, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 08/24/2007 1:28 PM | Opinion
After discussions on political Islam with caliphate activists on and off my campus, I've got the impression that their ideal caliphate system is still the same as that described by EIJ Rosenthal in his book Islam in the Modern National State -- that sovereignty belongs to God and authority is vested in the khalifa as the vicegerent of the prophet, the messenger of Allah.
It is the duty of the caliph to implement sharia to defend the faith against heresy and the faithful against attack, and to ensure their ability to live by the prescriptions of sharia and thus attain happiness in this world and in the hereafter.
If it is translated into a state constitution the formulation will be close to Iran's constitution: All legislation for the administration of society will revolve around the Koran and Sunnah. Accordingly, the exercise of meticulous and earnest supervision by just, pious and committed scholars of Islam is an absolute necessity.
In the caliphate system it is the elites, rather than people, who represent God's absolute power. Therefore, in criticizing this system, Khaled Abou El-Fadl, in his book Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law, said that while Muslims in general, arguably, are God's viceroys on this earth (khulafa fi al-ard), it is the rulers and jurists who traditionally have enjoyed the power to speak for the divine law.
So if the caliphate will be reestablished in Muslim countries the challenges might come not only from non-Muslims but also from Muslims themselves who believe that a democratic and secular or at least neutral state would be more suitable and better for them.
However, the two traditional duties of the caliphate, harasatu al-din (protecting religion) and siyasatu al-dunya (managing the world) might be still relevant if their application is adjusted to the current demand. Harasatu al-din in the current context should be translated into protecting religion in its broader meaning, not merely the religion of the mainstream, which means that every religion or sect has the right to exist and must be protected.
Meanwhile siyasatu al-dunya should be understood as the effort to establish a world order based on peace, equality, justice and welfare for all.
The caliphate should be based on principles agreed upon by all elements in society, as exemplified by the prophet Muhammad through Madina charter. It should be focused on systems rather than figures.
But considering the spirit of nationalism embedded in the heart of every Muslim in various nations, the idea to establish the caliphate as the sole theocratic political system for Muslims in the world is unrealistic if not utopian.
Since the Koran is polyphonic in nature, and since everyone has the inner power that can illuminate from within no one deserves a monopoly on understanding the Koran. In religious matters, the problem faced by Muslims is how they can respect each other by keeping unity in diversity and by leaving the final decision to God.
The main problem faced by Muslim countries in worldly matters is the low quality of human resources, which in turn produce unemployment, poverty and dependency. Muslims, especially in Indonesia, need concrete answers to their economic difficulties not merely political rhetoric such as dengan khilafah hidup menjadi berkah (by the caliphate the life will be blessed). Muslims as well as well non-Muslims should work together to create a better world order.
In discussion with fellow non-Muslims it is difficult to answer when they ask me to show them an example of a sharia state that has successfully brought welfare and social justice to its people. Speaking frankly, I dare not point to Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan as examples of the good governance mandated by Islamic political ideals.
In a democratic atmosphere, it is the right of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia to promote the caliphate, but it also the right of others to criticizes the content of this concept, particularly that which has no relevance the current situation.
The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Law and Sharia at Bandung State Islamic University. He also manages the Institute for Study and Human Resource Development in Bandung, West Java.