By Nurrohman Syarif
September 19 2014
One reason used by some groups who insist on establishing a caliphate, such as conveyed by supporters of the Islamic State movement (IS, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Indonesia is their concern for how Sharia should be practiced in the context of the state. The term “caliphate” (Khalifah) in Muslim political history has a specific meaning.
Inspired by Ibn Khaldun, the caliphate is distinct from a Mulk (sultanate). Rosenthal in his book, Islam in the Modern National State, defined the caliphate as a state ruled by Sharia while a Mulk is a state with a mixed constitution, based on Sharia and on the political law of the rulers.
Although Ibn Khaldun admitted that both kinds of state could be accepted, he argued that a caliphate was better than a Mulk. Some Muslim scholars in the modern age, such as Al-Maududi from Pakistan, also follow this path
As Muslims believe Islam is a complete civilization that includes a political system, some groups aspire to establish a state fully ruled by Sharia in the form of a caliphate through the formalization of Islam and Islamic law.
At this juncture, Sharia needs a state and a state in order to be called a caliphate needs regulation derived from Sharia. This is the logic behind the struggle to establish a caliphate. This logic is based on the assumption of the dependency of Sharia on the Islamic state. The jargon of Islam as Deen Wa Dawlah (religion and state) originates from this way of thinking.
On the other hand, there are scholars who argue that Sharia is basically a moral or ethical norm derived from the revealed will of God. Based on this argument the most important grounds for accepting Sharia is faith; one practices what is understood as Islamic law whenever and wherever one resides based on one’s ability. What Muslims need is protection from the state. This is what is called the credo theory proposed by Juhaya S. Praja, professor in Islamic law at the Bandung State Islamic University (UIN).
This theory is supported by strong arguments.
First, the Quran is not a book of law; it is a holy book comprising moral guidance. It is true that the Quran is the primary source of Islamic law, but Islamic law can also be inferred through many other sources (Dalil). Wahbah al-Zuhaily, in his book Al-Wajiz fi Ushul al-Fiqh (The methodology of Islamic jurisprudence), mentioned 11 sources of Sharia.
Besides being derived from the Quran and Sunna (written traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), most Sharia sources are derived from public opinion, local wisdom and good traditions that are easily understood by common sense through the principle of equality and justice.
Second, the Prophet is basically a moral and spiritual leader. Although many experts acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet and statesman, such as evidenced by his effort to make common ground with a plural society in the “Medina constitution” issued in his lifetime, Muhammad’s involvement in state affairs was not his main mission. He admitted himself that he was sent to perfect morality.
In the history of Islam, Islamic law is developed by experts or Islamic jurists privately and independently. Therefore it is not surprising that Islamic law is diverse, depending on the schools of law and their respective methodology. Some Islamic jurists have rejected attempts to have their school of law officially adopted by the state through codification. So in Islamic history many experts in Islamic law have actually distanced themselves from state intervention.
The early Abbasids attempted to make Islamic law, which was then still in its formative shape, the only law of the state. They did not succeed in achieving a permanent fusion of theory and practice, of political power and sacred law.
Currently, Muslims can be broadly divided into the groups of Islamic politics and Islamic ethics; those who aspire for Islam to be formalized by state laws and those following Islam as their private way of life. Therefore what is important for Indonesia is to encourage dialog about the Constitution, so the aspiration of each camp can be adopted in a moderate way.
This is because many factors cause someone to become an extremist, radical or even a terrorist, and many are vulnerable to being lured by extremist movements.
Muslims who aspire to political Islam would find it worthwhile considering the speech of a leading Indonesian Muslim politician, Muhammad Natsir, at Pakistan’s Institute of International Affairs on April 2, 1952.
The former prime minister said that “Pakistan is decidedly an Islamic country by population and by choice as it has declared Islam as the state’s religion. So is Indonesia an Islamic country by the fact that Islam is recognized as the religion of the Indonesian people,” although the Constitution does not decree Islam as the state’s religion.
“But neither has Indonesia excluded religion from its statehood. In fact it has put the monotheistic creed in the one and only God, at the top of Panchsheel [the state ideology]; the five principles adopted as the spiritual, moral and ethical foundations of the state and the nation.
“Thus for both our countries and peoples Islam has its essential place in our lives, which does not mean, however, that our state [...] is theocratic”.
From the above explanation, it is safe to conclude that in practicing Sharia Muslims do not need to establish a caliphate let alone a theocratic or oligarchic one.
Nurrohman Syarif is a lecturer at the Sunan Gunung Djati State Islamic University, Bandung and the Bandung State Islamic University (UIN