“Overcoming the Dichotomy”: Transformation of Islamic Intellectualismin Indonesian State Islamic Universities

The speaker for the next CRCS & ICRS Wednesday Forum is Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, M.A. Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir received his Ph.D in history and philosophy of science from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana (2005); M.A. in Islamic Philosophy from the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur (1994). Since 2002 he has been a staff at the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. His academic interest are mainly in philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, religion and science, and regional and ecology.

In my presentation I will start with noticing an interesting fact: UGM and IAIN both were established in Yogyakarta following the Indonesian revolution (when Yogya was the capital city of Indonesia). UGM was established in 1949, IAIN in 1951. This was not a coincidence. One reason IAIN was established at that time (by taking the Fakultas Agama Islam from the private university, Universitas Islam Indonesia) was because Muslims demanded a higher education institution funded by the government, as a recognition of the contributions they made in the struggle for the Independence of Indonesia in 1945 and the Indonesian Revolution that followed to defend it. This was compared with what is perceived as the reward given by the government to the secular nationalists in the form of establishment of Gadjah Mada University. Thus the dualism in national education system in Indonesia started. An important factor here is the Ministry of Religious Affairs, established as a kind of political concession to the Muslims for agreeing to drop the highly contested ?seven words? of the Djakarta Charter, which mentions the Islamic shari?a, from the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution.

UGM was supposed to teach ?secular sciences?, and IAIN ?(Islamic) religious sciences?. Interestingly, 50 years later, several IAINs transformed into a full-fledged university, which also offers ?secular sciences?, while in UGM, a religious studies program was established (CRCS, followed by ICRS). But structurally, the dualism remains.

My presentation will not focus on exactly that development. I gave that illustration mainly to show how the political has always been there with IAIN since its birth, and created problems which in one way or another strengthen the felt need to transform IAINs. By the ?political?, I?m referring to both the educational dualism which started from the government?s side, and the Muslims? aspiration that IAIN (and the Ministry of Religious Affairs as well) is a way to continue the Muslim political aspiration (couched in the language of dakwah), which failed to be institutionalized in 1945. That serves as the background of my presentation.

The focus of my presentation will be on recent attempts to convert/transform IAINs into UINs, which practically and simply means addition of faculties which offer non-religious sciences, but with far-reaching consequences, both practically and philosophically. (1) The main argument has to do with the dualism mentioned above. The dualism is practically difficult to maintain when the primary and secondary religious schools were already mainstreamed into the national education system. (2) Another, more philosophical, argument concerns the aspiration to overcome the perceived dichotomy of religious and non-religious sciences, and somehow integrate them. (3) A third argument is about the need to develop religious studies in the orientation that follows the development of religious studies in the Western countries: moving away from the strictly theological, dogmatic approach to an approach which is more historical and empirical, making use of the social sciences to study religion (more specifically: Islam).

I will look at whether the arguments are justified?which, to put it briefly, I found to be weak. The practical necessity, in my observation, trumps the philosophical aspiration. In any case, the transformation has taken place; if not for any other reasons, the UINs need to define themselves better as full-fledged universities, just like UGM or UI, especially in how the ?Islamic? clause in its name will determine its identity. I will then compare the conceptual foundations of the three UINs which have started the transformation, i.e. the ones in Jakarta, Yogya, and Malang. In my analysis I will look at the significance of the transformation in the context of modern Muslim education and Muslim?s modern attempt at reconstruction of knowledge. Some important questions which immediately come up are these: should those non-religious sciences be offered in some different way from the way they are taught and developed in the secular (non-religiously affiliated) universities? How? Could there be some ?Islamic identity? of the Islamic university which distinguishes it from the secular universities? Further, should the distinction be reflected in the disciplines taught and developed in the Islamic university? How is the modern Muslim discourse about reconstruction of knowledge (such as ?Islamization of knowledge?) plays its role in the debate about the transformation? While it is impossible to evaluate the success of the transformation, I will try to see what course UINs should pursue its development, now that they are already changed.

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