Jumat, 10 Agustus 2007

Only democracy, not caliphate, unites Muslims

Mohammad Yazid, Jakarta

Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia is scheduled to host an international seminar on khilafah (Islamic state) on Sunday in Jakarta. According to Muhammad Ismail Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, the substance of Khilafah is the enforcement of Islamic canon law in all aspects of life and the reunification of Muslim countries all over the world, under a Khilafah Islamiyah with a caliph as the leader.
It is the kind of life once advocated by Prophet Muhammad and later by Khulafa'u al-Rasyidin and other khulafa.

As one of the ways to unite Muslims, the concept of the khilafah seems amazing. The problem, however, is whether the concept of Khilafah Islamiyah can be implemented today, when the situation is very much different from the past.
Differences in understanding of the teachings of Islam among Muslims themselves has led to enmity, with each school of thought lacking the spirit of tolerance, so that Muslims now no longer possess political and economic strengths. In reality, Muslims also greatly depend on advanced countries, the majority of whose populations are non-Muslim. This, certainly, will be a very big hurdle for the reunification of Muslims.

In addition, there is also the problem of state sovereignty, which must be respected, and the different spirit of nationalism among Muslim countries.
On the face of this problem, the concept of Khilafah Islamiyah is believed to be very much out of date. The challenges posed to Muslims today and the situation they are in now are highly different from those in the past. Worse still, cultural differences must also be taken into account.

There is a strong impression among less enlightened Muslims that recapturing the glory once enjoyed by Muslims is tantamount to returning to the very life and culture prevalent during the time of Prophet Muhammad. Such a notion is obviously in contradiction with the basic character of life, which is full of dynamism and always seeks improvement of the system and culture for the future. Islamic teachings greatly emphasize the significance of improving life for the sake of the future. Wasn't the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad meant to introduce changes in the jahiliyah (ignorance) era?

Many of the more pressing problems that Muslims are facing today have arisen particularly because the process of democracy is yet to run well, and also because there are many practices of corruption, collusion and nepotism in Islamic countries.
As long as democracy can develop well, constraints in the way of improvement will be easy to overcome as everyone is free to give their ideas. Even a ruler will be easy to control, especially when mistakes are made. Policies harming people's interests will be quick to be put right as the people's participation is very much appreciated in a well-running democratic system.

Some of these weaknesses have made Muslims lag behind in various areas so that they are dependent on non-Muslim states, which are more advanced and are creating the culture of today.
In principle, Islam itself never bothers about the form of a government. The caliphate system prevailing in those days should be viewed as the best choice for its time and is not something that must be precisely imitated.

At present, the best choice of government may be a kingdom or a republic. One thing should not be forgotten, though, disunity among Muslims also took place during the caliphate era. The sadistic murder of the third caliph, Ustman bin Affan, by rebels while he was reading the Koran is one of the black stains in the history of Islam.
Therefore, efforts to drag Muslims back to ancient times, which, for some Muslims, are considered a solution to overcome the identity crisis among Muslims today, are clearly a step backward. The notion that Khilafah Islamiyah is in conformity with the Islamic understanding of kaffah (totality) is also questionable.

In the same way, the Islamic understanding that kaffah means imitating precisely the life of Prophet Muhammad and implementing Islamic teachings as written in the Koran and hadith must also be questioned. Problems arise in this respect because many parts of Islamic teachings are conditional in nature.

Take, for example, the Prophet's instruction to set ablaze the houses of those refusing to take part in a mass ritual prayer in a mosque. You can easily imagine how many houses would be burned if this instruction was followed to the letter and how many Muslims would be involved in conflict with one another because of this instruction.

In Indonesia, in particular, the concept of Khilafah Islamiyah, which fights for the implementation of Islamic canon law, will certainly add fuel to the existing controversies and then resistance will not come from Muslims alone but also from non-Muslims.

The Khilafah Islamiyah concept, which is expected to be able to reunite Muslims, may instead further encourage separatism, which is now showing signs of developing in Indonesia. If later this concept leans toward the establishment of an Islamic state, non-Muslims will certainly see it not as part of the Indonesian struggle.
The writer is a staff member of The Jakarta Post's opinion desk. He can be reached at yazid@thejakartapost.com

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