Opinion and Editorial - November 02, 2007
Mohammad Yazid, Jakarta
It must have taken Ahmad Moshaddeq, or "Salam", great courage to proclaim himself the new prophet of Islam in place of the Prophet Muhammad on July 23, 2006, after 40 days and 40 nights of secluded meditation.
Moshaddeq, who founded the Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah school, goes against the basic tenants of Islam, which believes Muhammad was the last prophet and God's messenger. Such belief is the main prerequisite for embracing Islam.
It comes as no surprise that Moshaddeq has sparked a strong reaction, even violence, from Muslims. Although al-Qiyadah recognizes the Holy Koran as its holy book, it abandons a collection of traditions and sayings related to Prophet Muhammad (inkar sunnah) and interprets the Koran in its own way.
Moshaddeq, who has the title of "al-Masih al-Mau'ud", has branded those who refuse to believe in him as infidels.
Departing from Islamic teachings, al-Qiyadah deems praying five times a day, fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca are not compulsory because Muslims are still in a phase of early development before the establishment of the Khilafah Islamiyah (Islamic empire). The school is located in Gunung Bundar village, Bogor, some 60 kilometers south of Jakarta.
The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) has declared al-Qiyadah heretical.
Since its foundation in 2000, al-Qiyadah has pulled in thousands of followers from Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Central Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and other towns across the country.
The emergence of groups like al-Qiyadah is a common social phenomenon that has also occurred also in non-Muslim societies and in advanced countries, because human beings naturally tend to seek alternatives when the mainstream gets stuck or is saturated.
In this context, when Islam, which should actually be construed as a religion that promotes rahmatan lil'alamin (a blessing to the entire universe), cannot be concretely translated into the daily lives of Muslims, simple questions will emerge as to why such a notion like "Islam is the religion of peace, tolerance and justice" sounds like a rhetoric.
Widespread corruption, offenses and crime in Indonesia where the majority of population are Muslims who obediently perform their obligatory prayers, practice fasting and have been to Mecca many times, have raised question as to why their religious diligence seems to have no relation to their deeds.
For many Muslims, the MUI's denouncement of this school as heretical will trigger question about the criteria required for heresy. They may regard Muslims who perform their daily prayers but commit graft as being heretics.
Instead of banning the school, it would be better, therefore, to consider the emergence of al-Qiyadah as a correction for Muslims in general, major Islamic organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, and Muslim-based political parties. It's a fact that being a predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia has not seen peace and justice fully upheld.
The history of Islam has witnessed the frequent emergence of fake prophets. In the past such a movement was crushed by use of force, as in the case of Musailamah al Kazzab. But it's no longer appropriate to resort to a war to settle the matter now due to the very different situations and the need to recognize human rights.
It's the personal right of Moshaddeq to declare himself an apostle because the emotional relationship between a human being and his God is a private matter, as long as the spread of the belief neither violates the law nor involves, for example, abduction or other methods that cause social anxiety.
Likewise, it is the right of the MUI to declare al-Qiyadah a heretical school, especially because this decision has been made as a form of moral responsibility to protect Muslims. The problem is, perhaps, whether the decision was made after persuasion had been exhausted.
In the context of pluralism, these differences must be settled by mutual respect not just through a legal approach.
Muslims need to adopt a more mature attitude in responding to the beliefs introduced by Moshaddeq. At the end of the day, time will tell whether his claims are reliable or not.
The public will judge Moshaddeq a liar if he fails to convince others of his teachings.
Especially if in reality al-Qiyadah fails to contribute to the improvement of public morals, the eradication of corruption, crime and poverty, people will not buy Moshaddeq's words.
We need to remember, however, that as long corruption, abuse of power, the gap between the poor and the rich, extreme poverty and injustices still remain, more Moshaddeqs will arise.
The writer is a member of The Jakarta Post's opinion desk. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.