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Published online 20 February 2007 Journal of Islamic Studies 18:2 (2007) pp.



PIE R S GI LL ES PI E Asia Law Centre, University of Melbourne

One of the more significant developments in Indonesian Islam over the past thirty years has been the appearance of a specialized committee, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (The Council of Indonesian Ulama, hereafter MUI), funded by government and tasked with collective fatwa giving. Like similar Islamic institutions that have appeared in other countries, the MUI has played an important role at the interface between the secular Indonesian government and the Indonesian umma during a time of great change in the world’s most populous Islamic country.1 Recently, it aroused considerable controversy with a fatwa on pluralism, secularism and liberalism, released during the seventh MUI National Congress in July 2005. This paper argues that this fatwa2 was a predictable attempt by the MUI to demarcate a role more aligned with the umma,3 after the
1 Similar Islamic institutions include the Majilis Agama Islam in Malaysia, the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan, and the World Muslim League in Makka. See M. Masud, Brinkley Messick and David Powers, ‘Muftis, Fatwas and Islamic Interpretation’ in M. Masud and David Powers (eds.), Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and their Fatwas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 28. 2 Hereafter referred to as MUI No. 7 (2005), followed (for citations from the text) by section number and letters (a, b, c) indicating clauses within the section, then page number. 3 The term ‘umma’ in this paper will mean the Indonesian umma.

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fall of President Suharto in 1998 and the extraordinary societal changes that ensued. Suharto’s downfall resulted in an efflorescence within the Indonesian nation that precipitated the need for a significant reassessment by the MUI of its role as the public arena opened up, in an unprecedented manner, to previously restricted groups and thinkers. Through analysis of these recent developments in Indonesia, the paper will demonstrate that the conservative thinking underpinning the fatwa has long been close to the surface, but it was the rapidly changing political and religious environment, coupled with the MUI’s building resentment over the dominance of pluralist religious thought in Indonesia, that resulted in MUI Fatwa No. 7 being released. The conservative push by the MUI at this time was accentuated by the growing public dissatisfaction with the reformasi period. Certainly the weakening of state controls in nearly all arenas of national life following the dissolution of the authoritarian New Order regime played a large part in the growing acceptance of greater religious and societal pluralism. The failure of the Habibie, Wahid and Soekarnoputri administrations to deal with fundamental issues relating to law and order, rising unemployment, the spiralling costs of basic necessities (sembako), or to correct the endemic corruption meant that many Indonesians yearned for leaders who could provide a way out of the protracted national crisis. The inability to deal with these issues and the prolongation of the economic crisis was deflating for Indonesians who, after Suharto’s fall, were riding a wave of optimism and freedom, and whilst many of the expectations had been unrealistic, the disillusionment felt at the national inertia was nonetheless palpable. Concurrent with the general dissatisfaction was the growing popularity of a number of prominent Islamicist politicians and public figures as they articulated the need for a greater role for Islam in Indonesia in the immediate years after the New Order. Islam, it was asserted, was the only way to escape from the multidimensional crisis affecting the country.4 Strident calls for the implementation of Shar;6a by numerous new Muslim parties and in regions as diverse as Aceh, South Sulawesi, Banten and Central Java echoed throughout the nation, whilst on the toll roads leading out of Jakarta, young men in flowing Islamic robes continually collected money for the Islamic jih:d in Ambon

This was an ongoing message from many of the Islamicist groups, from the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII) in Jakarta to the KPPSI (South Sulawesi Committee for the Implementation of Islamic Shari6ah) in Makassar.


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and Kalimantan.5 Such occurrences were a visible manifestation of certain sections of Indonesian society advocating the implementation of conservative Islamic beliefs in Indonesia. However, after 1999 there was a distinct reversal in this trend, with the Islamicist6 parties failing to make any profound inroads into the wider Indonesian community. In the political arena, individually and collectively, they experienced disappointing results both in the 1999 and 2004 elections, and a constitutional amendment in 2002 to make Indonesia an Islamic state failed.7 The weakening Islamic influence was once again a great setback for the Islamic movement—as had happened before, the movement failed to unite and appeal to the wider Indonesian umma.8 The small but visible segment of the population promoting conservative Islam remained, gravitating towards Salafist and other ideologically literal constructions of Islam, later to be endorsed by the dominant elements within the MUI. However, the movement remained a disjointed and inceptive minority largely unable to exercise influence in the wider Indonesian social or political sphere.9 Another significant novelty during this time was the broader movement for decentralization throughout the archipelago. A number of regions—East Timor, Papua, Aceh, Riau and others—were demanding an increased say in regional issues through greater regional autonomy with, in some cases, an accompanying threat of secession. There was a renewed interest in local :dat law and a clear move away from the

The groups collecting funds for the perceived struggle in Ambon and Kalimantan were, among others, the Front Pembela Islam (FPI) and Laksar Jihad Indonesia (LJI). 6 ‘Islamicist’ here means those radical Islamic groups that subscribe to the ideology of radical salafism and have the aim of establishing a single khil:fa (caliphate) for all Muslims. For a useful typology of these radical groups, see Azyumardi Azra, ‘Islam in South East Asia: Tolerance and Radicalism’ (Miegunyah Public Lecture, Melbourne University, 6 April, 2005), 9. 7 An overview of this constitutional debate appears in Arskal Salim, ‘The Islamisation of Indonesian Law: Shari’ah in Indonesia 1999–2005’ (unpublished PhD thesis: University of Melbourne, 2006), 32–40. 8 Discord between Indonesian Islamic parties has always been a stumbling block for the Islamic movement—from the 1950 general elections, when the Islamic parties failed to unite, through to the 2002 parliamentary debate on amending the 1945 Constitution to include the word ‘Islamic’, a proposal soundly defeated due to Islamic party rivalries. See Arskal Salim, ‘The Islamisation of Indonesian Law’, 6–13, 63–74. 9 F. J. Jamhari and Jajang Jahroni, Gerakan Salafi Radikal di Indonesia (Jakarta: Raja Grafindo, 2004), 15.

let alone binding the umma to a single unified codification of Islamic law. getting Muslims to agree on matters relating to when the fasting month of Rama@:n begins and ends is already a difficult enough task.12 The response to MUI No. Islam and the State in Indonesia (Singapore: Institute of South East Asian Studies. These rapid changes—the expansion of regional autonomy. and public rejection of. 2003). Section II of the paper gives contextual background on the MUI and its relationship with state power.11 Indeed. Whilst most Indonesian religious scholars agree that in interpreting the Qur8:n one must distinguish between general commands or exhortations and specific rules. Law and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10 At a macro level. 151. the controversy emanating from MUI No. 7 exemplifies the different Indonesian interpretations relating to cultural contextualization and the wide divergence on the interpretation of the Qur8:nic text. very much a nation ‘criss-crossed’ by competing claims about how people ought to live and about what kind of society Indonesia ought to become. 7 highlighted not only these wider debates about the kind of society Indonesia should become. explains how pluralism is embedded in the MUI’s process of collective itjih:d. the cynicism towards. and the perpetuation of krismon (the economic crisis)— were all developments complicating the claims and goals of those sections of the Indonesian community who sought a greater Islamization of Indonesia. 5. Indonesia had become. and then briefly 10 John Bowen. 2003). focusing on those put forward by the Muslim intellectuals Dawam Rahardjo and Azymuradi Azra and the responses of the two major Indonesian Islamic parties. . the Jakarta-based leadership. the Nahdatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. they disagree profoundly on which is which. in Bowen’s terms. 219. but also the different exegetical interpretations existing within Indonesian Islam. the opening up of public space for liberal discussion across all fields. and the validity of analogy (qiy:s) and consensus (ijm:6) for deriving Islamic rulings. whose regulations were perceived as having demanded too much from the regions for too long. 11 Ibid.current issues in indonesi an islam 205 centrist policies of the Jakarta-based national government. At a more micro level. much of the criticism of the fatwa focused around the MUI’s interpretation and explanation of the terms liberalism. as one observer notes. Islam. the broader pattern of dissatisfaction with the way things had been run. pluralism and secularism. By 2005. 12 Bachtiar Effendy. This paper will address some of these heuristic criticisms.

Islamic Law and Society 12 (2005). it is done collectively by Islamic organizations. As MUI No. ‘Muftis. There are four main fatwa-issuing 13 M. II. THE MUI AND THEIR FATWAS: AN OVERVIEW Fatwas state prescriptions. which it only gets if it is accepted by a known circle (Aalaqa) of eminent jurists. and c) respond to the frustration of 25 years of the dominance of neo-modernist Islamic thought in Indonesia. Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa (Crows Nest.206 p iers g il le spie discusses the 1999 and 2004 general elections as background to the MUI’s growing conservatism. Fatwas and Islamic Interpretation’. For a fatwa to be accepted it needs to have the appropriate authority.14 The ulema who give fatwas do so on the basis of texts that are knowable through the exercise of reason. Islamic Law and Society 1 (1994). 2003). Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa.16 In Indonesia. pluralism and secularism and the opposition it generated. 3. demonstrates that it was an effort by the MUI to a) redefine its role in a rapidly changing environment. 14 Syamsul Anwar. and may then be released to the public. and. 15 Hooker. ‘Fatwa. The paper will conclude by explaining why the challenges that MUI currently will continue into the future. 29–65. NSW: Allen and Unwin.15 Only then does it become what has been described as the ‘meeting place of law and fact’. fatwa giving is different from other Islamic regions in that in the absence of a grand or classical mufti figure. 240. Messick and Powers. Mehdi Mozaffari. 1998). 32.7 shows. 16 Masud. . Hooker. 1. through an analysis of contemporary Indonesian Islamic thought. 16. Fatwa: Violence and Discourtesy (Aarhus Denmark: Aarhus University Press. ‘From Fatwa to Furu: Growth and Change in Islamic Substantive Law’. Section IV considers why such a fatwa was issued. Purification and Dynamisation: A Study of the Tarji’h in Muhammadiyah’.7 on liberalism. Section III provides a detailed account of MUI Fatwa No.13 They are given in order to define appropriate religio-legal responses to issues faced by community members in their daily life and are often seen as part of the growth and adaptability of Islamic law. See also Wael Hallaq. B. the simplicity of a fatwa is deceptive. b) arrest the slide in relevance it was experiencing.

Despite the ongoing discourse about the dangers of politicizing religion in this manner. Islamic Law and Society. in 1975 at the initiative of a government that had been seeking for some years to emasculate and control Islamic political activities in Indonesia. 12. as religious authority and political power have long been bound together in Indonesia.22 It was engineered to be the national authority on Islam.current issues in indonesi an islam 207 bodies: Persatuan Islam (Persis).). 45–6. ‘Fatwa and Politics in Indonesia’ in Arskal Salim and Azymuradi Azra (eds. with a number of local ulema councils predating the MUI in West Java (1958). 170. West Sumatra (1961) and South Sulawesi (1970). 22 Porter. Sharia and Politics in Indonesia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. such behaviour has been more of a norm than an exception in recent Indonesian history. (3) to mediate between the government and the ulema.). whether in government. NU.17 Additionally. 18 Ibid. colonial and post-colonial order. with four roles outlined for it: (1) to serve as the translator for the activities and concepts of national or local development for the people. and the MUI Fatwa No. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. 19 Nur Ichwan.19 The major Islamic parties NU and Muhammadiyah.21 Essentially. guide the Muslim community and guard it against heterodox doctrines. 2002). have all engaged in such a role on a number of occasions. 7 can be seen as the latest example. Because the organization and not an individual issues the fatwa. For more on the history of the MUI. or in rebellions against central authority. 79–81.3 (1995). after much discussion. See Martin van Bruinessen. 20 Hosen. . see Ibrahim Hosen. Muhammadiyah and the MUI.18 Throughout the pre-colonial. the characteristics of pluralism are apparent through the process of collective itjih:d (itjih:d jam:6. in Studia Islamika 2. 168.1 (2005). Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia (New York: RoutledgeCurzon. 2003). the ulema have consistently played an important role in forming political parties and advising Muslims how to act in political situations. Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia. they have been involved in political affairs. The idea of an ulema council was not new. ‘Fatwa and Politics in Indonesia’. 170. 80. a process that was previously unusual in many parts of the world. and (4) to function as 17 Nadirsyah Hosen. ‘Muslims of the Dutch East Indies and the Caliphate Question’. President Suharto wanted the MUI to be an officially condoned religious authority that could monopolize religious orthodoxy. and the MUI itself. ‘Sekitar Fatwa Majelis Ulama Indonesia’ Mimbar Ulama 230 (1997).20 The MUI was established. 21 Donald Porter. in political parties. (2) to be a form of advisory council to the government on religious affairs.

