233 - april 2000

Understanding IslamicFundamentalism and the Shari'a Law

Eliseo R. Mercado Jr.OMI


Editor's foreword

Useful terms

Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism

Understanding the Shari'aLaw

An interview with Msgr. John Hadiwikarta


Theincreasing incidents of Christian-Muslim strife raise difficult questionssometimes even painful ones for those more immediately involved in thedaily conflict. Such is the case today in many predominantly Muslim areaswhere Oblates are present like Pakistan Bangladesh Indonesia Southern Philippines Nigeria Senegal Western Sahara.... All of usboth farand nearare concerned.

Thisissue of OMI Documentation presents two papers from Fr. EliseoR. Mercado's recent bookMission and Dialogue (Challenges forMuslims and Christians in the Philippines). They may help us to betterunderstand what is at stake. Trying to understand the other's point ofview is one of the conditions for possible dialogue.

Fr.Eliseo R. MercadoJr. is presently the president of Notre Dame Universityin Cotabato CityPhilippines. An authority on the role of Islam in thePhilippinesFr. Mercado has been actively involved in the on-going peacenegotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines(GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He was commissionedto chair the Quick Response Team and the Joint Monitoring Committee supervisingand monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between theGRP and the MILF.

Thethird paper in this issue presents an Indonesian point of view expressedby Msgr. J. HadiwikartaSecretary General of the Indonesian Bishops'Conferencein an interview with La Croix.

Useful terms

da'wah – theinvitation addressed to people by God or the prophets to believe in thetrue religionIslam.
Hadith – Islamic traditions
jihad – strivingsstruggles
Khalifat – rules or ruler
Qur'an – often written "Koran"Holy Book of Islam
salafiyya – from the Arabic word salaf which means“forefathers”refering to the very early “fathers”or companions of the prophet.
Shari’a – Islamic law believed to have been revealedto the Prophet
ummah – community

UnderstandingIslamic Fundamentalism

“...Creepingmurmur and the pouring dark
Fill the wide vessel of the universe:
From camp to campthrough the foul womb of night
The hum of either army stilly sounds
That the fixed sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other's watch...
Each battle sees the other's umber'd face”

SoShakespeare’s chorus described the eve of Agincourt. The words mightwell have been written also of Mindanaomore particularly of Muslim-Christianrelations. When faiths and religious traditions confront each otheritisfor the most partwith “fixed sentinels” and even withthe “whispers of the other’s watch.”

Itis said that Christianity and Islam areindeedphysically adjacent.Yetfor all their nearnessthe relations between these two faiths andtheir respective adherents are largely shrouded in mutual suspicion anddarkness. There are few exceptions on either side to rise above the generalignorance and suspicion in whichthe one to otherare obscured. Butthese are rare.... When faiths and religious traditions confront eachotherit is for the most partwith “fixed sentinels.”

Inthe Philippinesparticularly in the SouthChristianity and Islam havealways been presented as two competing faiths for the same geographicalarea. Wittingly or unwittinglythe recent spate of lawlessness like kidnappingsterrorism and plain and simple banditry is read along the understood “separateness”between Christianity and Islam.

Thistragic and sad reality is further exacerbated by the recent surge of theso-called Islamic fundamentalist movements. The likes of the Abu Sayyafgroups are often associated with terrorism and fanaticism that send jittersto the people in the area.

Thereis an urgent need to know and understand the Islamic movements that areoften labeled as Islamic fundamentalists. To begin withthe word “fundamentalism”has a Christian derivation. And when the term is applied to Islamic movementsit connotes a broad range of meanings and significancefrom legitimatereligious renewal movements to plain terrorism. This alone tells us thatthe application of the term to the broad range of Islamic movements carriesvarying degrees of accuracy.

TheMuslims themselves do not use the term nor recognize the validity andlegitimacy of the term to describe the various Islamic movements today.But living in a global village where the mass media are the dominant influencethe term “fundamentalism” has gained worldwide currency notwithstandingMuslim opposition.

It is fairly accepted byscholars that the contemporary Islamic movements derive their inspirationfrom the “nahda” (renaissance) that is stimulated bythe teachings of the salafiyya movement. This movement preachesa reformation of Islam on the basis of a “return” to a strictadherence to the Qur’an (Muslims’ Holy Book) and theHadith (Islamic Traditions). This “return” entails the“purification” of Islam from all blameworthy innovations germaneto the Qur’an and the Hadith. Some people characterize this movementas “purist” because its principal purpose is to promote a stricturalist and puritan Islam.

It is also the common viewof these contemporary Islamic movements that the Western concept of governanceand the concept of nation-state are alien to Islam. They are not onlyun-Islamic but also opposed to the very concept of Islamic ummah(community). Thus the restoration of Islamic ummah implicitly or explicitlyrejects the Western idea of nation-state and all its promises.

Yesthe contemporary Islamicmovements strive to establish a state governed in accordance with theIslamic Lawthe Shari’a. And since the Shari’a originatesfrom divine revelationit may not be developed or modifiedbut merelyapplied. Its application involves interpretation in particular cases andenforcementnot legislation in the sense of innovative law making.

It is also accepted by allcontemporary movements that governance is legitimate insofar as the rules(Khalifat) ensure the application of Shari’a. In shortitis an accepted belief that it is only the application of the Shari’athat preserves the moral order upon which the integrity of the communityof believers depends. And true Islamic governance was realized under therule of the first four “rightly guided” (Rashidun) Caliphs:Abut Bakr (632-634) ‘Umar (634-644)‘Uthman (644-656) and ‘Ali(656-661 ).

The restoration of pureIslam implies “jihad”. It is true that the word “jihad”is commonly understood as “Holy War”. But in its true sensejihad means “strivings” referring to the internal as well asexternal struggles of Muslims and the Ummah to be more attuned to God’sHoly Will as revealed in the Qur’an and understood by the hadith.An integral component of jihad is the necessity of commanding that whichis proper and forbidding that which is reprehensible. This logic involvesultimately the exercise of political power. Those who do not observe goodmorals are unbelievers who are to be combatted.

There ishoweveranothertrend in contemporary Islamic movements that seeks to capture the truespirit of Islam and reconcile the same to the modern technological eraand the conditions of the present world as it is. This draws inspirationfrom the Islah (Reform) movement which originated from the celebratedEgyptian reformer Shayk Muhammad ‘Abduh. The “key to the newglorious Islamic era” is not a “Reformation”. Worthy innovationsby the reformers merit blessings from God. Thus to recapture the grandeurof Islam is not to go back as far as possible to the institutions andthe way of thinking and acting during the first century of the Islamicerabut to capture the spirit of Islam that continues to innovate andadapt to contemporary times with all its exigencies.


Fora proper understanding of Islamic movementsthere is no idea more importantthan reform/revival. Islamic reform/ revival is something much broaderthan what is popularly known as Islamic fundamentalism. Muslims themselvesdo not employ nor recognize the legitimacy of the term fundamentalismto describe Islamic reform/revival.

Islamicreform/revival has a variety of shapes and expressions. The most thisstudy attempts to delineate are the common major characteristics foundin all the reform/revival movements in the world of Islam. Behind allIslamic reform/revival is the rejection of the western idea of nation-stateand the principle of separation between the church and state.

AllIslamic reform movements seek to fashion Islam and society on the basisof a return to a strict adherence to the Qur’an and the Hadiths.To reform Islam and societythe adherents of this movement advocate thetaking of political power in order to command that which is proper andforbid that which is reprehensible. In briefthis means that life andsocieties have to be governed by the Shari’a. Governance accordingto the Shari’a can only be realized and guaranteed by a governmentbased upon it. An Islamic government ensures the application of the Shari’athereby preserving the moral order upon which the integrity of the communityof believers depends.

Thefollowing beliefs provide the ideological framework for Islamic reformmovements:

·Islam is a total way of life. Therefore religion is integral to politicsstate and society.

·The politicalmilitaryand economic weaknesses of the world of Islamare due to having strayed from Islam and followed westernsecular andmaterialistic ideologies and values. Both western liberal nationalismand Marxist socialism have failedbecause they are antithetical to Islam.

·Islam as found in the Qur’an and the Hadithsand in the exampleof the early Islamic community/state provides the true alternative ideologyfor Muslims.

·Muslims must re-establish God’s rulethe sovereignty of God on earthby re-instituting Islamic Lawthe blueprint for society for all time.

·The new Islamic order does not reject science and technology. Howevermodernization is subordinated to Islam to guard against the westernizationand secularization of Muslim society and community.

·The process of Islamization requires organizations or societies builtaround dynamic nuclei of committed and trained believers who call on allto repent and turn to Allah’s path and who are preparedwhen necessaryto fight against corruption and unbelief.

·The method for renewal and reform of Muslim society is an Islamic politicaland social revolutionlike the prophet Muhammad and later 18th centuryIslamic movements that cause an Islamic system of government and society.

Besidesthe above characteristics“radical Islam” assumes a kind ofculture that can be summarized in the following way:

· A jihad mentalitythat pits Islam against a western Judeo-Christian conspiracy.

·Legitimacy for Muslim governments is based on the Shari’a.

·Jihad against unbelievers is a religious duty.

·Christians and Jews are considered unbelievers rather than people of theBook.

Therealization that Islam may serve as a powerful spiritual and politicalforce or help catalyze such forces is much in our minds these days. Ina large partthis phenomenon is given attentionbecause of the contemporarydevelopments in the Islamic worldespeciallyAfghanistanPakistanSudanIranIraqLibya and other Middle East and Asian countries. ThroughouttheWestern world there is a spreading awareness that Islam isresurgent. It is accompaniedhoweverby a sense that this developmentis somehow fearsome and ominousto say the least.

WhereverIslam manifests itself politically or religiously in the contemporaryworldpopular Western and Christian perceptions of these developmentsare either distorted or antagonistic. The first contributing factor tothis type of perception is the negative view associated with Islamic revolutionsin Iran and Libya. The second is the whole legacy of adverse Western andChristian attitudes towards Islam since the time of the crusades. Suchdistortion and antagonism certainly affect the reporting about the Islamicrevival which has begun in the early ‘70s. Media headlines continueto highlight the Western perceptions of fanaticism and Puritanism thataccompany the Islamic reform/revival.


Islamicresurgence is a puzzling phenomenon in the contemporary world – aworld which is dominated by consumerism and secularism. The Islamic resurgencetakes in a strong and militant protest against the status quo and refusesto take the direction that the modern world pursues. To understand thisIslamic militant protestthere is a need to look into the matrix thathas given birth to the diverse modern Islamic movements.

Firstthere is a deep crisis in the modern Muslim world. In facta fundamentalmalaise ails both the Muslims and their communities. Muslims sense thatsomething has gone wrong with Islamic history. The roots of this malaisestem from an awareness that something is awry between the religion whichGod has appointed and the historical development of the world He controls.

Theglorious Islamic empire is there no more. As a matter of factfrom the18th centurythe Muslim world began its serious decline. There was adisintegration of military and political power. There was enfeeblementof commercial and political power. Intellectual effort stagnated. Religiousvitality ebbed. An effete decadence infected art. The writings of thegreat masters elicited commentaries rather than enthusiasm. And the classicalsystems were used to delimit the road that one must travel rather thanprovide the impetus of one’s journey.

Inbriefthe Muslim worldthat once gloried in its grip on the world andhistory from the fall of Constantinople in 1453seemed to have lost thecapacity to order its life effectively by the beginning of the 18th century.Worstthe degeneration of the Muslim World coincided with the exuberanceof the West. At about this timeWestern Civilization was launching forthon the greatest upsurge of expansive energy that human history has everseen. Vitalityskillswealth and power vastly accumulated. With themthe West began not only to shape its own life but also the life of allthe world including the Muslim World.

Duringthe 19th centuryWestern pressure and domination increased. The Dutchin Indonesiathe British in the subcontinent of India and MalayaRussiain Central Asia; the British and French in North Africa and the MiddleEast. All at oncethe western powers ruled Muslim society in full formality.While the Ottoman Empire retained political sovereignty up to World WarIit was independent without being free. Apart from the matter of politicalcontrolMuslim societyonce forcefuldynamic and alertwas everywherein drooping spiritsand subject both in initiative and delivery to forcesoutside Islam.

Itis the contemporary manifestation of this problem and crisis that is paramountin the understanding of the modern phenomena like Islamic revivalismactivism or modern aggressive Islamic movements.

Thefirst Islamic movements in the modern period were protests against theinternal deterioration. They were calls to stop the decadence in Muslimsociety by summoning back the believers and the community to the firstpurity and order of Islam. One of the earliest and the most major of thosemovements was the Wahhabiyah in 18th century Arabia. It was puritanicalvigoroussimple. Its message was straightforward: A return to Islam duringthe Medinan period. It rejected the corruption and laxity of the contemporarydecline. It also rejected the accommodations and cultural richness ofthe Islamic empires – the UmmayadsAbbasids and the Ottomans.

TheWahhabis insisted on the Shari’athe Hanbalite version strippedof all innovations developed through the intervening centuries. Obey thepristine law – fullystrictlyand singly – is Islam; all elseis superfluous. This interpretation of Islam is strictly and seriouslyto be implemented.

Thesecond dominant Islamic movement that dominated the scene was the PanIslamic Movement of Jamalud-din Afghani (1839-97). It was an Islamic revivalmovement that sought to reawaken the Muslims’ consciousness of howthey had once been mightybut now are weak. This recalling of erstwhileMuslim grandeur incited the Muslims to discard resignation in favour ofplunging into the task of creating the kind of Islamic world that oughtto be. The Qur’an verse: “VerilyGod does not change the conditionof people until they change their own condition” (13:11 ) had becomethe inspiration for the Muslim resolve to take into their own hands therefurbishing of the Muslim world and its earthly history.

Indeedthis call to action was the transition from a nonresponsible quietudeto a self-directing determination. The Pan Islamic Movement believed thatIslamic history shall once again march forward in full truth and fullsplendour.

Thebitterness of the Muslim disillusionment in the West has gone veryverydeep. The West is perceived as working against them. It is accused ofengaging on a deliberate vast enterprise to disrupt Islam. Apart evenfrom military and political dominationWestern power has other mannersof imposing its weight. The most pervasive is economics.

TheMuslims perceive that the West has been bearing down upon the Muslim Worldwith what appears to be saying in effect: “give up those antiquatedwaysthose superstitionsthose inhibitions; be modern with usbe prosperousand be sophisticated. Emancipate your womenyour societies and yourselves!”

ManyMuslims do succumb or see their children succumb. The West continues toseduce them from their traditional loyalties.

Thereaction to this perceived western attack is very visiblein the activistmovementschiefly the Ikhwan al Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood). Thisactivism represents in contemporary times the new determination to sweepaside the degeneration and stagnancy in the Muslim world. It aspires toget back to a basis for Muslim society – a visionand go forwardin transforming the Muslims to become an operative force at work in moderntimes.

Unfortunatelyfor the adherents of this activist movement the re-affirmation of Islamhas become an outlet for emotion. It has become the expression of thehatredfrustrationvanity and at times destructive frenzy of a peoplewho have long been the victims of povertyimpotence and fear. The vehemenceand hatred in their literature point more to a group of people who havelost their waywhose heritage has proven unequal to the challenges ofmodernity. The Pakistan counterpart of Ikhwan is the Jama’at group.

Thecommon recurrent themes in these Islamic revival movements are the following:Modernization is seen as a westernization and secularization; a sensethat existing politicaleconomic and social systems have failed; a disenchantmentwithand at times a rejection of the west; and the conviction that Islamprovides a self-sufficient blueprint for state and society.

Thecontemporary Islamic revival movements have common grounds. The key-componentsof their program are: (1) Islam is the answer; (2) a return to the Qur’anand the Sunnah (traditions) of the prophet; (3) the community is to begoverned by the Shari’a (Islamic Law); and (4) all who resistMuslimsand non-Muslims alikeare enemies of God.

Similarlytheda’wa(h)phenomenon in many Islamic communities is seen as an integral componentof Islamic political revival that threatens the existing order that ismore associated with the West. What is or should be clear is that simplisticaccounts based on that legacy of anachronistic preconceptions will notdo. As a matter of factda’wa(h) has become the subject of muchconcern inasmuch as “foreign” observers see in it shadows ofthe turmoil in Iran.

InSouthwestern Philippinesthe establishment of the Autonomous Region forMuslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the continuing Moro struggle for self-determinationhavefor all purposesbeen viewed within this world-wide resurgenceof Islam. Thusthis development exacerbates further the already tensesituation in the regionparticularly the Muslim-Christian relations.


Foran understanding of Islam in Southeast Asia todaythere is no conceptmore important than that of Islamic reform/revival. At the outsetitshould be noted that Islamic reform/revival is something much broaderthan what is popularly described as “fundamentalist”. The latterterm has a Christian derivation and is appliedwith varying degreesof accuracy to some types of Islamic reform/revival. The Muslimshoweverdo not use such a term nor recognize the validity and legitimacy of theterm to describe the Islamic reform/revival today.

Theradical Islamic movement is often referred to as a movement of Islamicfundamentalists. Radical Islam rejects the very idea of the western conceptof nation-state and its promises. It is opposed to the Islamic conceptof the ummahthe universal Islamic communitywhich transcends localand regional differences and does not recognize national ones and whoseexistence can be guaranteed only by government based upon the Shari’a.

