Selasa, 24 Mei 2011

materi ushul fiqih Nur Ichwan

This essay examines the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) and the legal decisions
that it issued after the fall of President Suharto, whose regime played a role
in its establishment. In light of MUI’s changing relationship with the state
under Suharto’s successors B.J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid, I call for
a more nuanced reading of MUI’s decisions.
I also discuss the relative weight accorded to MUI decisions—variously
called “opinions,” pieces of “advice,” and “fatw§s”—arguing that these
“discursive products” reflect a conscious attempt by MUI to break free from
the circumstances of its birth and to guide the reformation process in post-
Suharto Indonesia.
Religious authority and political power have long been
bound together in Islamic history and tradition, in which the
Prophet is seen as both a religious and political leader, while the
#ulam§" are considered “the heirs of the Prophets” (Ar. warathat
Certainly the #ulam§" played an important role in political
processes in the states that constituted pre-colonial and colonial
Indonesia. In the pre-colonial era, #ulam§" participated in decision
making in the sultanates of Aceh, Palembang, Mataram and
Sambas. In the colonial era, some #ulam§" served the government
(Hisyam 2001), while others devoted themselves to education
and reform (Azra 2004). Still others were actively involved in
rebel movements or, later, in the struggle for national independence
(Noer 1963; Kartodirdjo 1966; Hayat 1995). The #ulam§" have
Correspondence: Moch. Nur Ichwan, International Institute for Asian Studies,
Leiden, M.N.Ichwan@let.
* I wish to thank Herman Beck, Michael Laffan, Johan Meuleman, and
the anonymous reviewers for providing valuable comments on the draft. Any
remaining errors are solely my own.
46 moch. nur ichwan
been actively involved in political affairs in post-colonial Indonesia,
whether in government, in political parties, in Islamic organizations
or in rebellions against central authority (Abdullah 1987; Van
Dijk 1981, 1996; Cahyono 1992).
The role of the #ulam§" in the Indonesian political sphere has
become even more significant since the establishment of the Majelis
Ulama Indonesia (MUI, the Council of Indonesian #Ulam§") on
26 July 1975.1 Unlike other Islamic political parties and organisations,
MUI’s political activities are limited mostly to the issuance
(and non-issuance) of fatw§s and non-legal recommendations known
as tausiyahs (Ar. tawßiya). During the “New Order” of President
Suharto (1966-98), MUI’s position vis-à-vis the government was
uneasy, as reflected in its fatw§s and tausiyahs. However, the collapse
of the regime on 21 May 1998 signalled major changes and
heralded the period of “Reformasi” that opened up a space for
the free articulation of public opinion. It also gave MUI a chance
to reflect on its role during the New Order and to redefine its
role for the future.2 As I will argue below, however, MUI did not
shift ground overnight. During the presidency of Suharto’s
immediate successor B.J. Habibie (21 May 1998-20 October 1999),
MUI was also concerned with legitimising the position of the
president. It was not until the term of Abdurrahman Wahid (20
October 1999-July 2001) that MUI distanced itself from the state,
especially after Wahid suggested that communism might be
legalised and that formal trade relations might be established
with Israel.
I will examine the general reaction of MUI to political change,
as reflected in its production of fatw§s and tausiyahs, which contain
signs of its changing position as a mediator between state and
society. My central thesis is that fatw§s and tausiyahs are the
mechanisms by which MUI attempts to bring Indonesians closer
to its understanding of “orthodoxy.” I will suggest that the context
in which the fatw§s and tausiyahs are issued, on the one hand,
and the responses to them by government and society, on the
1 For the official explanation of the establishment of MUI and an outline
of its first year of development, see Majelis Ulama Indonesia (1976).
2 The position of MUI was much discussed at its twenty-third anniversary
celebrations, at which the seminar on “Reformasi in the perspective of the
#ulam§" ” was convened on 26 July 1998. See “Milad ke-23 MUI, antara Harapan
dan Tantangan,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 240, xx, August 1998, 12-3.
#ulam§", state and politics 47
other, are manifestations of how the authority of a fatw§ or tausiyah
is negotiated and the position of MUI as an #ulam§" institution is
MUI and Politics
Despite the fact that Muslims and Muslim leaders played an
important role in eliminating the Indonesian Communist Party
(PKI) and in establishing the New Order government, Suharto
did not rehabilitate Masyumi, the major Islamic party, which
had been dissolved by Sukarno in 1962. Instead the government
forced all of the Islamic parties to consolidate into a new unwieldy
party, the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan,
PPP). However, the Islamic parties failed to gain
significant support in the general election of 1972, and it was
reported in the media that the newly established government
party, Golkar, intimidated Muslim leaders, especially in rural
areas, to vote for it. These developments created the impression
that Suharto had defeated Islam politically. Ironically, it was
Suharto who was partially responsible for the creation of MUI.
The idea to establish a national council of #ulam§" was first proposed
at a conference held from 30 September to 4 October 1970 by
the Centre for Indonesian Islamic Propagation (Pusat Dakwah
Islam Indonesia), an institution established by the Ministry of
Religious Affairs in 1969 (Mudzhar 1993: 46). At that time,
many Muslim leaders reacted to the proposal with suspicion,
seeing it as yet another stratagem to eliminate Islamic political
power. Suharto, who was certainly aware of the important place
of the #ulam§" in Indonesian society, had become increasingly
interested in bringing them into line with his own political agenda.
Nonetheless it was the Ministry of Religious Affairs that took the
initiative to bring the idea to fruition.
3 During the final revision of this essay, an important article on MUI
appeared covering the period from its inception to the collapse of the Suharto
government. See Hosen (2004). Another valuable discussion of the relationship
between fatw§s issued by the MUI, other Muslim organizations, and politics
in Indonesia can be found in Hosen (2003). Otherwise the main study of
MUI for the period 1975-88 remains that of Mudzhar (1993), which was
updated for the period 1989-2000 in Mudzhar (2001).
48 moch. nur ichwan
The idea to establish a national council of #ulam§" was again
put forward in the National Workshop for Islamic Preachers,
organised, once again, by the Centre for Indonesian Islamic
Propagation, on 26-29 November 1974. In May 1975 Suharto
expressed his support for the proposal in a meeting with the
boards of the Council for Indonesian Mosques (Dewan Masjid
Indonesia, DMI), another institution established by the Ministry
of Religious Affairs. Following this, the Ministry of Home Affairs
(not the Ministry of Religious Affairs) instructed local governments
to establish their own councils of #ulam§". Matters moved swiftly
and, by the end of May, councils had been established in all
provinces (propinsi) and a number of regencies (kabupaten).4
The Ministry of Religious Affairs then established a preparatory
committee for a national congress of #ulam§" on 1 July 1975,
headed by Lieutenant General H. Soedirman. At this congress
(later called the first National Congress of MUI), held on 21-27
July, Prof. Hamka was appointed as the first general head. The
stated aims of the congress were political. At its opening, Suharto
delivered a speech in which he stated that MUI should play four
roles: it should (1) serve as the “translator of the concepts and
activities of national or local development for the people”; (2) be
a form of advisory council that “gives advice and opinions to the
government concerning religious life”; (3) be the “mediator between
the government and #ulam§"”; and (4) function as a place where
the #ulam§" discuss “the problems related to the duties of #ulam§".”5
Although its foundation was engineered by Suharto, and it
continues to be funded by the government, MUI is not a statutory
body anchored in law, but an independent non-governmental
institution. The general chairperson of MUI is not appointed by
the government but elected periodically by its members.6 These
4 A number of local #ulam§" councils predated MUI, such as those in West
Java (established in 1958), Aceh (1965), West Sumatra (1966), and South
Sulawesi (ca. 1970). See Noer (1978: 65); and “Majelis Ulama Indonesia,” in
Ensiklopedi Islam: III, 122.
5 Majelis Ulama Indonesia (1995: 18-20). “National development” (pembangunan
nasional) was also the key concept articulated in speeches delivered by
officials, such as the ministers of Religious Affairs, Home Affairs, Defence
and Security, and Information.
6 The general chairpersons have been: Haji Abdul Karim Malik Amrullah
(Hamka, 1975-1981); K.H. Syukri Ghozali (1981-1984); K.H. Hasan Basri
(1984-1990); K.H. Ali Yafie (1990-1999); and M.A. Sahal Mahfudh (1999-
#ulam§", state and politics 49
consist of #ulam§" and other Muslim scholars from various Muslim
organizations, including the two largest, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)
and Muhammadiyah. However, MUI is not a supervisory body
overseeing these organisations, and its decisions, fatw§s and tausiyahs
are not binding upon them.
Most of the #ulam§" members of MUI have graduated from
Islamic boarding schools (pesantren), both “traditional” and “modern,”
7 and some have received university training as well. Most
of the non-#ulam§" members are graduates of secular universities
who joined the council following the establishment, in 1989,
of its Institute of Food, Medication and Cosmetics Research
(LPPOM),8 and, in 1991, the Islamic bank, Bank Muamalat
Indonesia (BMI). Since 1998 membership has been widened to
include activists from newly established movements, some of which
have a radical orientation.9
Beginning in the 1990s, MUI has offered courses for young
scholars sent by its regional branches for a couple of months of
training under senior members of MUI. Although most of the
subjects deal with the Islamic sciences, especially Islamic law,
other, non-religious subjects are taught, such as national development
orientation and socio-political affairs.
At its 1995 National Conference, MUI outlined two sets of
general programs, one functional, the other institutional (Mudzhar
2001: 320-1). The functional programs deal with the original
mandate of MUI as a provider of religious advice to both the
government and Muslim communities. These programs include
7 The traditionality or modernity of a pesantren depends on the curriculum:
traditional pesantrens focus on Arabic works of fiqh and its associated disciplines,
while modern ones incorporate secular subjects and use Indonesian as the
primary language of instruction.
8 LPPOM was established to protect Muslim consumer rights relating to
the legal status of food. The institution issues Èal§l certificates after inspecting
food production and processing facilities. By 2000 the institute had issued
500 certificates to both domestic and international producers (Mudzhar 2001:
9 These new Islamic movements and organisations which were critical of
MUI position—such as the Forum Komunikasi Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah,
Hizbut Tahrir, and Front Pembela Islam—were included in the Forum
Ukhuwah Islamiyah. Sometimes they participated in issuing tausiyahs. Prof.
Din Syamsuddin has played an important role in fostering such cooperation,
which aims to bridge the gap between radical and moderate Muslims. Interview
with Din Syamsuddin, Leiden, 5 August 2001.
50 moch. nur ichwan
the fields of Islamic brotherhood, Islamic education, missionary
activity, Islamic economics, and Islamic identity. The institutional
programs cover the practical activities of MUI, such as plans to
develop pilot projects on practical da#wa, including community
development, the creation of an Islamic fund, and the extension
of its #ulam§" training centre.
MUI has its central office in Jakarta and other branches at the
province, regency and district levels. To manage its programs
MUI maintains ten commissions concerned with: (1) Islamic
brotherhood; (2) da#wa; (3) education and culture; (4) economy
and finance; (5) development of Islamic community organisations
and institutions; (6) research and development; (7) fatw§ and law;
(8) foreign affairs; (9) inter-religious harmony; and (10) women,
youth and the family.10
According to its 2000 vision statement, MUI plays five major
roles (MUI 2000: 12-50). It is: (1) the heir to the Prophets in
spreading Islamic teachings and striving for the construction of
an Islamic life; (2) a fatw§-giver for the Muslim community (Ar.
umma),11 “whether requested or not”; (3) a guide and servant to
that community; 4) an agent for “reform and renewal” (Ar. alißl
§È wa’l-tajdÊd); and (5) an upholder of the Qur"§nic dictate to
enjoin good and avert evil. Further, MUI declares itself to be “a
moral force … for social rehabilitation” (MUI 2000: 14-5).
This vision, formulated in the Reformasi era, indicates two
things. First, MUI is now distancing itself from the government
and seeking to align itself with Muslim aspirations. Second, it is
using an Islamic reformist strategy to bring MUI and Indonesian
Muslim communities closer to its definition of orthodoxy. Both
orientations are evident in its fatw§s and tausiyahs.
MUI’s Discursive Products: Fatw§ and Tausiyah
MUI (2000: 13) maintains that it is important that a fatw§ be an
answer to a “question” and related to a point of Islamic law.
