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Religion and Constitutional Practices in Indonesia: How Far Should the State Intervene in the Administration of Islam?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2019

IAIN Samarinda,
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This article investigates the extent of state intervention in the administration of Islam in Indonesia. The 1945 Constitution of Indonesia does not explicitly recognize or privilege any particular religion. Yet, the boundaries of religion-state relations in the country are often unclear and complex, especially in light of policies and laws that regulate religious life and appear to privilege the dominant religion and its adherents. In this article, I demonstrate the ways in which the state has increasingly interfered in the administration of Islam in Indonesia by focusing on two case studies: the management of Hajj and zakat. However, it is observed that the vague constitutional arrangements on religion in Indonesia provide avenues for interpretations (especially by the Ministry of Religious Affairs) that the state has a constitutional obligation to interfere in the administration of religion and implement religious doctrines; and in the case of Islam, to ‘bureaucratize’ the shariah. This further complicates the exercise of distinguishing between religious doctrines that require state intervention for implementation and those that do not.

© National University of Singapore, 2019 

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Lecturer, Faculty of Shariah, IAIN Samarinda. I wish to thank Dr Melissa Crouch, Dr Andrew Harding, Dr Dian AH Shah, and the anonymous reviewer(s) for their constructive criticisms and comments. I am also grateful for the editorial work and support provided by the Deputy Editor and the Associate Editors of the Asian Journal of Comparative Law. This research is part of a project funded by the Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore and the Institute of Research and Community Service (Lembaga Penelitian dan Pengabdian Masyarakat or LPPM), IAIN Samarinda.


1. The latest abortive effort was during the constitutional reform period from 1999 to 2002, when the United Development Party (PPP) and the Crescent Moon and Star Party (PBB) proposed to amend Article 29 by reinserting the ‘seven words’ of the Jakarta Charter. The two largest Islamic social organizations in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, which pushed for an Islamic state in 1955 through the Masyumi party, saw the formal incorporation of the shariah into the Constitution as unnecessary. This stance was reflected in the legislature by two parties connected to both organizations – the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) – when both parties rejected the proposal to include ‘shariah’ in Article 29. See Hosen, Nadirsyah, ‘Religion and the Indonesian Constitution: A Recent Debate’ (2005) 36(3) Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 419 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , 419–420, 425–427.

2. Noer, Deliar, Administration of Islam in Indonesia (Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University 1978) 8 Google Scholar .

3. Hooker, MB, ‘Introduction: Islamic Law in South-east Asia’ (2002) 4 Australian Journal of Asian Law 213, 219 Google Scholar .

4. Katz, June S and Katz, Ronald S, ‘The New Indonesian Marriage Law: A Mirror of Indonesia’s Political, Cultural, and Legal Systems’ (1975) 23(4) American Journal of Comparative Law 653 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , 661–662.

5. This is not always a clear-cut division; for example, in judicial review cases on the 1974 Marriage Law, there may be overlaps between the interpretation of shariah and the administration of Islam. See Alfitri, ‘Whose Authority? Contesting and Negotiating the Idea of a Legitimate Interpretation of Islamic Law in Indonesia’ (2015) 10(2) Asian Journal of Comparative Law 191.

6. For the interreligious conflict between Islam and Christianity and the discriminative policy of the state (or specifically, MORA), see eg Crouch, Melissa, Law and Religion in Indonesia: Conflict and the Courts in West Java (Routledge 2014)Google Scholar .

7. For background on MORA’s policy on recognized religions and its negative impact on deviant sects in Islam, especially the Ahmadiyah sect, see Alfitri, ‘Religious Liberty in Indonesia and the Rights of “Deviant” Sects’ (2008) 3(1) Asian Journal of Comparative Law 57.

8. See eg Hefner, Robert W, Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton University Press 2000)Google Scholar .