TheIslamic State movement is striving to establish a state governed in accordancewith the Islamic lawShari’a. And since the Shari’a originatesfrom divine revelationit may not be developed or modifiedbut merelyapplied. Its application involves interpretation in particular cases andenforcement not legislation in the sense of innovative law-making.

Theruler (Khalifat) of the Islamic State is legitimate insofar as he ensuresthe application of the Shari’a and thereby preserves the moral orderupon which the integrity of the community of believers depends. That isto saythat the Khalifat performs his functions within the legal parameterslaid down in advance and these are immutable.

Itis the common view of all radical Islamic movements that the true Islamicgovernment was realized under the rule of the first four “rightlyguided” caliphs: Abu Bakr (632-634)‘Umar (634-644)‘Uthman(644-656) and ‘Ali (656-661).

RadicalIslamin generalderives its inspiration from the “nahda”(renaissance)that is stimulated by the teachings of the salafiyya movement.The salafiyya movement preaches a reformation of Islam on the basis ofa return to a strict adherence to the Qur’an and the hadith... andthus the purification of the faith of all blameworthy innovations.

Thereform movement (Islah) traces its origin to the celebrated Egyptian reformerShayk Muhammad ‘Abduh. Its principal purpose is to promote a reformeduralist and puritan Islam and the revival of Arabic language andculture.

TheDa’wah movement is not to be understood simply as preaching crystallizedaround mission (da’i). It is a religious reform which embraces allprofane aspects capable of reinforcing the cohesion of the group. It feelsitself to be invested with a mission of reform which leads necessarilyinto a mission of conversion from the necessity of commanding that whichis proper and forbidding that which is reprehensible. This mission impliesthe jihad. This logic involves ultimately the exercise of political power.But the taking of power is not an explicit objectivefor the first dutyis the censorship of morals (hisba) and those who do not observe goodmorals are unbelievers to be combatted.

Thevarious Islamic movements in Southeast Asiaas everywhere in Islamiccountriesdiffer in their understanding of a modern Islamic Renewal.There are those who are inspired by the ancient grandeur of Islam andwant to go back as far as possible to the institutions and the way ofthinking and acting during the Rashidun Khalifat. On the other handthereare those who try to find means and ways to reconcile the spirit of Islamwith the exigencies of our modern technical era and the conditions ofa modern state in which the old rules of the Shari’a cannot possiblyremain unaltered. Largelythere are those who defend Islam against theincreasing menace of communism and secularization in contemporary SoutheastAsia.

Thereare four features whichmore or lessdescribe the current SoutheastAsian Islamic movements. First and foremostthey are a minority. Onlya minority Muslim population are affected by these movements. For thevast majority of Asian Muslimsbeing Muslim entails no strict adherenceto or particular knowledge of Islam as laid down by the Qur’antheHadithand the Shari’a. For these nominal or statistical MuslimsIslam is little more than a thin veneer of Arabic phrases over a Hindu-Buddhist-animistbase. They are definitely Muslimsbecause they identify themselves assuchbut the religion they practice is a syncretic and nativistic variantthat bears little resemblance to its West Asian prototype. Religion istheir life with all its attendant rituals and beliefs built up over thecenturies that provide the framework for religion and not vice versa.Thusthe Muslims affected by the various Islamic movements remain theminority.

Thesecond distinguishing feature of these Islamic movements is their traditionallink to specific economic classes. Since it was brought to the shoresof JavaSumatraMalaccaJohoreand Mindanao by Arab traders in the13th and the 14th centuriesIslam has found some of its most devotedfollowers among the mercantile classeseither urban entrepreneurs ortraders who have accumulated extensive landholdings in rural areas andconstituted a kind of Kulak class.

Whileit is true that the class lines of these Islamic movements have blurredsomewhat over the years and an increasing number of lower middle classand middle class professionals such as school teachers have joined theranksthe movements’ commercial base remains strong. Thustheytoo have a vested interest in the continued stability of the prevailinggovernment. The militancy that these movements display against secularizationand their aggressive advocacy for Islam is due more to their perceivedprospects of a PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) comeback as in the caseof Indonesia.

Thethird feature is their lack of unity. The ethnic as well as geographicalfactors contribute to the division among its ranks. From the very beginningthe Islamic movements have been divided into two major factions: the traditionalistswho are rural folks and educated in Pesantrens led by a Kiyaiand themodernists who are urban folks and heavily influenced by the Islamic Reformmovement in the Middle East.