10 “Surat Keputusan Dewan Pimpinan Majelis Ulama Indonesia tentang
Pembentukan Komisi-komisi,” issued 1 April 1996.
11 As in most MUI documents, reference to the Umma or, in many cases,
“the Islamic Umma” (Umat Islam), specifically means Indonesian Muslims,
and not the global totality of believers.
#ulam§", state and politics 51
However, the “question” here is understood broadly to include
social problems that require Islamic legal answers. The fatw§s
issued by MUI cover topics ranging from purely legal matters to
questions of belief, the economy and politics, all of which are
viewed from a legal perspective.
The role played by the government in the establishment and
development of MUI did not necessarily entail that MUI was
always supportive of the government. Mudzhar (1993: 122) has
shown that “although a large proportion of the fatw§s demonstrate
a strong government influence, the majority of the fatw§s are
neutral; in a few cases they are even in opposition to government
policies.” Of twenty-two fatw§s issued from 1975 to 1988, eleven
were “neutral,” eight were supportive and three were opposed
to government policies. One oppositional fatw§ dealt with attending
Christmas celebrations. Whereas the government encouraged the
common celebration of Christmas by Christians and Muslims,
MUI issued a fatw§ declaring that Muslims are not allowed to
attend such a celebration (Mudzhar 1996).
Moreover, it is important to note that MUI’s relationship with
the government was articulated not only through the fatw§s it
issued, but also by its silence on certain state policies and programmes.
Such silence often reflected the powerlessness felt by
many Muslims in relation to the state, as with the question of a
government-supported sport lottery and the Tanjung Priok
massacre of 1984, in which dozens, if not hundreds, of Muslims
were killed by the armed forces.12
As noted, in its capacity as a guide to the Indonesian community
of Muslims (umat), MUI also produces several non-fatw§ discourses:
Recommendation (Tausiyah), Admonition (Tadzkirah), Instruction/
Mandate (Amanah), Position Statement (Pernyataan Sikap), Appeal
(Himbauan), or Thought Contribution (Sumbangan Pemikiran). It is
noteworthy, however, that MUI’s official magazine Mimbar Ulama
includes all of these non-fatw§ discourses under the rubric of
Although MUI does not formally distinguish between a fatw§
and a tausiyah, I propose the following distinctions.13 First, a
12 Although official figures claim that only eighteen people were killed,
survivors of the crowd of some 1500 demonstrators claim that as many as
600 lost their lives (Awanohara 1984: 16; Tapol 1987: 20).
13 In Hans Wehr’s Dictionary, taußiya connotes “[a] recommendation,
52 moch. nur ichwan
fatw§ is produced by a special commission (Komisi Fatwa dan
Hukum), whereas a tausiyah is issued by the Leadership Board
(Dewan Pimpinan), member meetings, conferences, or the Islamic
Brotherhood Forum (Forum Ukhuwwah Islamiyah)—the latter
an institution established by MUI to facilitate coordination with
leaders of Islamic organisations at the national level. Second, a
fatw§ is, in theory, much stronger than a tausiyah.14 Third, fatw§s
deal with legal and dogmatic issues, whereas most tausiyahs are
concerned with social, economic and political ones. Fourth, the
official textual format of an MUI fatw§ suggests that its authority
is much greater than that of a tausiyah as it duplicates the format
of a governmental decision or law, and uses formal phrases such
as “referring to,” “considering,” and “it is decided that.” Some
fatw§s also end with the following note: “the fatw§ is valid from
the date of its issuance.” By contrast, the format of a tausiyah is
less formal and official, more closely resembling a press release
or general letter.
Unlike most classical fatw§s, those of MUI are collective, and
are issued by its Fatw§ and Law Commission, which draws on
the expertise of some twenty-five persons. The fatw§ should be
in line with MUI’s guidelines for fatw§ decisions,15 according to
which it should be based on the Qur"§n and \adÊth and may
not contradict “the interests of the community” (kemaslahatan umat).
If the subject is not found in either source, the fatw§ should not
contradict consensus, sound reasoning by analogy, and other
legal principles. Moreover, before a fatw§ is issued, the Commission
should consider the views of the Islamic legal schools and the
opinions of experts on the subject.
On occasion MUI uses fatw§s rather than tausiyahs to deal with
admonition, exhortation, advice, counsel; proposal, suggestion; order, instruction,
direction, commission, [or] mandate.” See Wehr (1976: 1075). MUI defines
tausiyah as a piece of advice, a call (seruan), and an appeal (himbauan). “Tausiyah
MUI tentang Memperingati Kegagalan Pemberontakan G.30.S/PKI,” Mimbar
Ulama, no. 265, xxii, September 2000, 32. However, there is no official explanation
of the difference between a tausiyah and a fatw§. Mudzhar (1993,
2001) categorises tausiyahs as fatw§s, although he recognises the difference
(Mudzhar 2001: 322).
14 Interview with Din Syamsuddin, who was then general secretary of
MUI, Leiden, 5 August 2002.
15 “Pedoman Penetapan Fatwa Majelis Ulama Indonesia,” issued on 2
October 1997.
#ulam§", state and politics 53
social and political matters. For example, some MUI fatw§s treat
bribery and corruption or were produced in a specific political
situation and had a political impact, as we shall see below.
MUI under B.J. Habibie
In the 1990s Suharto signalled his shift to patronising Islamization
by backing the establishment of the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals
Association (Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim se-Indonesia,
ICMI), which advocates partial Islamization of the state and
public life (Hefner 1993: 1-35). Suharto allowed then vice-president
Habibie to head ICMI, and most Muslim cabinet ministers and
members of parliament soon joined. With Suharto’s forced
resignation in May 1998 and the elevation of Habibie to the
presidency, MUI felt confident about playing a role in the
continuing process of state-aided Islamization.16
1. Tausiyahs in Defence of Habibie
1. a. Mandate for Habibie
The appointment of Habibie was based on Article 8 of the 1945
Constitution, which states that “[s]hould the president die or
cease executing his duties or become unable to execute them
during his term of office he shall be replaced by the vice-president
until the expiry of that term.”
Habibie’s appointment was controversial, however, because it
took place in the presidential palace and not before the Parliament.
Some critics therefore regarded it as unconstitutional. Responding
to this criticism, MUI supported Habibie by gathering the national
boards of Islamic organisations on 27 May 1998 with the aim of
producing a political statement. This statement, called “A Mandate
(Amanah) for the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Mr.
Prof. Dr. Ing. B.J. Habibie” was issued as a tausiyah for both the
President and the entire Indonesian people.17 But while the
statement is called an Amanah—which is supposed to be issued
by a higher institution—it is actually a piece of moral advice for
16 On Habibie’s transitional government, see Bourchier (1999: 15-38).
17 “Amanah kepada Presiden Republik Indonesia Bapak Prof. Dr.Ing. B.J.
Habibie,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 238/xx, June 1998, 29-31.
54 moch. nur ichwan
Habibie concerning the mandate of leadership granted to him
by God and the people.18
On behalf of a number of Islamic organisations involved in
the Forum Ukhuwwah Islamiyah, MUI also congratulated Habibie
on his inauguration, wishing him and his family the blessings of
“physical and spiritual strength in leading the nation and state
of our beloved Republic of Indonesia in line with the state
philosophy of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, so that the
ideals of all Indonesian people and the nation may be attained
with His protection, blessings and permission.”19
The mandate tausiyah quotes four Suras: 3: 104 on enjoining
good and averting evil; 4: 59 on loyalty to God, His prophet,
and those in authority; 4: 135 on justice and just witness; and 8:
46 on the prohibition of unproductive debate. It then encourages
the President and the “pro-Reformasi factions” to carry out the
1) To return to religious teachings, morals and ethics—in line with
our national character and constitution as basic written law—in solving
the problems of the nation and state. Avoid polemics on the controversy
concerning the position of the President and Cabinet. Create peace
and a harmonious national life so that the government can concentrate
on enacting total reformation in line with societal demand.
2) To prioritise the availability of the nine basic material needs,
[and] to open up job opportunities for the millions of people under
the poverty line due to current economic, political and legal crises.
3) Political reform should be conducted in a constitutional manner
by the government together with the legislative body, and with the
support of all Indonesian people on the basis of national unity and
18 The statement says that leadership is “the mandate of Allah and of all
Indonesian people … to implement the mandate of development, and reformasi
in particular, in a constitutional way.” See “Amanah kepada Presiden,” 29.
19 MUI had also organised the Forum Ukhuwah Islamiyah (Islamic
Brotherhood Forum) in response to various national problems. The forum
included representatives from a wide range of Islamic organizations. Such
political support was also gathered prior to the Extraordinary Session of the
Peoples Consultative Council (MPR), when MUI organised the Congress of
Indonesian Islamic Umma (KUII) in Jakarta, on 3-7 November. Although
MUI stressed its purely religious nature, the event easily may be interpreted
as an effort to gain support from the Muslim community. Abdurrahman
Wahid has described this tendency in his article, “Mencari Format Hubungan
Agama dengan Negara,” Kompas, 4 December 1998. On the congress itself,
see MUI (1999).
#ulam§", state and politics 55
4) [MUI] fully supports the statement of the Ministry of Defence and
the Armed Forces Commander expressing support for the leadership
of the President of the Republic of Indonesia. It hopes that the solidarity
between the Armed Forces and the people will be strengthened in
relation to security and prosperity in the [context of national] unity
and integrity.20
The statement was signed by forty-four leaders of various Islamic
organisations, including Muhammadiyah, NU, al-Irsyad, al-
Wasliyah, Persis, and Pergerakan Tarbiyah Islamiyah. Nonetheless,
the involvement of these leaders created a misleading impression
that the statement represented the formal position of their
organisations, despite the fact that many of the leaders had attended
the forum as private individuals. In some cases their own organisations
had very different views.
1. b. Three Tausiyahs on the General Election
One of the most important items on the political agenda under
Habibie was the general election, held on 7 June 1999. Although
more than ninety political parties were established during the
second half of 1998, the General Election Commission (KPU)
decided that only forty-eight were eligible to participate. Of these,
fourteen were “Islam-based” parties, but only seven declared
Islam as their sole ideological basis; two adopted both Pancasila
and Islam; and five adopted Pancasila alone.21 Anticipating this,
MUI issued three tausiyahs on 29 April, 20 May and 1 June,
For MUI to issue more than one tausiyah on the same topic,
and within a short period of time was in itself unusual, reflecting
a growing nervousness on its part and the general tension before
the election. The first tausiyah, entitled “MUI’s Appeal for the
Success of the 1999 General Election,” urges people, and especially
Muslims, to realise that: (1) the 1999 election is important for
rescuing Indonesia from the crisis, especially the political crisis;
(2) by participating in the election, voters play a role in determining
the future of the nation and the struggle of the Umma; (3) the
people, especially the Umma, should vote for the party they
20 “Amanah kepada Presiden,” 30.
21 “Nomor Urut Partai Politik Peserta Pemilu 1999,” Kompas, 6 March
56 moch. nur ichwan
believe capable of leading the nation towards a harmonious,
united, peaceful and prosperous life; (4) the Umma should abstain
from the negative aspects of the election and should not engage
in matters contrary to the interests of the Umma or of the nation
in general; (5) the Umma should pray for a peaceful and successful
general election, and success in choosing a national leader capable
of bringing honour to the Umma.22
The second tausiyah, entitled “Advice of the MUI Executive
Leading up to the 1999 Election,” made the following points: (1)
all elements of the nation should advocate a democratic, faithful,
just and peaceful election, and prevent chaos and disorder; (2)
the entire nation, especially the Umma, should use their right to
vote in a responsible manner and vote for the party that it is
believed can struggle for the aspiration and betterment of all
(Ar. al-maßlaÈa al-#§mma); (3) the Umma should prioritise Islamic
brotherhood and abstain from involvement in conflict and friction;
(4) the leaders of Islamic parties and Muslim-based parties should
prioritise the spirit of competition for the good (Ar. fa’stabiqå alkhayr
§t) and prevent sectarian egotism (Ar. an§niyya Èizbiyya); (5)
the entire nation, especially the Umma, should be cautious of
the latent danger of communism and the PKI; and (6) the Umma
should pray that Indonesia will be saved from any disaster and
The third tausiyah, entitled “An Instruction to the Umma Leading
up to the Election of 7 June 1999,” was issued just six days
before the election. The issuance of this tausiyah was motivated
by the impending threat of a victory by the Indonesian Democratic
Party of Struggle (PDIP), led by Megawati Soekarnopoetri, which
was allegedly dominated by non-Muslim politicians. The tausiyah,
produced by the leadership board of MUI and the national level
leaders of (some) Islamic organisations, mentions Q. 3: 28: “Let
not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather
than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from
Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves
from them. But Allah cautions you (to remember) Himself; for
the final goal is Allah.”
22 “Himbauan Majelis Ulama Indonesia untuk Suksesnya Pemilihan Umum
1999,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 248, xxi, May 1999, 30.
23 “Tausiyah Dewan Pimpinan Majelis Ulama Indonesia Menyongsong
Pemilu 1999,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 250, xxi, June 1999, 26.
#ulam§", state and politics 57
The tausiyah then delivers the following instructions:
1) The Indonesian nation, especially the Umma, should use their
voting rights in a correct and responsible manner according to their
innermost heart by voting for the political party that is believed will
be able to struggle for the aspiration and interests of the Umma,
nation and state;
2) The Umma should vote in a sincere manner, and with the intention
of obeying God, for one of the political parties that puts forward
serious Muslim candidates, and those who possess good moral character;
3) The Umma should be on guard against the return of communism,
authoritarian and secularist government by means of political parties
that have an incipient hatred of Islam and the glory of the Republic
of Indonesia;
4) The Umma should surrender to Allah and pray that the election
will be conducted in a peaceful, democratic, just and honest manner,
so that the Indonesian nation can rid itself of various crises and place
the new Indonesian society in the shelter of Allah’s blessing.24
As can be seen, the first tausiyah gives general advice to Muslims
to participate in the elections in a peaceful manner. It does not
suggest that Muslims vote for one of the Islamic parties, but
simply says that Muslims should vote for “the party they believe
capable of leading the nation to a harmonious, united, peaceful
and prosperous life.” The second tausiyah was seemingly issued
in response to (potential) conflict between the members of various
Islamic parties. It does not suggest, however, that Muslims must
choose Islamic parties, but rather should “vote for the party that
is believed can struggle for the aspiration and betterment of all.”
The third tausiyah gives the clearest instruction to Muslims to
vote for parties that “struggle for the aspiration and interests of
the Umma, nation and state” and not to vote for non-Muslim
political leaders and parties dominated by non-Muslims. Nevertheless,
the absence of any explicit mention in the tausiyahs of
Islamic parties benefited Muslim dominated parties, such as
Habibie’s Golkar party.
Due to general ignorance, most people regarded these tausiyahs
as MUI fatw§s. They understood that MUI had instructed them
that Islam and Muslim interests would be threatened if they
voted for non-Muslim leaders (Husein 1999: 62-3). At this point,
Abdurrahman Wahid, the then leader of NU, charged that MUI
24 “Tausiyah Amanat Ummat Islam Menyongsong Pemilu 7 Juni 1999,”
Mimbar Ulama, no. 250, xxi, June 1999, 27.
58 moch. nur ichwan
was interfering in political affairs. Be that as it may, the MUI
tausiyahs were ineffective and it was the parties with little explicit
connection to Islam, such as the National Awakening Party (PKB)
and the National Mandate Party (PAN), and the avowedly secular
parties, Golkar and PDIP, that won the greater share of the
1. c. Admonition on the Bank Bali Scandal, Ambon and East Timor
A tausiyah of admonition (tadzkirah) regarding key issues affecting
the Habibie presidency was issued by MUI only five days before
the parliamentary session in which the new president was elected.26
The issuance of this tausiyah was very much related to Habibie’s
efforts to defend himself against allegations that he was involved
with, or the cause of, the so-called Bank Bali scandal, the crisis
in Ambon, and the East Timor referendum, respectively (cf.
Singh 2000: 147). In its introduction, the admonition mentions
all three issues, but then says nothing more about the Bank Bali
scandal. The first part of the admonition, entitled “General,”
urges all political and community leaders to prioritise national
interest over individual and parochial aims, and, further, to foster
a positive atmosphere for the next general assembly of the People’s
Representative Council (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, MPR).
It also suggests that the media should avoid tendentious and
“insinuating” reportage and should take national interest into
consideration. MUI’s position in this case was clear: it sought to
defend Habibie as its preferred representative of the Umma
(Yurnaedi 1999) and to spare him from the personal taint of a
corruption scandal that might cost him the election.
The second section, “The Treatment of the Ambon Case,”
25 Of the entirely Islamic parties, PK achieved only 1.3%, PBB 1.8%, and
PPP 10.7%, whereas PKB achieved 17.4%, PAN 7.3%, Golkar 20.9% and
PDIP 37.4%. See Riddell 2002. On the ineffectiveness of MUI’s tausiyahs, see
“Pemilu 1999: Muslimin itu Kini Memerah,” in Mimbar Ulama, no. 251, xxi,
July 1999, 33-4. Even here, the Mimbar Ulama editor called the tausiyahs
fatw§s. According to Din Syamsuddin, MUI apparently is aware of this confusion
although it has never officially explained the difference. Interview, Leiden, 5
August 2001.
26 The tadzkirah was issued on 25 September 1999. “Tadzkirah Umat
Islam Indonesia,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 253, xxi, September 1999, 26-7.
#ulam§", state and politics 59
condemns the soldiers who killed ten unarmed civilians in front
of Al-Fatah mosque in Ambon. It also asserts that both the
government and the armed forces have a responsibility to keep
the peace and provide security for the two conflicting communities
(here Muslims and Christians).
The third section, “The East Timor Problem,” deals with the
referendum on independence for the province (which had been
annexed in 1975) conducted on 30 August 1999, one month
before the parliamentary session. The overwhelming vote for
independence led to intense debate among Indonesians at large
and in the parliament, where most blamed Habibie for the loss
of Indonesian sovereignty. Unlike most, however, MUI blamed
the United Nations Mission in East Timor for conducting the
referendum unfairly and for tolerating “anti-integration cheating
and manipulation” that brought about physical conflicts between
“pro-integration” and “anti-integration” factions. Nonetheless,
the tausiyah concedes that the choice of the majority of the East
Timorese people should be respected, and expresses the hope
that the new state will coexist peacefully with Indonesia. Finally,
MUI expresses its support for the efforts undertaken by the
government and the Indonesian Armed Forces to foster peace in
East Timor after the referendum.
2. Fatw§ on a Government-run Sport Lottery
The only fatw§ produced by MUI during the Habibie era dealt
with a government-run sport lottery, the Tiket Peduli Olahraga
(TPO). As in most of MUI’s fatw§s, the mustaftÊ is not explicitly
identified. However, other sources indicate that the fatw§ was
solicited by the very foundation responsible for running the lottery,
namely the Yayasan KONI (once part of the Ministry of Youth
and Sport).
The TPO was supposed to raise money for public services and
sports. Tickets were priced at around Rp. 5000, and the holder
could, over the course of a year, watch a match of any sport
played at the local level, with the exception of semi-final and
final games. KONI planned to manage the scheme with the
cooperation of foreign investors, especially from the United States.
After meeting the Minister of Social Affairs on 22 July 1998,
the chair of KONI, Wismoyo Arismunandar, and a board-member,
60 moch. nur ichwan
Dali Tahir, stated that the TPO had been legitimised by MUI.
This was strongly denied by the General Secretary of MUI,
Prof. K.H. Ali Yafie, who suggested that the TPO would “poison”
society with gambling practices and should not be conducted. In
response to Yafie’s rejection, Tahir claimed that the media had
misquoted him. He now said that what he had meant was that
he had asked MUI about the legal status of the TPO.
To end the controversy, MUI’s Fatw§ and Law Commission
held a special meeting in Jakarta on 1 August 1998, chaired by
Prof. K.H. Ibrahim Hosen, the head of the Commission, and
attended by thirteen members. The resulting fatw§ was based on
five considerations: (1) Q. 4: 29 on the prohibition of wasting
property and the possibility of traffic and trade by mutual good
will; (2) the legal principle that averting causes of corruption
takes precedence over bringing about benefit; (3) the previous
decision of MUI of 23 November 1991 on SDSB (see below); (4)
the statutes and by-laws of MUI of 1995-2000; and (5) the
guidelines for deciding MUI’s fatw§ with the agreement of all
members of the meeting.
The fatw§ decreed the following:
1) The TPO is contradictory to Islamic law, and, therefore, is illegitimate
and forbidden.
2) MUI suggests that the TPO operator, that is the KONI foundation,
abort its plan to operate the TPO and look for other ways [to raise
funds] that neither contradict Islamic law nor inflict a loss on society.27
As may be gathered from MUI’s third consideration, the issue
of a sports lottery was in fact not new. Under Suharto there had
been the so-called Porkas (from the English “forecast”), and later
the SDSB (Sumbangan Dana Sosial Berhadiah, “Prizes for Social
Contributions”), managed by the Ministry of Social Affairs. At
that time, the Ministry had requested an opinion on Porkas/
SDSB, putting pressure on MUI to issue a positive fatw§. However
the majority of MUI members regarded the Porkas/SDSB as
gambling and decided not to issue any fatw§, although Ibrahim
Hosen did publish a book in which he argued that Porkas/
SDSB was not gambling and was thus permissible.28 MUI’s real
27 “Fatwa tentang Tiket Peduli Olahraga (TPO),” 27-8.
28 Hosen 1987. It is interesting that in the TPO case, Hosen, who chaired
the Fatwa Commission, affirmed that the TPO is religiously forbidden (Ar.
#ulam§", state and politics 61
opinion on the matter, however, was finally articulated on 23
November 1991, when the relationship between the state and
Islam had become more harmonious, and the Fatw§ and Law
Commission, chaired by Hosen, declared SDSB to be forbidden.
The above tausiyahs and fatw§ are nonetheless supportive of
Habibie. The tausiyahs on his mandate, general elections, Bank
Bali, Ambon, and East Timor were highly political and placed
MUI fully at Habibie’s side. As for the contents of the tausiyahs,
they clearly are critical of groups opposed to Habibie. And while
MUI’s immediate rejection of the TPO may at first indicate that
it was acting independently of the government, this rejection
was not surprising, not only because the TPO programme was
unpopular, but also because of the Habibie government’s increasing
support for Islamization. This fatw§, far from harming the Habibie
government, actually helped Habibie to Islamise particular “secular”
programmes inherited by his administration.
MUI under Abdurrahman Wahid
Abdurrahman Wahid was elected through a democratic process
in the parliamentary session on 20 October 1999. He was supported
not only by his own party (PKB), but also by a coalition of rival
Islamic parties led by M. Amien Rais. The primary reason for
this coalition was that most of the Islamic parties did not want
Megawati Soekarnopoetri, chairperson of the PDIP, to be the
new president. And while these parties disliked Wahid for his
often controversial statements on Islam and Muslim communities,
it was hoped that he would desist from such pronouncements
and fall into line with them in return for their support for him
as president. Instead Wahid continued as usual, and ultimately
clashed with MUI.
Wahid’s opposition to MUI was apparent well before his
presidency, as evidenced by his earlier criticism of the Congress
of the Indonesian Islamic Umma, convened by MUI in 1998,
and of MUI’s tausiyahs on the general election of 1999. Such
criticism continued after he became president on 20 October
Èar§m). It is not clear whether or not he revised his previous opinion, as there
is no substantive difference between Porkas/SDSB and TPO.
62 moch. nur ichwan
1999, and he soon suggested that MUI should be financially
independent of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and should find
itself an office outside the Istiqlal mosque, also funded by the
government. As his presidency progressed, many of Wahid’s
statements and policies were interpreted as inimical to Islamic
interests. The most controversial of these were his stated willingness
to open official trade with Israel, to overturn the Temporary
People’s Consultative Assembly decision no. 15 of 1966 banning
communism, and his support for the Japanese manufacturer of
monosodium glutamate, Ajinomoto.
Since the sixth National Congress of 2000, MUI has described
itself as the “servant of the Islamic Umma,” asserting its desire
to defend both its religious and political interests (MUI 2000: 13).
Although MUI had supported Habibie, it emerged as one of the
main opponents of Wahid, as is apparent in its tausiyahs on communism
and fatw§s on corruption, human rights and Ajinomoto.
