Religion in a New Print

Religion is believed to be the source of serenity, security and peace. Religion is also believed to be the source of solutions for its adherents’ life. In fact, religion often is an inciting factor of tension and conflict among religious adherents as well as with other religious groups. In this case, religion is a problem maker. In social reality, religion is understood as a collective revelation creating conflicts.  Therefore, R. Scott Appleby was right about the ambiguity of religious function in his book The Ambivalence of the Sacred, Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation (2000). On one hand, religion can result in humanistic values, tolerance, inclusion, love and peace but on the other hand, religion results in authoritarianism, violence, conflict and war.

The reason is because of the adherent’s exclusive claim that his religion is the truest and other’s is wrong. Estra Ecclesian nulla salus (no salvation out of church). Therefore, when the truth of religion is carried “out”, it will inflict friction, tension, and interfaith clash and not a meeting.

Consequently, interfaith relation is colored by suspicion, and intolerance toward other religious adherents. To obscure the religious dimensional conflicts, it seemed that we have to reformulate our point of view and understanding of religion including the way we have to live with others.

In this context, several methods are taken. Firstly, theological paradigms shift from the exclusive toward inclusive-transformative one. The theology constructed by classical ulama within unharmonious interfaith relation led theology to be exclusive, full of double standard and inter-suspicion. Such theology might be contextual in its age. Nevertheless when the religious plurality becomes contemporary fact and natural law, theological changes is the essential need as the base of religious living in practice.

This inclusive-transformative theology put the human on equal position no matter his religion, ethnic, race, language and tribe is (QS 3:64). On this level, all human is expected to be the God’s Caliph on the earth (khalifatullah fiy al-ardh) to accomplish transformation toward the better direction and live in harmony with the environment. Therefore, war, religious conflict, or dispute must be avoided as a form of collective responsibility.

In the context of religions, all religions have a convergent point (kalimatun sawa’) – the bond of interfaith plurality. The inclusive–transformative theology has not only opened the possibility of truth in others’ belief, but also created serenity and world peace as a collective responsibility. It means that universal values like love (rahmah), wisdom (hikmah), universal benefit (maslahah ‘ammah), justice (‘adl) and equality and etc must be the ‘umbrella’ of all religions to cooperate in humanitarian deeds. All kind of evil, violence, or terrorism must be fought together as a form of universal humanitarian solidarity.

The Prophet Saw said: “O mankind! Disseminate peace, tighten the bonds of fraternity, feed (the hungry), and pray when most of people sleep at night, hence you’ll enter into heaven full of welfare” (Subulussalam, Jilid 4, hlm 209).

Secondly, the urgency of reforming fikh (Islam) and canonist law (Christian) and other formal teachings. It is important since fikh (Islam) and Canonist (Christian) are a set of religious regulations handling the social reality which often denies other groups’ rights. Several classical books like Fath al-Qorib or Fath al-Mu’in still position non-Muslim as infidels –dzimmy (protected) or harby (unprotected) – whom has to submit into Islam. Here is the urgency of the notion of Fiqih Lintas Agama/ Across Religious Fikh (Paramadina, 2003) as the first step to formulate a dialogical fikh and compromise with other religions. Here lies the urgency of deconstruction (al-qathi’ah al-ma’rafiyah) and reconstruction (al-tawashul al-ma’rafy) of the classical fikh.

Thirdly, religion and politics (the state). In the historical record, relations between religion and the state often creates many problems. Religious politicisation is instituted by bureaucrats for certain interests and targets. Religious and state conflict is an obvious example. In the elite’s hand, religion is often used as a source of its legitimacy. On the contrary, the state in the cleric’s point of view is often understood as a missionary’s media to disseminate its religious teaching through its policies.

The overlapping relationship between religion and state often lead to many victims, psychologically, physically, and materially. In this case, religion and the state should cooperate not as opiates for the people, but for the welfare of the people.

Fourthly, transformation of knowledge. The inclusive-transformative religious comprehension often stops at the elite level, since it is the grass root society who live in dispute. The people are used as devices for certain group to eliminate other ones. It is due to the transformation’s failure of inclusive-transformative comprehension toward people. The missionaries are serving a stiff, rigid and exclusive format of religion.

Therefore it is important to transform the inclusive religious comprehension toward common people to minimalize the tension among adherents. Briefly, religion is used only when there is a need for legitimacy and then discarded when it demands fulfillment of moral responsibility.

Finally, religion in the new print is not a new religion, but it is a religious formulation providing inclusive and humanist values which are transformative upon the whole scope of life. [Hatim Gazali]



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