Islam and Modern Trends
Haji Alamsjah Ratu Perwiranegara, “Islam and Modern Trends,” in Mormons and Muslims: Spiritual Foundations and Modern Manifestations, ed. Spencer J. Palmer (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University 2002), 67–82.
At the time of the symposium, Haji Alamsjah Ratu Perwiranegara was the minister of religion of the Republic of Indonesia. Haji is an honorific title bestowed upon Muslims who have made a pilgrimage to Mecca, a duty enjoined upon all believers who are able to do so at least once during their lifetime
Paper read by Haji Anton Timur Djaelani, Director General for Islamic Institutional Development, Department of Religion, Republic of Indonesia.
Mr. Djaelani: Mr. Kennedy, whom I thank for that introduction, is a close friend of our minister of religion of the Republic of Indonesia. The minister’s name is Mr. Haji Alamsjah Perwiranegara, but we call him Bapak (father) Alamsjah. All the prominent leaders and high-ranking government officials in Indonesia call him father. This is important to know, I think, because what I have seen here among the Mormons leads me to believe that family life and family relations are very important for you as well as in the Indonesian culture.
Let me express Mr. Alamsjah’s personal regrets that pressing activities in connection with the May 1982 elections in Indonesia keep him from this very important symposium. Let me also express his appreciation for the opportunity to explain a unique aspect of our country in this setting.
Indonesia is not a secular state. It is also not a state with a particular state religion. But it is a national state based on the five principles of state philosophy called pancasila, a Hindu term. Panca means five, and sila means principles. What follows is Bapak’s message.
Islam, the world religion which has the greatest number of converts annually, is still commonly referred to by many European writers as Muhammadanism (as of 1983). The latter term is derived by analogy with Christianity, taken from its founder, Jesus Christ; or Buddhism, taken from the name of its founder, Gautama Buddha. The term is not known or accepted in the Muslim world. It appears in neither the Qur’an nor the hadith (traditional sayings or teachings of Muhammad).
The religion of Muhammad (peace be upon him), which is properly called Islam, is the religion neither of any particular people nor of any particular society nor of any particular place.
Islam is a universal religion.
The Muslims use the Arabic word Islam (to submit oneself, submission, or obedience to Allah, the Almighty) to refer to their religion, as this word is found in the holy Qur’an. Those who confess the religion of Islam are called Muslim (those who submit to God’s will).
Submission and obedience are not exacted by force. Submission is stimulated by one’s intention to gain eternal happiness—happiness that can be obtained only when one has the guidance of religion, for the Muslims’ religion is based on the doctrine that “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”
Islam also means to “be at peace” in the sense that every Muslim should be obedient and submissive to his God, and peace also means that every Muslim is both obliged to restrain himself from doing evil to others and to exert himself to do good to all mankind. It is stated in the Qur’an, Surat al-Baqara, which would be interpreted, “Nay, whoever submits his whole self to God and is a doer of good, he will get this reward with his Lord. On such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (Qur’an 2:112).
Thus, built into the very name of Islam is its character as a religion of peace. Its principal doctrine is the belief that God is only one and that unity in fraternity is, for mankind, a necessity. It is on this basis that Islam constitutes a guidance for the Muslims in spreading Islam throughout the earth. The battles in earlier periods of Islamic history were self-defense from external threats and attacks by non-Muslim people who did not want Islam to be glorious in the world.
Islam is the last religion which has permanently changed the history of the world. Its doctrines retain the elements of Allah’s previous revelations and oblige Muslims to believe in Allah’s prophets and messengers to older revealed religions. This is a major difference between Islam and other religions whose believers are obliged to believe exclusively their own prophet and doctrines. A Jew believes only in the prophets for the Israelites; a Christian believes only in Jesus Christ and some prophets of the Israelites, and so forth.
