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The previous chapters showed that in the late colonial period and during the revolution, the Islamic state was seen as a viable platform for shaping the indigenous nation-state. It was not until around 1949 that the two trajectories of political Islam that had co-existed since the Japanese departure went their own separate ways: one became an engaged armed movement (the Darul Islam), alternately opposed and ignored by the other, the political front (Masyumi and its affiliates).

Masyumi’s early calls for an Islamic state in 1945 had resonated across the country, and suggestions of an Islamized republic continued throughout the 1950s, as the party reiterated these calls until it was banned in 1960. Between 1948 and 1956, the debate on an ‘Islamic state of Indonesia’ thrived, both in magazines such as Ali- ran Islam (Bandung) as well as in book-length publications, often printed by Masyumi’s printing houses in Bandung and Jakarta.

Yet one would be mistaken in thinking that Kartosuwiryo’s NII found support, or became an inspiration, among these intellectuals. Whilst the party was fighting a political battle to ensure a diplomatic solution to the ‘Darul Islam problem’, those theorizing possible hybrids for an Indonesian Republic rooted in Islam, to be pursued through parliamentary consultation, did not acknowledge the developments that were taking place in West Java. Kartosu- wiryo’s theoretical elaboration and practical implementation of an Islamic state prompted no reactions, even as Masyumi ideologists were theorizing alternative options for an Indonesian Republic based on Islam. Kartosuwiryo’s activism and writings, which until 1946-47 were part of Masyumi’s apparatus, had been sidelined since he began his work towards creating an Islamic state in 1948.

In the following paragraphs I introduce briefly alternative conceptions of the Islamic state as elaborated by two political leaders. One is from the already mentioned Persis leader Isa Anshary; the other is from Masyumi intellectual Zainal Abidin Ahmad, who moved in the same circles as Kartosuwiryo in West Java. They tackled the same issues and had the same long-term vision for Indonesia. Yet it appears that Kartosuwiryo’s blueprint of an Islamic state was neither embraced nor condemned, but rather ignored by these politicians.

Kartosuwiryo’s experiment was not appreciably different from what these Masyumi intellectuals would suggest. However, their decision to ‘stay in the game’ implied a compromise, especially as the political climate continued to change. The fundamental difference lay in the political circumstances surrounding the drafting of these works, rather than in their religious-ideological stand. I suggest that it is because of these historical circumstances that Kartosuwiryo turns out to be more relevant to twenty-first century reformulations of Islamic polity than to his own contemporaries.

Isa Anshary first published Falsafah perdjuangan Islam in 1949, subsequently reprinted in 1951. In this booklet Anshary addressed issues pertaining to the Islamic state, including its foundations, its theological underpinnings and its form, making use only of Islamic sources.[1] Anshary advocated the need to establish the Indonesian Republic on local cultural references (meaning Islam) rather than on foreign ideologies (Pancasila).

Engaging with the Pancasila, however, he strongly favoured making the underlying reference to Islam more explicit: he had a firm conviction that the sovereignty of God (ketuhanan) could only be understood in a state based on the Qur’an and sunnah that aimed to guide its citizens to salvation in this world and the next. The constitution’s statement of ketuhanan, then, should have included a clear reference to Islam in order to guarantee the validity of the laws of God and to prevent people from ‘thinking that they can have their own interpretation’.[2]

Zainal Abidin Ahmad (1911-83) was a Masyumi leader, a Sumatran of Minangkabau origins and the editor of Pandji Islam throughout the 1930s. His first systematic work was published in 1949 in Jakarta as Konsepsi tata negara Islam, re-printed as Konsepsi negara Islam (1952), and further expanded into Bentuk negara Islam in 1956, which included the original of 120 pages, plus 300 more.[3]

Different from Anshary, Zainal Abidin relied in equal measure on Western and Islamic thinkers, and he used both traditions to build his argument in favour of an Islamic state. Offering a glorified version of Western democracies, Zainal Abidin envisioned a binary structure, in which the Caliph represented the political authority and the Darul Islam was its socio-economic counterpart.