1. Two Tausiyahs on Communism
Soon after assuming office, Wahid suggested that the 1966 decision
to dissolve the PKI and prohibit the dissemination of Marxist-
Leninist teachings should be abrogated because it contravened
Human Rights, and the state had victimised communists, excommunists,
and their families for over thirty years.
Along with most other Islamic organisations, MUI severely
criticised this statement, issuing two tausiyahs but no fatw§.29
The first tausiyah lists ten reasons why Communism or Marxism-
Leninism should not be allowed on Indonesian territory:
1) Based on MPRS decision no. 15 of 1966, the PKI and Communism/
Marxism-Leninism is forbidden in all Indonesian territory;
2) Communism/Marxism-Leninism is against Pancasila and religion;
3) The adherents of Communism/Marxism-Leninism have been
creating a dangerous situation and trying to change Pancasila ideology;
29 “Sikap Majelis Ulama Indonesia tentang Keberadaan Ajaran Komunisme/
Marxisme-Leninisme di Wilayah Negara Republik Indonesia,” Mimbar Ulama,
no. 260, xxii, April 2000, 28-9; and “Tausiah MUI tentang Memperingati
Kegagalan Pemberontakan G.30.S./PKI,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 265, xxii,
September 2000, 32. G.30.S/PKI, or Gerakan 30 September Partai Komunis
Indonesia, denotes the attempted communist coup of 30 September 1965
that was subsequently suppressed by Suharto.
#ulam§", state and politics 63
4) The PKI terrorised Muslims, insulted the Qur"§n, and disseminated
propaganda against Islamic organisations, such as NU, Muhammadiyah,
Ansor, Pemuda Muhammadiyah/Kokam, HMI, HSBI and Lesbumi;
5) The PKI’s hostility towards Islam predates Indonesian independence
in 1945;
6) Throughout Indonesian history, the PKI has carried out a number
of terrorist acts and rebellions, such as the upheavals of 1926-1927;30
[an uprising] in West Java in December 1945; the rebellion in Madiun
in September 1948; the “direct actions,” terrorism, sabotage, agitation
and propaganda during 1965, which culminated in the PKI rebellion
of 30 September 1965;
7) The failure of the PKI rebellion of 30 September 1965 was followed
by a number of armed rebellions in East Java (Blitar) and Central
Java between 1967 and 1968 and in the 1980s;
8) The members of the PKI abroad aligned themselves against the
Indonesian government;
9) The teachings of Communism/Marxism-Leninism never die. This
was demonstrated by Sudisman, Rewang, Oloan Hutapea and Sukatno,
who in September 1986 set up the new tripartite strategy in the
KOK (Kritik Oto-Kritik) document. This urged that: (a) a Marxist/
Leninist party should be revived free from subjectivism, revisionism
and opportunism; (b) the PKI should concentrate its struggle on armed
resistance; and (c) the PKI should organise a united revolutionary
front that includes labourers, peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, and the
national bourgeoisie;
10) With the above new strategy, Communism/Marxism-Leninism
has always tried to conduct illegal activities within so-called “formless
Based on these ten reasons MUI, at its meeting of 21 March
2000, determined the following:
First, [we] remind Muslim people and the national community in
general, and especially the younger generation, that Communist/
Marxist-Leninist teaching is an anti-God and anti-religion ideology
that never dies, and always endeavours to break down the honoured,
ethical and religious principles of life based on Pancasila.
Second, responding to the question as to whether or not it is necessary
to ban Communist/Marxist-Leninist teachings in Indonesia, MUI
firmly rejects any effort to revoke the decision of the Temporary
People’s Consultative Assembly no. 15 of 1966. MUI warns the members
of the People’s Representative Council (DPR) and People’s
Consultative Body (MPR) of the Indonesian Republic—as the representatives
of the people and the manifestations of their aspirations—to
be wise and consistent and not to disregard the past injuries and pain
30 Mention of this rebellion is ironic, given that the fight was against the
Dutch colonial government.
31 “Sikap Majelis, 28-9.
64 moch. nur ichwan
experienced by Muslims and the Indonesian nation as victims of the
libel, propaganda, and ill-mannered actions of the Communists/PKI.
Third, MUI hopes that God Almighty will spare the Indonesian
nation from the ongoing economic crisis and will help them to overcome
it; for poverty is fertile soil for the revival of the Communist/Marxist-
Leninist teaching.32
To further endorse the fight against Communism, MUI issued
its second tausiyah on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the attempted
coup of 1965. This tausiyah states:
1) The Indonesian people should praise God Almighty for His aid in
averting the barbaric calamity of the G.30.S/PKI in 1965. It is believed
that if the rebellion had succeeded, atheistic communism would have
overwhelmed national life. The religious community, especially Muslims,
would have been in danger.
2) The Indonesian people should always be aware of the potential
revival of communism in all of its forms.
3) All Indonesian people should be united in overcoming any effort,
phenomenon or indication of the revival of communism and its
4) Muslims should pray that Indonesia will be rescued from multiple
crises and protected from any calamity and catastrophe.33
Both of these tausiyahs were intended to pre-empt Wahid’s
proposal to decriminalize communism. Further, all the arguments
posed in these tausiyahs, with their reference to Pancasila ideology,
are typical of New Order official discourse. And, despite the
openness afforded by Reformasi, communism remained a sensitive
issue, to be attacked in the New Order language as opposed to
both God and the state doctrine of Pancasila. In such a context,
MUI’s firm rejection of Wahid’s suggestion is understandable. It
also marked the withdrawal of support for the Wahid government
by many Islamic organisations and parties.
2. Fatw§s on Corruption, Human Rights, and \al§l Food
Reformasi created great changes in political life, giving Indonesians
opportunities to influence government policy and express positions
in relation to their rights and practices. This is also expressed in
MUI’s fatw§s. At its sixth national congress, held in July 2000,
the Fatw§ Commission formed three sub-commissions. One
32 Ibid., 29.
33 “Tausiah MUI tentang Memperingati …,” 32.
#ulam§", state and politics 65
discussed abortion, organ transplants, healing with human urine,
and cloning; a second dealt with bribery and corruption; simultaneous
performance of the Friday prayers, and human rights;
the third discussed the problem of female workers abroad and
gender bias. Most of the fatw§s issued during the Wahid era
were formulated at this congress, except for the fatw§ on Ajinomoto.
Of these, the fatw§s on corruption, human rights and Ajinomoto
will be discussed below.
2. a. Fatw§ on Bribery, Corruption and Presents for Government Officials
MUI never issued any tausiyah or fatw§ on corruption under
Suharto or Habibie. MUI’s silence on this important, yet politically
sensitive, matter reflects its subordination to the government of
the day, widely regarded as corrupt. With Reformasi, however
there was a strong demand for a statement on such issues, and
MUI knew that if it failed to take a stand, it would be stigmatised
as a mere regime supporter, and should therefore represent itself
as part of the movement for change. The issuance of a fatw§ on
bribery, corruption and presents for government officials was a
response to this political demand.
The identity of the mustaftÊ is not clear. It is simply stated that
the legal status of such practices was being “questioned anew by
society.” The fatw§ quotes two verses on the prohibition of taking
the property of others (Q. 2: 188; and 4: 29), and one on betrayal
(Q. 3: 161). It also quotes five ÈadÊths dealing with presents and
bribes, one saying of a Companion, and the juridical principle
that “what is forbidden to take is forbidden to give.”34
Quoting Majd al-DÊn ibn AthÊr (544-606/1149-1210), the fatw§
defines a “bribe” (Ar. rishwa) as a present given by one person
to another in order to do evil or to pervert a true act; a “present”
to an official as something given by an individual and/or community
to an official, due to the latter’s position; and “corruption”
as the act of taking something under one’s authority in a way
contradictory to the SharÊ#a.35
34 Ar. m§ Èurrima akhdhuhu Èurrima i#ã§"uhu. “Fatwa tentang Risywah (Suap),
Ghulul (Korupsi) dan Hadiah kepada Pejabat,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 281, xxiv,
January 2002, 32.
35 Ibn AthÊr, al-Nih§ya fÊ gharÊb al-ÈadÊth wa’l-§th§r, vol. II, 226, quoted in
“Fatwa tentang Risywah,” 32.
66 moch. nur ichwan
The fatw§ then declares:
1) Giving and receiving a risywah is forbidden under Islamic law.
2) Corruption is forbidden under Islamic law.
3) Regarding the giving of a present to an official:
a) If the act was performed prior to the official being in office, this
is permissible, as is receipt of such;
b) If the act was not performed before the official was in office,
there are three possibilities: i) If there is, or will be, no business
between the giver and the official, then giving and receiving that
present is not forbidden; ii) If there is a matter between the giver
and the official, then the latter is prohibited from receiving it;
while it is prohibited for the giver to give a present if it is meant
to initiate a wrong thing; and iii) If there is a matter between the
giver and the official, either before or after the giving act, and the
giving is not meant to initiate a wrong thing, then it is permitted
for the giver to give the present, but forbidden for the official to
receive it.36
Such a fatw§ is by no means strong enough to combat corruption
in Indonesia, which remains endemic. It is common knowledge
that bribery, corruption and illegal presents for government officials
are forbidden, and the statement about the status of presents for
officials is vague. In any case, this fatw§ has attracted little public
notice and is seldom referred to by the media or anti-corruption
2. b. Fatw§ on Human Rights
When human rights abuses occurred during the New Order and
Habibie eras—such as the Tanjung Priok massacre or during
military operations in Aceh—MUI remained silent. No tausiyah
or fatw§ was ever issued condemning such abuses. However at its
sixth national congress of 2000, MUI wished to define its position
on human rights.
The sub-commission examining the issue included Prof. K.H.
Ali Mustafa Yaqub (chairman), Drs. K.H. Nahrawi (assistant),
Drs. Afwan Faizin (secretary), Dr. H. Ahmad Thibraya and K.H.
Ahmad Dimyati Rasyid. Significantly, all are classically-trained
#ulam§"; none is a human rights activist.
MUI’s position on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) is vague, although it aligns with the Declaration at
36 “Fatwa tentang Risywah,” 32.
#ulam§", state and politics 67
certain points. This vagueness seems to be influenced by the
Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.37 Such influence
is clear in the following remarks formulated by MUI with reference
to the UDHR:38
1) Generally and substantially, the International Convention on the
UDHR is in line with the aims and values of Islamic teachings, that
is: the protection and preservation of the rights of every single member
of humanity to defend his or her life and dignity.
2) Human Rights do not operate in vacuum, and up to now there is
no consensus regarding their interpretation and application. Hence
it is possible that every country interprets and understands them
differently based on its distinct cultural, ethical and legal values.
3) Chapters of the UDHR seem to prioritise individual rights and
freedom and neglect the equality of rights and obligations, the equality
of individual and social interests, and the equality of freedom and
4) There are some chapters of the UDHR that are not in line with,
or are contradictory to, Islam, to wit: (a) Chapter 16, sections 1 and
2, on free choice of a marriage partner, marriage and divorce; (b)
Chapter 18 on freedom of religious conversion; and (c) Chapter 23
on freedom of employment.
Based on these remarks, MUI decided to issue a fatw§ on the
“limitations” of the application of Human Rights by comparing
them with the Cairo Declaration, a document also signed by the
Indonesian government.
The fatw§ mentions that Islam recognizes five basic human
needs, namely the preservation of religion, life, property, reason,
and dignity, quoting several verses in this regard: Q. 17: 70 on
humankind as honoured creatures; Q. 21: 107 on Islam as a
mercy for all creatures; Q. 10: 99 on the prohibition of compelling
others to accept Islam; Q. 5: 32 on the universalist basis of
Islamic teachings; Q. 55: 7-9 on equality and truthfulness in
Islam; Q. 4: 37 on the prohibition of apostasy from Islam;39 Q.
2: 221 and 4: 22 on persons and groups who are forbidden as
37 For a copy of the Cairo Declaration, see Appendix II in Abdillah (1997:
38 “Fatwa tentang Hak-hak Azasi Manusia (HAM),” Mimbar Ulama, no.
271, xxiii, March 2001, 26.
39 Q. 4: 37 discusses niggardliness: “(Nor) those who are niggardly, or
enjoin niggardliness on others, or hide the bounties which Allah hath bestowed
on them; for We have prepared, for those who resist God’s grace (Ar. k§firån)
a punishment that steeps them in contempt.” MUI seems to have chosen the
last phrase only, and understands k§firån as including apostates.
