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By Rusydy Zakaria, M.Ed.M.Phill.

Artikel ini membahas thema tentang Islam dan Modernitas. Pencarian hubungan antara Islam dan Modernitas menjadi landasan studi ini dilakukan. Terdapat tiga isu yang akan dibahas. Pertama akademik debat tentang Islam dan Modernitas dengan focus pada tiga teori besar: Weber, Marxism, liberalisme dan neo liberlisme. Kedua pada isu tentang tekanan kontemporer terhadap Islam dalan konteks modernitas. Ketiga tentang respon kaum muslim terhadap modernitas. Dalam artikel ini dibahas tentang bagimana Islam sebagai sebuah system ideology dunia memainkan peran yang sigifikan di dalam proses modernitas. Juga artikel ini akan mendiskusikan berbagai tingkat respon kaum muslim terhadap modernitas, mulai dari yang sangat konservatif sampai dengan yang radikal. Terakahir, artikel ini memberi ulasan pula dalam kontek pendidikan Islam; yakni bagaimana pendidikan Islam memberikan respon terhadap isu sekulariasasi dan demokrasi sebagai impak langsung dari modernitas).
Kata kunci: Islam dan Modernitas

Academic debates on Islam and modernity
Islam is a universal ideology. As a universal ideology it is based upon the fundamental tenet that Islam is ‘ad deen’ (religion), that is, a complete way of life – both for the individual and for the society. At a high level of generalization, there is certainly a ‘map of social reality’ to which all Muslims would subscribe. Politically, there is the ideal of the worldwide ‘ummah’ (community).

Economically, there is the dedication to the establishment of an economic system founded upon social justice and redistribution of wealth – idealized in the system of zakat (Muslim tithing system) and wakaf (donation for religious purposes). Legally, there is at least some acceptance of the syariah (Muslim legal code) as a template of social life (Siddique, 1985). Educationally, there are the aims to train young Muslims to have strong mental discipline and to acquire knowledge; not merely to develop intellectual curiosity but also to develop as rational, righteous beings who can contribute to the spiritual, moral and physical welfare of family, community and mankind (Husain and Ashraf, 1979). In this context, the Quran and the Sunnah are the immutable sources of the fundamental tenets of Islam, of its principles, ethic and culture. Both the Quran and the Sunnah are the fundamental sources for developing Islamic education and Muslim society. They provide a positive sense to the human mind, some scientific principles, an account of human nature, and principles for social organization (Azra, 1999).
There were many academic responses to the debate surrounding the relationship between Islam and modernity. Western scholars often viewed modernism as a threat to Islam, although this appeared to be based on a lack of understanding of Islam and its earlier intellectual pluralism. As Arkoun (1994) has argued ‘can one speak of [a] scientific understanding of Islam in the West or must one rather talk about the West[ern] way of imaging Islam? We can, in fact, wonder whether the Western understanding of Islam is valid and objective’ (p.6). In this view, Islam was also constructed as a theological, political and intellectual problem for the West. Theologically, the reintroduction of the monotheistic concept after the crucifixion and resurrection of God’s own son (Jesus Christ) required Christian Europe to denounce Islam, its prophet and its followers. Politically, when Islam arrived at Europe’s borders, Europe launched a series of crusades against Islam. Later, attacks were made intellectually when the scholarly achievements of Muslim civilization created a series of disciplines to contain Muslim thought and history (Sardar and Malik, 2001).

In order to capture the relationship between Modernity and Islam, the next section will give an account of the major theories of Marxism, Weberian and Neo-Liberalism in terms of Islam.
Marxism and Islam
In order to capture the relationship between Marxism and Islam, we need first to discuss Marx’s theory of religion. His theory was transformed by his confrontation with Hegel and Feuerbach. For Hegel, religion, like philosophy, had an historical dimension. He tried to show that history was the development of human self-consciousness; in becoming aware of the nature of historical modes of thought, humans are able to criticize their own conceptions and thereby transcend their limitations. In this context, the relationship between freedom and reason is central to Hegel’s view of history. Meanwhile, for Feuerbach both Hegelianism and religion were merely aspects of humans’ alienation from themselves. To transcend both, humans have to achieve an awareness that all the qualities we attribute to God are in fact human. In his confrontation with Hegel and Feuerbach, Marx came to formulate a general theory of religion, with a limited criticism of institutional Christianity. For Marx, as described by Turner (1974), ‘religion is as a reflection of a corrupt world in which men are estranged. It is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless situation. It is the opium the people’ (p.179).

With respect to Islam, therefore, the very notion of Marxism is a very sensitive issue. Some Muslim leaders, particularly from traditional groups (conservative strand) refuse to recognize this ideology, because it has a potential danger to affect Islamic culture and even the religious life of the Muslim world. The danger of Marxism for Islam was the appearance of a form of Marxism with an Islamic veneer, creating a most tempting trap for certain simple souls. This insidious use of religion, often with direct political aims in mind, is in fact more dangerous than the obviously anti-religious position and corresponds to the thoughts and attitudes of that class of people whom the Qurán calls the munafiqun (hypocrites) . Therefore, to preserve Islam and Islamic civilization, a conscious and intellectual defense must be made through intellectual criticism of the modern world. Muslims cannot hope to follow the same path as the West and the truth must be asserted along with an intellectual defense of Islam wherever it is challenged (Nasr, 2002). Islam, very simply, is a philosophy of human liberation. Its first summons, “say ‘There is no god but God and prosper”, propounds tauhid as the necessary means to that end. (Shari’ati, 1981)

Weber and Islam
In order to understand Weber’s` interpretation of Islam in relation to the rise of the modern world, we need first to know what Weber’s argument was about the relationship between religious belief and the emergence and persistence of capitalist institutions. For Weber, beliefs are independent and influential. He saw that a ‘capitalist spirit’ has arisen from some religious impulse. In this context, the Protestant Ethic is a strong thesis in the argument that Calvinist beliefs caused modern capitalism, but Weber’s treatment and interpretation of Islam is, in fact, very weakly connected with the specific thesis about Calvinism. In practice, Weber’s discussion of Islam is in terms of patrimonial domination. For Weber, Islamic social structure contained elements of patrimonialism and feudalism, such as the absence of a cohesive landowning aristocracy, an independent legal system and autonomous cities which provided Weber with a term for absolute power where patrimonial authority lays primary stress on the sphere of arbitrary will, free of traditional limitations, called ‘Sultanism’ (Princesim) (Turner, 1974).

