Reaffirming Islamic-Indonesian Theology in Religious Revival Era | By: Hakimul Ikhwan

01 June 2018 | admin
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Today’s era is broadly called religious revival era. Religion, which is originally predicted by many social scientists, will be in ‘bankruptcy’ along with the development of modernization and industrialization. In fact, it appears to be the most important element. Religion—symbols, concepts, institutions—exists and permeates all aspects of life among society in the 21st century.

In fact, millennial people who are most exposed to information and digital communication is nowadays the main agents that bring up religious narratives in public sphere. A very senior Muslim activist said that college students are more solemn in their prayers than the activists in the past. Sabyan—one of Gambus music group which consists of very young artists—is very fluent in singing Deen Assalam that echoes everywhere, food stalls, malls, and cafes. Also, Dodi Hidayatullah who was very nicely changed the lyrics of Despacito—that is considered moral-less and banned in Malaysia for this reason—had rearranged the song to be a song full of symbolism and Islamic messages. In a more extreme form, young groups are giving birth to a wave of ISIS followers in Europe. They secretly organize and succeed crossing the country’s territorial boundaries to join the ISIS military force.

It has become a sign of the times that the Islamic country—also Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism—is increasing. The widespread of the awareness on being a kaffah Muslim or a complete Muslim among Muslims has also increased. Among professionals, they decided not to use conventional banks and switch to sharia banks in order to be fully Muslim. Among educated young people, many of them consciously decide to change their life to trading. This type of work, in their view, is the work that the Prophet Muhammad SAW liked best. Many of them decide to ‘emigrate’ out of government institutions, as civil servants, or private employees to achieve a ‘more blessing’ life. Therefore, the label ‘Halal’ is today’s main reference for the Muslim community to buy products. It is not only applied to food products, beverages, and cosmetics, but also other products such as refrigerators and headscarves.

The passion of Muslims to become a kaffah Muslim is also shown by a large wave of Umrah and Hajj travel. One of the businesses that are currently popular is the Hajj and Umrah travel agencies since the demand is always high, especially in certain seasons such as Ramadan and Islamic New Year. The First Travel and Ash Tour scandal does not seem to affect this business. Travel agencies compete to attract the pilgrims, either by offering cheap ticket or cooperation with some celebrity artists or celebrity priests (ustadz).

Covering aurat has become commonplace and too mainstream among Muslim women. Therefore, the hijrah process to become a kaffah Muslimah continues to move to the right through the hijabers community, even it has been developing to niqobers. If the initial niqobers had never uploaded photos or selfies on social media, today’s niqobers has been more exposed with photo uploads, niqob modifications while sharing tausiah.

Unfortunately, a strong eagerness to be a kaffah Muslim often clashes with the necessity of being a kaffah Indonesian. In an extreme degree, being a kaffah Muslim is marked by the eagerness to implement the Laws of Allah. Meanwhile, the laws other than God’s laws are considered heretics. The power other than Allah is thaghut.

Indonesian Muslims today are faced with a serious problem reuniting the spirit of Islam and Indonesia. The question is, can we be a kaffah Muslim and a kaffah Indonesian citizen at the same time with the good, the Pancasilais one?

Each generation has its challenges. Our generation is no exception. The challenges of today’s generation are no easier than the previous ones. However, it is also no more difficult than the previous ones.

If we, indeed, understand Islam and any kinds of Islamic expression in various forms of understanding doctrines, verses and texts, and Islamic practices, then we will find the fact that Islam is not a single entity. It is presented and expressed in a variety of interpretations of religious understanding, texts and doctrines, even daily practices that vary among communities, societies, nations, and even periods.

Since the earliest era of Islamic history, there has been a split in religious understanding of kalam text and science. This gave rise to differences in theological groups, for example between As’ariay and Mu’tazilah, Qodariyah and Jabariyah, and Maturudiyah. Moroover, in kalam sciences or monotheism debate, there was a debate if Al-Qur’an is kholiq or makhluq? These historical facts present us that in fundamental and theological terms, Islam is not one. There are many different theological views.

