Indonesian Muslim organization seeks to reform Islamic jurisprudence

As part of efforts to reform Islamic jurisprudence as well as define the future path of global Islam, religious scholars, led by the Indonesia-based Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), are discussing the religious legitimacy of the United Nations and the nation-state, thus hoping to counter notions of a caliphate and a transnational Islamic state, writes journalist and scholar James M. Dorsey on his blog The Turbulent World (December 18). If adopted, such a legitimization would make the UN Charter and its references to human rights religiously binding for Muslim signatories. The NU had paved the way for such changes in 2019 by rejecting the relevance of the concept of “infidel” (kafir) as a legal category within modern nation-states.

At an international summit convened by Nahdlatul Ulama in 2016 (source: Bayt ar-Rahmah).

The move would not only counter the views of transnational jihadist groups, Dorsey stresses, but would also challenge “a key pillar of autocratic strategies in the Muslim world designed to ensure the survival of repressive regimes.” The scholars will gather in February in Surabaya, Indonesia, under the auspices of the recently constituted Religion Forum 20. Representatives of Muslim organizations associated with autocratic regimes, such as the Saudi-supported Muslim World League, are expected to hold the view that Islamic jurisprudence needs no reform, and the debate about the proposals by NU-led scholars cannot be expected to be resolved any time soon. Even the NU itself may not yet have drawn all the implications of its proposals, as shown by its absence of criticism toward restrictive religious and moral aspects of the newly adopted Indonesian criminal code. Still Dorsey sees the NU’s “effort to anchor the United Nations and the concept of the nation-state in Islamic jurisprudence” as a move that could prove revolutionary in the long term.

(Formerly known as The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, James M. Dorsey’s blog has been renamed The Turbulent World in 2023: