Indonesian Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa

Indonesian Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa

Indonesian Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa

Indonesian Islam: Social Change through Contemporary Fatawa


"An important and timely book which examines how modern Indonesian Islamic thinking has responded to changes in social and cultural practice since the 1920s, and in particular how the authorities have ruled on 'contemporary' subjects such as football, real estate, abortion, organ transplants and the role of women."


A fatwā is a formal advice from an authority on a point of Islamic law or dogma. It is given in response to a question. Many, the majority, merely restate known positions and so act as a sort of formal reassurance; this in itself is an important function. However, there are fatāwā from all periods of Muslim history which engage directly with the demands of new circumstances, and hence with social and legal change (see Introduction).

The Indonesian fatāwā described in this book are of the latter kind. the fatāwā are from the 1920s to the 1990s, from the period of high colonialism to independence, thus encompassing the vast political, social and legal changes of this period.

The challenge for the fatwā-giver is to maintain the centrality of divine Revelation but at the same time to determine individual duty in a practical way. As we shall see, the arguments are as much in moral and political philosophy as they are in the philosophy of law. This function of the fatāwā has always been crucial for Islam; but now, in the 15th/21st century, it has assumed an importance seldom encountered in earlier history. the past 200 years have seen the subjection of Muslim peoples to Western imperialism. This has included the reformulation of syariah law into Western forms (codes, statutes, precedent), thus effectively ending the link with the classical past. the syariah, the fundamental expression of Revelation, was and remains colonised by European thought. Only the fatāwā preserve the link between the challenges of modernity and the classical inheritance because in their arguments they take us to the Qur'ān, Sunna and the classical texts without an intervening European intellectual influence.

In Indonesia, the fatāwā show a variety of response to the challenges of modernity. the four main sources are: Persatuan Islam, Muhammadiyah, Nahdatul Ulama and Majlis Ulama Indonesia. There are considerable differences between them but at the same time some rather surprising correspondences. Variation is the norm and is particularly evident in . . .

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