In the 1980s, UIN Jakarta was the epicenter of fresh Islamic ideas and social innovations in religious matters.
Some time ago, the Alumni Association of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN Jakarta)
held a national dialogue with the theme Returning UIN Jakarta as the Islamic Reform Campus in Indonesia. This theme is important and interesting because the issue of Islamic reform has disappeared from public discourse in recent decades and has been replaced by issues of political Islam, religious discrimination, radicalism and even terrorism.
In the 1980s, UIN Jakarta was the epicenter of fresh Islamic ideas and social innovations in religious matters. When he was the rector (1973-1984), Harun Nasution, among others, with the book Islamic Theology, which promoted the rational Islamic thought of the Mu'tazilah. Nurcholish Madjid, of course, became the biggest gong in the discourse of Islamic reform with his various thoughts, such as the idea of secularization which was embodied in the slogan “Islam, Yes; Islamic Party, No”. The books published by this campus were also the main inspiration and reference for various Islamic Universities throughout the country. These were some of the things that attracted students from a number of regions to go to Jakarta and study at the "Reform Campus".
In Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (2000), Robert Hefner even mentioned UIN as an important pillar of democracy and what he calls civil Islam. The alumni of the religion campus were pullers of the carriages of religious moderation in Indonesia, pioneers of religious tolerance, champions of democracy, women's issues and human rights, and were representatives of smiling Islam.
Of course, Islamic reform in those years was not only born and echoed by UIN Jakarta. Munawir Sjadzali, Religious Affairs Minister from 1983 to 1993, was determined to revise the inheritance law in Islam that had been in effect for centuries and also established a special madrasah aliyah program (MAPK) as a special school to produce plus scholars. Masdar Farid Mas'udi came up with the idea that Tax is Zakat, Djohan Effendi became a “border crosser” of religions and built interfaith cooperation, Dawam Rahardjo with his Islamic economy and Haidar Bagir with Mizan as a publisher of progressive Islamic books. Another major reformer who absolutely should not be forgotten is Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, who, among others, introduced the important idea of "indigenization of Islam".
Since the 1990s, the discourse of reform has begun to shift and change with the Islamization of politics. In William Liddle's terms (1990), in the 1990s Indonesia experienced what is called the "Islamic Turn", where Islamic activists and thinkers entered the government, the military experienced the "greening", students of Islamic boarding schools entered the bureaucracy or became members of the cabinet and Islamic symbols appeared in various public spaces. The hijab, which was previously banned in public schools, was later revoked. In this era, the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI), Bank Muamalat and Republika newspaper were also established. President Soeharto and his family performed the haj and carried out a political reorientation in this decade as well.
In Indonesia, various acts of terrorism also occurred, such as the Christmas Eve Bombing (2000), the Bali Bombing (2002), the JW Marriott Bombing (2003) and the Australian Embassy Bombing (2004).
The next decade, the 2000s, was defined by Martin van Bruinessen (2013) as the “Conservative Turn”. In the global context, the major changes that occurred in this decade began with the event of 11 September 2001 when an act of terrorism brought down the World Trade Center in New York, the United States. In Indonesia, various acts of terrorism also occurred, such as the Christmas Eve Bombing (2000), the Bali Bombing (2002), the JW Marriott Bombing (2003) and the Australian Embassy Bombing (2004).
Inter- and intrareligious conflicts occurred in several places, efforts to restore the Jakarta Charter in the Constitution were proposed by a number of Islamic groups, and sharia bylaws were implemented in several regions. In 2005, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a controversial fatwa related to pluralism, liberalism and secularism. Fatwas and joint decrees (SKB) related to Ahmadiyah also occurred in this decade. During this period too, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) became active Islamic organizations, even infiltrating the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. Indeed, there was a different discourse that emerged at that time, namely the birth and development of the Liberal Islam Network (JIL). However, the general trend at the national level was the prominence of the conservative groups.
In the preceding decade there were still those with the many characteristics of conservatism, but the style was different. Even though there were not as many acts of terrorism as in the previous decade, discrimination against minority groups was still common. Individuals or groups who previously promoted an Islamic state turned to be willing to adopt democracy. At this time there was a discourse about "NKRI [unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia] with Sharia" and exclusive interpretations of Pancasila such as "Pancasila Bertauhid". However, what stood out the most in the second half of the decade were the various Islamic defense actions. This was what then makes the decade synonymous with the "populist turn" and the same conditions occurred in other countries around the world.
Of course, the decade of the 2020s cannot be defined with certainty yet, but the term the "traditionalist turn" used by Wasisto Raharjo Jati (2022) seems fitting to describe the beginning of this decade, especially if it is seen at some socioreligious tendencies in society. The group that used to be called traditionalist is not only quite visible in several government positions, it even seems to be a state sect now.
Returning to the original question, what is the fate and future of Islamic reform in Indonesia? Will UIN Jakarta be able to reposition itself as a motor for Islamic reform? Or will this role be taken over by traditionalist Islam that is now close to power? Indeed the demands of the times have simply been different, so we cannot expect the same conditions and answers as in the 1980s.
Even though they are not identical, with one particular great school of thought as with previous thinkers, these names always bring up interesting and critical religious ideas about various social phenomena that do not fit in society.
It should be noted that a number of prominent Muslim thinkers are products of UIN Jakarta, including Azyumardi Azra, Komaruddin Hidayat, Nadirsyah Hosen and Syafiq Hasyim. Even though they are not identical, with one particular great school of thought as with previous thinkers, these names always bring up interesting and critical religious ideas about various social phenomena that do not fit in society.
In an article that will be published by ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute regarding the halal industry and sharia economy, for example, Hasyim seriously reviews and makes a critical note on the side effects of the project. He warned that the halal project would not later become a tool for state “shariatization", creating systematic discrimination against minorities, and segregating society based on religion. Indonesia is not only made up of Muslims and therefore the state should not only think about the interests of one religious community.
AHMAD NAJIB BURHANI, Research Professor at National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN)
(This article was translated by Hyginus Hardoyo)