The Liberal Islam of Indonesia–Jaringan, by J.D. Meyer, mainly based on Ulil Abshar-Abdalla

Now it’s time to look at the liberal Islam of Indonesia at http://www.islamlib.com, also known as Jaringan Islam. What could be a better religious antidote to fanatic Muslim extremism than a faction of Islam that values reason?

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla read, “Upheaval in Islamic Thinking,” the journal of Ahmad Wahib, another Indonesian. Ahmad stated, “God is not a land forbidden to thought. God exists not in order for his existence to be un-thought. God takes shape not in order to hide from the light of the critique. He doesn’t want to be fixed in one place.” “Religion is a living organism that makes us feel enthusiasm.” Doesn’t that remind you of process theology? The Sufi go as far as to say that God created humans so he could be recognized.

The Mu’tazilah is a branch of Islam as major as the vastly better-known Sunni and Shiite. The Mu’tazilah asserts that through reason we can determine the limits of good and evil , undertake our own evolution and grow to be mature. Human reason is an active participant in interpreting the divine notions. We don’t have a brutish world; furthermore, revelation is not cruel but life-restoring.

A liberal Islam woman named Nong read the works of Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan Muslim feminist. Fatima believed the wearing of the veil nowadays simply serves the political interests of men. But long ago, the tradition was necessary because Muslim women were harassed just to both Mohammed himself. Fatima and Nong feel that this veil tradition is outdated. Fatima feels that Moslem women should simply wear modest clothes that don’t attract attention. Turkey’s founder, Attaturk, forbade the veil tradition as he wanted some distance between religion and state.

A physicist, Imanuddin Abdurrahim, asserted, “If Moslems want to progress, they can’t depend only on religious texts produced in a certain social and historical context. Social law is not static.” If you don’t install lightning rods on a mosque, natural law could hurt you.

Ulil sees the roots of Moslem fundamentalism as born from a sense of desperation and disappointment. Muslims once knew a golden age, and now they feel degraded. Political fragmentation has hurt; they’ve been left behind in science and economics. They’re spectators of injustice by the West. The Muslim fundamentalist question can be, “Has God left us out?” A pretty shocking theory, but haven’t we seen people behave in a fashion that reminds us of the football proverb, “The best defense is a strong offense”? There’s no religion for those without reason, according to Ulil.

What is a Liberal Muslim description of sin? Sin incites the twitchy and turmoil in your heart, and you don’t like other people see you do it.
So what can religion do for us when our civilization has declined? It should uplift the humanitarian dignity more than worship of a fixed object.

This paragraph comes from Muhammad Ali, not the boxer. Extremists want to see a clash, so religious leaders ordained and lay need to build dialogue. The interrelatedness of sacred texts in the three Abrahamaic religions forms a starting point. Unequal power relations make it difficult. The West appears insensitive and arrogant while the Muslim world seems insecure and defensive. Constructive criticism leads to accountability. Yet the boundary leaders, those who operate on the borders of their community by reaching out to others, need support since it’s psychologically taxing. Ali warns of biblioidolatry, when one worships a religious text taken out of its historical context.

“Ulil’s (Abshar-Abdalla) Controversial Article in English”
We’ll close our survey of the Liberal Islam of Indonesia with a summary of Ulil Abshar-Abdalla’s article in English. Ulil begins by declaring, “Islam is first and foremost a living organism, a religion that evolves in accordance with the pulse of humankind’s development. The tendency to make an unchanging monument of Islam is very prominent at present and the time has come to combat this tendency.”

Ulil fashions a very structured article, starting with four key points: (1) Islam shouldn’t be literalistic; it needs to stay in step with an ever-changing civilization. (2) Local culture must be separate from values; we’re not obligated to follow Arab culture. (3) Muslims shouldn’t view themselves as cut off from other groups. The Quran never banned interreligious marriage. People are on the same level regardless of religion. (4) Social structure needs to distinguish between political power and religious power. Religion is a private matter while the ordering of public life is through the community reaching agreement through democratic deliberation. Now isn’t it refreshing to hear a statement in favor of democracy from a Moslem thinker?

Islamic law should protect the values of “religious freedom, reason, property, the family and honor.” “How these are translated into any given historical and social context is something the Muslims must work out for themselves through “ijtihad” (intellectual endeavor).

Muhammad (Peace be unto Him.) is “a historical figure that should be the object of critical study” and “not just an always-admired mythological figure by ignoring his human qualities and possible weaknesses.” Yet still he must be a model to be followed. Muhammad’s success at Medina was a negotiation between universal values and the social constraints at Medina.

Yet all works of human creativity regardless of religion have something to offer Moslems. Value can be concealed behind the form, according to Ulil. That reminds me of problems with office politics or the tension between the establishment and avant-garde. The enemy of all religions is injustice. Justice is not just a sermon but must be realized in the rules of the game, law, and deeds, according to Ulil.
Moslems must develop the capacity to face problems rationally. Muhammad said whoever wants to overcome the problems of the world and attain happiness should do it with science. Each field has its own principles and rules, but justice is paramount. Claiming the law of God appears as laziness and a form of escapism to Ulil, as well as the reason for the decline of Islam.

Dogmatism is the most dangerous enemy of Islam because it ignores civilization as an “accumulation of achievements supported by all nations.” Dogmatism builds a wall between them and us. The truth of God is greater than the Quran. Islam is better regarded as process more than institution. The prime criteria of goodness in religion should be the benefit of humankind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s