Recently, over one thousand women from the transnational antidemocratic party Hizbut Tahrir, gathered in Jakarta to call for an end to democracy and capitalism. Let us suppose they had their way. What would life be like? First, perhaps, we would see long lines at banks where people would be changing rupiah for dinars and dirhams and restructuring loans and savings so that no interest was involved. Instead, a system of profit-sharing would be introduced, which, if it worked, might be not too bad.
In Jakarta, there might be a renaming ceremony, for the name Indonesia, coined by an obscure kafir scientist in the 19th century, would surely be unfitting for a mighty Caliphate ruled by the immaculate law of God.
The name Daulah Islamiyah Nusantara , or DIN for short, might be chosen, especially as DIN also means the light of religion, and Nusantara was the original name of this archipelago. The main purpose of the Caliphate would be to uphold Shariah law and spread the light and the blessing of religion to every corner of the world.
In the villages, towns and cities, residents would be lining up to be reclassified according to religion. In the capital’s chambers of power, scholars might be having heated debates on whether followers of Sufi schools and Shia Muslims could be considered to be proper Muslims or not.
Everyone who professed to be Muslim would undergo further tests to gauge just how Islamic they are. Stringent tests would be conceived to check and make sure the Islam they believe in is the correct, state-sanctioned version. The easiest to deal with would, of course, be the Ahmadi followers. They would have the simple choice of having their heads chopped off or joining re-education classes to be taught proper Islam.
Abangan Islam believers in Java and Sunda and the Wetu Telu Islam believers in Lombok might be a little more difficult to find, so people suspected of following these homegrown deviancies would have to be interrogated further. Anyone found to be deviant, or possibly deviant, would be given the simple choice of re-education or decapitation.
Multinational companies would be taken over by the Caliph as he chops off all tentacles of global and national capitalism. Able-bodied men would receive intensive military training to be employed anywhere as a force of jihad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be busy sending letters to countries around the globe, inviting them to embrace Islam and join the Caliphate, or pay tribute. Failure to do so could result in the Caliphate’s military machine invading in order to bring residents of those ignorant countries to heaven, in shackles if they insist. Spreading Islam through da’wah and jihad was one of the obligations of the Caliphate, though the fact that we are military midgets in the face of most of our neighbors might cause problems.
Non-Muslims here would also be offered the opportunity to have a place in heaven by becoming Muslim and following the state’s interpretation of Shariah. However, if they insist on following their ways, they would be given the status of dhimmi and would be protected. The protection would allow them to continue practicing their religions as long as they did not proselytize. They might have to wear certain clothes so as not to be mistaken for Muslims. They perhaps would have to dismount, give way and show respect if a Muslim passed them on the street. There might be some discussion on how much of their income must be surrendered to the Caliphate, which could be up to 50 percent of their earnings. In some cases they might be made to live in ghettoes. There was once serious debate amongst scholars on whether the dhimmi’s person and food is unclean, and whether or not they can use the same gender-segregated baths as Muslims.
The concept of sparing lives of defeated communities in exchange for tax was progressive at the birth of Islam, when the norm was to slaughter all conquered people or bind them in slavery. But having a two-tiered citizenship under Muslim superiority, with a third level of slaves, is absolutely unacceptable in most current civilizations. Herewith lies an absurdity that Islamists must address if they are serious with their efforts to establish a Caliphate in Indonesia or in any other plural society. The truth is, if one were to practice medieval Islam literally, today, the chauvinism, fascism, gender inequality and slavery would not be progressive at all.
This is where the literalist Islamist propagandists have their heads in the sand. Morality has developed since medieval Arabia, and adhering to a literalist interpretation of Islam currently means a setback rather than progress in ethics and morals. When the message of Islam was brought to seventh-century Arabia and then spread to the world, it was an improvement on the norms and morals of the day.
Islam can still offer inspiration to improve current values, but not if it is practiced literally. One must think and meditate honestly on current issues and look to the spirit of Islam, rather than the letter, to find inspiration that would improve on the highly developed ethics of the 21st century.
When Islamists, who believe in adhering to a medieval, literal interpretation of Shariah, proclaim that their Caliphate will be a blessing to the universe, it is impossible to take them seriously. Unwittingly and ironically, propagandists of medieval Shariah are the worst ambassadors of Islam. The vocal militants among them, who should be seen as anti-Islamic, should step back to reformulate their ideology in a way that offers genuine progress to the civilized 21st century. In their arrogance they make fools of all of us.
Bramantyo is an artist, poet and organic farmer living in Ngawi, East Java.