The contextual background to the development of the MUI was ongoing religious controversy. 29 Ibid. 23 . the relationship with the government did not create a simple role for the MUI. See Hooker. and it is this. 235. with chairperson and board members not appointed by the government but selected by the MUI’s own members. See Porter. 48. See Ichwan. 1993).23 As an institution it was not a statutory body but independent of government. and Sumbangan Pikiran (Thought Contributions). 26 Many examples of this exist.28 In terms of religious process.27 Hooker’s description of the relationship between the MUI and the New Order government as one in which a MUI fatwa was not wholly government-oriented. the organization was required to maintain good relations with both government and various Muslim organizations for the sake of wide acceptance in society. 120. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. 1975–1988 (Jakarta: The Indonesian-Netherlands Co-operation in Islamic Studies. Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa. in its most extreme form.26 However. Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa. Amanah (Instructions). indeed. Fatwas of the Council of Indonesian Ulama: A Study of Islamic Legal Thought in Indonesia. Pernyataan Sikap (Position Statements). which the MUI represents. The reconciliation of these towards the dominant government point of view meant an increasing bureaucratization of Islam. 79.208 p iers g il le spie a forum for the ulema to discuss the problems related to ‘the duties of the ulama’. the MUI originally proceeded from the internal premises of fiqh and then converted this into a government-related objective. the MUI has always had to suffer a certain awkwardness regarding the impartiality of its fatwas. Tadzkirah (Admonitions). 27 Mohammad Atto Mudzhar. 28 Hooker. including Tausiyahs (Recommendations). Himbuaun (Appeals). the process of MUI fiqh could not be followed at all because of its adherence to Ichwan.29 On some occasions. the overwhelming dominance of the New Order government and the political weakness of the Islamic movement. 24 Ichwan. 152. 168. Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia.24 Given that it was established and financed by the national Indonesian government. 60. 25 The MUI also produces several non-fatwa discourses. ‘Ulama. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’.25 Criticism has turned on the accusation that the MUI furnished religious dicta primarily to satisfy the New Order regime’s wishes. A pertinent one is from 1988 when the MUI controversially sided with the Government on an issue relating to rumours that pork extract was found in canned food and milk powders. but in which ‘the hand of government’ remained over the MUI is an accurate representation.

and is perhaps more telling than the content. the MUI’s relationship with the government was articulated not only through its tausiyahs and fatwas. and MUI. 8 March. This is not to say that the MUI has not struggled in the years after the New Order. 2006). 1995). Messick and Powers. such as the use of condoms by unmarried couples (see Jakarta Post. Mudzhar has previously attempted a spirited defence of the MUI on this point. Tempo (Jakarta. 25 November. 30 . See also Mohamad Goenawan. State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. in Masud. its survival as a functioning body since inception has ensured that it retains an important position in modern Indonesian Islam. of the fatwas themselves. suggesting that it was not always supportive of the government and that the majority of the MUI fatwas are ‘neutral’. and a wider ranging and enduring debate that has directly Ibid. but also through its silence on certain state policies and programmes. Fatwas of the Council of Indonesian Ulama. Islamic Legal Interpretation. as Nur Ichwan points out. 1992). the new discourses in Indonesia after 1998 were articulated through the open debate of many issues hitherto virtually taboo—topics as diverse as regional autonomy or the role of the Indonesian army in politics. 13–17 January. However. poignantly demonstrated when current Indonesian President. Muftis and their Fatwas. The organization’s heritage in outlasting four presidencies. Power and Nation (Jakarta: Metafor Publishing. Ichwan. and attending Christmas celebrations (see ‘The Council of Indonesian Ulama on Muslim Attendance at Christmas Celebrations’. Indeed. After 1998. 230–42. ‘RUU Porno: Arab atau Indonesia?’. the strengthening of civil society and the relaxing of the government’s hand over the MUI provided a profound new challenge for the organization in terms of its relevance to a society desperately seeking to move forward after the repression of the Suharto years.30 However. 1991). Sex. neutral or otherwise.current issues in indonesi an islam 209 state policy. 31 The anthology by Julia Suryakusuma. ‘Ulama. including the very government that established it in the 1970s. decided to personally open its 2005 national congress. See Mudzhar. despite much criticism of the MUI. 151. He notes a number of fatwas that have opposed the government. 91–2). has only added to its enduring societal and political relevance. 78. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. all the way through to more esoteric social issues relating to the popular female singer Inul Darista’s controversial ‘drilling-dancing’ and the recent wider discussion about pornography and sexuality in society.31 Within this cathartic release there has been a marked growth in the cosmopolitan modulations and interpretations of Indonesian cultural life. Himpuan Keputusan dan Fatwa (Jakarta: Sekretariat MUI. Such silence often reflected the powerlessness felt by many Muslims in relation to the state. 2005) is a useful example of this. 120–2. mixed marriages (see Kompas.

36 Amidst this ebullience. I cannot imagine FPI or MMI being allowed in the 1970s or 1980s . the MUI has struggled at times to be heard.33 Given this new atmosphere. 473–93. One reason for this is that Indonesian Muslims growing up in the New Order period have had increased interactions with international ideas and influence.210 p iers g il le spie questioned the relevance and type of Islam most appropriate to the nation’s future. FPI (Front Pembela Islam). ‘Muslims. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton. Masa Depan Pikiran Islam (Jakarta: Jaringan Islam Liberal. now all groups are being given an opportunity to talk. The MUI sought to move clearly away from the government and to delineate Julia Day Howell. the MUI began the process of marking out a role that it believed would ensure its future relevance and moral influence. This dynamic environment in Indonesia has coincided with what Hefner describes as the ‘participatory revolution’ sweeping the Muslim world. the moral fissures that seemed to be opening up in Indonesian society. For a number of years conservative elements within the MUI had been disturbed by the diminishing role for Islam in Indonesian politics. 5. Hizbut Tahrir. 32 .34 The revolution has provoked fierce debates on questions of Islam’s social meaning and whose authority defines it.32 It should not be much of a surprise therefore if the previous formula of delimited religious pluralism (Pancasila) is now being stretched in decidedly liberal directions. and the inability of the umma to embrace a more conservative Islamic outlook for state and society in the post-New Order era. 2005). the New Age and Marginal Religions in Indonesia: Changing Meanings of Religious Pluralism’. Fundamentalists who were previously not allowed to enter the room are now free to enjoy it. NJ: Princeton University Press.35 One observer has described modern Indonesia as: a public room that is open for all. 35 Ibid. 2000). and unleashed competition over how to interpret religious symbols and who is in control of the relevant institutions. . 52 (2005). with different religious and political parties capturing public attention across a whole variety of issues. . 10. Social Compass. 34 Robert Hefner. 33 Ibid. MMI (Majelis Mujahaddin Indonesia) and others have the same legal status as JIL (Islamic Liberal Network). a process that has resulted in a de-confessionalized contemporary spirituality that has been accepted and embraced by a great number of Indonesians. 36 Ulil Asbar-Abdalla.

and one forcefully articulated by the senior MUI leadership. . . Given the plurality of the Indonesian umma in both doctrine and practice and the history of the MUI. The Islam and Civil Society (ICS) programme (through which JIL are funded) was implemented by The Asia Foundation with a grant from USAID. However. 2005). With the end of the New Order.37 A number of exhortations by the more liberal Indonesian Islamic groups over the past few years had at times appeared to the MUI to be offensive and anti-ethical. Wawasan dan PD/PRT Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Jakarta: Sekretariat MUI. 2005). 9 November. The Asia Foundation insists it is independent of any US foreign policy agenda. although it is a point that is often misunderstood by opponents of liberal Islam quick to generalize and obfuscate the links between the US and liberal Islam in Indonesia (personal correspondence with Asia Foundation Regional Director for Islam and Development. 38 Some of these will be discussed later in the paper.38 The growth of liberal Islamic movements had been significant and was considerably aided by a number of well-financed international grants from Western nations who saw liberal and moderate Muslims as a key to strengthening ties with the world’s most populous Islamic country in the wake of the Bali and Marriott terrorist bombings. the fact that groups such as JIMM (Jaringan Intelektual Muda Muhammadiyah) and JIL have received financial support from aid organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Asia Foundation automatically equates to a form of new ‘neo-colonial strategy’. 37 . the MUI was also eager to define a role for itself in the ‘new’ Indonesia—believing that it had become more of a ‘moral force . As will be elaborated later.39 The wider debate between those who held a more liberal interpretation of Islam and those believing that only a more literal MUI. I am referring here to the groups related to the Liberal Islam movement in Indonesia although it was also commentary by the Indonesian President Abdurahmann Wahid during 1999–2001 that frequently angered the MUI.current issues in indonesi an islam 211 a far more conservative outlook. the MUI sought to reposition itself as intrinsic to the wider movement for change so as to avoid the stigma of being seen simply as a New Order supporter. See Suaidi Asyari. for social rehabilitation’ in the modern era—a role that pitted it against the perceived weakening of Islamic beliefs allegedly attributed to the teachings of liberal Islam. 3. 2000). this shift was to prove a complex task. for the radical-puritan Islamist element. It commenced in 1997—long before 9/11 and the Bali/ Marriott bombings. ‘Muhammadiyah and Radical Islam: Identity Metamorphosis and a Real Threat from within’ (University of Melbourne: unpublished paper given at the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam Conference. 22 November. 39 There is much debate and misunderstanding about the funding for liberal Islamic movements in Indonesia.