68 moch. nur ichwan
marriage partners; and Q. 2: 228 on the equality of rights and
obligations between husband and wife. Once again the principle
is mentioned that “averting causes of corruption takes precedence
over bringing about benefit.”
Based on all of these considerations, the MUI fatw§ makes
three points on Human Rights:
1) It is obligatory to accept, respect, and hold in high esteem Human
Rights, which are universal in nature, albeit with some conditions:
a) One should honour and respect the different understandings,
interpretations and applications of Human Rights, based on the
differing cultures, ethics and laws prevailing in each country;
b) Any understanding and application of Human Rights must
consider: (i) the equivalence of individual rights and individual
duties; (ii) the equivalence of individual and social rights; (iii) the
equivalence of rights, freedom and duties.
2) Concerning the UDHR chapter 16 sections 1 and 2 [on free
choice of a marriage partner, marriage and divorce], and chapter 18
[on freedom of religious conversion], Muslims are obliged to firmly
adhere to Islamic teachings, because freedom to live out religious
teachings is a part of Human Rights;
3) It is obligatory for the government and for Muslims, especially
their leaders, to promote Human Rights that are in line with religious,
cultural and ethical values of the society and with the laws prevailing
in Indonesia.40
Although the preamble to the fatw§ states that chapter 23 of the
UDHR on freedom of employment is not in line with, indeed is
contradictory to, Islam, the fatw§ itself does not say anything
about this freedom. No reason is given for the absence of this
point from the fatw§, but it is probably related to the question of
women in the work place. In another fatw§, concerning female
workers abroad, issued on 29 July 2000, MUI stated:
In principle, it is allowed for women to leave the household to work
in another town or country, so long as they are accompanied by their
close relations, family or a group of trustworthy women. If not … it
is forbidden unless there is an emergency situation—at which time it
is tolerated by the legal Islamic, national legal, and customary reasons—
and that the women’s security and dignity are guaranteed.41
Like the fatw§ on corruption, the fatw§ on human rights should
not be separated from the euphoria of Reformasi. Neither should
40 “Fatwa tentang Hak-hak,” 26-7.
41 “Fatwa tentang Pengiriman Tenaga Kerja Wanita (TKW) ke Luar Negeri,”
Mimbar Ulama, no. 265, xxii, September 2000, 30-1.
#ulam§", state and politics 69
it be disassociated from international politics, given that the
question of human rights is often used to pressure developing
countries, including Indonesia. This fatw§ challenges the hegemony
of the Western interpretation of human rights, which tends to
neglect the local context; and it is imbued with the spirit of the
Cairo Declaration, which emphasises not only individual rights
but also individual duties, social rights, and the relative weighting
of rights, freedom and duties.
2. c. Fatw§ on \al§l Food
One of the most polemical fatw§s issued under Wahid dealt with
widely-consumed monosodium glutamate (MSG) products produced
by the Japanese company Ajinomoto.
Ajinomoto was already in receipt of a \al§l Certificate from
LPPOM, which had established rules prohibiting the use of pork
products in any part of its production or preparation process.
The certificate aims to assure Muslim consumers that Ajinomoto’s
MSG products are permissible. As the receiver of the certificate,
Ajinomoto Indonesia Inc. was required to maintain the Èal§l
quality of its products. However, LPPOM discovered that, between
June 1999 and November 2000, Ajinomoto Indonesia Inc. had
substituted bacto soytone, which contains a pig enzyme, for the
usual poly peptone, a soy-bean based enzyme. Therefore, on 16
December 2000, MUI issued a fatw§ stating that Ajinomoto’s
products are forbidden. To strengthen the argument, the fatw§
cited five verses on the prohibition of consuming pork (Q. 2:
168, 173; 5: 3; 6: 145; and 7: 157); three ÈadÊths; consensus, and
two juridical principles. The fatw§ itself declared:
1) It is Èar§m to consume the MSG products of Ajinomoto Indonesia
Inc. which use bacto soytone in their production process;
2) Muslims who, due to their ignorance, have consumed the above
MSG products may regard themselves as innocent;
3) MUI calls on Muslims to be careful in consuming anything that
is in doubt or forbidden by religion;
4) This decision is valid from the date of its issuance, with the proviso
that should the decision be found to be mistaken, it shall be
corrected. 42
42 “Fatwa tentang Produk Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) PT. Ajinomoto
Indonesia yang Menggunakan Bacto Soytone,” Mimbar Ulama, no. 269, xxiii,
January 2001, 18-20.
70 moch. nur ichwan
This fatw§ was challenged by President Wahid, an Islamic
scholar himself, who said that, based on scientific evidence,
Ajinomoto’s MSG products were safe for consumption by Muslims.
Wahid insisted that there had been a mistake in the process of
producing the fatw§. The most important points, he argued, are
that the final product should be free of any pork element and
that the fatw§ should consider the general principle that “averting
causes of corruption takes precedence over bringing about benefit”
(Ar. dar" al-maf§sid muqaddam #al§ jalb al-maߧliÈ). According to his
spokesman, Wimar Witoelar, Wahid was concerned about “the
proper administration of religious law” and suspected that MUI
had issued an “imperfect” fatw§ (Roderick 2001). Wahid therefore
suggested that people should not overreact.43
Wahid’s critics suggested that his use of the aforementioned
juridical principle is misleading, since the president was concerned
only with the economic impact of the fatw§ rather than with
religious teachings. This charge may have some basis since Wahid’s
argument was based mainly on an economic consideration: the
jobs of more than 4,000 workers at the Ajinomoto factory were
at stake, and any ban would affect Indonesia’s relationship with
foreign, and especially Japanese, investors. However, the majority
of Indonesians supported MUI in this instance.
The strong public support for MUI’s fatw§ reflected the general
climate against Wahid, who had already lost support among
most Islamic and Islam-based parties, except his own PKB.
Furthermore, the gulf between the President and the DPR was
by now unbridgeable. DPR chairman Akbar Tanjung suggested
that Wahid’s statement had caused confusion, while Laode Djeni
Hasmar, a Golkar legislator, stated that it would only trigger
Muslim anger, and that it is MUI, and not the President, that
has the authority to issue a fatw§. Similar reactions came from
Islamic parties, such as the United Development Party (PPP),
the Crescent and Star Party (PBB), and Justice Party (PK).
Zainuddin MZ, a PPP board member, stated that Muslims should
follow MUI’s fatw§, because Wahid’s opinion is more political
than religious.44 Even the police force failed to support Wahid,
43 “Produk Ajinomoto Halal,” Tempo Interaktif, 9 January 2001.
44 “Fatwa MUI Jelas Lebih Kuat,” Tempo Interaktif, 10 January 2001.
#ulam§", state and politics 71
and its chief, General S. Bimantoro, stated that his officers would
follow MUI rather than the President.45
The Justice Party produced its own fatw§ on the issue, released
by its SharÊ#a Council on 10 January 2001. The Justice Party
declared that it was issuing the fatw§ to support MUI, but had
broadened its scope to include the general matter of Èal§l food
and the respective positions of MUI and the government. The
fatw§ states, for instance, that in establishing the Èal§l and Èar§m
status of food, “the government should not use a political and
economic approach, but rather an Islamic legal one.”46
Meanwhile NU, of which Wahid was former chairman, was
naturally cautious in dealing with the issue. Rather than suggesting
that MUI’s fatw§ was invalid, it suggested that it needed careful
reevaluation. It is worth noting that NU’s own representatives in
MUI, including Ma’ruf Amin, the chairperson of MUI’s Fatw§
and Law Commission, did not support Wahid’s opinion. Indeed,
Amin wrote an article supporting the MUI fatw§.47
The transitional period following the fall of Suharto was marked
by government weakness and a strengthening of civil society.
During this time, MUI shifted from being state-oriented to being
Umma-oriented, as reflected in its slogan, used since the Wahid
era, that it is “the servant of the Umma.” However, the word
“Umma” remains vague, since Islam is expressed in a variety of
ways in Indonesia and it is hard to define a single Islamic
community in matters of doctrine and practice. Some of MUI’s
fatw§s and tausiyahs have garnered a negative reaction in certain
Muslim circles, especially those with liberal, progressive, and
nationalist inclinations. MUI’s previous support for the Habibie
government was clear not only from its practical political attitudes
but also from its discursive products, fatw§s and tausiyahs in which
45 “Polri Tetap Berpegang pada Fatwa MUI,” Tempo Interaktif, 10 January
2001; “Fatwa MUI Jadi Pegangan Polisi,” Tempo Interaktif, 11 January 2001.
46 Dewan Syariah Partai Keadilan, “Fatwa: Seruan Dewan Syariah Partai
Keadilan kepada Umat Islam Indonesia tentang Masalah Makanan Halal,”
in Site now deactivated.
47 Mimbar Ulama, no. 269, xxiii, January 2001, 22-8.
72 moch. nur ichwan
Habibie is characterised as a Muslim representative and Wahid
is cast as a secularist (or even a leftist).
MUI’s political role is best reflected in its tausiyahs rather than
in its fatw§s. This is because MUI frequently has been forced to
react to political situations. For this purpose, the process of issuing
tausiyahs—which is much easier and less complicated than issuing
fatw§s—has been the preferred mode of communication.
MUI continues to use its fatw§s and tausiyahs to affirm its claim
to be the national institution with authority in Islamic affairs. It
calls upon both the state and the people to heed its legal opinions
and advice. Nevertheless, MUI’s fatw§s and tausiyahs are not legally
binding on the government and society. Rather, the actual influence
of each utterance is very much related to the prevailing social
and political context. Some fatw§s, such as that on Ajinomoto,
have been quite popular, but many people are only dimly aware,
if at all, of others, such as that on human rights. In this respect,
it seems that the relative success or effectiveness of MUI fatw§s
and tausiyahs is not a function of their direct and short-term influence
on society, but rather of their indirect and long-term influence.
Some statements may have to wait until they find their relevant
social and political space. The tausiyahs on elections, for instance,
will most likely be reiterated in most future plebiscites, much as
an earlier fatw§ on Muslim attendance at Christmas celebrations
has been reiterated every year in December. Other tausiyahs
eventually may be elevated to the formal status of a fatw§.
The increased independence of MUI has enabled it to participate
actively in debates about the place of Islam in Indonesia’s future.
Although the organization is somewhat tainted by its links to
previous regimes of Suharto and Habibie, this heritage still grants
it important influence on draft legislation. For example, MUI is
authorised to give advice concerning national laws that may
have an affect on Muslims. However, since such advice is not
binding, the government may accept or reject it, much as
Indonesians in general remain free to accept or reject MUI’s
fatw§s and tausiyahs.

materi ushul fiqih dari syamsul anwar

I examine here contemporary ift§" practices in Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s
leading organisation for modernist Muslims, with special attention to Majelis
Tarjih, the body charged with issuing its fatw§s since 1927. After explaining
Muhammadiyah’s ideology, and the working method of Majelis Tarjih and
the authority of its decisions, I examine and discuss several fatw§s relating to
syncretic practices in Indonesia and one fatw§ about whether a woman may
serve in a position of authority over men. I argue that the fatw§s issued by
Majelis Tarjih demonstrate how Muhammadiyah promotes a more dynamic
understanding of religion among its members and within Indonesian society
at large, an understanding that often differs from traditionalist views espoused
in classical fiqh books.
Fatw§ giving in the Islamic context is an effort to interpret
religio-legal norms in response to issues faced by community
members in their daily life. As such, fatw§s represent “the meeting
points of law and fact” (Masud et al. 1996: 3). At the same time,
they reflect the creative tension between the normative ideals of
Islam and social reality or “the tension between official religion
and the practice of religion … in daily life” (Kaptein 1997: xi).
They also disseminate criticism and correction as well as
demonstrating mechanisms of adaptation and adjustment to existing
social conditions. Finally, they form “an institutional means of
social and religious improvement” ( Jainuri 1997: 57).
The formulation of modern fatw§s differs from the pre-modern
and classical process in some respects. Whereas most fatw§s
traditionally were issued by an individual muftÊ, fatw§ giving in
Correspondence: Syamsul Anwar, Faculty of Islamic Law, Sunan Kalijaga State
Islamic University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
* I wish to thank Nico Kaptein for his valuable comments on the first draft
of this paper and Michael Laffan for editing the English.