9. See nn 5–7; see also Crouch, Melissa A, ‘Law and Religion in Indonesia: The Constitutional Court and the Blasphemy Law’ (2012) 7(1) Asian Journal of Comparative Law 1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; Bagir, Zainal Abidin, ‘Defamation of Religion Law in Post-Reformasi Indonesia: Is Revision Possible?’ (2013) 13(2) Australian Journal of Asian Law 1 Google Scholar ; Colbran, Nicola, ‘Realities and Challenges in Realising Freedom of Religion or Belief in Indonesia’ (2010) 14(5) International Journal of Human Rights 678 CrossRefGoogle Scholar (for an in-depth study of cases on blasphemy law in the magistrate courts and the Constitutional Court).

10. Butt, Simon, ‘Islam, the State and the Constitutional Court in Indonesia’ (2010) 19(2) Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal 279 Google Scholar ; Alfitri, ‘Whose Authority?’ (n 5).

11. Johns, Anthony H, ‘Indonesia: Islam and Cultural Pluralism’ in John L Esposito (ed), Islam in Asia: Religion, Politics, and Society (OUP 1987) 210 Google Scholar .

12. See Alfitri (n 5) 9–10.

13. Ricklefs, MC, A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1200 (4th edn, Macmillan 2008) 249 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

14. For the Indonesian founding fathers’ discussions on the Pancasila and why it must be adopted as the state ideology instead of Islam, socialism/communism, or liberalism, see the minutes of deliberations of the Investigative Agency for Efforts to Prepare Indonesia’s Independence (BPUPKI), 28 May – 1 June 1945: Sekretariat Negara Republik Indonesia, Risalah Sidang Badan Penyelidik Usaha-Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia (BPUPKI), Panitia Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia (PPKI) 28 Mei 1945 – 22 Agustus 1945 (Sekretariat Negara Republik Indonesia 1995) 8–127.

15. Hazairin (1906–1975) was an Indonesian legal scholar who studied customary law (adat) under the tutelage of a leading Dutch scholar. A professor of customary law (hukum adat) and Islamic law at Universitas Indonesia (University of Indonesia), Hazairin also served as Minister of Home Affairs (1953–1955) during the administration of Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia. Hazairin’s work on hukum adat and Islamic law in Indonesia, in which he proposed a new interpretation of Islamic law (especially in the sphere of family law) that takes into account the socio-legal context of Indonesia, has become a classic. See R Michael Feener, ‘Muslim Legal Thought in Modern Indonesia: Introduction and Overview’ in R Michael Feener and Mark E Cammack (eds), Islamic Law in Contemporary Indonesia: Ideas and Institutions (Harvard University Press 2007) 14–26.

16. Hazairin, Demokrasi Pancasila (Tintamas 1973) 18–20, 33–34.

17. ibid.

18. Assyaukanie, Luthfi, Islam and the Secular State in Indonesia (ISEAS 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

19. ibid 97–128. According to Asyyaukanie, there are three models of polity within Indonesian Islamic political thought representing differing visions of state-Islam relations held by Indonesian Muslims. The three models are: (1) the Islamic-Democratic state (IDS); (2) the Religious-Democratic state (RDS); and (3) the Liberal-Democratic state (LDS). Assyaukanie argues that Indonesia has moved towards a more pluralist and democratic political system as Indonesian Muslims have become more pragmatic and rational. However, the political model implemented by Soeharto’s New Order regime – the RDS – is still the dominant vision held by Indonesian Muslims.

20. ibid.

21. See eg Salim, Arskal, Challenging the Secular State: the Islamization of Law in Modern Indonesia (University of Hawai’i Press 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; Otto, Jan Michiel (ed), Sharia Incorporated: A Comparative Overview of the Legal System of Twelve Muslim Countries in Past and Present (Leiden University Press 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

22. Alfitri, ‘Whose Authority? Interpreting, Imposing, and Complying with Corporate Zakat Obligations in Indonesia’ (PhD dissertation, University of Washington 2015); Salim (n 21) 128. Salim concluded that MORA was a proponent of the Jakarta Charter and later for the Islamization of positive law in Indonesia. The 1998 Decree of the MPR (People’s Consultative Assembly) on Religion and Socio-cultural Aspects only mentioned that a law on hajj services would be enacted, but MORA took the chance to force the 1999 Zakat Management Law through the legislative process during this transition period.