as a New Order crony and a Golkar loyalist. the MUI blamed the UN for the East Timor crisis. ‘MUI to formulate edicts against liberal thoughts’. Sahal Mahfudz. A fatwa is stronger than a tausiyah because it deals with legal issues. 7 needs to be understood in the context of this enduring debate. 40 . We are determined to win the war of ideas against liberal Islam. 41 Chairman of the MUI. when there was strong suspicion as to his involvement. In many ways. in an opening address to the congress stated that the MUI saw itself as representative of the entire spectrum of the Indonesian umma and served as an ‘ethical yardstick for the entire nation.htm4 at 15 September.43 In contrast. 50) describes a tausiyah as a much less formal document resembling a letter or press Sahal Mahfudz. The basic difference between a fatwa and a tausiyah is that a special commission produces a fatwa. conferences. the MUI fatwa No. whereas the leadership board alone. It was a microcosm of a debate that echoed throughout the Islamic world and one that had been in Indonesia since the arrival of Islam. was supported by the MUI and characterized as a Muslim representative.pikiran rakyat. 2005). member meetings. The MUI national congress was seen as a further opportunity for MUI to reaffirm its central role in Indonesian Islamic affairs.’40 In a sign of what was to come.42 From 1998 to 1999. a tausiyah is an informal document in the nature of a general opinion. the council is also required to take a firm stance in dealing with religious deviation. President Pikiran Rakyat. <www.41 One way to demonstrate the MUI’s conservative shift is by observing the organization’s fatwas and tausiyahs during the Habibie and Wahid presidencies. not a learned. 2005. quoted in Rendy Witular. Presiden MUI Mangambil Peran Sentral (2005) Pikiran Rakyat (Jakarta). 157. Ichwan (‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. President Habibie. he said: although the MUI tries to position itself in the middle of all Muslim groups in Indonesia. general ignorance meant that most people regarded the tausiyahs as fatwas: see Nadirsyah Hosen. The Chairman of the MUI. Jakarta Post (27 July. ‘Fatwa and Politics in Indonesia’. researched response to a specific question. although Habibie played a fundamental role in enabling the referendum. Golkar— Golongan Karya—is the New Order’s political party. or the Islamic Brotherhood forum can issue a tausiyah.212 p iers g il le spie interpretation of the Qur8:n would help Indonesia with its intractable problems was a discourse that had continued throughout the New Order and reformasi period. Also. 42 Although the MUI released the recommendations as tausiyahs. Unlike a fatwa. 43 The MUI indirectly supported Habibie both for the presidency and during the Bank Bali corruption scandal.

some of which had connections to the most extreme Islamic organizations in Indonesia. As a result. Democratization and Re-Islamisation in Indonesia’. Indonesian Islamic scholars with considerable experience continue to use the terms ‘modernist’ and ‘traditionalist’ to describe different streams of Islamic thought in Indonesia.2 (December 2001). Hizbut Tahrir and Front Pembela Islam formed a much closer relationship with the MUI than ever before.45 Neo-modernist thinking attempted to combine progressive liberal ideas with a deep religious faith by arguing for a new approach to itjih:d and hermeneutics—this. 2004).current issues in indonesi an islam 213 Abdurrahman Wahid—although a Muslim 6al. groups such as Front Komunikasi Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah. someone who holds that religion should be excluded from government and education) was that he had been advocating Pancasila as the state ideology since as early as 1969. Ramage suggests ‘modernist’ and ‘traditionalist’ are also problematic. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. 44 The conflict between President Wahid and the MUI had had a long lineage. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. ‘Prepared statement. Serial 108–134 (Washington: Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations. who link it with the tendency to attribute reform or developments within Indonesian Islam solely to the neo-modernist movement—this is a short-sighted. 45 Ibid. See also Eric Kolig.e.44 This signalled two important changes for the MUI—that it was no longer the reliable rubber stamp for the Indonesian President and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (the acrimonious relationship between President Wahid and the MUI showed this clearly). The phrase is unpopular with many Indonesian academics. Islam in Asia’: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Committee on International Relations. See Douglas E. I acknowledge the limitations of the label ‘neo-modernist’ to describe the thinking of Abdurrahman Wahid. Ramage. Nevertheless. 178. See Ichwan. and that it was opposed to the neo-modernist thinking that Wahid expressed during his Presidency. something rejected by those Muslims who were advocating the implementation of Shari6a in various areas of Indonesia. Wahid began to criticize the MUI more openly in 1998 when it began using its Forum Ukhuwah Islamiyah (the Community Islam Forum) to widen linkages with the umma by inviting activists from newly established movements with distinctly radical Islamic orientations. but they remain widely used. ‘Modernisation without Secularisation: Civil Pluralism. problematic assumption given that much of the progressive thinking has actually emanated from traditionalist circles. so enlisting the support of such groups. Ichwan believes that tausiyahs better reflected the political role of the MUI than its fatwas. . to the extent of even discussing tausiyahs with the MUI. 3. Part of the reason that he was rejected as a secularist (i.m himself—was consistently cast aside as a secularist.

’ See MUI website: <www. (2) to be a fatwa-giver. 49 2005. went far beyond Indonesian Islamic modernism. ‘Neo Modernism: A Vital Synthesis of Traditionalist and Modernist Islamic Thought in Indonesia’. 50 Ibid. It outlined five major roles: (1) to spread Islamic teachings and support efforts for the construction of an Islamic life.214 p iers g il le spie for many in the MUI. The MUI website explains that the MUI mission is to: ‘Drive Islamic leadership and institutions effectively. By 2000. and make the ulama as a model in building excellent character in order to create an al-ummah society. and then finally referring Greg Barton. 14–15. 6.majelisulama.49 The majority of the MUI fatwas fall into the last group. and fatwas that repeat/re-present those dicta. MUI fatwas can be divided into three levels of effort (itjih:d) by the MUI: ‘new’ topics not covered by the legacy of fiqh. ‘Indonesia’s Ulama and Politics: Caught between Legitimizing the Status Quo and Searching for Alternatives’. Studia Islamika 2. Prisma – The Indonesian Indicator.php?id¼ 4&PHPSESSID¼4efb109a79a21dd415b4 at 24 September. 49 (1990). marking itself off from the government. 48 Martin van Bruinessen. and the goals had become more Islam-oriented than hitherto. which predominantly related to mobilizing Muslim support for the government’s development policies. and the opposition to this neo-modernism was to be one of the foundations for MUI Fatwa No. 7. no mention was made of the government. as well as to form Islamic law. Although the term ‘neo-modernism’ is not ideal. 47 MUI. 159. fatwas somewhat adapted from the legal dicta in that legacy. (3) to work as a guide for the Muslim community.48 A: The MUI and the process of itjih:d Traditionally. ijm:6 and qiy:s. Equally indicative of the MUI’s conservative shift is the organization’s updated vision statement for the year 2000. and (5) to uphold the Qur8:nic command of bidding for good and forbidding from evil. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’.50 MUI fatwas begin by quoting Qur8:nic verses before moving on to relevant hadith(s).3 (March 1995).46 It was rejected by many conservative elements in Indonesia. (4) to be an agent of reform and renewal.47 These roles contrast significantly with its founding goals in 1975. 46 . Wawasan dan PD MUI (Jakarta: MUI Sekretariat. 2000). with the authorities referred to being the Qur8:n and Sunna. it distinguishes it from both ‘traditionalism’ and ‘Islamic modernism’ while also alluding to its origins in the latter stream of thought. so that they are able to direct and supervise the Moslem community in implanting and fostering Islamic belief.

53 Ibid. the MUI as a collective mujtahid does not reach the highest rank in itjih:d. 161. A number of MUI fatwas since 1975 have re-presented opinions from the classical fiqh books with little or no interpretation. The MUI are. 159. but also to sustain it and keep it alive. ‘Fatwa and Politics in Indonesia’. of a more literalist For a list of the fiqh books to which the MUI most often refer see Nadirsyah.52 The discussion process is a method for determining which Qur8:nic exegesis is stronger and more beneficial for the Islamic community. its embrace. It does however attain the middle ranks of itjih:d. 61. (eds. 51 .56 It is not a dynamic Islamic organization. process does not result in rapid ideological changes.51 Fatwa No.53 Itjih:d is not consistently used in MUI fatwas. 57 Ibid. they believe that a limited knowledge of uB<l al-fiqh is sufficient to allow a jurist to practise itjih:d. and Azymuradi Azra. as Hosen notes. that of the founders of the four Sunni schools of Islamic law and their great disciples.current issues in indonesi an islam 215 to fiqh texts. regardless of the individual 6:lim’s knowledge. 52 Hooker. ‘Fatwa and Politics in Indonesia’. although the final text is invariably sourced from the Sh:fi6. believing that those who are capable of doing itjih:d have the right to do so. 7 follows this typical pattern. however. Hosen.55 This is controversial in that while the approach should in principle extend legitimacy to do itjih:d to others suitably qualified in uBul al-fiqh. Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa. In the event that an issue cannot be addressed by reference to the standard authorities as above. 55 Ibid. in Arskal Salim. it is determined through a process called itjih:d jam:6. 178. The MUI have not developed a methodology for the derivation of legal judgement away from the spirit and letter of the primary sources in order to enable constructive engagement with a rapidly changing world. in practice such legitimacy is not extended to more liberalist Indonesian interpretation of Islam. since 1998. collective itjih:d. The past thirty years have shown that the MUI’s itjih:d jam:6. where ‘scholars strive not just to consolidate the tradition.’57 Given that the MUI’s process of itjih:d has not lent itself to much variety of religious interpretation. open to other ‘appropriate’ ulema undertaking itjih:d.54 Because the MUI recognizes specialization in itjih:d as lawful.) Sharia and Politics in Indonesia (2003). 54 Hosen. The discussion part of the fatwa often takes into account the varied opinions of Islamic leaders of different schools of thought on Islamic law. madhhab. 56 Ibid..

Mimbar Ulama 248 (1999). in nothing will there be help [for them] from God— except by way of precaution. This was a more direct appeal for Islamic voters to choose those parties that ‘struggle for the aspiration and interests of the umma.’58 The second. with the 1999 elections demonstrating the diminishing influence of an MUI fatwa in Indonesia. which was allegedly dominated by non-Muslim politicians. entitled ‘Advice of the MUI Executive Leading up to the 1999 Election’ suggested that the ‘umma should prioritise Islamic brotherhood and abstain from involvement in conflict and friction. the political parties with little explicit connection to Islam were the ones that had the best election results. 59 Ibid. cited in Ichwan. the Islamic Justice Party. peaceful and prosperous life. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’. and the 2004 elections demonstrating a shift away from the major political parties and an increase in the primary vote of the Islamic parties. 55. especially the umma. B: MUI and the 1999/2004 elections Both the 1999 and 2004 elections are contextually useful for the 2005 MUI fatwa.3 percent. . PDIP and PAN cumulatively received around 60 percent of the vote. 28: Let the believers not take as friends or supporters unbelievers rather than believers—if any do that. PDIP and PAN dominating. with Golkar. The first recommended that ‘voters.60 However. that you may guard yourselves from them. arguing that PDIP voters were not strong Muslims in any 58 ‘Himbauan Majelis Ulama Indonesia untuk Suksesnya Pemilihan Umum 1999’.7 percent.216 p iers g il le spie position resulted in a pronounced hermeneutic rift between it and more liberal Muslim Indonesians. 60 A direct reference to Megawati’s PDIP party. the MUI took the highly unusual step of releasing three tausiyahs (Arabic. obtained only 1.’59 The third was issued just six days before the election. should vote for the party they believe capable of leading the nation towards a harmonious. 61 Golkar.61 Professor Ali Yafie of the MUI rejected the interpretation that Muslims did not follow the MUI directive. PBB 1. whereas the Islamic parties fared badly: Partai Keadilan. tawBiya: recommendation) in the space of two months in the lead up to the elections. 30. citing Qur8:n 3. In the 1999 election. united. 56. nation and state’ and not vote for non-Muslim political leaders and parties dominated by non-Muslims.8 percent and PPP 10.