Inaddition to these differencesthe movements are also divided ethnicallyand geographically. Their greatest strength is among the non-Javanese:the Sundanese of West Javathe Acehnese and Minangkabau of North andWest Sumatrarespectivelyand the Bugis of South Sulawesi. This is alsoevident among the Muslim Filipinos who are divided along ethnic lines.

Thefourth feature that may seem somewhat incongruous to what the Westernmedia used to portray is the fact that these movements are primarily asocial movement. This is not to deny the strong political colorationsthat these movements take onespecially given their strong desire fora loudermore representative voice in government. But the basic thrustsof these movements remain moral and social. The collective aiminsofaras there is oneis a society of uprightmoralpious individuals whohave a thorough understanding of Islam and a desire to live accordingto its principles. The chief activity of the proliferating Islamic groupsin large cities is Qur’anic study and proselytization. Thusthefears of many Christians that the hidden agenda of every Muslim movementis the creation of an Islamic state in which the Christians would be apersecuted minority are not well-founded.

Inour attempt to study the resurgence of Islam in Southeast Asiawe cannotdiscount the global environment in which the Islamic movements have arisen.Firstthe recent world-wide upsurge in Islam is not a sudden event. Itis rather the culmination of a long period in which Islam has been intensifyingand extending its influence. Islam is and has been for quite some timethe world’s fastest growing religion.

Secondthe Middle East war and its repercussions have changed the way Muslimsview themselves. Many Muslims around the world have become involved intellectuallyand emotionally if not also politically – with the Palestiniansin whom they see a most dramatic example of the heedless way Western powershave been willing to displace their fellow believers. Feeling displacedthemselves and anxious over their own futuremany Muslims in the ex-colonialworld thus somehow identify themselves as Palestinians too. This is particularlytrue in the case of the Philippines and Thailand where the Malay-Muslimminorities are engaged in the struggle for recognition and respect.

Thirdthe international politics of oil since 1973 has enabled those concernedfor the fate of the world’s culturally and politically beleagueredMuslims to command international attention.

Andfourthan institutional and infrastructure basis for world-wide Islamicsolidarity has been growing since the late ‘60s. An urgent concernhas thus developed – and been quite powerfully promoted – forthe future of embattled Muslims every where: a community based on a recognitionof common fate as well as common faith has emerged.


InSoutheast Asiawith the exception of Thailandthe Muslims experiencedthe historical evil of colonialism by Christian Western powers: The Dutchin Indonesiathe British in Malaysiaand the Spanish and the Americanin the Philippines. The Christian-Muslim relations during the colonialtimes were relations between Muslimsthe colonized peoplesand the Christiansthe colonizing powers. In the above-mentioned countriesthe Muslims atvarious times and at varying degrees resisted the Christian colonizingpowers.

Anaccident of this historical colonialism is the fact that the indigenousChristians and the other non-Muslim inhabitantslike the Chinese in Malaysiaand Borneohave been integrated intoWestern political and economicsystems that automatically discriminate against the “unlettered”in the Western mode and ways. The Muslims feel that their Christian neighborsand the “integrated” Muslims who constituted the elite classwere given an unfair advantage over them from the very outset. These werethe very people who guided and charted the direction of development duringthe post Merdeka period.

Thereare factors that still haunt Muslim psyche and the West. Some of theseare:

1.The memory of the war of resistance during the struggle for independence;

2.The feelings that a people of one faith have been given an unfair deal;

3.An unfair distribution of national assets;

4.Misunderstandings of the theological positions of Islam on issues thatreally matter in nation building; and

5.The new assertiveness of the Muslims.

Understanding the Shari'aLaw

Thepublic executions by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)have highlightedin many ways the need to understand the Shari’aor Islamic legalcodeas it is being practiced in some Middle East Countries and Afghanistan.To understand the Shari’a (also spelled Shariah) we must cleanseour minds of the more familiar jurisprudence practiced in the Philippinesand in the Western World.

Asunderstood by Muslim revival movementsthe Shari’a is the Law ofGod. It is immutable and is not to be penetrated by human intelligence.Man has to accept it without criticism. The Shari’a is based on theword of Allah as revealed in the Qur’an (The Muslim Holy Book) andthe Hadiths (traditions of the prophet). For this reasonthe Shari’ais not “law” in the western legal sense. The Shari’a isfrom Godwhile our laws including the fundamental law of the land (theConstitution) are products of man’s active act of legislation.