23. Salim (n 21) 128 (fns 5–6). According to Salim, this demonstrates Golkar’s tendency toward Islamization as well.

24. Alfitri (n 5) 205–206 (fn 97).

25. Salim (n 21) 128.

26. Durham, W Cole Jr and Scharffs, Brett G, Law and Religion: National, International, and Comparative Perspectives (Aspen Publishers 2010) 114116 Google Scholar .

27. ibid 118-122.

28. ibid 118.

29. ibid 119.

30. ibid 120.

31. Tim Lindsey, Islam, Law, and the State in Southeast Asia; Volume I: Indonesia (IB Tauris 2012) 109.

32. See ‘Organizational Structure of the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ (Kementerian Agama Republik Indonesia) <> accessed 14 October 2018.

33. Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 13 Tahun 2008 Tentang Penyelenggaraan Ibadah Haji [2008 Hajj Administration Law], arts 1(19), 6, and 8.

34. Hooker, MB, Indonesian Syariah: Defining a National School of Islamic Law (ISEAS 2008) 205207 CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; Lindsey (n 31) 114–115.

35. This is pursuant to the decision of the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries in 1987, which set the pilgrim quota per country at 1,000 pilgrims per 1,000,000 population. Thus, the Indonesian quota in 2017 is 221,000 (comprising 204,000 regular hajj pilgrims and 17,000 special hajj pilgrims. See Sri Ilham Lubis (Director of Foreign Hajj Administration), ‘Kebijakan Pelayanan di Arab Saudi [Administrative Policy of Saudi Arabia]’ (Puskes Haji [Hajj Health Center]), 11 <> accessed 14 October 2018.

36. Explanatory Statement to 2008 Hajj Administration Law.

37. ibid.

38. Explanatory Statement to 2008 Hajj Administration Law; see also Hooker (n 34) 205–235 for detailed information on how the Hajj service is managed by MORA.

39. See 2008 Hajj Administration Law, arts 6, 29, and 31–37.

40. Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 51/PUU-VIII/2010, 2 (delivered on 8 October 2010).

41. ibid.

42. ibid.

43. ibid; see also Lindsey (n 31) 116–117.

44. Explanatory Statement to Law Number 34 of 2014 Concerning Financial Management of Hajj.

45. Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 12/PUU-XIII/2015, 4–12 (delivered on 20 October 2015).

46. ibid 92-93 [4.3].

47. ibid 88 [3.10.2].

48. ibid 88 [3.10.2].

49. ibid.

50. ibid 88–89 [3.10.3].

51. ibid 89–90 [3.10.4].

52. ibid 90–91 [3.10.5].

53. Ihsanuddin, ‘Ingin Dana Haji untuk Infrastruktur, Jokowi Dinilai Langgar UU’ (Kompas, 29 July 2017) <> accessed 30 September 2018.

54. Ben Bland, ‘Indonesia taps $5.4bn Hajj fund for financial salvation’ Financial Times (London, 17 February 2014) <> accessed 6 August 2017; ‘Pro Kontra Investasi Dana Haji untuk Infrastruktur’ (kumparan, 1 August 2017) <> accessed 30 September 2018.

55. Berkas Registrasi 2225 Perbaikan Permohonan Perkara [Application No 2225 Amendment of Petition] 51/PUU-XV/2017.

56. ‘MUI Dukung Menteri Agama Soal Dana Haji untuk Infrastruktur’ (Tempo, 30 July 2017) <> accessed 30 September 2018; ‘Dana Haji untuk Infrastruktur, MUI Kuatkan Pandangan Menag’ (Republika, 30 July 2017) <> accessed 30 September 2018.

57. ‘MK Bolehkan Naik Haji Lebih dari Sekali [Constitutional Court Allows Pilgrimage More Than Once]’ (Mahkamah Konstitusi Republik Indonesia, 21 October 2015) <> accessed 30 September 2018; Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor 12/PUU-XIII/2015 (n 45).