2005. as an example of this concern. Others believed that. Fealy’s 2004 election comments may also be seen at <www. Luthfi Assyaukanie (2004) ‘Konservatisme dan Islam Kaki Lima’ at <www.64 There were. 2005). The Indonesian Presidency: The Shift from Personal towards Constitutional Rule (Lanham.62 The MUI took a more circumscribed approach in its public pronouncements during the 2004 elections. ‘Muslims. 481. Journal of Islamic Studies. although there was an increased salience of Islamist politics in Indonesia since 1998.65 Some observers feared a growing rigidification of boundaries around the presently recognized religions and the imposition of increasingly narrow constructions of Islam in Indonesia. with the new rules relating to political parties and to the method of election of the parliament and the president. 66 Julia Day Howell.islamlib. however different interpretations of this result. see his comments in McIntyre. and a rejection of the rigid limitations conservatives would Nadirsyah Hosen. 2004. See <www.php?page¼article&mode¼print&id¼7274 at 8 December. The election numbers are outlined on p. 15. 64 This is how the term is used by Greg Fealy.current issues in indonesi an islam 217 event. also in McIntyre. effective President able to ensure that Indonesia could come out of the ongoing multidimensional crisis. others that it meant that ‘political Islam might not be as weak as many commentators suggest’. Day Howell cites. 159. The MUI pronounced that it was time for Indonesia to choose an honest. 62 . but the results strongly suggested that even by 1999 the Indonesian umma were listening to MUI less than before. 63 Angus McIntyre. The Indonesian Presidency. 65 Both positions are articulated by Greg Fealy: in his talk to the United Sates Indonesia Council (Washington) at id/page. 2006. The Indonesian Presidency. MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.2 (May 2004). there appeared nevertheless to be some development in religious tolerance amongst the moderate middle class urban elite of Indonesian Muslims. some observers suggesting that it demonstrated a weakening of the appeal of Islam to the wider population.usindo. and emphasized that Muslims had a special responsibility to ensure that the best person is chosen for the job. ‘Behind the Scenes: Fatwas of Majelis Ulama Indonesia 1975–1998’.htm4 at 15 February. 261.63 In terms of how the Islamicist vote panned out—‘Islamicist’ here meaning the Islamic parties seeking to bring Islamic ideals directly into politics—the primary vote increased from 16 percent in 1999 to 21 percent in 2004. org/briefs/2005/Greg%Fealy%20on%20Radical20%Islam%208-18-05.kompas. 264.html4 at 8 February. the New Age and Marginal Religions in Indonesia’. 263. the first to be held under the amended 1945 Constitution.

one now openly calling itself ‘a servant of the Indonesian umma. the Brahma Kumaris and the Anand Ashram. Salamullah.67 This observation was backed in annual polling by the Indonesian Survey Institute from 2002–2005. on which the Islamic parties were perceived as being more trustworthy. 71 Ichwan. 68 See Lembaga Survei Indonesia. 10–44. Democracy in Indonesia: A Survey of the Indonesian Electorate (Jakarta: Asia Foundation. which concluded that ‘traditional’ (defined in the survey as relating to the two major Islamic parties. 72 Wael Hallaq. 7 AND ITS OPPONENTS A: The Consideration and Reminder sections MUI Fatwa No. whilst the presidential aspirations of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono were done no harm with his Democrat Party garnering nearly eight percent of the vote in the short time it had been running. FATWA NO. ‘Ulama State and Politics: MUI after Suharto’.70 In this way. the 2004 election reinforced the MUI’s determination to move further towards being a more conservative Islamic organization. and that over seven out of ten Indonesians polled rejected violence in any form as a way of furthering religious or political goals.72 The debate spans the spectrum of Islamic jurisprudence from a position affirming an immutable sacred text to the idea of reasoning from Day Howell. to demonstrate this broadening out of religious notionality within Indonesia. Megawati Soekarnoputri’s PDIP suffered a substantial decline in the primary vote at the 2004 elections. 490. ‘Muslims. the New Age and Marginal Religions in Indonesia’. The Indonesian Presidency. 2005). She uses an analysis of the growth of three organizations. 1997). 2003). 7 (2005) created controversy by re-opening in a modern Indonesian context an Islamic debate that had been ongoing since the Hijra.69 Such an increase in the Islamicist vote would not have gone unnoticed by the MUI as the voters demonstrated their disillusionment with non-Islamic political parties.68 At a party level. 69 McIntyre. ‘Survei Nasional: Dukungan dan Pennolakan Terhadap Radikalisme Islam’ (Jakarta: LSI Sekretariat.’71 III. NU and Muhammadiyah) Indonesian religious institutions remained dominant. 70 Asia Foundation. A History of Islamic Legal Theories (New York: Cambridge University Press. particularly in relation to the issue of corruption.218 p iers g il le spie place on their understandings of their religion. 71. 255. 261. 67 .

(b) This growth of religious pluralism. 2005. ‘Clarification’.html4at 1 September 2005. Law and Equality in Indonesia. 1997). and literal interpretation of sacred texts on the other. 183–202. 255. Translations are mine. liberalism and religious secularism in order for it to provide guidance to the Islamic community. Islam. 76 MUI Fatwa It consisted of three sections—a ‘Reminder’. a group that had existed peacefully in Indonesia for over 60 years. Oligarchy in the Interpretation of Religion (2005). the Secretary of the MUI Fatwa Commission in Majelis Ulama Menyoal Ahmadiyah (2005) Republika Online (Jakarta) <http://www. Islam in an Era of Nation States (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (c) Therefore. The phrase ‘outside Islam’ was one used by Hasanuddin. the MUI feel that it is necessary to formulate a fatwa about the understanding of pluralism.asp?mid¼5&ad¼282391&kat_id¼10. liberalism and religious secularism within the society has created an uneasiness and a concern to the extent that part of the community has asked the MUI to give some clarification by means of a fatwa in relation to this problem. 7 (2005).id/suplemen/cetak_detail. liberalism and secularism which has been understood in a variety of ways in the One of the most controversial was a fatwa that labelled the Ahmadiyyah. History of Islamic Legal Theories.php?option¼com_content&task¼view&id¼733& Itemid¼1. For an overview of the Ahmadiyyah in Indonesia. 151.73 The fatwa articulated the MUI’s increasingly hard-line position on the tension between human reasoning on the one hand. and a ‘Considerations’ section which comprised three statements. Hallaq. one outlawed interfaith marriage. pluralism and liberal Islamic movements. ‘The Ahmadiyya Movement in Simunul’ in Robert Hefner (ed. 75 One fatwa banned interfaith prayers unless led by a Muslim. The three statements set out the MUI’s interpretation of the prevailing Indonesian Islamic environment and why a fatwa on this subject was necessary. The issues were discussed by both the general public as well as the Indonesian umma. see Patricia Horvatich.). that gained the most attention. 7. as ‘outside Islam’. 74 73 . The statements noted: (a) Recently there has been a growth of religious pluralism.repub likaonline. Wahid Institute website (Jakarta) <www.gusdur.76 Bowen. it was Fatwa No. html4 at 10 August. another ruled that children of a different religion from their parents could not receive any inheritance. on secularism.75 However.74 All eleven fatwas released at the July 2005 congress demonstrate the growing conservativism within the MUI. See Abdul Mosquith Gazali.current issues in indonesi an islam 219 external values and current social needs.

109. in respect of religion. obey] the lead of the greater number [of the people] in the earth. there is only one choice. After the ‘Considerations’. 19 and 3. Furthermore. of tolerance and fairness—for example. They are indeed following only conjecture (Cann). 60.7 (2005). and in the hereafter he shall be among the losers. erred in a plain erring]. it shall not be accepted from him. that there should [remain] for them any choice (khayra) in their affair. 36: It is not [fitting] for a believing man or believing woman. by describing the growth of religious pluralism as a ‘problem’ that requires a fatwa. cited in MUI No. 7. The fatwa cites 2l 6Imr:n. 116: And if you follow [ie. 77 . 85 The religion in God’s presence is al-isl:m .77 The quotations focus on two main instructions: that. whilst at the same time projecting its own societal role. 78 Ibid. In MUI No. Of direct relevance to the pluralist debate is the way the Reminder section warns against following those who may be on a pluralist or liberalist path. in respect of those who do not fight you in religion The use of Qur8:nic verses to authorize/legitimize fatwas is normal practice. 6) and ‘God does not forbid you. The fatwa also cites al-AAC:b 33. And whoever desires/seeks a religion other than al-isl:m. 1. the Reminder section contains over ten quotations from the Qur8:n whose function is to justify the fatwa. . given that the fatwa previously provides clear approval of freedom of religion—‘For you your religion. this citation may be understood as aiming at those individuals who choose to follow other religions. Describing the background to the fatwa in this manner enables the MUI to give legitimacy to its choice of what topic is appropriate for discussion. At one level. there is only one way to believe and live it. they will misdirect you from the path of God. a number of statements underline the importance. al-MumtaAana. in an environment of religious plurality.78 However. And whoever disobeys God and His Messenger he has manifestly gone astray [lit. when God and His Messenger have pronounced on a matter (qa@:). 8–9. . the MUI is able to define the topic’s parameters.220 p iers g il le spie With clause (b) the MUI positioned itself as responsive to the community’s needs and concerns. and in respect of Islam. or to follow those who would ‘misdirect you from the path of God’. they are indeed only making surmises (kharaBa). 3. and for me my religion’ (Qur8:n. One of the final Qur8:nic citations in the section is from al-An6:m 6.

as opposed to the individuals above who also believe in the concurrent importance of contextuality.7 (2005). divided into public and legal certainty sections. 1. Dawam Rahardjo. The public certainty section defines the relevant issues to be discussed based on the public concern arising from the growth of religious pluralism and secularism and its myriad interpretations.80 B: Fatwa No.7 (2005) Considerations section. and its understanding of the term is key to why the MUI rejected religious pluralism. Issues of both a heuristic and practical nature remained unaddressed. 60. 80 79 .n)’ (al-MumtaAana. 7: the Clarifications section The Clarifications section is the core of the fatwa. with the fatwa reader left to decide whether this is an appropriate definition. every follower of religion cannot claim that only their religion is true and correct whilst other religions are wrong. 81 MUI No. that every religion is relative. I acknowledge that the term ‘conjecture’ in the Qur8:n has a broader significance that will not be addressed here. as much of the criticism consistently levelled at Indonesian pluralists by the Islamicists is that the liberal interpretations have been heavily focused on a select number of public individuals and personalities who have been promoting them.79 The fact that the fatwa incorporates a Qur8:nic statement about the dangers of following ‘conjecture’ supports this interpretation. l-d. Religious pluralism is defined as: An understanding that all religions are the same and because of this (truth).current issues in indonesi an islam 221 (f. 1. 7 (2005). Pluralism also stipulates that all followers of religion will enter and live side by side in heaven. which suggests that religious pluralism means that there is no germane differentiation between religions. Djohan Effendi. Because of that. 8–9)—it can also be interpreted as aiming at those within the Indonesian umma who are misleading followers via the articulation of liberal and plural beliefs. and if so.81 The section defines what is meant by religious pluralism. The public individuals meant here are scholars such Ulil Abshar Abdalla. Apart from this statement. (MUI Fatwa No. 1 (1). no further interpretive elaboration from the MUI is forthcoming. that you deal kindly with them and behave fairly with them: God indeed loves those who are fair (muqsi3. what it actually means for an individual Muslim living in the multicultural and multi-religious Indonesian society. By not elaborating Cited in MUI No. 2). ‘Islamicists’ here means those Indonesian Muslims who favour a strictly literal interpretation of Qur8:n and Sunna.n) and do not drive you out of your homes. Abdurrahman Wahid and the recently deceased Nurcholish Madjid.