Although Weber’s analysis of Islam was never completed, Islam is intrinsically important to Weber’s total endeavor. Weber’s study on Islam can be divided into two dimensions: a commentary on the ethic of Islam and an analysis of the patrimonial structure of Islam. In accounting for the content of the Islamic ethic, Weber underlined two key aspects. First, as a monotheistic religion, Islam did not develop into an ascetic religion because its main social carrier was a warrior group. The content of the religious message was transformed into a set of values compatible with the mundane needs of a warrior stratum. The salvation element of Islam was transformed into a secular quest for land; the result was that Islam became a religion of accommodation rather than a religion of transformation. The pristine message of Meccan monotheism was adulterated by Sufism, which catered for the emotional and orgiastic needs of the masses. The consequence was, while the warrior stratum pulled Islam in the direction of a militaristic ethic, the Sufi tradition drew Islam towards a religion of mystical flight. The point is that Islam did not contain an ethic which was congruent with the rise of rational capitalism. As a religion of harmony, Islam produced an ethic which was incompatible with the spirit of capitalism. According to Turner (1986), this thesis is not true, because Islam, in fact, emerged and developed from a trading city. Mecca, since its beginning, has been a commercial city, dominated by merchant groups. The Quraisy tribe, the prophet of Muhammad’s tribe, had achieved their political position based on their domination in the trade sector. Also, the Quran is replete with trade terminologies. In Islam, we can find a discussion about a devout city and a devout nomad influenced by economic interests. However, Islam has been successful in integrating a trader people and nomadic people in one community, called “Moslem”.

The second dimension of Weber’s account of Islam centers on the political and economic structure of later Islamic dynasties in which this structure fell under patrimonial bureaucracies. For Weber, the financial and political structure of dynastic Islam depended on the successful conquest of new lands, which were then exploited to maintain the central bureaucracy. This political structure hinged on a complex balance of social forces represented by the Sultan, the military, the ulama (Scholars) and the masses (Turner, 1974). Furthermore, Weber argued that the Sultan, as a representative of God, should maintain the power balance between all those stakeholders, because the failure to achieve the power balance (justice) will lead to the society being weakened (Abdullah, 1987).

Many have criticized these accounts. Turner (1974) argued that Weber failed to make allowance for the persistent conflict between the pious and their rulers; the resentment between the legal scholars and law officials. He failed to recognize the social solidarities of Islamic cities, which focused on the law schools. Furthermore, Weber did not provide an accurate periodization of Islamic history. Also, his outline of the Islamic warrior ethic was tangential to his main concern with the patrimonial character of mediaeval Islam, and in his discussion of oriental patrimonialism, he duplicated an analysis of oriental society, which had already been examined by Marx and Engels. But these criticisms did not diminish the main outline of Weber’s argument that Islam did not develop along capitalist lines because of its patrimonial system of domination. This system of social arrangement collapsed because it could not solve its own political contradiction and it was incapable of dealing with European capitalism and colonialism (Turner, 1974).

Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism and Islam
Liberalism is a relatively modern phenomenon that has had great influence in the Western world, particularly in England, the United States and Western Europe. Liberalism is one of the most important Western ideologies which underpins the modern West. The basic credo of classical liberalism was freedom and the right of the individual. As Kerlinger (1984) points out, the individual became the focus of attention and values; society and the government were seen as subordinate to the individual’s right, aspiration, and efforts. Popkewitz and Brennan (1997) described that, as a social theory, ‘liberalism’ refers to a legacy of nineteenth century social thought which underlies contemporary social and educational theory. In liberal thought, progress in scientific knowledge is made through managing social change and placing greater emphasis on individuals and the phenomenology of the subject. One of the central figures of liberal discourse, the ‘individual’, has a distinctly ambiguous ontological status.

The next paragraph examines the implication of this ambiguity for the understanding first of liberalism as a doctrine and secondly of its relationship to other contemporary doctrines, including democracy, socialism and neo-liberalism. As a doctrine of government, liberalism is concerned with a community of autonomous persons where some regard the government primarily as implementing the will of the community and the other see government essentially as collective self-control. In this context, representative government and the rule of law might be described as containing the influence of the people within strict limits. This view of natural autonomy as political ideal corresponds to an understanding of government as able to operate legitimately only on the basis of the agreement of those autonomous persons who are subject to its power. In terms of democracy, representative government could be thought to allow government by the people to be extended to large, geographically dispersed and relatively differentiated populations. Meanwhile, in terms of socialism, social democracy has attempted to manage economic activity while retaining both the commitment to representative democracy and the constitutional restraints of liberal democracy. It is interesting to note that liberalism and social democracy have been able to present themselves as competing rationalities of government. In this respect, the account of liberalism as acknowledging the natural autonomy of the individual and insisting upon a limited role for government gives rise to a misleadingly sharp set of demarcations between liberalism on the one hand and democracy and social democracy on the other. Therefore, the differences between liberalism on the one hand and democracy and socialism on the other appear to take a particularly clear form. Liberalism acknowledges the natural liberty of the person and aims to defend it against external obstacles, whereas democracy and socialism threaten this liberty in the name of what they describe as collective interest and priorities (Avnon and Shalit, 1999).
Despite its methodological flaws, neo-liberalism is the theoretical underpinning of the most recent wave of globalization. It is a term used to identify a particular discourse of governance, political philosophy, and political prescription centering around the objectives of the self-limiting state. Therefore, as Fitzsimons (2000) argues, neo-liberalism is a substantive discourse of government that is potent precisely because of its capacity to combine economics, the social, and politics on behalf of rational choice as a legitimating principle. There are two competing models for thinking about the world that have become influential over recent years, the neo-classical economic theory and the world system theory. Neo-classical theory , from which neo-liberalism derives, has tended to become the dominant ideology of global capitalism because of its emphasis on a free enterprise and an unfettered market. Meanwhile, the world system theory argues that national development is an irrelevant concept in a globalised economy.

With respect to Islam, the notions of liberalism and neo-liberalism are highly debatable. The classical Islamic orthodox groups, whose obedience is to God’s rules, do not have an interest in the implications of liberalism and neo-liberalism for their lives, because they are more focused on their spiritual life than on the social life. Their life is influenced by orthodox doctrines. One extreme doctrine, related to a political issue is the full obedience to the ‘Caliph’ or the Islamic political leaders, even if they are unfair. Many Muslim orthodox groups still maintain the doctrine of full obedience to the Caliph or Sultan. This orthodox doctrine established fourteen centuries ago is still kept to the present day, even though the original conditions have changed.

In the name of Islam these classical groups challenge other political and cultural systems including democracy, capitalism, liberalism or neo-liberalism, imported from the West. According to these groups, the whole of life stands ordered solely on Islamic principles, since there is no other valid path except submission to Allah (God). All democracies, including the Western representative kinds, are evil. Democracy means the rule of the demos, the people or mob. Islam requires the rule of the umma, the community of the faithful, through a government whose duty is to implement the shari’a (Islamic law) (Aldridge, 2000). For these classical groups, the inhabited world is theologically and juridically divided between the home of Islam (dar al-islam) where the Divine law applies; and the land of war (dar al-harb) where the ‘infidel’ always threatens to substitute secular law for the true law set down in the time of the prophet (Arkoun, 1994). But moderate traditional groups, for instance: Sayyed Hossein Nasr, believed that traditional Islam is rich enough to generate an alternative culture through which Muslims can confront the intellectual and material supremacy of the West. Nasr believed that Allah (God) who has infinite mercy will eventually revitalize a tradition in order to save humanity from the spiritual and intellectual impoverishment caused by modernity (Aslan, 1998).

Modernist groups who have more tolerance with Western trends are attempting to harmonize Islam and Western civilization. Some contemporary ‘isms’ such as democracy, Marxism, socialism, capitalism, liberalism or neo-liberalism became a significant challenge for modernizing Islamic society. Liberal modernists, such as Rifa’a al-Tahtawi and Mustafa Kemal (Kemal Attarturk) believed they could lead Muslim societies along the same path through imitating the Western cultural model. For example, by launching the Western concept of secularization, Kemal Atarturk wanted to recreate Turkey as a modern state. He believed that it was enough to take the ‘prescription’ for the success of Western civilization and apply it to Muslim countries (Huntington, 2005). For conservative groups, this view represents the typical naïve state of consciousness found among Muslim intellectuals between 1880–1940. On this view, there can be no deep harmony and accord between the Islamic world and the secularist West because there are no common transcendent principles between them. There can only be peace based upon mutual respect on the human level. It is necessary to assert that the question of Islam and the West (including Western-ism) must be cast in a new mold. Both sides must understand that there cannot be an integration of two diametrically opposed worldviews: Islam and modernity, but at best mutual tolerance on the human level (Nasr, 2002).

From the discussion above we have seen that since the early nineteenth century, Islam was faced with the issue of its relation to modernity. It could be argued, in principle, that no one Islamic doctrine is opposed to modernity, because Islam is a religion with a comprehensive way of life. Therefore, modernity becomes a “challenger” for shaping and embedding Islamic values and norms in the life of Moslem society. With respect to modernity as a human civilization, Islam can only gain valuable experience in facing ‘modern’ life problems, because Islam will have the opportunity to introduce its own world view. In fact, Islam cannot escape from the impact of modernity. Even, Islam in many aspects has gained valuable benefits from modern life and ‘modernity’.

Contemporary Pressure on Islam
Most Muslims believe that the initial impact of modernity on the Islamic world began with the transoceanic expansion of Europe in the fifteenth century. In 1498 Vasco da Gama opened the route to India by the Cape of Good Hope, because he could not use the conventional route (through the Red Sea), which was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. From that time, various European nations reached India and the Far East and engaged in trade with local rulers in East Africa, the Indian continent, and the East Indies. In the seventeenth century, trade led on to political involvement and finally full colonialism (Watt, 1988).

Colonial Pressure
This political advance, as the outcome of a new superiority in military technology, led to the process of colonization of Muslim countries by Western countries. First, there were treaties with local rulers, then European troops were sent to protect the trading stations. Their role then extended to political and social affairs and govern-ship of the countries under colonial rule; and finally, in some areas, full-blown colonialism. On taking control, the colonial powers not only had the function of providing raw material for Europe but there was a pressure on Muslim society to adopt the practices of particular colonial powers. One of the significant acts of all the colonial rulers was to ban all Muslim institutional power, ranging from political to intellectual and educational activities in Muslim society. For example, when the Dutch colonialists took over Indonesia in the early seventeenth century, they did not only destroy the Islamic kingdom as the Islamic political power, but they also banned the Islamic educational system and replaced it with a secular system as the mainstream system. Meanwhile, Islamic education had been pushed to the margins of society and had been ignored as the poor educational institution for native Indonesia Muslim society (Sardar and Malik, 2001).

This colonial policy on education created a new variant of Muslim leaders who experienced a Western type of education. As a Western-educated class, they wanted to modernize their countries and achieved this by adopting many aspect of Western culture. Many wanted Western education for their children and supported the development of the new system of education by introducing Western methods of teaching and Western curriculum. From that time emerged several leaders and educational reformists, including Sultan Mahmud II and Kemal Ataturk in Turkey; as well as Mohammad Ali Pasha, al-Tahtawi and Mohammad Abduh who wanted to reform the University of Al-Azhar. In India, Sayyid Ahmad Khan founded the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College. In Indonesia, reformists included Syech Ahmad Chotib who founded the Normal School in Padang West Sumatera; Dr. Wahidin Sudiro Husodo who founded STOVIA,- a medical school in Jakarta; and in the moderate form, K.H. Ahmad Dahlan who founded the Muhammadiyah Schooling system. Meanwhile, some ulamas (religious scholars) still maintained the traditional Islamic form of education which did not meet the contemporary demands, because its teaching method still focused more on the memorization of subject matters without deep analysis (Azra, 1999). These two types of institutions were based on completely different philosophies of education. As a result in most Islamic countries, two types of educated classes appeared who had the same ethnic background, religion, and language, but who were not able to understand each other because they interpreted the world through different prisms (Nasr, 2002).

Neo-Colonial Pressure
During the post colonial period (1920 – 1960), most Muslims saw the pervasive Western cultural domination of the world as a serious threat to their religion and identity; because they viewed the West as trying to homogenize the world with a secular Western flavour . The introduction of economic capitalism, communism, and Western liberalism had been successful in moderating even secularizing some Muslim countries. The case of Turkey and Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) is an extreme example. He transformed Turkey from Ottoman conservatism to modernity by adopting and imitating European methods, social institutions, and political models. He went even further by abolishing the sultanate system – the sacred rank of the caliphate . He attacked the semiological universe of Muslims by replacing the Arabic alphabet with the Latin alphabet, the turban and the fez with the hat; and the most surprising move, replaced the shari’a (Islamic law) with the Swiss legal code (Arkoun, 1994). Many similar cases, but in a more moderate form, occurred during the period of colonialism and continued after these countries gained independence. Many of them adopted the Western political model for their schooling system. These influences brought the Muslim countries to modernity, but they also created a latent tension between the modern and the traditional groups within the Muslim society (Watt, 1988) .
In the view of some Muslim leaders of the conservative groups, by setting up the International agencies for economic development, such as: World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Western countries have played ‘games’ in order to maintain the domination of West upon East or the developed countries upon the developing countries, of which large numbers are Muslim countries. These agencies, with full political support from the super powers, have played an active role as ‘World Charity Organizations’ by offering packaged loans as funding aid for conducting economic development. At the beginning and for a short time, such financial programs seem to be useful and effective ways of achieving a new material standard of living; but in the long term, they become an ‘economic trap’ that can destroy the Muslim countries’ economic foundation. This was evident when a financial crisis occurred in 1997 in Asian countries, including the Muslim countries Malaysia and Indonesia, causing the level of social welfare to decrease dramatically. However, the leaders of the ‘modern’ Islamic group, particularly those who were educated in Western educational institutions, presented a different view. For them, the Islamic world could not be isolated from the influence of Western economics, because the waves of globalization have created a mutual dependence between north and south, West and East, poor and rich countries. Thus, the Muslim countries cannot escape from the influence of the economic globalization (Hoveyda, 1998).

In the cultural field, Western culture, particularly, represented by the American life style, came to dominate not only the Muslim countries but also the entire world. With their advanced technological information and communication systems such as CNN, BBC, and many others; the Western countries have tried to create a strong view that the Western culture, particularly the American life style should be the leading world culture. The introduction of the Western life style including, individualism, feminism, materialism, homosexuality, and even atheism have brought a strong challenge for modern Muslim society. For some Muslims of conservative groups, these notions were seen as a ‘death poison’ which had the potential to destroy their true faith and social religious attitudes. As Azra (1999) argues, Western hegemony in the field of information technology has not only led to the emergence of cultural globalization but also to the penetration of Western values into the life of Muslim society. For example, the American soap opera ‘Dynasty’ is not only pure ‘entertainment’ but seems to legitimate permissive relationships between men and women, which is a ‘taboo’ in Muslim society. On the most significant level, there is the ever-increasing bombardment of Islamic society, and especially its youth, with the products of Western culture, particularly American pop culture and the hedonistic aspects of Western life (Nasr, 2002).
But for some Muslims of the modernist group, not all of Western cultural penetration had a negative impact on the Muslim society or way of life. The Western attitudes of working hard, efficiency, rationality, and democratic politics became highly valued qualities in contributing to the modernization of Islamic countries. And also, in fact, Muslim countries cannot protect their society from this cultural infiltration, because they lack the ability and skills to create a balanced counter attack. They also cannot blame Western countries for creating cultural penetration, because as the holder of cultural hegemony they cannot prevent themselves from ‘selling’ their culture, since they cannot see outside it and therefore it permeates the cultural products which they sell to the rest of the world – like television programmes, movies etc. This cultural penetration has become a significant challenge for Muslim societies. As Nasr (2002) points out, modern technology continues to penetrate in an ever greater degree into the Islamic world, as elsewhere. This penetration has religious and spiritual implications on a vast scale. These have become of critical concern for many Muslim leaders and thinkers. The modernist group created a modern Islamic education by adopting modern methods whilst still maintaining the spirit of Islam, but the traditional groups have created a religious doctrine as a way of protecting their members from the negative impact of cultural penetration.

The Terrorist label Pressure
After the events of 11 September 2001, Islam and terrorism have become synonymous. The American war propaganda on terrorism was followed by military action on Afghanistan and Iraq, creating a new tension between Islam and the West. This propaganda, which was led by US President George Bush and supported by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has created new pressures on Islam and Muslim countries. It also created a new stigma on the Moslem people, particularly the Moslem people from Middle East countries and South East Asia, with the potential now to be described as “a Terrorist”. Now, Islam and the West seem to stand in opposition, both having negative perceptions and strong prejudice towards the other. Many violent acts that have occurred in parts of the world are blamed on ‘Muslim” terrorist actions. The Bali bombing, Manila Bombing, the Jakarta bombing, the Bangkok bombing among others are all understood as ‘Muslim’ terrorist actions. People from Muslim countries, particularly from the Middle East are under suspicion when entering Western countries. This phenomenon seems to be leading to a ‘clash of civilizations’ between the West and Islam. Samuel P. Huntington predicted that the twenty-first century would be a clash of civilizations, as will be discussed more fully below.

Today’s terrorism can be characterized as political and cultural terrorism, as it involves mixed political and religious motivations. Two particular groups are Al-Qaeda with its prominent leader, Usama bin Laden who is regarded as the prime suspect for attacking Western, particularly American interests since early 1990. The other is its descendent global network Jama’at- al-Islamiyah which is blamed, by President Bush and Tony Blair, as the prime suspect for the bomb attack on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 and other bombings. Although, those Western leaders say that the blame is not intended to label (discredit) Islam as a ‘terrorist religion’, the implication is there and this has upset Muslim countries. As Sardar and Malik (2001) have pointed out, Islam cannot be blamed for the actions of the terrorists. By painting all Muslims with the same brush, we undermine their humanity and defame over a billion people, their societies, and their histories.

However, the terrorist label given to these Islamic radical groups has created a new pressure on the Islamic world. This pressure brings a political dilemma for Muslim leaders (and their countries). They have to tread a fine line between engaging with the American propaganda of the war on the terrorism, while avoiding American allegations that they support terrorists, and at the same time, ensure that they do not damage relationships with other Muslim countries. This pressure has created a new atmosphere between Islam and the West which is characterized by tension and prejudice. From the Western side, a terrorist action is understood as a threat to Western civilization. Meanwhile from the Islamic side, the Western allegation of terrorism is understood as a threat to Islam. Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University predicted in 1993 that world politics was entering a new phase in which the major source of conflict would be neither ideological nor economic but cultural. According to Huntington, “the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future. It will be ‘the West against the rest’ and especially against ‘resurgent’ Islamic fundamentalism. For him, the ‘cultural division’ between Christianity and Islam has reemerged. Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilization has been coming back” (cited in Hoveyda, 1998,p. 159).

However, many intellectual scholars disagree with this notion of clash of civilization. Fereydoun Hoveyda (1998) argued that the world debate on the clash of civilizations is literally metaphorical. In referring to Islamic civilization, he argues that what we call Islamic civilization is something of the past although we can see and appreciate its products. But it has produced nothing ‘new’ since the eighteenth century. What we call Islamic civilization now is not ‘alive’. Therefore, it is unrealistic to compare Islamic civilization and Western civilization. The situation is not like the period of the cold war, when the West and the Communist worlds were threatening each other’s very existence, for the Islamic world cannot and does not threaten the West militarily, politically, or even economically in any conceivable way. On the contrary, the West controls the most vital economic resources of Muslim nations, benefits from all conflicts in that world through the sale of vast quantities of arms, and practically dictates its wishes in many part of the Islamic world (Nasr, 2002).

Muslim responses to modernity

Muslims responded to the cultural and political supremacy of the modern West through generating three different movements. As Sayyid Husen Nasr has outlined, these are: Islamic modernism, Islamic traditionalism, and Islamic revivalism or ‘fundamentalism’. First, Islamic modernism is a movement that wants to modify or reformulate Islam in a manner that would accommodate the norms of modernity. It aims to highlight and put more stress on those aspects of Islam which are in accord with the norms of modernity, while attempting to moderate those Islamic issues that are in direct conflict with modernity (Aslan, 1998). Second, Islamic traditionalism is a movement which is inward looking. This movement sees change (modernity) as the corruption of original cultural values. They lead the fight against the modern world. For them, it is essential to maintain integrity in the face of rapid change (modernity). The outside world may change, but traditional ‘man’s’ authentic, original, eternal soul (Islam) must be saved (Hopwood, 2000). Meanwhile, the third type, Islamic revivalism or fundamentalism , is a religio-political movement which differs from traditionalism in its approach. This movement does not seek wisdom but ‘truth’. The fundamentalists ground their views in presuppositions about the poverty and shallowness of reason. Only through the divine can humans attain solid, exemplary moral worth. From within, fitra (inner power) is enlightened by divine revelation, it becomes a force for humankind’s happiness, while from without, the fundamentalist assumes the impossibility of knowledge through reason because human knowledge cannot comprehend, interact with or act according to ultimate truths (Mousalli, 1999).

Debate on two main contemporary issues: Secularism and democracy
During the first two hundred years of Islam, or the classic era, particularly within the era of the Abbasid dynasty, the Islamic world attained a high level of scientific knowledge and a refined civilization. Many Islamic scientists emerged during this time, including Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibnu Sina, Ibn Maskaweh, Ibn Rusd, and Al-Razi. Most of them were also religious scholars who were expert in several branches of Islamic knowledge such as ilm kalam (theology), fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), hadith (traditions), tafsir (Qur’an exegesis). For example: Al-Kindi (d.866), known as the philosopher of Arabs, wrote books on mathematics, physics, music, medicine and geography. The work of these men made a significant contribution to the development of world knowledge and civilization (Sardar and Malik, 2001).

But, with the destruction of Greek philosophy or rational movement and the shift to irrational movement or orthodoxy, particularly under the influence of Al-Ghazaly (d.1111) who stood against the Mu’tazilite philosophy or liberal thinking, the ulama (religious scholars) were in a position of dominance. They began to conceive of the written word as an independent realm of representation and truth apart from life. To some extent, they reduced the concept of ilm (knowledge) from meaning ‘all knowledge’ to mean only ‘religious knowledge’. As a result, formal teaching focused on religious subjects; and the general subjects, such as physics, sciences, mathematics were regarded as marginal subjects. After the fall of the Mu’tazilah regime (the Islamic rationalism group), a majority of the orthodox Islamic scholars argued that the general sciences could corrupt and disturb the level of Muslim faithfulness. Therefore, the general subjects had to be eliminated from the Islamic curriculum. This view is caused by the religious belief that religion is a direct connection to God. The supremacy of religious subjects has had a substantial impact not only on the development of Islamic knowledge but also on Islamic civilization (Azra, 1999).

In contrast, for the West, religious education has never been the central feature of school or university education. The branches of knowledge have no central integrating force. In Western education, knowledge is divided into three branches: Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social sciences. This modern education emphasizes reason and rationality and ignores the value of the spirit (spiritual dimension). Western education is based on a core curriculum designed to build an all-round ‘democratic personality’ in each student. Western people believe that ‘democracy’ provides a complete solution for society (Husein and Ashraf, 1979). This ideology has entered Muslim society because many Muslim students have been educated in the West and returned to their countries with ideas in conflict with traditional assumptions, particularly regarding faith. Hence, a cultural duality has appeared everywhere in the Muslim world because of the dual education system. The traditional Islamic education created traditional Islamic groups; and the modern secular education created the secularists. In some Muslim countries, the secular education system has gradually replaced all other forms of education. In other Muslim countries both systems still exist but the secular system has become the more dominant (Husain and Ashraf, 1979).

The question of integrating Western modes of learning into the Islamic perspective and creating a single educational system which would be “Islamic” and yet able to include modern disciplines, began to occupy the mind of many Muslim intellectuals from the 1950s and 1960s onward. This effort led to the establishment of several universities, the preparation of integrated curricula and the emergence of the ‘Islamization of knowledge’ movement. Although these efforts have not been successful to date, they remain a major Islamic agenda.

The Issue of Secularism
The notion of secularism becomes a sensitive issue for those Muslim societies which are dominated by traditional Islamic groups. Ulama (religious scholars), the primary bearers and transmitters of a traditional worldview, are mostly reactionary in the sense that they tend to oppose reforms in the form of secularization. The reforms they are interested in are nearly all social and political, and leave the traditional world-view unchanged and unchangeable. For them unchangeability is an ideal both for human individuals and societies. This unchangeability of human nature justifies Muslim scholars in asserting the finality of the rules and law for human conduct which are expressed in the Qur’an and the Sunna of the prophet. As long as human nature does not change, essentially there can be no new problems, and therefore no need for any fundamental revision of the Sharia’ (Islamic law). Thus, the idea of social reform, including secularization, is virtually unthinkable for traditional minded Muslims (Watt, 1988).

However, scientific inventions and technological advances of the West, especially during the last two centuries, have altered the nature of human society. The invention of television and other modern technologies makes it possible for a few people to control the thinking of vast populations, and makes it difficult to insulate any part of the world, including the Muslim world, from what is happening elsewhere. Consequently, even if it is admitted that human nature has not changed essentially, there have been changes in human society which require changes in law. Thus, the traditional assumption by Muslims of the unchangeable nature of the human being blinds them to the new problems created for human society by technological and cultural advances (Watt, 1988). In facing these challenges, some Muslim reformists such as the Egyptians Tahtawi and Taha Husein, the Algerian Kateb Yassin, the Tunisian Bourguiba and so many others who have traveled to the West believed that it was enough to take the ‘prescriptions’ for the success of Western civilization and apply these to Muslim countries. In this context, secularism was perceived as an effective prescription to be applied to societies where religion controlled all the happenings and gestures of daily life (Arkoun, 1994).

Although the notion of secularization was strongly resisted by almost all the traditional Muslim groups, it was adopted in the medium term by some modernists, particularly in the field of education. After coming to power in 1805, Muhammad Ali in Egypt set about creating an army school based on the European model. To achieve this, he realized that he would require officers with particular training in various European subjects, rather than the traditional Islamic curriculum. He invited European teachers to Egypt to instruct the potential officers and followed this by sending these young Egyptian officers to study in Europe. This initiative was replicated by Sultan Mahmud II of Turkey who revived the engineering schools and sent students to Europe. He also set up a medical school by imitating a Western model. These initiatives are among the first effective reform schemes in Muslim countries and inspired the next phase of educational reform in the other Muslim countries (Watt, 1988).
In India, Sayyid Akhmad Khan (1817-1898) founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in 1877, which later became the University of Aligarh. To improve the quality of Muslim India, he believed that Muslim India must engage with modern science and the more productive aspects of Western thought. For him, the spread of Western education through the introduction of modern sciences brought the greatest challenge, and he also believed that Islamic teaching was compatible with modern sciences (Martin, 1997). At the beginning, his liberal view on education was opposed by the ulama (religious scholars), who had their centers in the Dar al-Ulum at Deoband and the Nadwat al-Ulama at Lucknow. But later he had more support from an increasing number of Muslims who had had a Western-type education, such as Amir Ali and Mohammad Iqbal. He also gained support from a modern traditional leader, Sayyid Abu ‘Ala al-Maududi who critized the ulama for still living in the eighteenth century and giving youth no effective guidance for participation in the contemporary world (Watt, 1988).
As one of the leading Muslim thinkers in the Indian continent, Maududi was aware of how the two parallel systems of education had produced two opposing groups among the more intellectual members of community. In examining this situation, Maududi (1980) argued:
This explains why everywhere in the Muslim world we find two groups and schools of thought diametrically opposed to, and often at loggerheads with each other. One of these is the standard-bearer of Islamic learning and culture, but is un-capable of leading and guiding the Muslims in all spheres of life. The other group is controlling the intellectual, literary and political affairs of the Muslims, but is ignorant of the principles and essential features of Islam, alien to the spirit of Islamic culture and unware of the character of the communal organization of Islam and its social laws.

Secularism also became a debatable issue in Indonesia, particularly when Nurcholis Madjid, a prominent Muslim reformist, launched the notion of secularization in early 1970. In contrast to earlier modernist movements, such as Muhammadiyah and Sarikat Islam which emphasized rationality in their denunciations of traditional religious practice, the Nurcholis Madjid movement is a combination of the empirical and historical approaches they employ in formulating a vision of an Islamic society. Madjid’s most important contribution to the development of Indonesian Islamic discourse is his attempt to decouple modernism from scripturalism. As Fachry Ali and Bactiar Effendi point out, Madjid provides a more realistic appraisal of how Muslims should approach modernity . In his controversial speech delivered on 2 January 1970, Madjid argued that Indonesian Muslims are again experiencing inertia in thought and in the development of Islamic teachings. He explained that the need for the renewal of thought was more pressing that the need for maintaining the intellectual consensus of the community. He accused his fellow Muslims of having ‘sacralized’ profane institutions, such as the Islamic political party and an Islamic state. Noting that there is no Qur’anic injunction mandating an Islamic state, Madjid criticized Indonesian Muslims for sanctifying an idea that was in fact a human fabrication . For him, Muslims should have ‘secularized’ this commitment while preserving Islam’s lasting values (Hefner and Horvatich, 1997).

In the aftermath of the controversy, Madjid himself expressed some misgiving at his choice of terms, commenting publicly that his reference to ‘secularization’ had invited misinterpretation. In fact, much of the detail of Madjid’s argument was lost in the sound and the fury of the subsequent debate. However, this effort at ‘new thinking’ (secularization) was one of several related developments in the Indonesian Muslim community at this time. Their significant influence lies in their sanctioning of a shift of Indonesian Muslim energies out of formal politics and into social and educational activities. Since this time, the modern movement has developed gradually and in the form of a cultural approach, particularly in the social and education fields. On this point, Indonesia was unusual among Muslim societies during the tumultuous decade stretching from 1978 to 1988. There was a general decline in the influence of Muslim parties but a great leap forward in the social and intellectual vitality of the community (Hefner and Horvatich, 1997).

It is important to note that Muslim civil associations were not the only agencies involved in the renewal. The New Order government also supported a number of cultural-Islamic programmes under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. One important feature of this effort was the enormous expansion in the State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) which began in the 1960s and which, during the 1970s and 1980s produced a large number of graduates trained in Islamic theology, law, arts, and education. These efforts in higher education were accompanied by an impressive program of infrastructural development, focusing on the construction of mosques, prayer halls, and madrasahs (Islamic schools). These efforts continued in the 1990s when international agencies, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank became involved in providing financial and programmes assistance in order to improve the quality of madrasahs or the Islamic schooling system (Rahim, 2000).

Many initiatives had been implemented for reforming the madrasah educational system, from an introduction of general subjects, such as math, science, social sciences, and English to setting up a structural change in the madrasah system by making it identical with a ‘sekolah’ (general schooling system), although maintaining its character as an Islamic educational institution. However, these initiatives have not been enough to make the madrasah system equal with the general schooling system in Indonesia. The Madrasah system has faced critics from many groups of Muslim society who argue that the madrasah educational system is not ready to face social change. Their graduates are not prepared to compete with the graduates from the general schooling system in term of training and skills for middle rank jobs. Even their dominance in religious subjects has decreased significantly (MORA, 1999).

The issue of educational democracy
This has become an interesting debate in the last two decades, particularly when Khomeini launched the Iran Revolution in the end of 1978. For many Muslim countries, this revolution became a model for all power seekers. It demonstrated how the use of ‘Islam’ can become a highly effective approach for mobilizing the masses; meanwhile this revolution changed the way in which Western countries, particularly the United States, was perceived by the Third World, especially Muslim countries (Hoveyda, 1998).

This revolution also created a negative image of Islam, as it triggered a new kind of aggressive militant Islamic fundamentalism and revived the idea of ‘jihad’ against infidels. The Islamic terrorist movement and suicide bombers as a new strategy and tactic in encountering opponents increased rapidly after this revolution. It also created a strong negative sense about Islam in which Islam has become peculiarly traumatic term for Western societies (Said, 1981). This negative picture of Islam has created a big question in many aspects of contemporary life. For example: Is Islam compatible with democracy? Is democracy not an important need for Muslim countries? What kind of education system can meet the needs of welfare, knowledge and democracy in the modern Islamic world?

Finding answers to these questions is not easy. There are two main perspectives when democracy is discussed. They divide into an Islamic and Western perspectives. From the Islamic perspective, education is still dominated by the traditional Islamic groups to whom the nature of teaching is still firmly focused on the memorization of texts without much comprehension of their meaning (Watt, 1988). The form of teaching is characterized by one-way direction in which the teacher is a dominant party, and students are a passive party or ‘good listeners’. In the learning process, the teacher is the only owner of knowledge and a student is an ‘empty box’ to be filled. The learning process occurs in the narrative way in which a teacher gives a teaching instruction that needs to be accepted and memorized by students in order to pass their examinations. This ‘Banking Concept of Education’ has significant consequences, not the least being a strong barrier against developing critical skills and creativity in students. As a result, most graduates from Islamic schools have lacked self-confidence and are unable to create a valuable response in term of resolving their daily problems (Azra, 1999).

This Islamic educational system, of course does not provide a situation conducive to creating a democratic climate. Orthodox theology (Asy’ari thought), which emphasized the scriptural and textual and dominated the life of Muslim societies, created the legalistic, formalistic approach and even feudalistic attitude in almost all Muslim countries. Much of the Islamic educational system until now has been dominated by the orthodox climate in which the students are required to show respect and obedience towards teachers without reserve.

But from Islamic principles, with reference to the Qur’an and Sunna, the modernist Islam doctrines encourage every Muslim to be a democratic people. Within the Islamic framework, there is a principle of shura as an ethical principle which should prevail in all conditions, taking different forms in different historical contexts. At this point, Mohammad Abduh argued that the readiness of the people to follow the method of shura is not contingent on their training, research, reflection or principles of disputation. It is sufficient that they seek truth and the establishment of a system where public interest is maintained . From this view, many scholars and modernists made a direct association between shura and democracy. However, not all Muslim scholars agreed with this view. Mohamed Talbi , for example, rejects this direct association between shura and democracy. He argues that shura is from a time and place which had no conception of democracy as we know it. Indeed, neither Islam nor Western civilization had this democratic conception before the modern period. For Talbi, democracy means the voice of the many determining who rules, and how they rule with the associated notions of universal human rights, freedom of expression, religious pluralism and equality before the law. True democracy is the proper political form for our age, as it embodies those values which constitute part of the original true Islam. Therefore, shura is not really similar to the notion of democracy. As Islamic identity, shura remain true but in a somewhat reduced and less unique manner than democracy (Marquand and Nettler, 2000).

From the Western perspective, the notion of democracy has become the essential and most valuable principle constructing Western civilization and modern society. This notion was imported to Muslim countries through introducing the Western political system or embedding it in the form of education introduced by colonial governments or by some Muslim modernist leaders. The notion had a significant impact upon these Muslim societies. There were two forms of response to democracy. For Muslim modernists, it was seen as a useful ‘tool’ for conducting social reform in order to modernize a Muslim society. Muslim modernist leaders such as Muhammad Ali Pasha, Sultan Mahmud II and Kemal Ataturk, Jamal Abdul Nasser adopted the notion without reserve, but some other leaders including Jamal al-Din al- Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Ridla, Mohammed Iqbal accepted this notion conditionally. As far as it did not appear to abandon Islamic principles, particularly the concepts of tauhid (monotheism) and ‘adil (justice), it could be accepted. But for Muslim traditional or conservative groups, such as Sayyid Qutub, Hasan Al-Bana, Sayyid Abu ‘ala al-Maududi, Khomeini, the notion was not compatible with Islamic doctrine. For Qutb and al-Bana Islam, the West (including democracy) were incompatible. There could only be a struggle between believers and non-believers, between secularism, capitalism and Islam. They believed that the West, with its emphasis on science and technology, was obliterating the validity of religion. For them, Islam is a complete social system catering for all people’s needs and differing fundamentally from all other systems (Hopwood, 2000). Later this view gained support from Ali Shariati —a modern fundamentalist who argued that democracy and Western liberalism are in practice nothing but the free opportunity to display liberalism and to create more speedily an arena for the profit-hungry forces that have been assigned to transform humans into an economic, consuming animal (Shariati, 2000).

Both these views still exist in almost all Muslim countries and influence the nature of Islamic society. In the educational sector, this situation is embedded in the dichotomy in Islamic educational institution between religious and secular orientation. On the one hand, there is a need to keep the Islamic perspective, but on the other hand, there is a need to adopt the advances of Western methodology. This situation creates a new dilemma: It is preferable to integrate Western modes of learning into the Islamic perspective which would then result in the creation of a single educational system which would be both Islamic and secular. This problem is debated in the Islamic world (Nasr, 2002). However, since the traditional group leaders have lost their power in conjunction with the decline of traditional Islamic educational institutions, almost all Islamic countries have a Western-type educational system up to university level. One outcome has been the creation of a new class of Western-educated people who are more tolerant to Western notions, such as democracy (Watt, 1988).

As global issues, the notions of secularization and democracy will continue to affect Islamic education. Islamic education cannot escape from those demands. Therefore, governing bodies in Islamic education should have an appropriate way to develop their educational system in accordance with the needs of a developing democratic society, as is the case in the West. Meanwhile, the West needs to have a strong sensibility when they want to talk about Islam. Hence, there is the need to develop a close working and mutual understanding between Islamic culture and Western culture, which is aimed at reducing the current suspicion and misunderstanding between Islam and the West. As Nasr (2002) points out, Islam and the West must recognise that they need to have mutual understanding and that they share many fundamental principles in their respective worldviews on the human level. To achieve this end, the negative atmosphere must be cleared through earnest effort on all sides. To do this, terms such as fundamentalism, extremism, and radicalism must be restudied and defined not in the light of political interest but in light of the need to create a mutual relationship in terms of maintaining peace in the world.
From the discussion above, it is apparent that Islam in Indonesia seems to be of a moderate strand, which has its own particular approach in facing the effects of modernity. The mainstream of Indonesian Moslems are generally the followers of “Ahlisunnah Waljamaah” , that is, they share a theological conservatism, which is oriented towards focusing on the balance between the profane and transcendent life. This theological perspective has been successful in creating a Moslem with moderate world views. Political, economical, social and cultural activities of most Indonesian Moslems are underpinned by this theological perspective. In a similar sense, Western modernism, through its universal principles such as the democratic system, principles of justice, equality, equity and human rights, has played a significant part in modern life, including the life of Moslem countries. Many Moslem countries have adopted those Western world views as basic principles for the formulation of their state activities, with some adjustment. As Rahman has stated, ‘syura” (democracy) is not originally from Islam, because it is an eternal obligation of all people as a human social actor (Quoted in Maarif, 1985).

Islam and modernity should not be put on opposite sides to each other, because each of them has their own historical, philosophical, methodological and educational world-views. Islam, as well as modernity, is a universal ideology, which is based upon revealed religion. It is a complete way of life for the individual and for society. In this context, the Quran and Sunnah are fundamental sources for developing Moslem society; meanwhile modernity is primarily a Western way of thought, which is based on the political, economical, social and cultural approach for understanding contemporary life. The first originates from Allah, as Moslem societies believe, meanwhile the latter is created from human thought (intellectual creation of Western traditions), even though at the beginning inspired by religion. We do not need to put Islam and modernity in an equal and parallel line, because they have a different perspective in looking at the world’s problems. In the Indonesian context, Islam played a significant role in embedding a moderate view of Islam in relation to modernity. The form of the Indonesian state as a “national state” and Pancasila as “State Philosophy” is clear evidence of how Indonesian Moslems have outworked their moderate views.


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  • good…..introduce me that Islam is talking unlimited side…
    but I would like to know..what is the distinction between modern and western ?

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