If in theological matters Islam is not a single entity, then it also matters in worship and mu ‘amalah. In the case of prayer, for example, we understand that there are diverse things starting from the reading of prayers between “wajjahtu wajhiya” and “allahumma baa’id baini”, “hand clasping”, and others. The procedure for ablution also varies among the past Islamic initiators (mazhab).

In short, from the five pillars of Islam, the one and the fix one are to say the phrase “laa ilaha illallah, muhammadur rasulullah” and the rest has its differences.

Islam is present in various forms of expression in worship, especially in matters of mu’amalah.

We can distinguish it from the hijab, or Muslim headscarves among Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In fact, the robes worn by female Muslim can be distinguished between the Medina’s and the Yemen’s.

Which one belongs to Islam and which one that does not? or, which one that is more Islamic than others? We find a rich of Islamic tradition in diversity. However, it can be disastrous if there is a claim that one is more Islamic than the others.

The next question is “are there universal Islamic religious traditions or practices?” The answer is yes. That is in terms of saying ‘monotheism sentence or called tauhid’, the number of compulsory prayers or called rakaat, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and Hajj in the month of Hajj. However, there are differences in the implementation of prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage (Hajj).

Based the description above, we can now draw the conclusions; being a Muslim who is kaffah cannot make us free or apart from the particularities of religious practices. Being a kaffah Muslim means practicing Islam seriously and consistently in a particular Islamic methodology that is still particular. Being a kaffah Muslim means to be a kaffah in a certain methodological version and does not mean that one is more Islamic than other methodological versions.

Why is the first conclusion difficult to accept, especially among some Muslims? The answer is because in the mindset of Indonesian Muslims and even in the world, the diversity of religious practices is not present in a vacuum, but is constructed in power relations. Certain religious practices are associated with certain group entities. Slametan is commonly associated with Javanese or Malay community practices. Haflah tasyakuran is associated with Arab societies. Meanwhile, Gamelan is identical to Java and Gambus is identical to the Middle East.

In the power relations, Slametan cannot be equated with the thanksgiving or called haflah tasyakuran. Gamelan is not the same as Gambus becauseJavanese and Malay are not equal to Arabic and Middle East. The power relation presupposes a community entity or group that has more power, more noble, and respectable than other community or group entities. The construction took place in a long span of history and was carried out by parties who were ‘more powerful’ or authoritative. The construction was built in a colonial relationship.

It has been so long that the world was divided into two poles, Eastern and Western. This division was needed by the authorities—the colonials—to build an identity construction that the West (the ruler or colonial) was more powerful, noble, honorable, and civilized. Therefore, Edwar said that the construction of Eastern and Western is not only a matter of world division but also an instrument of colonialism at the same time. The Eastern and Western are regarded as identity constructions that perpetuate colonialism. At the very least, the construction is to construct the ‘power’ difference.

The imbalance of power relations does not only globally occur in the construction of Eastern and Western, but it also happened in sorting the world of Islam. Arab and Middle East are “advanced and respectable Western” representation and non-Arabs (including Malay, Bangladeshi, Indian Muslims, Chinese Muslims, etc.) are “Eastern in the second class and less Islamic” representations. In this imbalance of power relations, the “Eastern (non-Arabic)” strives to become “the Western (Arabic)” in various religious and cultural expressions. In fact, many Easterners (non-Arabs) behave more than Westerners (Arabs). Therefore, the use of robes, turban, and Arabic terms, including Arabic songs has now sneak to the peak.

Therefore, the second conclusion is that the preference for certain religious symbolism and practices which seems to be more primary, noble, and honorable is the result of the effects of colonial way in seeing the world in unequal power relations. An ontological and epistemological practice and cultural expression is not more noble than the others.

The prophetic spirit of Muhammad SAW wants to destroy the colonial perspectives. The Arabic tribes, including Quraysh, felt more noble than others, and the perspective was then revolutionarily destroyed by the Prophet Muhammad SAW by saying “Laa Fadla Li Arabiyin‘ ala ‘Ajamiyin, wa laa kinnal fadhla bittaqwa.”