58. Tonang, Andi Lolo, ‘Beberapa Pemikiran tentang Mekanisme Badan Amil Zakat’ in B Wiwoho, Usman Yatim, and Enny A Hendargo (eds), Zakat dan Pajak (PT Bina Rena Pariwara 1992) 268 Google Scholar .

59. Surat Edaran Kementerian Agama [Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) Circular] A/VII/17367 (8 December 1951).

60. See Salim (n 21) 122.

61. MORA Circular A/VII/17367 (n 59).

62. The government realized that zakat’s full potential could not be realized in Indonesia due to poor management, which in turn was the result of the lack of legal basis for its administration in Indonesia; see Alfitri, ‘The Law of Zakat Management and Non-Governmental Zakat Collectors in Indonesia’ (2006) 8(2) International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law 55, 58–60.

63. Powell, Russell, ‘Zakat: Drawing Insight for Legal Theory and Economic Policy from Islamic Jurisprudence’ (2009) 7(1) University of Pittsburgh Tax Review 43 Google Scholar , 58–73.

64. Alfitri, ‘Whose Authority?’ (n 22) 113–114.

65. ibid.

66. Salim (n 21) 130; Lindsey (n 31) 166.

67. Alfitri, ‘Whose Authority?’ (n 22) 113–114.

68. ibid 128–129.

69. Salim (n 21) 129.

70. Tax on televisions has been applied in Indonesia since 1963 when TVRI, a government-owned television station, was established. Television in that era was still considered a luxury item in Indonesia, and therefore the owner was taxed. Taxes were also needed to support the continuity of TVRI programs. Over time, however, television owners increasingly resisted the payment of such taxes. To overcome this, Soeharto issued a presidential decree to sanction tax collection by a private company (owned by his cronies). The company was expected to be proactive in collecting taxes by visiting people’s homes, but this effort also failed to maximize state revenue as people were still reluctant to pay taxes and enforcement against tax evaders was lacking. See Dicky, Kompas Research and Development (Kompas 2002); Anwar Khumaini, ‘Sejarah iklan televisi di Indonesia [History of television advertisments in Indonesia]’ (, 15 November 2014) <> accessed 20 October 2018; Djulianto Susantio, ‘Pajak Radio dan Pajak Televisi Hilang Ditelan Modernisasi [Radio Tax and Television Tax Lost in Modernization]’ (Kompasiana, 22 August 2016) <> accessed 19 October 2018.

71. Salim (n 21) 129.

72. ibid.

73. Salim (n 21) 130; Alfitri, ‘The Law of Zakat Management’ (n 62) 62–63; Lindsey (n 31) 166.

74. Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 23 Tahun 2011 Tentang Pengelolaan Zakat [Law Number 23 of 2011 on Zakat Management].

75. ibid arts 5(1) and 16(1).

76. ibid arts 17–20.

77. ibid arts 38 and 41.

78. See MORA’s second draft bill of the Zakat Management Law, art 21 (on file with author): ‘a Muzakki [a zakat payer] who does not fulfill the obligation of zakat as referred to in Article 2 is punishable with a fine of zakat, which must be paid.’

79. A competing bill by members of the legislature contained no provisions on sanctions for zakat evaders, opposed the centralization of zakat by MORA, and would have restored the rights of LAZ. It also proposed that BAZNAS be abolished and replaced by a limited body under MORA that would function only as the regulator of zakat collection. See the legislature’s draft bill of Zakat Management Law (on file with the author); see also Lindsey (n 31) 172.

80. Alfitri, ‘My Zakat is My Money: Islamic Commercial Banks’ Responses to State Intervention in Zakat Administration in Indonesia’ (World Zakat Forum International Conference Proceedings, 2017) 103 <> accessed 30 September 2018.

81. Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 86/PUU-X/2012, 14–26 (delivered on 31 October 2013).

82. ibid 40–48.

83. ibid 90–92.

84. ibid 89–90, 94.

85. ibid 108–109.

