Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia


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Elections are open, generally peaceful and orderly.


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Islamic political actors are heavily involved in this process, in contrast to the authoritarian period of the Suharto government, which excluded meaningful participation by Muslims and other interest groups. In areas such as Islamic education, Indonesian governments have shown a willingness to boldly experiment and innovate with institutional arrangements, in contrast to the generally unresponsive efforts of Islamic educators to break out of long-established status quos in other countries.

Other commentators, however, point to developments that do not support such a positive assessment. Electoral democracy has enabled a rise in identity politics. Further, the funds are held for one year by the lunar calendar, and nisab is recalculated at the end. God commanded the Prophet Muhammad, as the head of the Islamic community in Medina, to collect zakat. Management of zakat is financially self-sustaining. Those who collect and distribute zakat al-mal are paid from zakat proceeds.

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Zakat collectors are among the zakat al-mal beneficiaries in Islam. If a state is unable or unwilling to administer zakat — such as a state that does not implement Shariah Islamic law and maintains a secular stance, or one where Muslims are a minority — the voluntary sector must undertake the role of gathering and distributing zakat for the benefit of the community.

If the collection and distribution of zakat is not performed, the Islamic society in the region will face responsibility for this disobedience on Judgment Day. As long as zakat payers fulfill the requirements of zakatability 23 and channel their funds to appropriate recipients, their payments are considered valid.

In order to implement zakat properly, involvement by the state or voluntary sector is indispensable. Zakat differs from the voluntary act of giving alms, such as sadaqah and infaq in Islam, or tithing in Christian churches. In addition, zakat should be well managed and strategically distributed on the grounds of fairness, lest some deserving recipients receive too much while others receive too little.

Law No. Zakat Management in Indonesia before Law No. Involvement of the state in managing zakat was somewhat unclear in early Indonesia.

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Even though the state founded the Ministry of Religion in January and assigned it among other things to administer Islamic religious matters, 27 the role of this Ministry was uncertain from the start. Government Regulation No. There was a hope that the state would become more concerned about zakat when Soeharto ascended to the presidency in However, his regime showed an ambivalent attitude toward Islam. Early during his reign, Soeharto severely controlled political Islam but strongly supported Islamic spirituality.

Because he aimed to maintain a clear distinction between religion and the state, he could not act as a provisional zakat collector in his official capacity as head of state. Not long after his first appeal, Soeharto officially instructed three high military officers to establish an organizational apparatus for the nationwide zakat collection.

Presidential Decree No. The state-endorsed zakat organizations have not been alone in zakat management. Besides the BAZIS and the traditional system of zakat payment, which still continues, a second system of zakat collection and distribution has also flourished through Islamic social and educational organizations.

They work in a local area and are more oriented to their communities in using zakat proceeds.

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Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of the voluntary sector in zakat management has not been matched by clear regulations to strengthen its structures and accountability. Thus, the nature of zakat organizations is fragmented. The semi-governmental BAZIS were formed by gubernatorial decisions, while the Islamic social and educational organizations simply followed the regulations on foundations, with no specific zakat regulations at first.

On the one hand, the state takes advantage of the enthusiasm of its local apparatuses and local citizens in managing zakat. On the other hand, the state is reluctant to legislate zakat into law or to assign its own officials to function as national or regional collectors. Before the promulgation of Law No.

If, however, the foundation also would function as a zakat collector, it would be subject to the supervision of officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Religion from the central level to the regional level. In this way, laws and regulations with regard to the status and registration of BAZIS fell short during this period. In terms of politics, the changes were marked by the emergence of political parties between May and October Having being marginalized politically in both the Soekarno and Soeharto regimes, 42 of the parties used Islam as their ideological basis or symbol.

Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia

Outside the political arena, too, some Islamic groups emerged to fight the degradation of socio-religious and political circumstances, which, they argued, conflicted with Islamic values; they called for Shariah implementation. Against this backdrop, Law of Zakat Management No. Habibie, who ascended to the presidency in this transition period, replacing Soeharto. The Law covers both the semi-governmental collector agencies and the nongovernmental ones.

It requires balance auditing and annual reports to the government, and encourages public disclosure. Soon after, the Minister of Religion issued Decision No. Together, the Law and the Decision specifically address government-formed zakat collector bodies, known as BAZ, and nongovernmental collector institutions, known as LAZ.

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But the shortcomings of the Law and the Decision soon became clear. Neither of them, for example, elaborates on the phrase "according to the stipulation of Islamic tenets. In addition, Law No. Why did the state take a "neutral" position with regard to the scope and the obligatory nature of zakat?

Managing politics and Islam in Indonesia / Donald J. Porter | National Library of Australia

Three possibilities come to mind. First, cognizant of its "secular" stance, perhaps the state wanted to avoid getting involved in defining religious tenets, such as the details of zakat, and enforcing them. Although this neutral stance might lead to legal uncertainties when zakat payers object to a new interpretation of zakatable items, such as incomes of contemporary occupations and services, controversy might be minimal because the state does not make zakat obligatory.

This explanation seems unsatisfactory, though.

Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia
Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia
Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia
Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia
Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia
Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia
Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia Managing Politics and Islam in Indonesia

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