In the introduction to its first edition, Zainal Abidin defined the Islamic state as ‘an issue which long ago became an aspiration’ for the Indonesian nation, and it is ‘just because of the lack of understanding and knowledge of its form and modes, that at times we sense hesitation amongst our leaders’. Hence, he had engaged in this endeavour ‘so that [this book] may reach the level of being studied in schools’, as well as being read by the general public.[4]

Zainal Abidin expressed, in his 1952 Konsepsi negara, an understanding of the existing Republic as substantially resembling an Islamic state, but one in which institutions could be reformed to become stronger through their religious affiliation. Hence, in regards to the much debated principle of ketuhanan, Zainal Abidin expressed a different understanding of ‘culture’ from Isa Anshary, arguing that Soekarno’s ‘cultural ketuhanan’ was ‘a ketuhanan that holds firm tolerance’, and ‘a ketuhanan whose character and external features offer the people freedom to follow any religion they like’. This ketuhanan would be fully acceptable within the framework of an Islamic state. Further, he praised the Indonesian Republic for laying ‘an important stone’ in building a religious foundation for the state by establishing the Ministry of Religious Affairs and re-affirming the Pancasila itself.[5] Yet, in the same text he offered suggestions for strengthening the religious character of the constitutional text, the structure and foundation of the state, its institutional features, the election of the head of state, the structure of religious bodies and of the education system, and more.[6]

As domestic politics and the position of political Islam in Indonesia were changing, in 1952 Zainal Abidin had modified his approach. In the second revised edition of 1956 those instructions had disappeared, substituted by a general recommendation to draft a constitutional preamble ‘briefly identifying the ideology and basics principles that will become the hukum abadi [eternal laws] of the state’.[7] In this changed political environment, Zainal Abidin was testing intellectual avenues to affirm that the Indonesian Republic already was, substantially, an Islamic state.

Zainal Abidin’s efforts to frame the current state as Islamic were made clearer in 1956, when he argued that ‘there is no obstacle for each state to have its own slogan as dasar negara, so long as it doesn’t undermine the four pillars [amanah, keadilan, ketuhanan, kedaulatan rakyat0] we have mentioned [as fundamental for an Islamic state], so it is not wrong if the Indonesian state recognizes the Pancasila mentioned in the constitution’.[8] [9]

The minimum standard for a sound Islamic state was identified as having both a Muslim president and a majority Muslim population that would have the largest presence in the national and regional government bodies. To these two criteria Zainal Abidin added that Islam must be acknowledged as the ideology of the state, which already included the elements of an Islamic government. Yet he allowed that these Islamic elements might bear a different name (Pancasila, for example), so long as the law of the state does not contradict Islamic laws and the constitution guarantees mushawarah (consultation) and democratic principles.[10] Arguably, in 1956 the Indonesian Republic was close enough to Zainal Abidin Ahmad’s proposed Islamic state.

Zainal Abidin’s writing consistently reflects the contemporary political situation of his time. As such, it is worth noting that in the context of the constitutional assembly Zainal Abidin argued that it was not enough to have Islam as ‘founding ideology of the state’, and that more substantial steps needed to be taken to consolidate the position of Islam in the Indonesian state. To support his argument, he cited the opinions of Islamic scholars on various Islamic constitutions, including those of Medina, the Abbasids, Turkey and Egypt.[11]

  • [1] An sh ary, Falsafah perdjuangan Islam (Medan: Saiful, 1951).
  • [2] Anshary, Falsafah, pp. 172-5.
  • [3] Zainal Abidin Ahmad, Konstitoesi negara, pendjelasan landjoet tentang oendang-oendang dasarnegara Republik Indonesia (Bukit Tinggi: Poestaka Islam, 1946); Konsepsi tata negara Islam (Jakarta:Sinar Ilmu, 1949); Konspi negara Islam (Bandung: Al Ma’arif, 1952) and Membentuk negara Islam(Jakarta: Widjaya, 1956). In the meantime, Zainal Abidin Ahmad was also publishing aboutIslamic economics, and in the 1960s he translated Farabi’s Ideal city: Zainal Abidin Ahmad, Dasar-da,sa,r ekonomi Islam (Jakarta: Sinar Ilmu, 1950; 2nd ed. Jakarta: Pustaka Antara / Aida, 1952);Zainal Abidin Ahmad, Negara utama (madinatu l fadilah), (Jakarta: Djambatan, 1964; 2nd ed.Jakarta: Kinta, 1968).
  • [4] Ahmad, Konsepsi tata negara Islam, ‘Introduction’ (Pendahuluan untuk tjetakan ke II).
  • [5] Ahmad, Konsepsi negara, p. 43.
  • [6] Ahmad, Konsepsi negara, p. 107.
  • [7] Ahmad, Konsepsi negara, p. 107; Ahmad, Membentuk negara, p. 100.
  • [8] Safety, justice, belief in God, people’s sovereignty.
  • [9] Ahmad, Membentuk negara, p. 76.
  • [10] Ahmad, Membentuk negara, pp. 159-66.
  • [11] Ah mad, Membentuk negara, pp. 14-5.
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