28 syamsul anwar
modern times often involves a group of muftÊs and indeed institutions
as well (Mudzhar 1996: 230). Modern fatw§s are communicated
to their petitioners (mustaftÊs) not only in an immediate way and
in person, as was the case with classical fatw§s, but also by utilizing
the available media, with the result that fatw§s now reach a
wider spectrum of community members.1
One Indonesian institution that involves muftÊs collectively in
formulating its fatw§s is the semi-official Majelis Ulama Indonesia
(MUI) or Council of Indonesian Ulama. Since its foundation in
1975, MUI has issued many fatw§s on various aspects of social
life.2 In addition, it has an institutional body called the National
SharÊ#a Committee (NSC), which is specifically responsible for
the issuance of fatw§s regarding Islamic banking in Indonesia.3
A number of socio-religious associations have special divisions in
which their experts formulate fatw§s collectively. One such
association is Muhammadiyah, the subject of the present article,
which has within its organizational structure a division charged
with the task of examining religious matters in general. This
division, Majelis Tarjih dan Pengembangan Pemikiran Islam,
usually called Majelis Tarjih, issues fatw§s each fortnight on various
problems and publishes these fatw§s in its mouthpiece, Suara
Muhammadiyah. In addition, this body also issues Islamic legal
decisions representing the formal position of the organization,
which are considered binding by its members.
This essay discusses the process of formulating fatw§s in Muhammadiyah
through Majelis Tarjih and shows how its fatw§s function
as an instrument of purifying faith and dynamizing social life.
1 Such means also include radio, see Messick (1996: 310-20).
2 The fatw§s of MUI as compiled by Prodjodikoro et al. (1995) are studied
by Mudzhar (1993). See also the discussion of Nur Ichwan in this volume.
3 See its published fatw§s in Himpunan Fatwa (2001). It should be noted
that as far as Indonesian Islamic banks are concerned, fatw§s regarding their
products and operations are not under the responsibility of a Sharia Supervisory
Board established by the individual institution, as is usually the case in other
Muslim countries. For example, according to Article 20 of the Decree of the
Board of Directors of Bank Indonesia, its Sharia Supervisory Board serves
only to oversee the activities of the bank in order to keep them in line with
the principles of the SharÊ#a. In performing this function, Bank Indonesia
follows the fatw§s of MUI’s NSC, founded in 1999 with the primary task of
formulating SharÊ#a values and principles regarding Islamic banking transactions
and operations. Its membership includes Islamic legal scholars and experts
from the financial sector.
fatw§, purification and dynamization 29
First, however, it is necessary to give a short account of Muhammadiyah
and its genesis.
An Overview of Muhammadiyah
Founded by Ahmad Dahlan in Yogyakarta in 1912,4 Muhammadiyah
constitutes a movement for Islamic propagation (Ar. da#wa)
that has Islam as its basis and the Qur"§n and Sunna as its
sources.5 It is also, according to Deliar Noer, a modernist movement
that approaches these sources by means of independent rational
investigation (Ar. ijtih§d ) in order to spread Islam among the
population and to carry out social and religious reforms among
Indonesian Muslims (Noer 1973: 73; Sejarah Muhammadiyah
1993: 28; Mulkhan 1990: 3, 27). As such, this movement represents
a link in the chain of what Nakamura calls Indonesia’s “ongoing
Muhammadiyah was born in a context in which many Muslims
were questioning the prevailing socio-religious conditions and
arguing that their coreligionists had deviated from the ideals of
Islam and were imbued with elements of superstition and innovation.
Even though Islam had been present in the Indonesian
archipelago for centuries prior to the emergence of new reform
movements, it had yet to penetrate deeply into Indonesian society.
The social structure of Southeast Asian societies often compelled
Islam to coexist alongside popular customs and to sanction many
local traditions that are not fully in line with its teachings (Federspiel
2001: 12-3). While observers debate the actual extent to which
non-Islamic influences persist, it cannot be denied that Indonesians
still practice many popular customs that contain elements of
pre-Islamic traditions that are thus a target of reformist missionary
4 For biographical information on Ahmad Dahlan (1869-1923), see Asrafie
1983; Kutoyo and Safwan n.d.; Anis 1962; and Peacock 1978: 29-42.
5 See Article 1, paragraph 2 of Muhammadiyah’s Statutes (Anggaran Dasar
Muhammadiyah 2000).
6 By “ongoing Islamization”, Nakamura (1983: 2) means “a process in
which a substantial number of Muslims regard prevailing religious situations
(including themselves) as unsatisfactory and, as a corrective measure, strive to
live up to what they conceive of as the standard of the orthodox teaching of
7 Fauzan Saleh (2001: 40) contends that Islam in Indonesia, especially in
30 syamsul anwar
Islam played a key role in the formation of an Indonesian
consciousness which opposed the values and interests of the Dutch.
The presence of foreigners, who, over time, became dominant
over Indonesia’s diverse array of indigenous peoples, caused many
to seize on religion in their search for a common identity. Indeed
Dutch colonial power accelerated the process of conversion to
Islam and provided additional impetus for a shift from nominal
Islam to a more substantial commitment to the faith.
By the late nineteenth century, Dutch domination in the
economic, political and, increasingly, educational spheres created
an elite class steeped in Dutch culture and often indifferent to
religion. The final crystallization of Dutch power in the form of
the Netherlands Indies and the rise of this new Dutch-allied elite
was also accompanied by a rise in the activities of Christian
missions. As Saleh observes, Muhammadiyah was primarily
concerned with issues such as “the impurity of religious life, the
inefficiency of religious education, the activities of Christian
missionaries, and indifference and even an anti-religious attitude
on the part of the Indonesian intelligentsia” (Saleh 2001: 3).
Muhammadiyah’s approach to reform and its concern with
ijtih§d is linked to the teachings of the Egyptian modernist
MuÈammad #Abduh, whose writings were communicated through
the centuries-old channel linking the Indonesian archipelago and
the Middle East. As a result of this relationship, many people
from the Middle East had come to Southeast Asia as traders and
preachers. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of Southeast Asians
made the journey to the Holy Sanctuaries for the Èajj and to
Ahmad Dahlan was a participant in this exchange. He visited
Mecca twice, first in 1890—staying for several years as a student—
and again in 1903, living in the Holy City for about eighteen
months. One of his mentors in Mecca was the Minangkabauborn
Ahmad Khatib,8 famous for his criticism of local customs
Java, historically has been unable to efface traditions that pre-date Islam. On
the question of the pre-Islamic substratum in Indonesia, see also Mark
Woodward’s criticism of Clifford Geertz for accepting the earlier Dutch view
that Islam in Indonesia, especially in Java, was, at least prior to the rise of
modernism, a thin veneer of symbols attached to a solid core of animistic or
Hindu-Buddhist meaning (Woodward 1989: 82).
8 On Ahmad Khatib and his network of students in Mecca, see Nazwar
fatw§, purification and dynamization 31
in his homeland of West Sumatra. And although Khatib was not
enamoured of #Abduh’s modern approach, it was he who gave
Dahlan the opportunity to read and appreciate #Abduh’s writings,
such as his Ris§lat al-tawÈÊd, al-Isl§m wa’l-naßr§niyya, and TafsÊr juz"
#§mma. It is also reported that Dahlan later took a great interest
in #Abduh’s exegesis, completed by Ri•§, the TafsÊr al-Man§r
( Jainuri 1997: 33-4).
Much like the program of #Abduh, the religious views of
Muhammadiyah are based on the principle of “return to the
Qur"§n and the Sunna of the Prophet.” This means that it is
necessary to reshape religious understandings to bring them into
line with their original purity, as expounded in the Qur"§n and
Sunna. The slogan is always emphasised by Muhammadiyah
leaders. For example, at the forty-first Muhammadiyah Conference,
Ahmad Azhar Basyir (later chairman of Majelis Tarjih [1985-
1990] and of Muhammadiyah [1990-1995]) asserted that from
the outset this movement has been keen to summon Muslims to
return to, and live in accordance with, the Qur"§n and Sunna.
This, he continued, is accomplished by purifying faith from
associationism (Ar. shirk, i.e. associating other gods with All§h)
and superstitions (Ar. khur§f§t),9 as well as by cleansing ritual
observances (Ar. #ib§d§t) of innovations (Ar. bida#) widely practiced
by Muslims (Basyir 1985: 1).
The implication of such a view is that the spirit of ijtih§d must
be revived and that, by the same token, taqlÊd, the uncritical
following of an authority, regarded as a source of conservatism
and stagnation, must be abandoned (Nakamura 1979: 13). It is
also the aim of this movement not to be tied to any one school
of Islamic law (Ar. madhhab). Every Muslim, when practicing his
or her religion, should take religious teachings directly from the
Qur"§n and Sunna. Those who cannot do this, for lack of
education, should practice ittib§#, i.e. following an opinion while
fully understanding its underlying grounds in the Qur"§n and
Sunna. The difference between ittib§# and taqlÊd is that taqlÊd
means “following an opinion in religious matters without knowing
its source or basis” (Pasha and Darban 2000: 202), whereas ittib§#
involves active acceptance of an opinion by understanding its
9 According to the Ensiklopedi Islam (III: 58-9), khur§f§t generally means
fabulous stories or something that does not stand up to reason.
32 syamsul anwar
arguments from the primary sources. For this reason, members
of Muhammadiyah often claim that they have no madhhab affiliation.
However, this does not mean that Muhammadiyah ignores
the opinions of the different schools of Islamic law. Such opinions
are indeed important and very useful, but they function as
comparative materials to be taken into consideration in comprehending
the Qur"§n and Sunna (Rahman 1985: 5-54). In this
connection, A.R. Fakhruddin, a former chairman of Muhammadiyah
(1968-90), emphasized that the only source of truth
and righteousness is the Qur"§n and \adÊth. If the doctrines of
the madhhabs do not comply with these two sources, they must be
avoided, but if they do comply with them, they must be followed
(Fakhruddin 1984: 17-8).
As an Islamic da#wa movement with a modernist outlook,
Muhammadiyah has an ongoing mission to carry out social and
religious reforms among the Muslim community in Indonesia.
This mission is nicely encapsulated in two key-words, “purification”
and “dynamization,” as in the title of a book recently published
by Majelis Tarjih, Pengembangan Pemikiran Keislaman Muhammadiyah:
Purifikasi dan Dinamisasi (Muhammadiyah’s Development of Islamic Thought:
Purification and Dynamization).10 The focus on purification is evident
in the attention given to aspects of belief and ritual observances.
In these fields, Muhammadiyah stresses the pristine character of
Islamic belief and holds the opinion that Muslims should be
completely free from superstitions and unwarranted innovation.
Sociologically, Muhammadiyah interprets Islamic teachings in a
dynamic manner so as to advocate social reforms and, at the
same time, facilitate adaptation to modern life. This forms the
spirit of the Muhammadiyah movement and yields dynamization,
as seen through the social programs of this organization connected
to education, health care and community development (Nakamura
1979: 13). Muhammadiyah contends that involvement in social
projects is an expression of genuine religious commitment as
emphasized in the Qur"§n (107:1-7). It should also be noted
that, since its establishment, Muhammadiyah has not involved
itself directly in political activities.
Muhammadiyah developed rapidly. Within the lifetime of its
founder, it had branches throughout Java, and by 1930 it had
10 See Azhar and Ilyas 2000. This book includes a number of papers
presented at a seminar held by Majelis Tarjih on 22-23 June 1996.
fatw§, purification and dynamization 33
spread to the larger islands of Indonesia, including Sumatra,
Kalimantan and Sulawesi (Sejarah Muhammadiyah 1993: 68;
Kutoyo and Safwan n.d.: 60). At present, it is represented in all
corners of Indonesia and it has founded 34 general hospitals, 77
clinics and polyclinics, 95 maternity hospitals, four dispensaries,
137 maternal and paediatric health centres, 166 orphanages, 34
family planning units, 102 community development centres, and
3,126 family-care centres (Muhammadiyah 2000: 17). It also
runs 117 institutions of higher learning (including universities,
academies, and polytechnics) and thousands of elementary and
secondary schools (Muhammadiyah 2000: 15). In this respect,
Muhammadiyah is the largest socio-religious movement in Indonesia.
Majelis Tarjih and its Fatw§s
Muhammadiyah’s use of the word tarjÊÈ has changed over the
course of its development. In its early period, and in accordance
with its usage in the principles of law (Ar. ußål al-fiqh), tarjÊÈ
conveyed the meaning of examining the various opinions of Muslim
jurists on a certain question and evaluating them in order to
determine which is most faithful to the original SharÊ#a sources.
Over the course of time this usage gradually came to include
any intellectual endeavour used to study new cases that had not
been addressed by earlier jurists. In short, tarjÊÈ is identical, or
almost identical, to ijtih§d.
The success of Muhammadiyah in its missionary activities and
in the development of its programs in the social and religious
spheres spurred its leaders to undertake more difficult tasks. In
the first decades of its development, the tasks of studying religious
matters, issuing fatw§s, and implementing social and educational
programs, were all carried out directly by the leadership. However,
as a result of the growth of its activities and the broadening of
its organizational network, the leadership was less able to control
and synchronize the implementation of its programs in accordance
with the underlying principles of the movement. This condition
required a division of labor. Hence in response to a recommendation
made by K.H. Mas Mansur,11 it was decided at
11 Mas Mansur (1898-1946) was born in Surabaya, East Java. He went to
34 syamsul anwar
Muhammadiyah’s sixteenth congress in 1927 to establish a tarjÊÈ
council to deal with religious matters and to provide direction
for its movement. The name of the council was changed slightly
after its inception, as a reflection of the emphasis on the tasks it
bore in a given period.12 Since 1995, this body has been called
the Council of Tarjih and the Development of Islamic Thought.13
Majelis Tarjih maintains a centralized and hierarchical branch
structure and undertakes tasks in line with Muhammadiyah’s
orientation as a reformist movement. It is therefore directed to
the examination of Islamic teachings; providing guidance in matters
of belief, ethics, ritual observances and social relations; issuing
fatw§s either on request or on its own initiative; constructively
directing controversies on religious matters; improving the general
quality of religious scholarship; and handling other matters
determined by the board of Muhammadiyah.14
One of the responsibilities of Majelis Tarjih is to formulate the
ideological bases of the Muhammadiyah movement. Acting as
an interpreter of alternative ideological frames of reference, the
Council may announce that its dictums can serve as a philosophical
justification for the programs and goals of the movement. Muhammadiyah’s
religious views are flexible and its ideological elements
can be modified in accordance with the dynamics of progress
and change. This is the basic framework within which Majelis
Tarjih deals with the reevaluation and reformulation of its outlook
to ensure a continuous evolution (Jainuri 1997: 100).
Majelis Tarjih has central, regional, and district boards. However,
each board has only a structural relationship with the board of
Muhammadiyah at its commensurate level. Thus Majelis Tarjih
of the Central Board (Pimpinan Pusat) is responsible to the Central
Board of Muhammadiyah, while a regional tarjÊÈ council answers
Mecca in 1912 and later studied at al-Azhar, Cairo. In 1928 he was appointed
the first chairman of MajelisTarjih. He also served as chairman of Muhammadiyah
from 1937 to 1943. See Ensiklopedi Islam (1993: 157-60); Ensiklopedi
Nasional Indonesia (1990: X, 148); and Kutoyo (1977). His writings are reprinted
and edited in Hamzah (1986).
12 See Boeah Congres 23 (1938: 11). Majelis Tarjih was officially founded in
1928, based on a decision of 1927.
13 The organization was called Majelis Tarjih upon its establishment, but
Muhammadiyah altered the name to “Tarjih Commission” (Lajnah Tarjih) in
its 1971 Constitution, and it was subsequently redesignated as Majelis Tarjih.
14 See Article 4 of the Statutes of Majelis Tarjih; and Rahman (1985: 23).
fatw§, purification and dynamization 35
to the regional board to which it belongs. There is no structural
chain of command linking Majelis Tarjih at the central level to
a regional or district council. The relationship between them is
solely one of functionality and coordination. This structure affects
the level of authority of Islamic legal decisions; decisions that
emanate from a lower tarjÊÈ have less authority and cannot
contradict a decision issued by a higher one. Furthermore
Muhammadiyah, through the Majelis Tarjih of the Central Board,
produces two kinds of Islamic legal pronouncements of differing
value. Resolutions adopted at a Tarjih Conference held by Majelis
Tarjih are called keputusan tarjih (tarjÊÈ decisions).15
A conference held by the Majelis Tarjih of the Central Board
is called a National Tarjih Conference. This is attended by male
and female #ulam§" and intellectuals (including staff of Majelis
Tarjih) who have the proven capacity to excercise tarjÊÈ in the
sense that their knowledge of the sources enables them to carry
out ijtih§d. It is also attended by invited #ulam§" and scholars from
outside Muhammadiyah.16 The decisions of such a national
conference become the formal stand of the organization as a
whole. It is important to note that the decisions are not brought
directly to the public; rather they first must be submitted to the
Central Board in order to be officially promulgated (ditanfidz).
Formally speaking, these decisions are binding on Muhammadiyah
as an institution as well as on its individual members. In practice,
however, members exercise their right not to be bound absolutely
to a certain decision if they have reached a different opinion as
a result of ijtih§d on the same issue.17
15 Some of these decisions are compiled in the Himpunan Putusan Tarjih
Muhammadiyah (n.d.), while others are still in draft form. Note that tarjÊÈ decisions
made in a “regional” or a “district” tarjÊÈ conference are called regional or
district decisions, respectively, and can be enforced only in the province or
district that issued them.
16 The Majelis Tarjih staff includes women and there is a female section
within the Central Board devoted to issues affecting women and family affairs.
Women are actively involved in every Majelis Tarjih Conference, and the
council also invites female #ulam§" from other organizations to participate in
its conferences. For example in the twenty-sixth National Conference of 2003,
Prof. Chuzaimah Y. Tahido, a graduate of al-Azhar and member of MUI,
was invited as a keynote speaker.
17 In recent years, and as a result of the widening of the Majelis Tarjih’s
mission, Tarjih decisions not only cover traditional fiqh matters, but also
touch upon aspects of current issues, including political and economic ethics,
36 syamsul anwar
Majelis Tarjih also issues fatw§s.18 Unlike the keputusan, a fatw§
is not produced by a formal mechanism of the organization such
as a Tarjih Conference. Rather, it is issued by Majelis Tarjih in
response to questions posed by members of the community. Such
questions may have been sent to the editors of Suara Muhammadiyah
or directly to the Council. Council staff then make copies of the
questions, file the originals in its records and pass on one or
more questions to members entrusted with the task of preparing
draft fatw§s to be discussed at a scheduled time. Usually informal
meetings for discussing the draft fatw§s are held in rotation at
the homes of members or at a restaurant. At the scheduled time
the participants discuss the relevant fatw§, making any necessary
changes before sending the final fatw§ to the editors of Suara
Muhammadiyah for publication. The fatw§ may also be delivered
directly to the questioner if need be. Unlike the keputusan, the
fatw§ is binding neither on Muhammadiyah as an organization
nor on the questioner or other members of Muhammadiyah.
However, in practice it serves as a guide for members of Muhammadiyah,
as evinced by the fact that fatw§ collections are often
The authoritative value of decisions produced by the Tarjih
Conference and of fatw§s issued by Majelis Tarjih is determined
by the quality of the arguments and SharÊ#a evidence on which
they are based and by the faithfulness to Islamic law of the
methodological procedures followed (cf. Arkoun 1988: 63). The
more tarjÊÈ decisions and fatw§s are based on the Qur"§n and
\adÊth, the stronger their authoritative value. Conversely, a legal
decision or a fatw§ for which there is no basis in these two
sources, and which is based merely on a saying of a religious
scholar, will be considered as lacking authority. This reflects the
basic principle of Muhammadiyah, i.e., “a return to the Qur"§n
pornography, corporate and professional alms tax, HIV, combating drug
abuse, human rights in an Islamic perspective, the strategy of the reform
movement, the development of Islamic thought, and labour relations.
18 These are compiled in the collection Tanya-Jawab Agama (1992-1997).
There are still many fatw§s in press. Note that the task of fatw§ giving is
assigned officially only to the Majelis Tarjih of the Central Board of Muhammadiyah.
19 Nadirsyah Hosen (2002: 237), who has recently written on Muhammadiyah’s
method of issuing fatw§s, appears to be unaware of the difference
between tarjÊÈ decisions and fatw§s.
fatw§, purification and dynamization 37
and the Sunna of the Prophet.” Scholars and muftÊs have only
derivative authority, which means that their ijtih§d and fatw§s are
authoritative only if predicated upon the Qur"§n and \adÊth.
They must therefore fulfill the prerequisites of ijtih§d stipulated
in ußål al-fiqh, which includes a mastery of Arabic, the Qur"§n,
\adÊth and other branches of Islamic knowledge, in addition to
“secular” science. Fulfilment of these conditions guarantees the
authoritative value of the resulting interpretation.
But the authority of the instrument itself is also decisive. Thus
a Majelis Tarjih decision binds individual members and the
organization at large, and becomes the formal position of Muhammadiyah,
while a fatw§ issued by the Council does not. The
reason for this is that the former is a product of a process that
involves competent scholars and people in a formal conference
forum, while the latter does not. Furthermore, a Majelis Tarjih
decision does not automatically lose its authoritative value when
new arguments contrary to it are discovered, unless a decision
abrogating the earlier decision is taken in an equally formal
procedure through a Tarjih resolution.
The emergence of institutional authority is connected to the
cumulative process through which the authority of Majelis Tarjih
came to be accepted. However, in the course of its history, some
Muhammadiyah members came to believe that only Tarjih legal
decisions were valid or represented sound religious interpretation;
as a result, they were sceptical towards any interpretations that
had not been assessed by the Council.
In 1936, fearing that this situation might lead to too doctrinaire
an attitude among Muhammadiyah members, the Central Board
issued its “explanation of tarjÊÈ.” According to this explanation,
tarjÊÈ is employed to avoid conflicts in Muhammadiyah that might
be caused by differences of opinion in understanding religion. A
Majelis Tarjih decision, the explanation adds, is not made in
order to contest other opinions, that is, it does not seek to challenge
or denounce opinions that Majelis Tarjih does not accept. Rather,
Majelis Tarjih was created to strengthen unity by identifying the
opinion that is closest to Qur"§n and Sunna. Therefore, prevailing
opinions are accepted, on the condition that support for them
can be found in the Qur"§n and \adÊth and regardless of whether
or not they have been evaluated by the Council. The function
of Majelis Tarjih, then, is simply to explicate matters of controversy
38 syamsul anwar
and to seek a solution (Penerangan 1936: 145; Boeah Congres
26 n.d.: 31; Anwar 2000: 34). Furthermore, Majelis Tarjih does
not want to establish itself as the sole bearer of the right to
interpret religion and it is fully aware of the possibility of forming
erroneous conclusions. Therefore, it “eagerly invites all #ulam§"
to be willing to evaluate Majelis Tarjih decisions to find out the
weakness of its arguments …, for the evaluation is made only on
the basis of our understanding and ability at that time” (Penerangan
1936: 145).
Because the authority of the Tarjih Council’s fatw§s is determined
by the quality of their arguments and the evidence supporting
them, readers of Suara Muhammadiyah often adopt critical attitudes
to them. Frequently a fatw§ issued by Majelis Tarjih in response
to a reader’s question is debated by other readers of Suara
Muhammadiyah or is called into question. The Council then
reevaluates the fatw§ and issues a more comprehensive elucidation.
Indeed, the Council appreciates feedback and acknowledges when
the argument of one of its fatw§s is weaker than that of its readers.
