symbol of freedom for some of Indonesian. People of Indonesia hope that Obama will build a better relationship between Indonesia and USA in future.

But now, a hope from Indonesia is difficult to realise. The reality in USA is different. I do not what’s american people think about this dream.