TheShari’a is not only immutable but also infallible. It constituteswithout restrictionan infallible doctrine of duties and privileges coveringthe whole of the religiouspoliticalsocialdomestic and even the privatelife of those who profess Islam. In Islamic countriesit also regulatesthe activities of non-Muslims insofar as they may be detrimental to Islam(for instancethe sale of alcohol and pork and eating in public duringthe month of Ramadhan).

Ordinarilythe knowledge of the Shari’a is obtained directly from the Qur’anand Hadiths. But in practicethe knowledge of Islamic law is authoritativelycommunicated through the four accepted systems of fikh (Jurisprudence).These systems are the Malikitethe Hanafitethe Shafite and the Hanbalite.The names of these systems originated from the masters (Shayks) who foundedthem. The Shi’a tradition follows two separate schools of jurisprudencethe Seveners (Seven Imams) School and the Twelvers (Twelve Imams) School.

TheMuslims in Southeast Asiathe Philippines includedfollow the ShafiteSchool of law. Saudi Arabia and other Emirates in the Persian Gulf followthe strictest and most rigid school of lawthe Hanbalite.

TheShari’a is NEVER codified. Strictly speakingthere is no codificationof the Shari’a. This is based on the objections of the prophet’scompanions who would not allow what is tantamount to becoming editor ofGod’s law/commands. The so-called codifications are actually fikhbooks (books of jurisprudence) expounding on the Shari’a in the wayit is binding to Muslims.

Howthe law affects a particular case is done through issuance of fatwa (legalruling) by a duly appointed Mufti (legal adviser) orin most cases bya Kadi (Judge) in Shari’a courts. After the death of the prophethis successors (the Caliphs) became rulers and supreme judges of the MuslimCommunity. The rulers appoint Mufti and judges. Thusthe Mufti’sand Kadi’s are state officials. In practicethe Kadi’s cannotbut take notice of the wishes of the appointing authority. As a matterof factthe Emirs have absolute power to appoint or dismiss Kadis andMuftis.

AShari’a court ruling is a legal judgment. While it is hard to drawa line between the doctrine of the Shari’a and the fatwa (legal rulingas enforced by the state)a distinction must always be made. The fatwais a legal ruling under the category of hukm (legal judgment) based onthe Shari’a. This fine distinction must be kept in order not to confuseman’s judgmentthough based on the Shari’awith the Shari’aitself. What the Islamic Court does is to issue a legal judgment basedon the Shari’a as interpreted and understood by the experts of theLaw. It is for this reason that the Islamic Court’s legal judgmentis SUBJECT to appeal and/or pardon either by the offending party or bythe Caliphthe prophet’s vice regentor Governor who rules in thename of the Caliph.

TheMILF Islamic Court follows the same course that isthe application ofthe Shari’a as interpreted by the Islamic court. The same court issuesa legal ruling that is binding and at the same time subject to appealbefore a superior court and the accepted “Governor” who governsthe community in the name of the prophet.

Themore familiar case of Shari’a ruling is the one meted out to SarahBalabagan. [A young Filipinaemployed as a domestic helper in the UnitedArab Emirateswho was condemned to death in 1995 for having killed heremployer while he was trying to rape her. She was finally sent back toher country as a result of pressure by the Philippines and the internationalcommunity.] It is not a simple case of a woman defending her honor. Awoman’s defense of her honor isindeedwell accepted jurisprudencein the four accepted schools of law. But Sarah was not a free woman. Shewas a domestic helper. The reality is the fact that domestics in the MiddleEast are considered as modern-day slaves.

Domestichelpers in the Arab World are a modern euphemism for slaves. In Arabicthey are constantly referred to as “what one owns in his right andleft hands”.

Itis not an unusual practice that the master of a household “uses”what he owns. What can be considered as sexual abuse and rape under Westernjurisprudence isin facta tolerated practice in Arab countries. Thusfor Arab mastersit is not sexual abuse or even rape to “use”what they own in “their left and right hands.”

Itwould have been totally different if Sarah Balabagan were not a domestichelper. While Islam forbids its adherents to subject a fellow Muslim toslaveryactual practice does not live up to the ideal prescribed by theQur’an and the Hadiths. Slaves and domestic helpers have other “legal”recourse. This is the compassion of the Emir (prince or ruler).