There is yet another kind of tarjÊÈ product called wacana tarjih
(tarjÊÈ discourse). Although this discourse is not mentioned explicitly
in the statutes of Majelis Tarjih, it is carried out by the Council
informally, based on paragraph a of Article 4 of those statutes,
which states that the main tasks of the Council include “intensifying
the study and investigation of the Islamic teachings in the
framework of realizing tajdÊd (renewal) and anticipating social
development.” In contrast to a keputusan and a fatw§, both of
which constitute a formal opinion, the former binding and the
latter persuasive, wacana tarjih represents ideas, thought, or opinions
concerning contemporary issues adduced and brought to the
fore by the Council. This third kind of tarjÊÈ resolution is aimed
at making Majelis Tarjih more dynamic and developing Islamic
thought in Muhammadiyah circles in order to be able to anticipate
and deal with various contemporary issues. The existence of the
discourse is a logical consequence of the addition in 1995 of the
words “the Development of Islamic Thought” to the name of
Majlis Tarjih, which reflects the broadening of the Council’s
In this connection, in 2000 the Council produced a controversial
book entitled A Thematic Exegesis of the Qur"§n on Inter-religious Social
Relations (Majelis Tarjih dan Pengembangan Pemikiran Islam PP
fatw§, purification and dynamization 39
Muhammadiyah 2000). This work—prepared by the board of
Majelis Tarjih and then discussed at the twenty-fourth National
Tarjih Conference of early 2000—interprets thematically a number
of Qur"§nic verses closely connected to central issues in interfaith
relations, including pluralism, cooperation among adherents of
different religions, and the Qur"§nic view of ahl al-kit§b. As a
non-binding resolution, wacana tarjih is open to discussion and
may even be rejected. In any case, however, the Council hopes
that by producing such a discourse it will broaden the horizons
of its readers and elicit valuable ideas from them to be used in
solving problems faced by the community.
Some Fatw§s of Majelis Tarjih
I shall now discuss some examples of Majelis Tarjih fatw§s in
order to show how they play a role within the framework of
Muhammadiyah’s endeavours to dynamize the socio-religious
life of Indonesian Muslims. The fatw§s presented here are chosen
from a four-volume collection entitled Tanya-Jawab Agama (Questions
and Answers on Religious Matters). This collection treats
a wide range of problems faced by questioners, from aspects of
belief and morality to commercial transactions and social relations,
although the vast majority are devoted to ritual matters. The
spheres of social relations and commercial matters include marriage,
the family, women’s issues, inheritance, trade and the
economy, endowments, health, art and customs, and inter-religious
Although the fatw§s were issued in Yogyakarta, the questioners
represent Indonesian society at large, including the westernmost
province of Aceh and West Papua in the East. Several questions
emanated from East Timor before its secession in 1999, as well
as from isolated islands like Bawean, situated in the Java Sea
between Java and Kalimantan. The questioners are either individuals,
groups, institutions (such as a regional tarjÊÈ councils),
Muhammadiyah branches, or its “autonomous organizations.”20
Although the editors did not always disclose the background of
the questioners, there can be no doubt that they come from
20 The Muhammadiyah movement oversees many so-called ‘autonomous
organizations’ such as Aisyiyah, Nasyiatul Aisyiyah, Ikatan Remaja Muhammadiyah,
and Ikatan Mahasiswa Muhammadiyah.
40 syamsul anwar
different social strata, including university graduates, scholars,
teachers, public figures, youth leaders, students and ordinary
The function of a fatw§ as a tool for religious purification and
dynamization can be discerned from some fatw§s included in
Questions and Answers on Religious Matters. For instance, one fatw§
was issued in response to the question of a woman from Kalimantan
who asked whether (1) giving offerings to big trees (any tall tree
can become an object of veneration), (2) making a vow to go to
a grave after recovery from illness, or (3) asking for treatment
from a traditional healer (dukun) constitutes associationism (Tanya-
Jawab Agama: IV, 285).
This question reflects practices that are typical of certain parts
of Indonesian society. The resultant fatw§ issued by Majelis Tarjih
refers to economic and religious considerations. It declares that
giving offerings to big trees is economically vain and therefore a
“wasteful act” (Ar. tabdhÊr) that is religiously prohibited. Thus
giving offerings to big trees is unlawful. If the act of giving offerings
to big trees is based on the belief that the trees have certain
powers, then it is indeed considered shirk. As for vowing to go to
a tomb after recovery from illness, the fatw§ states that this practice
constitutes shirk if the maker of the vow believes that a grave (or
the saint buried in it) has the magical power to heal. Qur"§n and
\adÊth provide sufficient precedent to show that Muslims may
visit a grave in order to remember death, but not to ask for a
blessing (Tanya-Jawab Agama: IV, 285).
On the subject of seeking a cure from a dukun, the fatw§ declares
that traditional dukuns treat a patient by massaging his or her
muscles and nerves, while asking God to cure the patient. Such
practices alone do not lead to shirk. The same holds for a healer
who uses the efficacious ingredients of medicinal herbs without
believing that these substances have inherent magical powers;
this too does not lead to associationism. However if the dukun
uses such ingredients as offerings to an unseen magical power,
then this constitutes an act leading to shirk and it is therefore
religiously prohibited (Tanya-Jawab Agama: IV, 286).
This fatw§ manifests a desire to purify religion from superstition.
At the same time it tries to inculcate rational thinking, as can be
seen in the economic consideration of prohibiting votive offerings
to trees. It also develops a rational understanding of the practice
of massage and traditional medicine.
fatw§, purification and dynamization 41
The linking of purification, rationalism and public benefit may
also be seen in a fatw§ regarding the practice of burying a buffalo’s
head in the foundation of a new building. The fatw§ admonishes
this action as a vain deed and squandering of wealth. This fatw§
also reflects Muhammadiyah ideology, which orients adherence
to Islam and genuine religious commitment to involvement in
social responsibility and concrete works for the community. This
idea is confirmed in a Muhammadiyah publication which emphasizes
that in the teachings of Islam, “wealth, rather than
being wasted for useless extravagance and redundant vanity,
should be spent for what has more concrete social benefits, such
as constructing a school, a mosque, a hospital, an orphanage,
and the like” (Pasha and Yusuf 1975: 10).
Another fatw§ found in the collection discusses both the mitoni
ritual, a thanksgiving ceremony for the seventh month of pregnancy,
and the tahlilan, a commemorative celebration held three,
seven and forty days after the death of a person (Tanya-Jawab
Agama: II, 196-7). The fatw§ declares that there is no basis for
these practices in \adÊth. On the contrary, one finds a tradition
reported on the authority of #$"isha, that the Prophet said,
“Whoever performs a practice (Ar. #amal) that does not accord
with our decree will be refused” (Ar. man #amila #amalan laysa
#alayhi amrun§ fa-huwa raddun).21 Therefore, the fatw§ continues,
Muhammadiyah does not practice these celebrations. Other fatw§s
discuss delivering gifts to a dead person in order to gain favour
and protection (Tanya-Jawab Agama: II, 197-201). Such acts are
also rejected on that grounds that they have no foundation in
Qur"§n and \adÊth.
A very different fatw§ itself played a role as a tool for social
dynamization (Tanya-Jawab Agama: IV: 240). The question arose
when the government forbade a private hospital to appoint as its
director a physician who was also a government official. For this
reason, the Muhammadiyah hospital in Surakarta had to find a
new director. Among the candidates, only one, a woman, was
qualified. When the hospital management informed her that they
wanted to appoint her, she refused, arguing that there is a ÈadÊth
21 The text is in al-Bukh§rÊ (1345/1926 IX: 132), Kit§b al-i#tiߧm bi’l-kit§b
wa’l-sunna, B§b 20; and Muslim 1955: III, 1343-4.
22 The ÈadÊth in question is reported by al-Bukh§rÊ on the authority of Abå
42 syamsul anwar
banning women from positions of leadership.22 The hospital
forwarded this case to the Tarjih Council of the Surakarta Regional
Board, asking for a fatw§. The Surakarta Council found it difficult
to answer, because the above-mentioned ÈadÊth is indeed “authentic”
(Ar. ßaÈÊÈ). The Council chairman therefore passed the
matter along to the Council of Tarjih of the Central Board in
Yogyakarta. As usual, one of the Council members was asked to
prepare a draft fatw§. Then, at a later meeting, the draft was
discussed by staff members and the proposed arguments were
scrutinized. Shortly after reaching an agreement, the members
formulated the final fatw§, and the draft was sent to Suara
Muhammadiyah, as well as to the Council of Tarjih of the Surakarta
Regional Board.
The essence of the fatw§ issued by Majelis Tarjih is that a
woman may be appointed as a director of hospital. The fatw§
refers specifically to a Majelis Tarjih decision in the Muhammadiyah
publication Adabul Marah fil Islam (1982: 52) which declares
that religion does not bar a woman from serving as a judge,23
school headmistress, director of a firm, sub-district head, village
chief, minister, mayor, and so forth. The fatw§ then cites and
discusses three texts commonly used as arguments against the
leadership of a woman. These include the Qur"§nic passage (4:34),
“Men are the managers of the affairs of women,” the abovementioned
ÈadÊth, and another stating that “men will be unlucky
when they obey women.”24 According to the fatw§, this latter
ÈadÊth is “weak” (Ar. •a#Êf ) because its chain of transmission (Ar.
isn§d) includes an unreliable transmitter (Ar. r§wÊ) named Bakk§r
b. #Abd al-#AzÊz.
As for the Qur"§nic text, the fatw§ attempts to limit the scope
of the passage to include only marital relationships, not social
Bakra, who said, “When a report came to the Prophet that the people of
Persia made Kisr§’s daughter queen over them, he [viz., the Prophet] said,
“People shall not be victorious if they put a woman in charge of their affairs”
(Ar. lan yufliÈa qawmun wallaw amrahum imra"atan). Al-Bukh§rÊ 1345/1926: VI:
10, B§b kit§b al-nabÊ il§ Kisr§ wa Qaysar. For commentary on this ÈadÊth see al-
#Asqall§nÊ 1954: IX, 192.
23In Indonesia it is not considered strange or counter to the SharÊ#a for a
woman to serve as a judge (or q§•Ê). At present many female judges serve on
various Indonesian courts, including the Religious Courts, which are responsible
for the settlement of Muslim family disputes.
24 The last ÈadÊth is cited in AÈmad ibn \anbal 1993: V, 61, no. 20403.
fatw§, purification and dynamization 43
relations in general. The passage therefore does not bar a woman
from serving as a leader. The basis for this restrictive interpretation
is “the occasion for the revelation” (Ar. sabab al-nuzål) of the
verse, which indicates that it was revealed to the Prophet in
connection with a marital dispute between Sa#d b. al-RabÊ# and
his wife. As for Abå Bakra’s ÈadÊth, the fatw§ urges that it should
be understood from the perspective of its spirit, not its letter, by
investigating its underlying ratio legis (Ar. #illa). Relying on historical
information, the fatw§ argues that the reason behind this Prophetic
maxim is that the condition of women at the time of the Prophet
made it impossible for them to assume social responsibilities due
to their lack of knowledge and experience in public affairs. Most
of them were sequestered in their houses. At present, however,
women have the same access to education as men do, and they
share the same experience and knowledge with men in social life
and public affairs. It is therefore lawful for them to be involved
outside the home and to be a leader of a community. This, the
fatw§ continues, is in line with a passage in the Qur"§n which
reads, “And whoever does a righteous deed, be it male or female,
believing, We shall assuredly give him to live a goodly life; and
We shall recompense them their wage, according to the best of
what they did” (Q. 16:97).25 Here the fatw§ suggests that undertaking
a social responsibility is an opportunity to do righteousness
from which, according to the verse, neither a male nor a female
should be dissuaded. To the contrary, a man or woman has the
same right to perform it. Here the fatw§ argues that this is also
in compliance with the Islamic legal maxim that “the effectiveness
of a legal rule depends on the existence or non-existence of its
ratio legis” (Ar. al-Èukm yadåru ma#a #illatihi wujådan wa #adaman).
This fatw§ reflects Muhammadiyah’s attempt to promote a
more dynamic understanding of religion and to distance itself
from the view held by the classical #ulam§" and by a substantial
number of contemporary Muslim religious scholars that a woman
cannot be put in charge of public affairs.
25 The translation of the two verses is quoted from A. J. Arberry ‘s The
Koran Interpreted: Arberry (1964: 77 and 269).
44 syamsul anwar
Concluding Remarks
Fatw§ giving in Muhammadiyah forms but a part of the activities
of Majelis Tarjih. At present tarjÊÈ not only entails the activity of
evaluating the prevailing opinions of Muslim jurists, but also
encompasses all intellectual endeavours to struggle with new
problems whose Islamic legal status has not yet been determined
in works of fiqh. Muhammadiyah fatw§s formulated by Majelis
Tarjih thus promote the reformist ideology of the movement
which aims to purify faith and dynamize social life. This is achieved
by issuing fatw§s that promote a more rational worldview and
attitude toward human life, thereby inculcating a spirit of rationalism
in the questioners and readers, and in Indonesian society
at large.