And the consequence of that is that the truth of all religions is relative. In addressing the fatwa. Pluralism is the opposite. the MUI failed to provide a basis for understanding one of the most important aspects of the fatwa. Kala Mengharamkan Pluralisme (2005) Tempo Interactif (Jakarta) <www. . 85 Ibid. Whilst the fatwa accepted what it called the reality of a modern multireligious Indonesia as ‘there are a number of different religious followers that live together side by side’. 2005. it rejected equality between different religions (MUI Fatwa No. Jakarta). and pluralism. 84 Dawan Rahardjo. That does not mean that all religions are the same.86 Dawam Rahardjo. the MUI don’t understand this— not just misunderstand it. which was defined as an everyday reality. it respects differences in religion and therefore accepts them. and as a consequence. (the MUI) said that it is based on an opinion that all religions are the same. 30 (5 February. 82 . the MUI differentiated between plurality. 2005. Tempo. This was a difficult position to maintain: in order to do so.83 That in turn meant that no one religion may stand ‘atop’ others. 2). Pluralism is not that.82 The (then) Muhammadiyah party member and Muslim intellectual Dawam Rahardjo rejected the inherent dissonance between the two positions. 7 (2005).tempointeractive. Transkrip diskusi radio 68h: Menyikapi perbedaan pasca fatwa MUI. it seeks to minimize the role of government. which was described as a flawed mode of thinking. but don’t understand it. 2006. 86 Dawam Rahardjo on Radio Berita 68h 89. . but must stand only alongside the others in the name of freedom and plurality. ‘Saya Pernah Kecewa Pada Agama’. 83 Ibid. MUI do not know what is meant by pluralism. Liberalism is simply a doctrine that places a high value on the individual. stating: In regards to pluralism. so what is there to criticize? For me. 1(2).84 He criticized the theoretical premises behind the MUI’s notion of pluralism. Rahardjo stated that pluralism and plurality were intimately connected because pluralism was a belief system based on the reality of a plural society. But that’s not liberalism.85 Rahardjo also argued that the MUI’s interpretation of liberalism was fallacious: The (MUI) fatwa . It’s a pretty clear definition. By accepting the reality of plurality within society as the MUI had done.222 p iers g il le spie further on the meaning of religious pluralism. interprets liberalism as meaning that human reasoning takes precedence over the Qur’an and Hadith. 4 August. Rahardjo believed that a de facto acceptance of pluralism had to follow.2¼basic&tab¼ &txtsearch¼rahardjoþdawan4 at 10 August.

The two statements were qualified by the final point in the fatwa (2 (4).da and 6ib:da [creed and worship]. 2): In regards to matters of 6aq. Point 2 of the guidance stated: It is forbidden (Aar:m) for the Islamic community to follow the understanding of pluralism. see the transcript (referred to earlier) of the discussion on Radio Berita. the legal certainty section then moved on and provided the guidance of the fatwa. Their approach was articulated by.87 The immediate aftermath saw a veritable ‘line up’ of those for and against the fatwa. among others. Menyikapi perbedaan pasca fatwa MUI. 2). Indonesian Islamic liberalists quickly organized to defend their notions of pluralism against what they interpreted as a direct attack on themselves and their thinking. (MUI Fatwa No 7. the Head of the Islamic The only other recent issues that have provoked a high level of anger and division centred on the issue of whether a woman could be President in the lead up to the 1999 elections. by not addressing these key terms more broadly. <http:// www. secularism and religious liberalism. the MUI left itself open to the criticism that it didn’t understand the nuances of the key terminology. and the issue of interest in late 2003. the Head of NU. meaning that it is forbidden to mix Islamic creed and worship with the creed and worship of the followers of other religious faiths. Kita Terbuka Untuk Dialog (2005) Republika Having defined the topics. 2) that provided a practical interpretation for the umma in their everyday interactions with other religious followers. it is compulsory for the Islamic community to have an exclusive attitude. Nevertheless.html4 at 2 September 2005. Rahardjo and Azymuradi Azra and circulated in a hasty media release issued by them and other prominent Indonesian Islamic liberal thinkers such as Hasyim Point 3 then continued by stating (2 (3).current issues in indonesi an islam 223 Rahardjo’s criticism of the manner in which the MUI had skimmed over key heuristic terms within the fatwa earnt him considerable enmity. and Ulil Abshar Abdalla. the MUI managed to ignite divisive passions not seen publicly within the Indonesian umma for many years. 87 . but the comments did little to offset the gravity of points 2 and 3.republikaonline. For an excellent indication of the level of anger.asp?mid¼5&id¼209195_id¼ 10. See Republika Online. 7. albeit unsatisfactorily. 2 (2). C: The critiques of the fatwa In releasing Fatwa No.

‘Fatwas Raise Concerns of Growing Divisions’. the Indonesian notion of nationhood and development that had been used so successfully as a tool for political control throughout the New Order period. 2005). He suggested that the MUI’s understanding of the issues relating to pluralism was too literal and rested solely on medieval fiqh. without taking any account of the sociological and political realities of Indonesia. and on the enduring relationship to Pancasila. 12 September. the Islamic Defender Front (FPI). who do not generally allow for contextuality in their religious interpretations of the Qur8:n as law. Din Syamsuddin. He uses a number of Qur8:nic verses to offer a distinctly modern perspective on tolerance. Hasyim Wahid. He holds that. Azymuradi Azra.224 p iers g il le spie Liberal who were bolstered by a number of groups quick to agree with the fatwa’s conclusions. the MUI received support from the literalists and conservatives.90 Whilst it could be argued that the fatwa did take note of the multi-religious reality of Indonesia. and states that ‘Muslim scholars should disentangle Qur’anic perspectives on pluralism from medieval interpretation in order to elaborate and formulate new Muslim participation in a global society.radioaustralia. and the Head of the MUI. Radio Australia.html4 at 12 September.88 Their approach focused on both the importance of interpretative contextuality within modern Islam. Jakarta.89 One of Indonesia’s leading secular Islamic academics. theologically and doctrinally. Azyumardi Azra. Prominent conservatives who spoke publicly for the fatwa included the Muhammadiyah leader. which resulted in the adoption of the national ideology of Pancasila. rector at the State Islamic Nono Anwar Makarim. was outspoken in his condemnation of the thinking behind the fatwa. pluralism and mutual recognition in a multi-ethnic and multi-community world—just as the MUI have selected and used their own verses. 2005. Jakarta Post (25 August. 90 Azyumardi Azra.’ Opponents of this view dismiss his writing outright. Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII).com/id/index. Ulil Abshar Abdalla and Syafii Anwar.‘Mutual Existence and Religious Harmony’.php? page¼article&mode¼print&id¼867. 2005. Makr’uf Amien. 88 . Musdah Mulia. See also Azra. cited in Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio.html at 10 September. Azra’s comments were founded on the sheer fact of Pancasila See Todung Mulya Lubis. 89 These organizations included the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI). ‘Utamakan Rasa Kebangsaan dan Hak-Hak Konstitusional Kewarganegaraan!’ (Media Release. 2005). Muslims have always known difference and plurality due to multiple and conflicting interpretations of the Qur8:n and hadith. Azra’s argument is not limited to the secular realities of a pluralistic Indonesia. http://islamlib. In contrast. 2005 <www. 5 September. Azra describes Indonesian Islam as the ‘middle way’ of Islam.

93 Unsurprisingly. Humanist Fatwa or Violent Fatwa? (2005) Islamlib website <http://www. Simplistic summaries of what party said what are therefore often misleading.l). ‘The Formation of a New Paradigm: A Sketch of Contemporary Islamic Discourse’ in Mark Woodward (ed. Jakarta Post (25 August. Equally. most other Islamic organizations in Indonesia. 2005. ‘Mutual Existence and Religious Harmony’. in view of the fact this fatwa is one that seeks to reduce the consultation and sh<r: that Azra is commending. 2005). Azra suggested that although Indonesia has adopted the middle path of Islam. Azra implied that other Indonesian Islamic theological or societal interpretation also needed to accept the reality of Indonesian communal pluralism as a fundamental starting point.islamlib. Azra stated that in future he would ‘like to see the MUI consult with all stakeholders in the Muslim community before issuing fatwas’—an ironic statement. 1996). Some brief comments need to be made concerning the diversity of opinion and complexity that exists within NU.91 The MUI fatwa focused on the divide between liberalists and literalists. responded immediately to the fatwa with a fierce94 public 91 Taufik Abdullah. 92 Azyumardi Azra. each camp rejecting outright the other’s viewpoint. Kyai Ma’ruf . the MUI have a different interpretation of Islam’s role in Indonesia and their understanding of the three ‘isms’ was informed by taking the Qur8:n and hadith literally without any rationality or logic. see Zulhairi Miswari. Towards a New Paradigm: Recent Developments in Indonesian Islamic Thought (Tempe: Arizona State University. Jakarta Post (25 August. 2005).com/en/page/php?page¼article&mode¼print&id¼874. and the validity of analogy and consensus in dealing with questions of law. Although the Nahdatul Ulama (NU) in Indonesia is seen as a ‘traditionalist’ Islamic party. ‘MUIs Fatwa Encourages the Use of Violence’. to see it as a unified stream of thought is unrealistic. 74. whilst NU members’ Masdar Mas’udi and Zuhaeri Misrawi are quoted in this paper as representing NU positions on the MUI fatwa. the legitimacy of interpretation (ta8w. Azra’s responses to the fatwa provided an overview of the recurrent issue in Indonesian Islam of contextuality in interpreting the religious texts. the Nahdatul Ulama (NU). Indonesia’s largest Islamic party. and Indonesia not being an Islamic state. In arguing this way. 94 I have used Zulhairi Misrawi’s description of the response as fierce.current issues in indonesi an islam 225 as the official state ideology. given that the philosophical distance between individuals within the party is often greater than between the NU and Muslims outside it.html4 at 8 September.). and indeed. Masdar does not really have the authority to put forward NU’s ‘official’ position.92 He went on to argue that the fatwa was regrettable because it appeared to have ‘been issued without consulting relevant Muslim figures’. 93 Azyumardi Azra.

cultures and customary laws. who need not worry about such a fatwa. stated that it would have been more appropriate if the fatwa had provided what it termed ‘substantive values’ rather than: [m]ere legal formalism.7 (2005).97 The MUI fatwa stated that secularism entails ‘separating the world from religion so that religion is only to be useful to assist arrange one’s private relationship with God. is an NU board member and would no doubt disagree with my description of NU’s position.or. communities. and liberalism.or. in a direct criticism of the MUI.asp?id_data¼5500. 98 MUI No. Generalizations about the relative positions of the main Islamic parties are therefore difficult. 1(4). . whilst relationships between people are arranged only on the basis of a social contract. let alone within the context of other religions.’95 NU’s response underlined how.html at 15 September. arguing that such mis-definition could lead to conflict. 2005. the Indonesian constitution and Pancasila provided the appropriate legal guidance.’98 The NU argued that this definition made it appear as if the MUI were rejecting the way the Indonesian state Amin. dialogue. 96 NU online.226 p iers g il le spie statement that directly criticized the MUI and offered a determined defence of both Indonesian plurality and the secular state. It would be more effective if a reason-based approach were used incorporating advice. 2. That difficulty itself underlines the pluralism within the modern nation of Indonesia and the range of different positions on offer. because we are in a plural society with diversity both within the Islamic umma.96 NU thus criticized the way in which the MUI defined the terms The NU here was referring to groups like the Ahmadiyyah. and argumentation. Tangappan PBNU atas Fatwa MUI (2005) NU website <www. The NU board suggested the fatwa was based on a formalist reading of fiqh and declared that it was intended solely for Muslims and not non-Muslims. Tanggapan PBNU atas Fatwa MUI (2005) NU website http:// www. 95 NU online. 97 Ibid. for those advocating a more pluralist interpretation of the Qur8:n. pluralism. This approach would avoid conflict within our unitary state of Indonesia. a central architect of the MUI fatwa. particularly as Indonesian Muslims will ‘make up their own minds with the full awareness that positive law is the dominant law in the country and our country is not an Islamic state.asp?id_data¼55004 at 15 September. an Islamic sect recently the target of harassment and intimidation by more hard-line Indonesian Islamic

repealing the ban on the Communist party in Indonesia.current issues in indonesi an islam 227 maintains the separation between religious and secular authority. while retaining the pre-eminence of the religious texts. Nahdlatul Ulama: Traditionalist Islam and Modernity in Indonesia (Clayton: Monash University Asia Institute. and ensures that religion is an individual matter and not one intrinsically related to citizenship in the nation. secularism and religious pluralism.99 The NU were equally critical of MUI’s definition of liberalism. The MUI’s understanding and consequent rejection of secularism appeared to advocate some sort of Islamic statehood. 2. instead upholding the role that secularism has played in sustaining Indonesia as a unitary nation since independence. The MUI defined liberalism as an ‘understanding of the religious texts that is attained by combining such texts with the use of logical thinking. the NU also used their response statement to the MUI fatwa to speak tangentially about the importance of avoiding or using the symbols of Islam as a justification to injure or oppress other people. the NU adopted a more positive stance on liberalism.7 (2005). and when. 99 . 1(3). either nationally or internationally. and only recognizing religious doctrines that are consistent with (their) own subjective understanding. The manner in which Pancasila was used by many of the liberals opposed to the MUI fatwa as a shield to defend Indonesia See Greg Barton and Greg Fealy (eds.). NU’s affirmation of Pancasila was echoed in many of the critical liberal responses. 100 MUI No. Such a use of Islamic symbols. enabled those already opposed to Islam to take a further hard line and benefited ‘Islamophobia’ in general. with more focus on the concept of general public welfare (maBlaAa 6:mma) within a unified Indonesia. an option that the NU has consistently rejected throughout its history. 1996). 101 Three issues that saw President Wahid at odds with the MUI were when he suggested strengthening ties with Israel. and urged them to deepen Islamic brotherhood across the internal differences within the modern umma102—a clear defence of liberalism. during the Ajinomoto case—a Japanese food additives company accused of using pork in its preservatives—he sided with Ajinomoto even before product samples had been tested. 102 Interestingly.101 In contrast. NU argued. The NU response accordingly called for Indonesian Muslims to embrace moderate beliefs and avoid hardline responses.’100 This was a clear rejection of modern interpretative Islamic approaches in Indonesia as little more than illegitimate subjective reasoning—exemplified for some within the MUI by a number of Abdurrahmann Wahid’s more unique exhortations during his Presidency.

and one that did not include p iers g il le spie and Indonesian values is an intriguing feature of the debate. ultimately carries little conviction from a religious perspective. and the Ideology of Tolerance (New York: Routledge. the ideology has upheld a very narrow interpretation of religious freedom. Hooker. 104 M.asp?/TOPIC_id¼17099. Islamic Law in South East Asia (Singapore: Oxford University Press.104 Throughout its history. Journal of Asian Law. a conceptual tool permitting unrestricted religious and political freedoms in Indonesia. 229. an authoritative conservative Islamic figure. because it makes Islam essentially only one component in the wider national ideology. Indeed. Islam. in criticizing the MUI fatwa. Muhammadiyah. It is incongruous that many of the liberals opposed to the MUI fatwa opposed it on the basis of an ideology that had been used in the past to control the liberal positions being advocated in many of the critiques. Studia Islamika 10 (2003). 32. many Muslims have viewed it as a secular ideology that is incompatible with Islam. with much of the awkwardness resulting from the selection during the 2005 Muhammadiyah Congress of Dien Syamsuddin to lead Muhammadiyah. 103 . 4 (2002). many Islamic liberals sought to move the debate away from religion and towards Pancasila and the ‘realities of a modern Indonesia’. This is ironic.’ Father Weinata Sairin. was also the General Secretary of the MUI. Syamsuddin. ‘Islamic Law in South East Asia’. as the state ideology of Pancasila is not.103 The Pancasila account of Islam. the Chairman of the Indonesian Church Association were typical: ‘As long as we still have Pancasila. on many occasions throughout the New Order. agnostic and atheist stances. 1984). 2005. whilst it has varied enormously through the years from Sukarno (1959–66) through the New Order (1967–98) and now in the post-Suharto era. 1996). Ramage. ‘Islamic Law in South East Asia’. found itself in an awkward situation as a result of the MUI fatwa. The comments of Father Weinata Sairin.indosiar. freedom of religion is a fact and a reality that cannot be denied. B. quoted in (2005) indosiar website (Jakarta) <http://www. Nevertheless. Douglas E. and never has been. Politics in Indonesia: Democracy. it was used precisely to justify repressive control and circumscription of political beliefs and social freedoms. a position he held since 2000. Indonesia’s second largest Muslim party.html4 at 15 August. Syamsuddin’s success demonstrated the significant ideological shift at Many observers used Pancasila as the most legitimate and appropriate reason for rejecting the MUI fatwa. It is hard for many devout Muslims to see Pancasila as anything other than theologically heterodox. during which time the MUI released a number of conservative fatwas.

Mukti rhetorically asked his party during a pre-selection discussion: ‘How can Muhammadiyah be led by those who acknowledge that all religions are the same?’108—a revealing insight into how many within Muhammadiyah would actively support the MUI’s rejection of liberalism less than a year later. and the remainder. 4.) on which Muhammadiyah was founded have ‘nothing to do with liberalism’. or Muhammadiyah Young Intellectuals Network). a third generation Muhammadiyah group that was supported by second generation Muhammadiyah members such as Moeslim Abdurrahman and Syafi’i Maarif. 5. Adijani al-Alabji. 106 105 . 7.n al-Afgh:n. ‘Muhammadiyah and Radical Islam’. Asyari himself notes that his division is somewhat arbitrary. He reinforced the MUI notion that Islamic Asyari. described as pragmatic-political. Syamsuddin was a busy figure after the release of the MUI No. Ibid. Whilst the JIMM faction opposed the MUI fatwa. the radical-puritan. there was already a significant liberal element within the organization called the Jaringan Intelektual Muda Muhammadiyah (JIMM. As the key spokesperson of the MUI.106 The MUI fatwa brought to the foreground the existing inter-party conflict over Muhammadiyah’s future. the recent senior level conservative shift has been concurrent with the development of a number of young progressive intellectuals who have initiated new individual networks within the organization. quoted in Asyari.107 Equally. but his analysis is nonetheless useful. and secularism. the vice-chair of the Makassar Muhammadiyah branch.105 As a result. the dissonance within Muhammadiyah and the reason why the 2005 MUI fatwa was going to be such a difficult issue for the organization was demonstrated by Answar Mukti’s comments in 2004.current issues in indonesi an islam 229 the most senior level of the Muhammadiyah organization. many within Muhammadiyah saw JIMM’s liberal outlook as a serious ideological threat to the organization itself. and in modern times particularly since the Aceh Congress in 1995. 107 Al-Alabji. As Muhammadiyah leader. Although both conservative and liberal elements have long been a part of Muhammadiyah. as there are other tendencies on the rise. he consistently defended the MUI definitions of liberalism. stated that the reformist ideas (from the seminal thinkers MuAammad 6Abd<h. 108 Ibid. In a way that prefigured the central issue of the 2005 MUI fatwa. pluralism. R:shid Ri@: and Jam:l al-D. Asyari describes the modern Muhammadiyah as an organization roughly divided into three camps: the liberal. By 2005.

Rahardjo expressly placed Syamsuddin in the conservative group and believed that the more radical outlook was occurring as a result of the failure of 111 Ibid. Johan Effendi and others).com/ utama/news/0508/06/200356. The conflict resulted in Rahardjo being indirectly expelled by Syamsuddin—‘dipecat secara tidak langsung’—from an organization in which ‘my mother and father are members’ and in which he had been a member all his life. a move that brought him into direct conflict with Syamsuddin. 37.112 Rahardjo’s extraordinary interview in the Indonesian political magazine Tempo (February 2006) provides insight into how the ideological fissures within Muhammadiyah at the time were brought to the fore by the MUI fatwa.110 In an inimitable irony. and rejecting the notion that religious pluralism meant that all religions are the same and therefore could not be is-lam@milis.113 His confused exit from Muhammadiyah—he was never sent a formal letter but simply heard Din Syamsuddin. Rahardjo noted. there were two competing trends—a Wahhabi-influenced group that sought the purest form of Islam and rejected any form of local slametan traditions. 112 Dawan Rahardjo.isnet.111 His role as both MUI spokesman and Muhammadiyah leader left many within his party both deeply satisfied and aggrieved.html4 at 15 February. Hizbut Tahir Indonesia. Syamsuddin proposed himself—presumably under the guise of Muhammadiyah leader—as a mediator between those backing the MUI pluralism fatwa (Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia. For an example of how the different parties lined up both for and against the fatwa see ‘Dukungan Fatwa MUI’ <http://www. Dawan Rahardjo. and the broader struggle for knowledge and education.’109 He similarly reasserted the MUI characterizations of secularism and religious pluralism. One individual dejected by the Muhammadiyah position on various MUI fatwas was Dawan Rahardjo. 109 . 2006. Rahardjo criticized the MUI fatwa’s interpretation of religious pluralism and defended the Ahmadiyya sect.230 p iers g il le spie liberalism can use limited liberal thinking in its exegetical interpretation.mail-archive. 113 Ibid. Al Irsyad and others) and those against it (Abdurrahman Wahid. but cannot ‘propose or suggest that all religions come from the same base or foundation.kompas. ‘Saya Pernah Kecewa Pada Agama’. 110 Ibid. Kompas Cyber Media (Jakarta): <www. 2006. cited in ‘Muhammadiyah Tawarkan Diri Jadi Mediator Dialog Fatwa MUI’. In Muhammadiyah. rejecting the idea that religion was only a private matter between individual and God and independent of the state.htm4 at 10 February. and a second ‘modernist’ group that sought reform on the lines of the teachings of MuAammad 6Abd<h.

There is no backing off from the defence of Islam.’ See Amhad Soemargono (2005). The Islamic Brotherhood Movement spokesperson Ahmad Soemargono stated: ‘We are ready to support the MUI fatwa. 2005.65. D: Defence of the MUI Defence of the MUI fatwa brought together many Indonesian Islamic groups that had previously not always aligned on Islamic issues. but if (they) use methods outside the law then we will use the same methods. indosiar website.indosiar.115 This attitude was also prevalent in more mainstream Islamic associations such as ICMI (Ikatan Cendikiawan Muslim Indonesia).current issues in indonesi an islam 231 that he had himself resigned because of his extant defence of Ahmadiyya—was a very public manifestation of the exegetical struggles within the party. 114 . Certainly. 117 Republika Online. the Islamic Defender Front (FPI). welcome/forum/topic.asp?mid¼5&id¼209195_id¼10 at 18 August. don’t get involved . with general comment to the effect that the fatwa should be accepted as it had been issued by experts. many of them expressed anger at Islamic liberal groups who were working to undermine the fatwa and to further circulate their own ideologies.116 The MUI’s own response to the controversy aroused by the fatwa was to maintain that they had a moral obligation to the Indonesian umma to continue to promote the fatwa across Indonesia. Hizbut Tahrir and the Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII) broadly welcomed the fatwa. then whom else are we going to believe in? We call upon those who are not Islamic. <http://198.shtml4 at 6 August. 115 Ibid. It is unclear whether some of these groups defended the fatwa because they believed it to be right.indosiar. 2005. asp?TOPIC_ID¼170994 at 23 August. We can support it by law. See <http://www. the Association of Indonesian Islamic Intellectuals. <http://www. If we don’t believe in the MUI. .147.asp?TOPIC_ID¼170994 at 23 August. 116 ICMI was a New Order Islamic group chaired for many years by the previous vice president Jusuf Habibie and consisted of intellectuals discussing Indonesian Islamic issues. By any means. .com/welcome/forum/topic. or because of the frustration they felt at the manner in which liberal Indonesian Muslims had responded to the ‘MUI Fatwa Gets Mixed Reaction in Indonesia’ (2005) islamonline. whose leader stated: ICMI support the MUI and the MUI fatwa as (they) are a competent religious institution.117 They downplayed See Dandy Koswaraputra.194/English/News/2005-08/06/ article06.114 Organizations such as the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI). Kita Terbuka Untuk Dialog (2005) http://www.

they were surprised by the intensity of it. 2005. .id/suplemen/cetak_detail. and what liberals such as Azymuradi Azra had been recommending all along. blaming ‘semantics (which) had created a problem in interpreting the fatwa’ and ‘confusion in regards to the philosophy of meaning’ behind the fatwa itself. part of the reason for MUI Fatwa No. Islam in South East Asia (Leiden: Brill. indicated that the MUI was ready to hold an open national dialogue in order to ensure that the public were aware of the meaning of the fatwa. 12. Hooker. stating regularly that semantic differences were to blame for any misunderstanding. syncretistic and multi-voiced.232 p iers g il le spie the controversy. ‘Moderates.120 This suggests that while the MUI may have been expecting some controversy. 121 Clifford Geertz. but the semantic differences demonstrate the severe ideological differences rifts between the differing opinions. Hera Diani. (and) not the fatwa itself. as this paper suggests. M. 1983). In order to address these questions. WHY WAS THE FATWA RELEASED AND WHY WAS IT SO CONTROVERSIAL? A: The external environment: pluralist thought in Indonesia If.118 Statements by the Head of the MUI. need to be considered. 7 was the frustration of 25 years of the dominance of neo-modernist Islamic thought in Indonesia. From the very beginning of its entry into the Malay world. and why its position was so objectionable to the MUI in 2005. Islam in Indonesia was flexible. it is necessary first to look back briefly at Islamic history in Indonesia and second. 120 See Republika Online. In a sense this is true.asp?mid¼5&ad¼282391& kat_id¼104 at 5 August. Conservatives Dispute Freedom of Thought’.republikaonline. B. 1971). 2005). Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Jakarta Post (14 September. Amidhan. IV. then the related questions of how the liberal Islamic movement was able to become dominant. The Muhammadiyah leader. Menyikapi perbedaan pasca fatwa MUI. Makr’uf Amien were indicative: ‘what is controversial about the fatwa is the 119 See the radio transcript. The national dialogue idea was of course what had been avoided before and during the congress itself.’119 Only days after the fatwa’s release.121 Two key factors 118 Ibid. Din Syamsuddin frequently deployed this argument. Majelis Ulam Menyoal Ahmadiyah: <http:// www. to move forward to the rapid changes that have occurred in modern Indonesian Islamic thought over the past 35 years. 268. the MUI Chairman.

92. Contrary to much of the early Dutch studies. firstly. Adat Law in Modern Indonesia. Hooker. uniform transplant of Arabic Islamic interpretation directly to the archipelago: the archipelago had never been conquered by invading armies.current issues in indonesi an islam 233 in this were.124 Against such a backdrop. see Ratno Lukito. 126 Mohammed Atho Mudhzar. 2003). South East Asia: A Short History (London: Macmillan. which in turn assisted in its spread and maintained a plurality of belief systems functioning interconnectedly with one another. (Nih:ya) and Ibn Eajar (TuAfa). 1978). 124 M. 1963). ‘Law and Politics in Post-Independence Indonesia: A Case Study of Religion and Adat Courts’. . 14. 4. largely due to the presence of local custom (:dat). 93. the development of a series of distinct Malay and Javanese fiqh texts in the seventeenth century. inland agrarian kingdoms and tribal hinterlands. 14. was known through sixteenth-century commentaries on fiqh by al-Raml. Islam demonstrated an ability to come to some accommodation with other systems of belief.125 The Sh:fi6. 125 M. and secondly. :d:t were seen by many as the natural expression of Indonesian justice: Hooker. Studia Islamika 6 (1999). smothered under a centralised regime.126 These and other materials were translated in the 122 For more on Islam moving to Indonesia. doctrine which came to dominate in Indonesia.122 Historically. the manner in which Islam spread across Indonesia. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. B.123 Apart from the trading stations of North Sumatra. B. Adat Law in Modern Indonesia (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. across the rest of Indonesia pre-Islamic institutions encountered a good deal of difficulty in accommodation. A Concise Legal History of South East Asia (Oxford: Clarendon Press. Islam dan Hukum Islam di Indonesia (Jakarta: Indonesian-Netherlands Cooperation in Islamic Studies. These factors were influential in creating a plurality of beliefs within Indonesian Islam from the literal to the interpretive. Hooker. 123 Hefner. In the early years of Islam in Indonesia. or supervised by an omnipotent empire. see Brian Harrison. there never was a simple. Regional Indonesian :d:t differences were critical to how Islam was received across different areas of the archipelago. 1978). where the simplicity and austerity of Islamic rule superimposed itself locally. For more on this topic. :d:t and Islam had a shared existence long predating the intervention of the colonial powers in Indonesian legal affairs and a relationship that was in general based on respect and coexistence. The striking feature of political organisation in the modern archipelago was that it was organised around a ‘pluricentric’ pattern of mercantile city-states.

. Studia Islamika.127 The complex texts allowed for Indonesian versions of such abstracts as ‘duty’. 1 (1970).129 Its interpretation and incorporation of Islam was pluralistic in nature and balanced throughout the archipelago by :dat practices and beliefs.130 The result was the paradox that is Indonesia: a population that simultaneously embraces Islam whilst revering the Javanese wayang shadow puppetry. Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa. Indonesian law. and Islam are all considered sources of law. B. For more on these texts see van Bruinessen. 129 Ibid.1 (January 1997). Islamic Law and Society. and where for most of the people. ‘Indonesia’s Nurcholish Madjid and Abdurrahman Wahid as Intellectual Ulama: The Meeting of Islamic Traditionalism and Modernism in neo-Modernist Thought’. The Origins of Islamic Reform in South East Asia: Networks of Malay-Indonesia and Middle Eastern Ulama in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century (Leiden: KILTV Press. and in even the most technical acts of prescription.131 By the twentieth century. 1986). International Journal of Middle East Studies. ‘Islamic Modernism: Its Scope. 12. 132 Fazlur Rahman. which describes the religion of Islam everywhere in Indonesia as ‘culturally defined’. Law and Equality in Indonesia. ‘sovereignty’ and ‘authority’. Thus. 2004) and Jajat Burhanudin. ‘Aspiring for Islamic Reform: South East Asian Requests for Reform in Al Manar’. Islam. the Indonesian material was not a simple copying of the original Arabic sources. Adat Law in Modern Indonesia. 131 Bowen. 10. and by the 1950s traditional Islam and its leaders were being steadily pushed from the limelight by modernists. 4. or M. I have examined this balancing in an unpublished paper (2005): ‘The Effectiveness of Regional Attempts to Revive Shari6ah in Indonesia: South Sulawesi’.132 The modernist tradition was influential in independent Indonesia.128 They were not adaptations or copies of the Arabic but original works empowering a local understanding of Islam. 133 Greg Barton.234 p iers g il le spie sixteenth century and allowed for seventeenth-century Malay and Javanese hybrid texts in which fiqh elements were incorporated into local rules. See also Azyumardi Azra. Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa. 130 Hooker. 1 (2005). Method and Alternatives’. Laws of South East Asia (Singapore: Butterworth. for Indonesian interpretations of Arabic Islam. 39. 128 Hooker. :dat. Hooker. from the very beginning. ‘rule’.133 Neither traditionalists nor modernists were at ease crossing into the other’s domain and the mid-century 127 Hooker. 10. ‘Muslims of the Dutch East Indies and the Caliphate Question’. Islamic reform across the world was developing in response to contemporary demands and the need to integrate modern thought and institutions with Islam.

). . ‘Media Dakwah Scriptualism’. 138 Ibid. the group that most vociferously upheld the MUI’s Ahmadiyya fatwa.135 a form which Hefner called civil pluralist Islam. to which is connected the thinking behind the 2005 MUI fatwa. and of the many groups vocal in its defence. 136 Robert Hefner. a traditionalist Indonesian thinker who played a fundamental role in Indonesia’s independence. Towards a New Paradigm: Recent Developments in Indonesian Islamic Thought (Tempe.137 The ‘scriptualists’ tenaciously opposed the dominant pluralist paradigm in Indonesia throughout the New Order period. 41. ‘Varieties of Muslim Politics: Civil versus Statist Islam’ in Fuad Jabali and Jamhari (eds. 23) notes that by the time of the Suharto years.136 It is unsurprising that this outlook was able to flourish during the Suharto regime. 1996). they did not advocate adaptation 134 Ibid.current issues in indonesi an islam 235 preoccupation with modernity accentuated this ill-ease. 14. enabling it to flourish while other more traditional and conservative strands of Islamic thought had to contend with restrictions. the DDII remained the strongest voice opposing the neomodernists. Majelis Ulam Menyoal Ahmadiyah (2005): <www.139 Throughout the 1980s and neo-modernism generally enjoyed tacit toleration by the Suharto regime. republikaonline.140 Unlike the latter. 140 Liddle. as it denied the wisdom of a monolithic state and instead affirmed democracy. 139 Republika Online. 135 Kolig (‘Modernisation without Secularisation’. explained the relationship between the modernists and traditionalists as one in which ‘they treated us like cats with ring worm’. voluntarism and a balance of countervailing powers— a state and a society.asp?mid¼5&ad¼282391&kat_ id¼104 at 29 September 2005. ‘Media Dakwah Scriptualism: One Form of Islamic Political Thought and Action in New Order Indonesia’ in Mark Woodward (ed. It shows the deep-seated animosity and suspicion that already existed.). AR: Arizona State University.138 Their resilience continued the ongoing lineage of conservative thinking in Indonesia. Islam in Indonesia: Islamic Studies and Social Transformation (2002). the Dewan Dakwah. 329. 137 William Liddle. Mohammed Natsir. through their monthly scriptualist magazine.134 The mercantile and industrial development of Indonesia over this period went hand in hand with a distinctly Indonesian form of modernist Islam. An example is Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII). stricter reading of the religious texts. His favouring one form of Islam over another caused considerable irritation amongst those Muslims in Indonesia who followed a more traditional.

it is still useful.143 Neo-modernism sought to move on from Islamic institutions and symbolism and focus more on the substantive nature of Islamic political struggle. 1994). Legge (eds. . 37. a prominent Indonesian modernist Muslim intellectual who repeatedly clashed with Indonesia’s first President Sukarno regarding the relationship between religion and the state in the early 1950s.). B: The rise and rise of Indonesian neo-modernism Over the past 35 years in Indonesia. Readings on Islam in South East Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 329. the new Islamic intellectual movement called ‘neo-modernism’ arose out of the well-established ‘Islamic modernism’. an Islamic teacher of the 1970s. whom it accused of abandoning central Islamic beliefs and offering only a vague theosophist-style of spiritualism.). Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa. He represents a typical example of presentday Islamic resentment of the cultural aspects of modernization—deriding the nation’s capital. 1985). Nevertheless I do acknowledge the limitations of the terminology used here. see Hooker. gambling.: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies. ‘The Impact of Neo Modernism on Indonesian Islamic Thought: The Emergence of a New Pluralism’ in David Bourchier and J. To describe them as either modernist. believing instead that it sufficed to apply Qur8:n and Sunna conscientiously. 143 While not all Indonesian Muslims who fit into the movement broadly defined by Fazlur Rahman as neo-modernism would want to be identified by it. Democracy in Indonesia in the 1950s and 1990s (Calyton. neo-modernist or traditionalist is inadequate. I believe that the scriptualists’ thinking is also intimately connected to the critiques of Sidi Gazalba. For a translation of one of the debates.142 These criticisms of Madjid are very similar to those now being faced by the Indonesian liberals currently opposing the MUI fatwa. Abdurrahman Wahid and Nurcholish Madjid. Vic. on what he confusingly terms both ‘westernization’ and ‘modernization’. for neither of them is solely one of these. 142 Liddle. See Greg Barton. 370.236 p iers g il le spie of Islam to modern conditions. ‘Muslim Ideological Responses to the Issue of Modernisation in Indonesia’ in Ahmad Ibrahim (ed. Arguably the two leading neo-modernists figures. come from what is a ‘traditionalist’ background. and bundling modernism. ‘Media Dakwah Scriptualism’. which was why as early as 1969 its advocates in Indonesia were suggesting that Pancasila be accepted as the political 141 Ibid.141 DDII’s magazine was openly hostile to Nurcholish Madjid in particular. a leading neomodernist Indonesian thinker. Gazalba’s critique can be read in Muhammed Kamal Hassan. prostitution and immorality all together. The scriptualist thinking reflected the outlook of Mohammed Natsir.

exegesis that was rational and sensitive to the historical and cultural contexts of both the original scriptures and the modern societies that now seek their guidance. provoking considerable controversy in early 2000 by recommending an itjih:d. the connection between the revealed text and modern society did not turn upon a revealed hermeneutic.current issues in indonesi an islam 237 ideal in Indonesia.145 For them. 6. Ch. 1. 148 Ulil and MuAammad 6Abd<h. 1982).148 Abdalla’s slogan—‘go beyond the text. the Liberal Islam Network (JIL) has proven to be a vocal irritant with its coordinator.144 The neo-modernists held that the older leaders and activists of political Islam had at some point fixed a religious view of worldly affairs that was too formulaic.php?page¼article&id¼399. ‘Survei Nasional: Dukungan dan Pennolakan Terhadap Radikalisme Islam’ (2005). 146 Ibid. 2005.n al-Afgh:n. 145 Effendy. See Nurcholish Madjid. Greg Barton. Islam and the State in Indonesia. The word ‘small’ is used intentionally. This argument may be likened to that of the prominent Islamic reformers such as Jam:l al-D. 147 Muhammed Kamal Hassan. The neo-modernists were seeking a universal methodology for Qur8:nic exegesis. that is the challenge’—made him very unpopular amongst members of the hard line Islamic groups now close to the MUI. ‘Neo Modernism: A Vital Synthesis of Traditionalist and Modernist’. See Lembaga Survei Indonesia. 4 provides an overview of the ulema’s response to this movement. it has been a major influence within broader Indonesian society today. methodology that put the importance of contextuality above the Sunna itself. islamlib. Muslim Intellectual Responses to New Order Modernization in Indonesia (Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. 70.html4 at 10 August. Studia Islamika. Avoiding Bibliolatry (2002) at <http://www. . Ulil Abshar Abdalla. Kementerian Pelajaran. but rather upon an interpretation of the spirit and broad intent behind the specific language of the texts. ‘Islamic Roots of Modern Pluralism: Indonesian Experiences’.1 (January 1994). and his ideas stood in stark contrast to senior 144 The Indonesian Islamic Student Organization under Nurcholish Madjdid advocated this in particular during the 1970s. JIL is less known than almost every other Islamic group within Indonesia.147 The growth of liberalism and the myriad of new interpretations of Indonesian cultural life in Indonesia during the first five years of the twenty-first century was a source of much resentment for conservative Muslims in Indonesia.146 Whilst the majority of the Indonesian ulema rejected such thinking. One small liberal clique. legalistic and scriptualistic in orientation.

152 The disjuncture between the liberalists and the literalists helped perpetuate the long-held notion of a ‘conspiracy’. ‘Behind the Scenes: Fatwas of Majelis Ulama Indonesia 1975– 1998’. 152 Din Syamsuddin. 150 Hosen. conservative Indonesian Islamic individuals were publicly expressing the MUI’s great disappointment with the ‘offensive’ liberal thinking occurring within the country. MUI Deputy Chairman quoted in Hera Diani. it prefers not to reason freely. Transcript ‘JI: Terror again in Indonesia’. 3 October 2005 or see International Crisis Group. The kyai issuing the fatwa. 2004). demonstrated by the oft-repeated phrase (from Sunan al-Tirmidhi): ‘I have left upon you two weighty things. ‘Moderates. 159. Menangkal Bahaya Jaringan Islam Liberal (JIL) dan FLA (Jakarta: Pustaka Al-Kautzar.’151 By 2004. 149 . citing two fatwas—in 1983 and 1980 that use the same or similar text. see Sidney Jones. the organisation that he leads. Conservatives Dispute Freedom of Thought’ in Jakarta Post (14 September. ‘Recycling Militants in Indonesia: Darul Islam and the Australian Embassy Bombing’. Whilst the groups issuing the fatwas lacked credibility and were easily dismissed. 151 Hosen. with an increasing number of Indonesians suspicious of what they saw as a US-led plan to defeat Islam as part of a JewishZionist plot. By suggesting a process that at times circumvented the Sunna. ‘Fatwa and Politics in Indonesia’. 92 (2005). You will not be in error if you hold [to] them. the book of Allah and my Sunnah.153 This ‘conspiracy theory’ has existed in Indonesia since the days of the Dewan Dakwah magazine and been fed by similar theories held within the worldwide umma. 2005). particularly for matters already regulated in the Qur8:n and Sunna. the MUI have consistently held the Qur8:n and Sunna to be the exegetical sources used in evolving their fatwas. Abdalla gained further notoriety in 2001 when he became the target of two ‘death fatwas’ by rival Indonesian Islamic groups.149 The MUI believe that whilst the role of 6aql (reason) is significant.’ See Hartono Ahmad Jaiz. the fact that JIL was ‘sponsored by USAID’ was used repeatedly to justify Ibid. What we want to do is tear down the motif behind JIL.238 p iers g il le spie MUI discourse. (Asia Report. In Indonesia.150 From their inauguration in 1975. 2. Lateline Program. what could not be denied was the level of hateful anger in certain sections of the Indonesia umma towards liberal and pluralist Islam. 153 This is not a new idea and has been articulated by many over the years. Athian Ali Mohammed Dai stated in his ‘fatwa’: ‘It is too minimal if all we do is eliminate Ulil. For the most recent indication that this idea is alive and well. Abdalla was suggesting a method that was in direct opposition to that which had been used by the MUI for 35 years.

It was also articulated by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir in an interview in September 2005 with Scott Atran.html4 at 15 September. stated: The fatwa will not be recalled. Menyikapi perbedaan pasca fatwa MUI. 194.indosiar. Menangkal Bahaya Jaringan Islam Liberal (JIL) dan FLA. or in more modern times. 2005. The liberals can keep on protesting. 7 in 2005. Fauzan Al Ansyari. because of the general acceptance of Pancasila.html4 at 15 September. During the debate.154 A typical comment was that by MUI board member Ali Mustafta Ya6qub who. the accomodationalist attitude that endures towards local values. cited in <www. Indonesia continues to be a nation that largely embraces Islam within a pluralist context. We know who is paying them. Indeed. the Ford Foundation. there had been years of political upheaval and widespread religious reflection but the permutations had not lessened the hold liberal Indonesian Muslims had on the broader Indonesian Islamic agenda and its relationship to the secular state. the Head of Data and Information for the MMI. We know where they get their food. stated: ‘What surprises us is that the people who are attacking the fatwa are those NGOs and institutions that receive their funding from the USAID.current issues in indonesi an islam 239 this accusation. ‘The Emir: An Interview with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir.asp?TOPIC_ID¼17099.indosiar. 155 Ya6qub. We are not afraid of their protests. upon looking back at the circumstances that had led to its release. Islam dan Hukum Islam di Indonesia. in defending the fatwa. 15 September. www. the Indonesian social system has always shown itself to be resistant to Islamic activism. 2005.html4 at 3 October. 2005 3(9) at <http://jamestown.156 154 Ali Mustafta topic. Whether this is because of the lack of religious hierarchy among Sunni Muslims. and the Asia Foundation. CONCLUSION Historically. V. 156 Mudzhar. .155 By 2005. Alleged Leader of the Southeast Asian Jemaah Islamiyah Organization’ in Global Terrorism Analysis: Spotlight on Terror. The frustration felt as a result of this situation was a considerable part of the motivation for the release of MUI Fatwa perhaps the only surprise is that it took the MUI so long to issue such a fatwa. Jaiz.asp?TOPIC_ID¼ 2005. The sentiment was also heard in a controversial radio debate after the fatwa on Radio Berita.’ See the transcript. 21.php?articleid¼2369782.

although at best an inchoate and spluttering assemblage of voices. From the discussion of the links to this historical lineage. the MUI’s continuing reliance on government funding will mean that the organization will either encounter accusations of collusion and bias when it agrees with unpopular government policy. E-mail: p. Whilst the 2005 congress and the resultant fatwas positioned the organization as conservative within the scale of modern Indonesian Islamic thought. .edu. As the controversy aroused by the fatwa begins to recede. it remains to be seen how successful the MUI will be in demarcating a new role for itself in a rapidly changing Indonesia. This growing frustration influenced (if it did not inspire) the release of Fatwa No. Further.157 Secondly. and the scriptualist outlook remains genuinely appealing to a consistent segment of the Indonesian Muslim community. it links the scriptualist thinking of the Dewan Dakwah magazine days in the 1970s to arguments of the groups that defended the fatwa. The MUI will need to deploy new concepts and approaches to inform the Indonesian umma of their position on relevant societal and political matters. though more appealing to Westerners and Indonesian Islamic liberals. at first by the liberal Islamic movement during the New Order regime.gillespie2@pgrad. the MUI will continue to face the challenge of defining their role and articulating their position in modern Indonesian society. The way they refer to Qur8:nic texts is similar to the liberalists. and then more recently by neo-modernism and the liberal Islam movement. as some of the Indonesian liberals have attempted to 157 Mark Woodward. Given these significant challenges. or that it will have an uneasy and difficult relationship with the government when it disagrees with its policies.240 p iers g il le spie This paper has demonstrated such pluralism by analysing both the MUI fatwa and the diverse responses to it. There has been a lineage of conservative thinking in Indonesia that has been frustrated. the conservatives who were so outspoken in defence of the fatwa cannot simply be ignored or dismissed as ignorant polemicists.unimelb. Firstly. two further important points emerge. Towards a New Paradigm: Recent Developments in Indonesian Islamic Thought. 47. neo-modernist understanding of pluralism and liberalism is only one of a multiplicity of possible understandings of Islam. 7. the paper has shown that Indonesian society has changed extraordinarily over the past few years. The MUI will continue to shoulder the ‘historical baggage’ of an Islamic organization that for many years sided with the New Order regime policies rather than aligning itself more closely with the Indonesian umma.