Islam is not a religion which should be accepted to obtain happiness. Islam is a revelation which constitutes reliable bases of conduct for mankind, because the doctrines are in accordance with human need, not contradictory to human nature. Accordingly, Islam is concerned not only with the hereafter but also with the demands of daily life. A good life today, Muslims believe, will lead to a happy life in the hereafter. In addition to teaching duties toward God such as prayer and fasting, Islam requires believers to deal justly in social interaction among people. Islam has the aim of integrating every aspect of life, making each aspect whole and significant, and only religion can provide such integration and significance.
To gain such a life, Islam points out two things that Muslims must be aware of: the proper relationship between humankind and God, and the proper relationship between humankind and the universe. The consciousness that man has been created by Allah the Almighty, the Most Merciful, the Most Righteous, instills in the believer the desire to reflect Allah’s attributes in himself. For that reason, prayer, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines are designed for bodily, mental, and spiritual training. Salat (prayer), for instance, begins with takfir—saying Allahu akbar (Allah is the Greatest) and ending with salam (peace and Allah’s blessing be upon you all), thus extending benevolence to all mankind and even to all the world of creatures and universe. Such a prayer, sincerely spoken and pondered, fosters a consciousness of die greatness of Allah. This consciousness will save one from vanity, yet it will also preserve him from despair, for a believer also understands Allah as most merciful and most beneficent. Similarly, desiring peace and blessing for all humankind means that every Muslim should become a means of blessing. Such are just a few meanings of salat.
The second aspect of the integrated life is a consciousness of the proper relation between man and his universe. According to Islam, the universe is a reality which should be faced. Appreciating and applying religious teachings should result in harmonious relations between human beings and the universe. Human well-being, within the framework of devotion to Allah, the Almighty, should be the criterion for developing and using new technologies. An individual who is fully aware of being created by God, to whom everything will return, will surely live an integrated and significant life.
The history of Islam has known many great philosophers and scholars dedicated to the study of Islam. Their works have greatly influenced the development of the Muslim world. Their unity of basic principles, however, is not always reflected in the area of detailed proscriptions, rules, and laws known as furu’iyah. The most influential schools of thought in the field of Islamic law are based on the teachings of four great imams (spiritual teachers): Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanafi, and Hanbali. The differences need not concern us today except to note that Islam can accommodate great diversity of philosophy on its foundation of unity in principle.
As another example, Muslims are usually classified as traditionalists or modernists. The traditionalists are generally reluctant to accept new ideas from the West. A traditional educational system stresses the teaching of religious subjects, not the secular subjects associated with the West. Modernists or reformists are generally more open to innovation and willing to adopt the Western educational system with some adaptation to Islamic doctrines. Good Muslims can be associated with either position.
Underlying differences, however, are certain principles held in common. One is that humankind’s mission toward the universe is to acknowledge its reality, not deal with it as an illusion or avoid it. “The Almighty adds to creation as He pleases” (Qur’an 35:1); it is not a fixed and unchanging thing. From God’s creation of a waterfall, for example, humankind has derived electricity and irrigation. We have the duty to think and work for the interests of humankind itself. It is also our duty to make tame and comfortable the seemingly wild and terrible universe. In other words, we have the obligation to civilize the universe. By so doing, we can make better use of it so that we can increase our living standard and devotion to God.
To know the benefits of the universe we need to explore and investigate it. The obligation to equip oneself with knowledge, skill, and intelligence is not only a duty to one’s fellow creatures but a duty to God.
According to Islam, human life should be directed by guidance from God. Because the main sources of Islamic precepts are the holy Qur’an and the hadith, these two sources have become the compass for Muslims. Islamic teachings take on new life in new social contexts as they meet the living reality of the country where Islam develops.
The holy Qur’an and the hadith are not scriptures that shackle the mind. On the contrary, they have materially altered, for the better, the history of the Islamic world from the eighth to the eighteenth centuries, when Europe was still in the dark age. A Muslim engaged in religious duties encounters forces which encourage the growth and development of science, as indicated by the history of such centers of Islamic civilization as Baghdad and Cordova.
The holy Qur’an and the hadith teach a respect for the human mind. Our responsibility is not only to use our intelligence to attain our needs but to use our intelligence properly, in harmony with the way of Allah. As the holy Qur’an records: “They will further say: Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we should not now be among the companions of the blazing fire!” (Qur’an 67:10).
Thus in deciding how to employ his efforts, a Muslim should properly consider what will be beneficial to himself and the society around him. If he is successful, he will create a proper balance between physical and spiritual needs. One hadith from the prophet Muhammad tells us: “Religion is logic: no religion for those without logic.” Perhaps Islam is the only religion that makes the power of thinking the yardstick for truth. In cases of conflict, when reason can no longer distinguish between good and evil, a Muslim, using his logic, will undoubtedly accept the guidance given by religion. In such conflict, God’s revelations will serve as restraint so as to avoid further deviation. With independent judgment (ijtihad), Muslims have tried to overcome the problems brought about by the progress and development which are the products of man’s mind.
Islam also places an obligation on believers to acquire knowledge. This concept is related to the believer’s responsibility to understand this seemingly wild and terrible universe and, through knowledge, to make it tame and comfortable for humankind. This goal can be achieved only after we have understood the purposes and benefits of the elements found in the universe. As the hadith state, “To acquire knowledge is an obligation of every Muslim, man and woman.”
To that end, the prophet Muhammad has also proclaimed that acquiring knowledge cannot be limited by time and place: “Pursue knowledge from the cradle to the grave . . ..Pursue knowledge even to China.”
Fulfilling this obligation once made such Muslims as Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Rhazes (al-Razi) masters of science between the eighth and eighteenth centuries.
The Islamic teachings requiring individuals to perform their religious obligations and to understand the natural world are demanding, but the rewards are mighty indeed: “He granteth wisdom to whom he pleaseth: and he to whom wisdom is granted receiveth indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will grasp the message but men of understanding” (Qur’an 2:69).
In view of humankind’s urgent need of knowledge, every Muslim prayer should be “O my Lord! advance me in knowledge.” With this kind of prayer on their lips, Muslim scholars made Islamic Spain the stepping-stone to Western Europe for such new ideas as philosophy and medicine which brought an end to the Dark Ages.
The good life for a Muslim is one that brings happiness in the present life and the life hereafter. These two parts of life are inseparable. The life one will receive in the hereafter is the result of the life one has led in the present world. The life that puts too much stress on materialism actually violates man’s own nature. Ignoring spiritual matters threatens all of one’s well-being. Islam demands that Muslims pay equal attention to both sides of life, as revealed in Seurat al-Qasas: “But seek, with the wealth which God has bestowed on thee, the home of the hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world” (Qur’an 28:77).
As this verse requires, a Muslim should be equally prepared for life in this world and life in the hereafter, a concept reinforced in the hadith: “Work for your worldly life as though you lived forever, and for the Hereafter, as though you died tomorrow.”
This concept has encouraged Muslims to think about ways by which they can improve daily conditions to increase their happiness both here and hereafter. For all Muslims, the best way is to perform good deeds and exercise ijtihad (independent judgment). As the hadith state, “For those who pioneer a good way is the reward of it and the reward of those who follow it; for those who pioneer an evil way is the sin of it and the sin of those who follow it.”
This hadith has clearly indicated that each Muslim should always try to do something beneficial to himself and to others. To that end, it is necessary for him to interpret Islamic teachings by means of ijtihad.
The Islamic teachings that deal with the vertical relationship between the Creator and the created have inspired Muslims to create effective systems and organizations by which individuals do their duties in accordance with their respective abilities. This is a process that obligates an individual to value planning, organization, and efficiency. In the matter of the teachings that deal with the horizontal relationship between individuals, Islam demands that each Muslim pay attention to the application of religious guidance in such a relationship. Such an orientation will strengthen the unity and fraternity among individuals in society.
In the Islamic view, mankind originates from the first human couple, Adam and Eve, as revealed in the holy Qur’an, Surat an Nisa’: “O mankind! reverence your guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered like seeds countless men and women” (Qur’an 4:1).
Based on the belief that humankind has sprung from a common origin, Islam asserts that human dignity cannot be measured by race, color, language, physique, social status, occupation, and so forth. One’s dignity comes from one’s humanity itself and must not be denied on distinctions of race, sex, kinship, or wealth. An Arab does not rank higher than a non-Arab.
The contents of the holy Qur’an and hadith are not limited to one race. They are meant for all of mankind, regardless of distinctions. On the five continents in more than 160 countries live thousands of different ethnic groups, more than four billion people, all equal in the sight of God, the Almighty. As stated in the holy Qur’an, Surat al-Anbiya’, “We sent thee not but as a Mercy for all creatures” (Qur’an 21:107).
From this verse we can conclude that Islam brings mercy and blessing for the universe, good news and fresh water for the spiritual thirst of any nation. Islam is the liberator of mankind from suffering and uselessness. To retain equilibrium and order in social and national life and to preserve peace, individuals have definite social obligations to help each other in righteousness, to avoid conflicts and division, and to avoid scolding, mocking, and despising each other.
According to Islam, individuals have equal rights and opportunity in conformity with their natures. Islam does not, however, approve of deviation of artificial equalities—or as put by a contemporary scholar, Maududi, in The Islamic Way of Life, “replacing limited natural inequalities by artificial equalities.”
To measure the degree of one’s dignity, Islam sets spiritual values as the standard. As stated in the holy Qur’an, Surat alHujurat: “Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you” (Qur’an 49:13).
As a religion, Islam’s teachings direct all fields of human life: material, mental, and spiritual. Islam provides guidance so that an individual, as a good citizen, functions as an energetic and responsible element in the society; and as a spouse and parent, relates to members of the family in the manner appropriate to the guidance of God. Thus, as the servant of God, country, society, and family, a good Muslim is able to spread God’s blessing on earth, promote social justice and a healthy economy, and increase knowledge, all of which will increase the happiness of mankind. No area of life’s activity is left untouched by Islamic teachings. The light of Islam guides and directs all activities of Muslims in building a prosperous and peaceful life.
Islamic teachings are comprehensive, and in Islam there should be no place for poverty, ignorance, backwardness, and fanaticism. On the contrary, Islam gives effective answers to the challenge of the modern world based on concepts which can make this life more meaningful without disregarding the reality of moral and spiritual aspects of the human personality. Unlike the Christian dictum, “Render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto
God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21), Islam does not compartmentalize but instead provides a proper balance between material and spiritual life.
To achieve this balance is to redress an unfortunate overemphasis on otherworldly matters that led to weakness in the Muslim world after the eighteenth century. Such recent Muslim scholars as al-Maududi, al-Banna, and al-Hudaibi were motivated to restructure Muslim life more holistically to show the relevance of Islam to the challenges of modern life. While this phase of Islamic development continues, Muslim solidarity requires cooperation even at the expense of some limitation on individual freedoms. Muslims must develop the social aspects of Islamic values so that Islam will remain a vital element in the reality of national life in each country where it develops.
Such a challenge is great. Our technological culture has a great and sometimes negative impact upon religious values. Can religion survive modern life? The phenomenon of increasingly secularized Western societies with little or no interest in religious values has made the question more urgent.
Islam stands at the crux of a paradox. As a Muslim, I have a strong belief that Islam is the last religion, the religion for all mankind. The Qur’an, I believe, is the one and the only most original holy book containing guidance for earthly life and for life hereafter. Yet the historical fact remains that Islam fell into a deep slumber while the Western world was developing rapidly. Moreover, after Westerners conquered the Islamic world, the condition of the Muslim adherents became worse. How can a dynamic and true religion produce backward peoples?
A number of Muslim thinkers and reformers have described various aspects of the problem, some blaming it on Muslim politics, others on orthodoxy, and others on the secularism of adapting Islamic teachings overreadily to meet changing conditions.
I would like to summarize the points of view of prominent modern Muslim thinkers on the cause and treatment of the backwardness of the Muslims.
According to Muhammad ‘Abd ul-Wahhab, the backwardness of Islam arose because the door of ijtihad (independent judgment) was closed, the ‘aqida (creed) was polluted as a result of thirteenth-century tariqat (mysticism), and further weakened by animism and khurafat (superstition). He urged Muslims not to worship tombs, stones, or saints but to worship only Allah. He strongly felt that a Muslim should be guided only by the Qur’an and by the hadith that taqlid (indiscriminate adoption of traditional religious interpretations) by the ‘ulama’ (Islamic scholars) must be avoided, and that the ijtihad is open, not closed.
But perhaps his greatest contribution was to firmly declare the necessity of reopening the door of ijtihad after Ibn Taimiyah had declared that after the deaths of the four imams, Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali, the door of ijtihad was closed.
Rifa’ah Badawi Rafi’al-Tahtawi (1801–1873) was born in Egypt. As part of the Mediterranean community with its lively interchange of cultures, he fearlessly suggested learning from the West, especially stressing the primacy of literacy as the key to accelerated improvement. In addition, he also rejected the overemphasis on submitting to the will of Allah that had become fatalistic and had brought the Muslims toward backwardness. In his Road for Egyptians towards Understanding Modern Literature he described the importance of achieving progress for the Muslims.
Sayyid Jamaluddin al-Mghani (1839–1897) felt that the backwardness of Islam was not caused by Islam itself or the orthodoxy of its teachings but because the Muslims left its true teachings and followed outside teachings, particularly those from the West.
As he outlined matters in politics, the backwardness of Islam was caused by factions in the Muslim communities, absolute governments, entrusting the leadership of the umma (Islamic community) to unreliable persons, neglecting defense, entrusting state administration to incompetent leaders, and allowing foreign intervention. Therefore, if the Muslims longed for the rebirth of the glory of Islam, they must first free themselves or their countries from Western domination.
Obviously a related symptom was the weakened condition of Muslim brotherhood. Accordingly Iamaluddin aI-Afghani urged that Pan-Islamism should be revived, since through unity and close cooperation the Muslim world would be able to win independence and improve itself.
Muhammad ‘Abdu (1849–1905) was the pupil of Jamaluddin al-Mghani. Carrying further the ideas of his teacher, he elaborated the causes of the weaknesses of the Islamic community. The faith and worship of the Muslim had been tainted by nonreligious teachings, or bid’a. They had seized and burdened the Muslim’s life through ritual feasts that had never been taught by the Messenger. He therefore urged freeing themselves from the bounds and burdens of bid’a and returning to the purity and simplicity of Islam. Further, the Muslims had become enmeshed in regulations which had been applicable for the Islamic community a thousand years earlier; thus, he urged the ‘ulama’ to reform Islamic laws to meet problems of the present age, as long as they did not touch creed and ritual.
He also argued that the shortage of Muslim scholars and scientists could be corrected by a balanced educational system, but a Muslim one—not a Western one. He also urged that Islam break the political hold of the West and stop being Western colonies.
Muhammad ‘Abdu’s search of the Qur’an and the hadith found many teachings which could be applied to social problems. Obviously these principles could be made relevant to the conditions existing in each age, but new interpretations would be required. Of necessity the door of ijtihad should be opened. Also, because Muslims need science to develop their community, he took the initiative in establishing a more modern educational system and encouraged not only his students but all Muslims to avoid fatalism.
Some of Abdu’s prominent followers and pupils are Rashid Rida, Haykal, Mustafa ‘Abd al-Raziq, Taha Husain, and ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq. In the Muslim world, the influence of Iamaluddin and ‘Abdu is considerable, especially in Indonesia.
Like other Muslim thinkers, Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1876–1938) grappled with the question of why Muslim countries were backward in every aspect of civilization. His well-known book The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, argued emphatically and repeatedly that “Islam must be rethought in modern terms.” He too urged that the gate of ijtihad be open.
Iqbal rejected Western society as a model for modern Islam because its emphasis on materialism had alienated it from religious values. He urged the Muslim world to take technology and science from the West without abandoning the religion of Islam. He also rejected capitalism but accepted socialism because of some similarities between Islam and socialism.
Mustafa Kemal (1881–1938), a Turkish thinker who is also known as Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey, is a pioneer of secularization in the Muslim world. His controversial plan called for following the West and adopting its civilization and culture. Westernization, secularization, and nationalism were the foundation of his plan to modernize the Muslim world. He failed, however, and the spirit of Islam continues its search to modernize Turkey on its own terms.
Like some other Muslim thinkers, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–1898) of India held that the Muslim should master science and technology and adapt the norms and values of the West. India’s Aligarh movement embodies this philosophy. Sayyid Amir Ali (1849–1923), also an Indian Muslim thinker, blamed Islam’s backwardness on its history of devotion to ritual and life hereafter. Because closing the gate of ijtihad produced the defeat of rationalism, the revival of rationalism would remedy the disease, he argued.
Indonesia, like other Muslim countries, also has had a colonial history. The Dutch alone occupied its archipelago for 350 years, leaving Muslims second-class citizens in their own land, feeling and experiencing inferiority in every sector of life: political, educational, sociocultural, economic, and so forth.
In the nineteenth century a Dutch Calvinist student of Islam and adviser to the Dutch colonial government, Christian Snouck Hurgronje, recommended to the Dutch government that Islam as religion be differentiated from Islam as political power. Hurgronje advocated that Islam as a religion be tolerated, that a neutral attitude prevail on the governmental level. Islam as religion posed no threat to the colonial government. However, Islam as politics could not be tolerated. All demands of pan-Islamism should be regarded as foreign interference. He further recommended that the government assist in the construction of mosques and aid pilgrims, encouraging the cooperation of local Indonesian elites, the adat (common-law traditional leaders), and priyayi (Indonesian court functionaries).
Balancing these public relations gestures, however, were efforts to paralyze the Indonesian Muslims by disseminating fatalism and antimodern attitudes. Typical false hadith or traditional sayings were “The worldly life is for those who do not believe in Islam, the hereafter is for Muslims”; and “The bad fate undergone by Muslims is natural, since they will attain happiness hereafter.”
Hurgronje also urged that local common-law traditions (adat), which have the force of law, should be accepted in a clash with Islamic law. Furthermore, the Dutch colonial government created a dual system of education: Islamic education and secular education.
In reaction to these colonial policies, several Muslim movements appeared with a variety of emphases but all working to revive the spirit of Islam and reconstruct religious thoughts.
Sarekat Islam was the first political movement in Indonesia before independence. Born in reaction to the Dutch economic system, which weakened the economic role of the Muslim majority by making it difficult to leave the peasant class, Sarekat Islam’s aim was to modernize the Indonesian people through fraternity, unity, and cooperation among the Muslims.
In his report to the Dutch colonial government, Dr. Hazeu, adviser for native affairs, called Sarekat Islam a reflection of the people’s consciousness seen through the way the people talked and dressed, their attitudes, and so on.
Muhammadiyah, a Muslim reform organization, was founded in Java in 1912 by K. H. Ahmad Dahlan, following the example of reform movements in Egypt and India. It lays special emphasis on education, social welfare, and Islamic propagation. It advocated opening the gate of ijtihad.
Nahdlatul Ulama was founded by K. H. Hasyim Asy’ari of Iombang, East Java, in 1926, originally in protest against Turkey’s abolition of the caliphate but soon expanding its aims to strengthen unity among the ‘ulama’ to spread Islam, to assist mosques, and care for orphans and the poor. Byholding firmly to the doctrines of the ahl is-surma wa-l-jama’a (the traditional “orthodox” majority) it succeeded in fostering unity among the Muslims. When Japan occupied the archipelago in 1942 many of the ‘ulama’ were empowered to deal with religious affairs.
Many other modernist Muslim organizations were born during the preindependence period: Persyarikatan Ulama (the Union of Ulama), founded by K. H. Abdul Halim in Majalengka, West Java; the Paderi Movement in West Sumatra; Sheikh Ahmad Chatib’s movement, also in West Sumatra; Persatuan Islam (the Moslem Union) in Bandung, West Java; and Alwashliyah, founded in Medan, North Sumatra.
When independence was achieved after World War II, religion was integrated into the social fabric. Indonesia has a population of more than 140 million; 99 percent believe in one religion or else subscribe to the pancasila, the five philosophic principles of the state:
1. Belief in the one and only God;
3. Indonesian unity;
4. Democracy based on the wisdom through consultation with the people;
5. Social justice for all Indonesians.
These five principles have inspired all Indonesian political, economic, and sociocultural systems.
The first principle is, in reality, a reiteration that Indonesian people believe in God the Almighty; accordingly, there is no room for atheism and secularism.
Indonesians are fully aware that our independence, as stated in the 1945 constitution, is a blessing from God the Almighty; this is further stipulated in Article 29, where the state fully guarantees the freedom of each citizen to confess his respective religion (e.g., Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Hinduism, Buddhism) and to practice it.
The state gives active support in building places of worship, providing holy scriptures, and managing religious education from elementary to university levels. At the university level, for instance, we have fourteen state institutes for Islamic studies scattered throughout Indonesia. At the elementary and secondary levels there are thousands of religious schools, both government run and privately run. In jurisprudence, Islamic civil laws have been authorized by the government in the Islamic court of law, and Islamic marriage offices have also been set up throughout Indonesia.
As a nation with very strong religious beliefs, it is our wish that the universal values of religion be manifested in the nation’s life towards a peaceful, just, and prosperous society; because spiritual and material prosperity are so closely linked, we recognize no separation between religion and state—we do not consider them two separate worlds. Our state’s philosophy, pancasila, and religion are so closely interwoven that each strengthens the other. That is why secularism has no place in our national life.
It should be noted that pancasila, in its present form, as the state’s principles, was endorsed by the four well-known Muslim leaders, Ki Bagus Hadikusumo, K. H. Wahid Hasjim, Kasman Singodimedjo, and Teuka Hasan on 18 August 1945.With the new spirit of national unity and tolerance, they willingly agreed to omit seven words attached to the first principle which made it obligatory for the Muslims to practice their religious teachings. With that historic agreement, Muslims have a sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility towards pancasila. It is our belief that without the broad-mindedness of these four unselfish Muslim leaders, Indonesia would not be a unified state today. This unity is further strengthened by the fact that we as a nation have five things in common that guard us against dispute and conflict: one national language, one nation, one country, one government, and one state ideology, pancasila.
In conclusion, then, Islamic beliefs and their application in Indonesia might be summarized thus:
1. Islam is the religion revealed by God for the whole universe through his messenger, the prophet Muhammad, for the guidance of life in this world and hereafter.
2. Islamic teachings describe the means to achieve happiness not only in the present life but also in the life hereafter.
3. As the result of long oppression and colonization, Islam’s teachings have been misunderstood and misinterpreted, resulting in backwardness in the Muslim world.
4. Islam has the most complete and authentic source of teachings—the Qur’an and hadith.
5. Muslims have shown considerable tolerance and broadmindedness for the sake of Indonesian national unity in sacrificing a political monopoly to accept pancasila as the ideology of the state in spite of the fact that Muslims make up 90 percent of the population.
6. Islam cannot be judged fairly from the fanatical practices of individuals but should be judged by its pure and universal precepts.
7. Scientific and technological advancements have encouraged Muslims to understand and follow their religious teachings.
Those are some clarifications on the issues relating to Islam’s basic teachings. It is hoped that they give a clearer picture and understanding of Islam.