86. See eg Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 140/PUU-VII/2009 (delivered 19 April 2010).

87. Gvosdev, Nikolas K, ‘Constitutional Doublethink, Managed Pluralism and Freedom of Religion’ (2001) 29(2) Religion, State, and Society 81, 83 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

88. Smith Kipp, Rita and Rodgers, Susan (eds), Indonesian Religions in Transition (University of Arizona Press 1987) 23 Google Scholar .

89. Penetapan Presiden Republik Indonesia Nomor 1/PNPS/Tahun 1965 tentang Pencegahan Penyalahgunaan dan/atau Penodaan Agama [Decree of the President of the Republic of Indonesia No 1 of 1965 on the Prevention of Misuse and/or Desecration of Religion].

90. Crouch (n 6) 9–10; Alfitri, ‘Religious Liberty in Indonesia’ (n 7).

91. Crouch (n 6) 11–12.

92. ibid 13–14.

93. See Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor 140/PUU-VII/2009 (n 86); Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 84/PUU-X/2012 (delivered on 9 April 2013).

94. See Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor 140/PUU-VII/2009 (n 86).

95. ibid.

96. ibid.

97. Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 1 Tahun 1974 Tentang Perkawinan [Law No 1 of 1974 on Marriage].

98. Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi, Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 68/PUU-XII/2014 (delivered on 18 June 2015), 152–53 (Holdings at [3.12.4] to [3.12.5]).

99. ibid (Holding [3.12.5]).

100. Hefner (n 8) 58.

101. ibid 59.

102. See Azis Thaba, Abdul, Islam dan Negara dalam Politik Orde Baru (Gema Insani Press 1996) 239 Google Scholar .

103. Federspiel, Howard M, Indonesia in Transition: Muslim Intellectuals and National Development (Nova Science Publishers 1998) 142 Google Scholar .

104. See Otto (n 21) 453–454.

105. Salim (n 21) 170.

106. 1974 Marriage Law, arts 3(1)–(2), 4(1)–(2), 5(1), 9, 15, and 24.

107. 1945 Constitution, art 28B(1) (right to marry and found a family), art 28E(1) (right to choose and practise a religion), art 28I(1) (freedom of religion may not be limited), 28I(2) (freedom from any forms of discrimination), art 29(1) (the state is based on belief in the Almighty God); and art 29(2) (freedom of worship is guaranteed).

108. Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 12/PUU-V/2007, 17 (Petition at [2.1.5])(delivered on 3 October 2007).

109. Fairness in polygamy is interpreted by the Court as the man’s ability to maintain all wives and children and to manage his time between his households.

110. See Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor 12/PUU-V/2007 (n 108) 93–98 (Holdings at [3.15.2] to [3.15.6], [3.18.2]), 99 (Conclusions at [4.1] to [4.3]; Injunction).

111. 1945 Constitution, art 28E(1) (right to choose and practise a religion), art 28I(1) (freedom of religion may not be limited), art 28I(2) (freedom from any forms of discrimination), art 29(1) (the state is based on belief in the Almighty God); and art 29(2) (freedom of worship is guaranteed).

112. Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 7 Tahun 1989 Tentang Peradilan Agama [Law 7 of 1989 on Religious Courts].

113. Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 3 Tahun 2006 Tentang Perubahan Atas Undang-Undang Nomor 7 Tahun 1989 Tentang Peradilan Agama [Law No 3 of 2006 amending Law 7 of 1989 on Religious Courts].

114. Putusan Mahkamah Konstitusi Nomor [Constitutional Court Decision No] 19/PUU-VI/2008, 14–15 (delivered on 12 August 2008).

115. ibid 23–24 ([3.18]), as translated by Simon Butt in Butt (n 10) 298.

116. Salim, Arskal and Azra, Azyumardi, ‘Introduction: The State and Shari’a in the Perspective of Indonesian Legal Politics’ in Arskal Salim and Azyumardi Azra (eds), Shari’a and Politics in Modern Indonesia (ISEAS 2003) 1, 13 CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; see also Butt (n 10); Butt, Simon and Lindsey, Tim, The Constitution of Indonesia: A Contextual Analysis (Hart Publishing 2012) 248 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .