Islamic Sharia

Kata Pengantar Editor

Islamic Sharia
Liberal Muslim Perspective

Title: Syariat Islam, Pandangan Muslim Liberal (Islamic Sharia, Liberal Muslim Perspective) Author: Al Asymawi, Saiful Mujani, Azyumardi Azra, Taufik Adnan Amal, Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, et all. Editor: Burhanuddin Publisher: Jaringan Islam Liberal and the Asia Foundation, June 2003 Price: Rp. 22.000,-
The formulation of historical Islamic law called sharia (An-Na’im, 1994) is complicated regarding its relation with Islam as a belief. Whenever Islamic sharia is discussed within the historical and profane locus and context, Islamic sharia cannot expect any privilege due to consideration of its sacred function and source.
Most of Islamic sharia activists are not ready for rational public discussion. Statements like “sharia is final” or “sharia is superior to secular constitution” for instance, painted the annual session of People’s Consultative Council (MPR). The religious aspiration of some groups to give an Islamic vision to a constitution has led to the construction of a constitutional blue print in Muslim countries.
Lately, a new trend in many Muslim countries has been to implement Islamic sharia under the guise of freedom and democracy. The aspiration of Islamic sharia enforcement is equivalent to a democratic wave in Muslim countries. Some of them talk about democratic idioms and maximize the democratic institutions well as the ways to achieve their goal.
The Justice Party (PKS) in Indonesia, Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria who won the first round election at 1999 which was afterward annulled by the military regime, is an example of Islamic parties fighting for Islamic sharia enforcement in governance. In several Muslim countries like Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, and Kuwait, the Islamist groups compete in the national political arena through the electoral procedure.
Nevertheless, most Islamic governments are established through a non-democratic procedure. For instance Arab Saudi, has consistently enforced Islamic sharia within the context of authoritarianism since Muhammad al-Saud and Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab agreed on a political contract delivering that oil rich kingdom to those dynasties.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan before it was toppled by the US was a good example of how authoritarianism becomes the toll road for the excessive enforcement of Islamic sharia. Likewise in Pakistan at 1980s when “Islamization” was proposed by the military regime under Zia ul-Haq led the Islamist –who never gained the people’s sympathy in the election such as Jamaat-i-Islami established by Abu A’la al-Mawdudi— to collaborate with military power.
This book wishes to provide several facts about Islamic countries’ experience in their dialectic with Islamic sharia and contemporary issues about democracy, human rights, civil society etc. The most asked question is this:” Why do the advocates of Islamic sharia never take any lessons from those Muslim countries who failed to enforce Islamic sharia?
Otherwise, they may deliberately accept the fact in those countries -where the economic growth is low, with a messy indicator of education, the short life span, and the lack of gender equality- as long as Islamic sharia enforced.
Despite of guaranteeing the preservation of political rights and civil liberties, the advocates of Islamic sharia did not seriously reform –as Saiful Mujani called it- the “index of public benefit”. Since the regime of Islamic sharia allows authoritarianism, hence it is difficult, or even impossible, to expect the birth of a healthy public benefit index.
This book is started by an “intellectual provocation” by Egyptian jurist, Muhammad Sa’id al-Asymawi. His preface under the title “Way toward God” is based on the translation of a sub-topic of his masterpiece, Al-Islam al-Siyasi (1992).
The first part contained of five lengthy articles, “Islamic Sharia, Constitutionalism, and Democracy,” “State and Sharia in the Legal Political Perspective of Indonesia, “Islamic Sharia in Aceh,” “Symbolization, Politization and Control upon Woman: Case Study in Aceh,” and “Save Indonesia with Sharia”. The first article by Saiful Mujani is to capture comparative illustration on countries enforcing Islamic sharia as compared to the basic of raison d’être behind the establishment of a country, that is in achieving the most benefit for its people.
The second article of Arskal Salim and Azyumardi Azra discusses about the relation between the state (Indonesia) and sharia from its legal-formal and historical perspective. Taufik Adnan Amal and Samsu Rizal Panggabean emphasize the case of Islamic sharia enforcement in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) since Constitution No. 44/1999 issued. Both writers analyze the historical, sociological, and juridical aspect of Islamic sharia enforcement in NAD, while the aspect of gender equality is covered by Lili Zakiyah Munir. Ir. M. Ismail Yusanto’s article presents the perspective of a group who has been fighting for sharia enforcement in Indonesia.
The second portion of this book contains debates from the limited workshop held by Liberal Islamic Network (JIL) on 10th-11th January 2003 in Puncak, West Java. The topic of workshop was: Shari’a: Comparative Perspective attended by Prof. Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im and Liberal Islamic Network’s contributors. The workshop was divided into three sessions; First, Shari’a: Comparative Country Case Studies; second, Shari’a: The Indonesia Case; third, Toward Reformation of Islamic Law. The first session was presented by Prof. Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im and Prof. Dr. Azyumardi Azra, while Ir. M. Ismail Yusanto, Samsu Rizal Panggabean and Lily Z. Munir spoke in the second session. The third session was presented by Ulil Abshar-Abdalla and directed by Lies Marcoes-Natsir and Syafiq Hasyim..
The issue of Islamic sharia incites an attractive debate, just like a mystery which never been solved. In the context of our nation building, the dispute about Islamic sharia is as old as this republic. However, people who are involved in the debate do not depend on big narratives. There is no more binary opposition between Islamic circles vis-à-vis nationalists whether to accept or refuse Islamic sharia. It is interesting that the advocates as well as the opponent of Islamic sharia enforcement are from the Islamic “womb”, born and grown up in the Islamic tradition, and both use theological justification from the Islamic classical literatures to validate their arguments.
Therefore, people’s perception and opinion about Islamic sharia is not monolithic, especially when Islamic sharia is related to the concepts of politics, democracy and governance. The perception of Islamic sharia depends on space and time where political, sociological, economical, and anthropological factors play their roles to form various appreciations and perceptions. In Constitutional Sessions after the election 1955, Masyumi and NU were the main advocates of Islamic foundation of the state. Currently, NU and Muhammadiyah are “the first block” to be passed by new Islamic movements promoting Islamic sharia as the solution.
The multidimensional crisis in Indonesia provides some desperation in searching for the solution. Therefore, some technical issues requiring rational solution are getting symbolic responses such as the hypothesis that Islamic sharia enforcement is a sort of panacea that solves every national crisis. It is perceived as an elixir, a working formula to cure all illness. In the meantime, rational solutions expected from “secular” person or institutions are unavailable, moreover, they are assumed as the part or source of the problem to be solved.
Finally yet importantly, the public discussion about Islamic sharia in Indonesia involving the “battle” between Islamic “offspring” proves the truth of the axiom “colorful Islam”. Islamic sharia is an open text corpus to be interpreted by anyone. Nobody may claim to hold the authority on Islam since nobody has the right to claim that he is the one who has “patent rights” in the name of Islam.
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