Floods, Religion and Political Shortcuts
By Khairil Azhar
February 01 2013
It has been almost two months since I read a flier before Friday midday prayers published by Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). The flier, titled “Al-Islam”, always starts with a hot weekly issue in Indonesia or the world, followed by some excerpts of the Koran or Hadith, before closing with the writer’s interpretation of the two variables as well as his commentary on why the issue has emerged.
The most interesting part is the last and the point of view the anonymous writer holds. Since HTI is fighting for a caliphate, an Islamic state with a caliph as the supreme leader, functioning as the successor of the Prophet Muhammad, the writer always closes his article with a statement that whatever the political system of a state is, the caliphate will be the most just and best choice for humankind.
The rationale of the statement is that the caliphate system was able to maintain what Prophet Muhammad established politically and justly in Medina in the sixth and the first half of the seventh century.
In relation to the present day, HTI tries to convince people that the world must be governed by an Islamic political system that is better than today’s democratic system backed up by capitalism.
Today, we are dealing with floods and in some parts of Greater Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia people are crying out for help. Casualties are shown on TV and newspapers. There is poor treatment from local state officials.
On religious podiums, similar with what HTI includes in its fliers, many clerics bark: “It is a curse from God. Humanity has been too far away from His teachings. It’s time to reflect and rebuild our belief in Him.”
At night, when God is still awake, the clerics sleep tightly and forget how thousands of people are also remain awake because they have no place to go for even just an hour’s sleep. Similarly, politicians do the same thing but in a different way. The most conspicuous way is how they visit flood areas and victims, with their batik uniforms or suits.
This is so people can easily recognize them as the leaders of political parties, instead of real leaders with empathy. People look at them as “clean” leaders who do not want to stain their hands with mud of the flood.
In conclusion, while for those affected, the floods are a disaster; on the contrary they are a blessing for the politicians. Most of them do no more than memancing di air keruh (take advantage amid the suffering of the others).
In commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, another story might help us to understand the rapport of religion and our everyday life.
It is a story of how formally understanding religion makes its flexibility disappear and in turn it becomes inapplicable in real life.
A teacher of a school was assigned to coordinate the event Maulid Nabi — or the Commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad — and he rejected it.
According to his Islamic understanding, it was Bid’ah (heresy) and should not be conducted.
He believed that commemorating the prophet’s birthday represented “copying and pasting” from the traditions of other religions. A good and right Muslim should not do the same. It is as the saying goes: “Whoever resembles what another group does, and then he is one of them.”
In fact, the Prophet is the best example from whom humankind should learn. Is that special occasion psychologically not needed to recall what he did and take what he did as enlightenment? Is that not in practice idealist preaching? Is asking Muslims to remember the Prophet every second of their lives no more than an empty call?
In many circumstances, God is no more than a buffer. Likewise, He becomes a passive symbol for people to lean on. God is no longer the key to activate one’s self-mechanism for the best performance and result in what he is doing.
The same goes for the Prophet. He is always mentioned yet no more than symbolically. HTI talks about a caliphate, referring to his teachings.
Politicians open their speeches with his name. Clerics pray for him with long utterances. Yet, what better things have we achieved so far in the social or political sphere that is related to religious beliefs?
It is time to better reflect on these things. There are more than enough stimuli: floods, political fraud, or the Prophet’s birthday.
The reason for declaring its leaning on God, as this country has done since the beginning must be more than just legitimacy. This country has suffered too much because of such shortcuts.
Khairil Azhar is a researcher at the Paramadina Foundation and the Ciputat School for Democratic Islam.