How Islam learned to adapt in 'Nusantara'
April-June 2015
By: Yahya Cholil Staquf

In general, it may be said that the ability of Nusantara ulama to adapt to social reality without abandoning their own adherence to Shariah stems from the fact that they have mastered Shariah, not merely in the sense of compilations of Islamic jurisprudence but as profound legal theory. Islam teaches that the law must be based upon Divine guidance.

But Islam also teaches that in providing guidance, God’s purpose is never the pursuit of His own interests. God provides guidance for the benefit of humanity. Thus, anything beneficial to humanity is in harmony with God’s “objective,” and the purpose of Shariah itself.


Regardless of their ethnic or geographic origin, conquerors generally have similar anxieties and behavioral tendencies as they seek to promote their own self-interest. The most fundamental of these impulses is to ensure the perpetuation of their rule, in the face of overt or latent resistance from those who have been subjugated. Thus, it is logical that conquerors tend to be repressive.

Classical Islamic law (fiqh) is replete with such repressive dictates. One of the more dramatic examples may be found in the book “Kifaayat 'l Akhyaar” (“The Satisfying Selections”), written by Taqiyudin Abu Bakr bin Muhammad al-Husaini al-Husni in the 14th century. Among the various dictates of Islamic law cited in this book is an explicit requirement that Muslims discriminate against non-Muslims.

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