From the two arguments above, that (1) being a kaffah Muslim does not mean free from the particularity of Islamic religious understanding and practices, and (2) the unequal influence of power relations makes a practice and symbolism more important and noble, and (3) the spirit of prophethood which broke down racism and materialistic chauvinism, then we can build an argument that (4) there is no gap between Islam and Indonesia.

The last, I would like to elaborate the formulation of Al-Quran, which is also the theological basis for bringing together or marrying between Islam and Indonesian-ness.

Allah SWT says in Surah Ibrahim 24-26.

It means: “Have you not noticed how Allah has made good parable words like a good tree is the tree whose roots are strong and its branches soar up to the sky.”

The sentence “toyyibah” in the verse explained by the scholars is a sentence of monotheism or an appeal to the faith in Allah SWT. However, in general, thoyyibah means good sentences, that is, all forms of invitation to goodness.

The verse gives the criteria for thayyibah, which is rooted in the social life of the community that have sociological, structural and cultural context awareness in which the sentence “toyyibah” is conveyed. In this case, understanding the context (sociological/present, and historical/time span) is very important.

There are many examples, ‘itibar’ from Al-Qur’an and Sirah Nabawiyah which emphasizes the importance of contextual (sociological-historical) awareness. There were no obstacles for Allah to directly carry out the Prophet Muhammad to guide to sidratul muntaha, for example. However, since the trip is not an individual journey but it contains a mission for humanity, the Prophet Muhammad was carried out in Israel to Baitul Maqdis to be tested for truth in human reason. There were no obstacles to Allah in making the Prophet Muhammad from any tribe, but since there was tribal stratification in the Arab tradition at that time, it would be easier and more acceptable for the prophets to come from the respectable Quraysh tribe. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad had to bleed in battle, his teeth were broken because the legitimacy of his leadership became stronger back then. Besides, Sayyidina Ali ultimately lost the battle against Mu’awiyah, not because Ali’s faith was lacking, or inferior to Muawiyah. It also does not mean that Allah’s good pleasure for Mu’awiyah is greater than Ali. The defeat was due to the fact and social reality that Mu’awiyah came from a much larger tribe, with much more followers than the tribe’s and Sayyidina Ali’s.

Sociological awareness is also inherent with historical awareness. The characteristic of sociological thinking is historical awareness, that is, something happens not by itself but a long time span process that results from the struggle of various social elements.

The verse uses the word “syajaroh” which in Bahasa Indonesian is called a tree. However, it can also be translated to “history”. Family history or genealogy is also called “syajaroh” in Arabic. Therefore, the mission of monotheism must fulfill the preconditions of awareness of history, both the history of self, family, community, society, and nation.

By the parable of “syajaroh“, the faith becomes solid then in which its roots are firmly pierced (ashluha tsaabit) and its branches (benefits) and the fruit of the goodness soars high (to heaven).

Conversely, bad words or deeds, which do not have sociological and historical awareness, are like bad trees whose roots are uprooted from the ground (earth surface) and cannot be erected in the slightest.

It is referred to parable of the people who do not have historical-sociological awareness, then has no grip and becomes easily oscillated in the flow of discourse that we do not know where it comes from. When the world speaks for anti-terrorism agenda, then it oscillates in the discourse, meaning that it gets carried away to be part of terrorism OR being haunted by fear in the discourse of terrorism. The same thing also happens to the waves of Anti-Ahmadiyah, Anti-Shia, ISIS, and so on. In conclusion, to prevent this, be like a tree that pierces to the earth that is, being a Muslim who has a sociological and historical awareness.

Happy Pancasila Day.

Keep trying to become a kaffah Muslim, as well as a kaffah Pancasilais-Indonesian people.

[] Hakimul Ikhwan, Ph.D. (Researcher at CPPS UGM and Lecturer in Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences UGM)

*Photo of demonstrators at Pancasila Day/