Inpracticethe Emir as standing in the place of the prophet enjoys an enormouspower. The Emir’s privilege is limited only by an expressed commandwritten in the Qur’an and the Hadith. In realitythe Emir can withholdfrom the court’s competence a particular case that would promotegood understanding and the wellbeing of the community. Once the Emir claimsa case for his benevolent judgmentthe blood preions of the lawhave become inapplicable. In its place a “ransom” or badal takesthe place of actual blood payment. Usuallythis happens in criminalfinancial and landed property cases.

Inthe cases of the MILF public executionsthe Chairman of the MILF or hisduly appointed deputy may act in a way comparable to an Emir of a Muslimcommunity. He can withhold the trial from the competence of the Shari’aCourt or exercise his power to grant clemency through payment of bloodmoney from the community’s treasury in order to compensate the victims.As confidence-building and as the promotion of good understanding andwell-being in our pluralistic communitythis alternative has an equalauthority in the praxis as well as in the understanding of the Shari’a.

ThisI proposeis the route that the Philippine Government and the MILF shouldtake in resolving the present crisis in the peace talks between the twopanels. The GRP and the MILF panels should come in and intercede for thoseconvicted by the Courtappealing to the mercy and compassion of Allahand of His “Emir”. And on humanitarian grounds and for the promotionof peace and goodwillblood payments shall be made to the victims.

Theexercise of compassion would definitely enhance the goodwill and understandingbetween the Philippine Government and the MILF. The aggrieved partiesshall receive from the “Emir” the substitute or “ransom”.Peace and goodwill between the two panels make the community participatein Allah’s compassion and mercy. After allthe God whom we worshipis a God of Mercy and Compassion.

An Interview withMsgr. Johanes Hadiwikarta

Generalsecretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ ConferenceBishop of Surabaya(island of Java)byDorian MALOVICtaken from La CroixWednesday19 January 2000.

What is the real natureof the conflict between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas duringthe past year?

MsgrJohn Hadiwikarta: It is not a religious conflict! An increasing unbalanceof the population and of the local economy in Ambonbetween Christiansand Muslimsserved as a detonator to those who wanted to provoke localinstability. It was not difficult and has lasted for a year now. Someill-intentioned people in Djakartaused religion as an instrument ofpolitical destabilization.

Six months agothe CatholicChurch in the Moluccas (5%) played the role of mediator between Muslimsand Protestant Christians. You signed a letter there three weeks ago askingfor foreign intervention. What has changed?

–At the startonly the Protestant Churches were attackedbut six monthsago unrest exploded in the island north of the MoluccasHalmaherainvolvingsome Catholics; some Muslims came from Sulawesi and wanted to take revengeon the Catholicsbut the local Muslims protected them. This was not enoughand the Catholicsin all the Moluccasare today also the target of Moslemfundamentalists. In the island of Buruneighbor to Ambonnine Catholicchurches were burned these last weeksspirits are getting inflamed. Itfeels like the time of the crusades. This call for a foreign interventionsymbolized the despair of the Christian leadersincluding Catholicsin the Moluccas. With the Indonesian army not reactingthey didn’tsee any other solution.

Do you hold thetheory of a “plot” against the new Indonesian president GusDur?

–For some yearsit is known that the army likes to destabilize. What isstrange is that there were some agitators during the troubles – everybodysays so – but no one was arrestedcharged or jailed. Maybe the armywants more power? But I don’t believe rumors of a coup d’Étatat this time. President Gus Dur knew how to be firm the day after thedemonstrations ten days agoat the end of Ramadanthat called for aholy war against the Christians.

In this context of agitationand of religious manipulationhow much room do you have to maneuver?

–As you knowwe are a minority Church in this vast country of 210 millioninhabitants. It is necessary for us to maintain good contacts with theMuslims and cooperate with them if we want to have the voice of the Gospelbe heard freely. Troubles with the Christians could have some harmfulconsequences on our room to maneuveras for example when we want to constructa church; it is necessary to ask some authorizations of the local authorities.But I don’t deny that there are also some fanatics on the Catholicside. Some are very angry at seeing their churches destroyed.

Unrest is spreading throughoutthe Moluccaswhereas the situation seems to be calming in Ambon. Do youbelieve in a possible reconciliation short term?

The authorities in Djakarta asked for our help in order to launcha process of reconciliationbut it will be necessary that all the confrontationscease in the Moluccas before we can consider a real dialogue. The hateis deep. We will need timebecause the very symbols of identity of eachcommunity – the churches and the mosques – were burned and destroyed.The wounds are wide open. It will be very difficult to forget and alsoto forgive.

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