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Structuring the Islamic State

According to a 1950 document drafted by the Ministry of the Interiors of the Indonesian Republic, on 13 October 1948 the leaders of Islamic organizations (including Anwar Tjokroaminoto and Abikoesno Tjokrosoejoso), national leaders (including Muhammad Natsir, Kasman Singodimedjo and Soekarno), and military commanders (including General Sudirman) were given copies of the Qanun asasy Negara Islam Indonesia, the Constitution of the NII. The compiler of the 1950 document mentions that these leaders had also received a request to provide moral and material support to the NII’s struggle, but ‘They were all warned by the events of Madiun and kept that as a learnt lesson’, and thus refused to get involved with the Darul Islam.[1] In the aftermath to the Siliwangi withdrawal to the Solo area, this TNI division clashed with antigovernment communist troops whose stronghold was in Central Java. In mid September, as political tensions escalated, PKI and Pesindo troops gathered in Madiun and took control of the city, proclaiming a National Front government (this is further discussed on p. 173).

The Constitution of the Negara Islam Indonesia is composed of fifteen chapters comprising a total of thirty-four articles. It deals with several aspects of creating and maintaining a state, paying particular attention to the structures of Islamic political authority. The constitution provides for the establishment of a parliament (majelis syuro), an executive committee (dewan syuro) and an advisory council (dewan fatwa). It considered matters regarding the powers of the national government, regional divisions, finance, the judiciary, rules of citizenship, matters of national defence, education, economy, flag and language, and procedures to amend the constitution.[2]

Such structure closely resembles that of the Indonesian Republic’s Constitution, and some of the more general matters regarding the state also seem to have been inspired by it. However, considering the historical understanding of qanun as a set of religious laws in accordance with the current time, it would not be fair to belittle the importance of this constitution as an Islamic text simply because of its concern with mundane aspects of politics and its parallels with a secular constitution. After all, Islamist ideologies ‘are not con?tinuous with historical Islam, but rather are modern constructions influenced by current conjunctions’, as Sami Zubaida has argued in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran.[3]

Together with the 1949 criminal code, this text remains one of very few attempts to formally structure an Islamic state in the Sunni Muslim world in the twentieth century, possibly only equalled by Nabhani’s Nizam al-Islam, which was published in 1952 and is still today the blueprint for creating an Islamic state for the global Hizb ut-Tahrir movement.

Kartosuwiryo’s Constitution opens with a preamble explaining the historical circumstances in which the Islamic state had come into being. The Renville Agreement is described as a blessing in disguise, as from then on the ummah of West Java, under the leadership of Masyumi, would lead a ‘second revolution’ of resistance in name of Islam - a jihad. Kartosuwiryo regarded the NII as a ‘gift of God’ (Kurnia Allah) to the Indonesian people. Formally a republic (in the text defined as jumhuriyyah and republik), this Islamic state saw the Qur’an and hadith sahih as the highest laws and believed it had the duty to enforce Islamic law on its community whilst ensuring freedom of religious belief and practice to all its citizens. The majelis syuro was entrusted with both the duty to elect the imam and the power to make laws, although in a state of emergency the imam and the dewan imamah (whose members were appointed and discharged at the imam’s discretion) could take over. The imam’s oath was to be given before parliament, acknowledging the paramount importance of acting for the benefit of Islam and the state. The imam was allowed to stay in office as long as he acted according to the sharia, fulfilled his oath, and governed in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

Kartosuwiryo insists on the figure of the imam. This Qanun gives the imam almost unlimited powers and authority, with the only limit being parliamentary approval in the law-making process. He would also have an advisory council, the dewan fatwa, composed of up to seven mufti and headed by one Great Mufti to guide him in his decisions. The imam had the rights to declare siege and war and to rule by decree. He was head of the armed forces; appointed and received ambassadors and consuls; decided on matters of amnesty, abolition of punishment, clemency and re-education; and conferred titles, decorations and honours.

In a socialist vein, the Qanun sanctioned the right for all citizens to work and to maintain appropriate standards of living. It also established the principle of mutual aid for matters pertaining to the life and livelihood of the people, and the right-duty to pursue an education, which would be facilitated by the government’s establishment of a system of Islamic schooling. The state would control ‘the branches of production of major importance to the nation and its people’, as well as soil, water and natural resources in order to ensure maximum benefit for the people.

  • [1] ‘Ichtisar gerakan DI/Kartosuwiryo’, Kemeterian Dalam Negeri Yogyakarta, 24 July 1950,KabPerd no. 150, ANRI.
  • [2] I have here used the text as it appeared in ‘De grondwet van de Daroel-Islam’, Ministerievan Binnenlandsche Zaken Negara Pasoendan, 26 October 1948, AAS no. 2752, NA.
  • [3] Sami Zubaida, ‘Is Iran an Islamic State?’, in Joel Beinin and Joe Stork (eds), Political Islam:Essays from Middle East Report (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p. 104. SamiZubaida has argued as much for the case of post-revolution Iran, and the same holds true forthe Negara Islam Indonesia.
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