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Reviewed by:
  • Islamic Law in Contemporary Indonesia: Ideas and Institutions ed. by R. Michael Feener and Mark E Cammack
  • Kikue Hamayotsu (bio)
R. Michael Feener and Mark E. Cammack, eds. Islamic Law in Contemporary Indonesia: Ideas and Institutions. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. 325 pp.

Thriving Islamic activism—as well as enduring Muslim aspirations and assertions to expand and enforce shari‛a (Islamic law)—across the Muslim world in recent decades has fascinated scholars and students of religion, society, and politics.1 Now, a number of scholars and students across disciplinary boundaries (not only classic religious studies, but also anthropology, history, law, political science, and sociology) focus their analytical attention on various patterns of religious thoughts, legal practices, and enforcement in order to gain a better empirical and theoretical knowledge pertinent to this trend. What do “Islamic law” and other associated institutions (e.g., Islamic courts and judges) look like in Indonesia? How do they differ from those found elsewhere in the Muslim world, such as Egypt, Malaysia, and Pakistan? Who makes and enforces the laws? How—and to what extent—do other non-theological factors, such as locally specific cultural, social, and political conditions, shape its development? Are the same set of laws, rules, principles, and procedures adopted and enforced similarly across the archipelago? How do Islamic laws and courts work in practice in a largely secular, multi-religious state, such as Indonesia? How much power do those Islamic institutions exert on the daily life of Muslim men and women?

Despite the mounting interest in the topic, many questions still remain largely unanswered, leaving considerable empirical and theoretical lacuna in the literature. These questions are especially intriguing because Indonesia is not only the largest Muslim-majority nation, but also socially and culturally diverse—and deeply divided religiously. Moreover, the Indonesian state—and its legal institutions in particular—has been essentially secular since independence, with the regime (both autocratic and democratic) largely dominated by secular political elites up to the present day.

This edited volume is a welcome contribution by leading experts and observers of Indonesia to help answer those questions. Twelve chapters authored by sixteen scholars draw upon an impressive array of both Indonesian and Arabic primary sources and data, as well as on firsthand empirical research conducted in the archipelago, to cast light on the formation of Islamic law and courts and religious authority not merely as a body of scriptural and doctrinal knowledge, but, more importantly, as it affected modern institutions. As outlined at the outset by the volume’s editors, Michael Feener and Mark Cammack, these scholars explore the major developments of various facets of Islamic law in contemporary Indonesia:

Legal thought and theory—

      chapter 1, by Feener, and

      chapter 2, by Nelly van Doorn-Harder; [End Page 113]

Fatwas (Islamic legal opinions) and fatwa-issuing bodies—

      chapter 3, by Kees van Dijk, and

      chapter 4, by Michael Laffan;

How courts and other institutions draft and implement laws—

      chapter 5, by Rifyal Ka‛bah;

Substantive laws on divorce and marriage—

      chapter 6, by Cammack, Helen Donovan, and Tim Heaton, and

      chapter 7, by Siti Musdah Mulia and Cammack;

Administration and operation of Islamic judiciary and courts—

      chapter 8, by Cammack, and

      chapter 9, by John Bowen;

Introduction and implementation of more comprehensive shari‛a in Aceh—

      chapter 10, by Moch. Nur Ichwan, and

      chapter 11, by Tim Lindsey, M. B. Hooker, Ross Clarke, and Jeremy Kingsley;


Islamic higher education—

      chapter 12, by Azyumardi Azra.

All in all, the studies reviewed here identify and elucidate three distinctive and significant developments of Indonesian Islam, and Islamic law and legal institutions in particular. First, there has been a growing tendency to institutionalize, bureaucratize, and centralize the interpretation, adaptation, and enforcement of Islamic law as well as the administration of Islamic institutions during the last few decades, including Islamic law and courts (chapters 5, 6, 8, and 9) and Islamic universities and faculties (chapter 12). The process has occurred in various ways—and to various degrees—according to sectors and localities, as demonstrated by detailed empirical narratives presented in respective chapters. In general, however, the process seems to have been largely attributed to political factors—especially the preference and...


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