THE radical jihadist movement never dies. The organization’s name changes frequently but the substance of their struggle remains: consistently, the mission to create and maintain an Islamic state, the caliphate (khilafah) and sharia law, thoroughly. This mission inevitably leads them to reject all ideas about nation-state systems and democracy by labelling them as “thâghût”, because according to the jihadists, any state that does not thoroughly appy sharia law is “thâghût”.
The early ideologues and creators of the jihadist concept, such as Abu al-A’la al-Maududi and Sayyid Qutb, used the term “jahiliyah system” for nations that do not apply sharia law. Their loyal followers refer to it as the “modern jahiliyah system”. The use of the term “thâghût” first emerged from Abdullah Azam, a conceiver and commander of the jihad in Afghanistan. The term “thâghût” is also used by people who consider themselves followers and students of this ideology in Indonesia.
The term “thâghût” that is bandied about by the jihadists is a claim with very serious consequences; not simply labelling others as kafir but also insisting on radical, revolutionary, and thorough change by all means necessary, including violence such as bombing, in the name of jihad.
They justify their actions through a hadith about the leader of the end of times. The hadith seems to give them hope to reestablish an Islamic caliphate. It is stated in the hadith that after the fall of dictatorial Muslim leaders, the caliphate ‘alâ minhâj al-nubûwwah will rule on the earth once again.
The jihadist claim about a caliphate ‘alâ minhâj al-nubûwwah drew responses from many quarters, including Islamic scholars and young leaders. On 31 July – 3 August 2016, scholars and young leaders from NU, Muhammadiyah, Nadhlatul Wathan, Mathali’ul Anwar and Al-Khairat gathered at the Hotel Rancamaya Bogor, facilitated by the Wahid Foundation (WF), to respond and create a counter narrative against the jihadists and to create a narrative of peace.
These Indonesian Islamic scholars and leaders declared that “thâghût” is all practices that exceed the limits and are substantially oppose and reject the law of Allah and His Messenger. If something does not reject the law and realized it in a substantial way, it cannot be labelled as “thâghût”. Thus, the Indonesian goverment cannot be labelled as “thâghût”, because the substance of Indonesian laws does not go against Islamic values.
The teachings of Islam, which derive from Al-Qur’an and Sunnah, give religious scholars the authority to engage in ijtihad to formulate laws that are relevant and beneficial for the nation and the state as long as they do not conflict with these two sources.
On the same note, Islam does not specify any particular system of governance and gives us the freedom to adopt any system of government as long as its substance is not contrary to the values of Islamic sharia .The attention is on substance, not form, as stated in the principle “al-‘ibrah bi al-jawhar, lâ bi al-mazhhar”.
Islamic perspective on the substance of goverment is a succession of leadership that can manage the various needs and welfare of the people. In fiqh it is stated, “Tasharruf al-imâm ‘alâ al-ra’îyyah manûth bi al-maslahah”: If there is no leader, there will be disintegration and chaos. The person chosen as leader must be someone who upholds morality and justice.
The Islamic caliphate as a system is no longer relevant and can be replaced by the nation-state system. Moreover, the caliphate system is the result of ijtihad from the past, and there is no obligation to follow such. Al-Qur’an does not explicitly mention any obligation to uphold the caliphate system; all that is mentioned is the syura system, “Wa amruhum syûrâ baynahum.”
From their claim, the jihadist movement feels that their rising strength is because they act in accordance with the Hadith stating that a caliphate ‘alâ minhâj al-nubûwwah will emerge on earth, and it is time to establish and uphold the caliphate based on this hadith. Actually, based on serious study and intensive discussion, the Indonesian Islamic scholars and young leaders concluded that there are seven versions of the hadith. In six of them, the quality of the sanad (chain of transmission) is not shahîh because the credibility of two of the narrators is questionable. Thus, there is only one shahîh hadith, and even then its contents do not describe leadership at the end of time as is found in any other hadiths.
There are many qualified shahih hadith of the Prophet whose content completely contradicts this hadith. Among these is a hadith which states that the caliphate is only valid for 30 years after the Prophet’s death. Meanwhile, the meaning of the hadith concerning leadership at the end of time is the caliphate of Umar ibn Abd al- Aziz of the Umayyad clan. Other hadiths talk about the end-time leadership, with content on the descent of Isa al-Masih and Imam Mahdi. These hadiths are predictive, and in no way constitute a command to enforce the caliphate.
Meanwhile, the phrase ‘ala minhaj al-nubûwwah means the ways undertaken by the Prophet way to substantially improve justice. According to Mulla Ali al-Qari, what is meant by ‘ala minhaj al-nubûwwah is the leadership of Isa al-Masih and Imam Mahdi (the Messiah) who will arrive at the end of time and will bring justice based on the ways and methods used by the Prophet Muhammad, not the ways proposed by the propagandists for an Islamic caliphate such as ISIS, HTI and the like.
The Indonesian Islamic scholars and youth leaders also corrected the meaning of jihad, which has been reduced by radical jihadists to mean simply qitâl (wars or killing). Citing the view on jihad from a book by Sayyid Bakr ibn al-Sayyid Muhammad Syatha al-Dimyathi, “Hâsyiyah I’ânah al-Thâlibîn Syarh Fath al-Mu’în”, jihad is not synonymous with war or killing. Jihad also means disseminating the faith, teaching the knowledge of sharia (interpretation of the Qur’an, hadith, fiqh, etc.), protecting all civilians – whether Muslims, dzimmy (non-Muslims that live peacefully) or musta’man (non-Muslims that have a peace treaty with Muslims) – from all kinds of threats and dangers, advocating kindness and prohibiting all kinds of evil, answering greetings, and promoting peace among humanity.
Given the broad range of meanings of jihad, war is not the primary objective of jihad, since jihad in the sense of qitâl (killing or war) is only a means, not an objective. The right way of jihad is without war or coercion.The objective of jihad is to achieve guidance, such as inviting humankind to follow the right path without engaging in war. This way is clearly better than going to war, so that humankind will sincerely and willingly accept God’s guidance. War as jihad should only be done in emergency situations, such as in self-defence, and is not allowed in time of peace.
Besides narrowing the meaning of jihad by identifying it with war, the radical jihadists also regularly label many of their fellow Muslims as kafir. This is ironic because kafir means an attitude of denying the divinity of Allah and rejecting everything that comes from His Messenger. And the consensus of Islamic scholars is that any person who has testified to the divinity of Allah and the prophethood of Rasulullah SAW is considered a Muslim and cannot be declared kafir. Muslims can not label other Muslims as kafir. Thus, a person who declares another Muslim a kafir, is himself a kafir.[MA]