MUHAMMADIYAH.OR.ID, YOGYAKARTA—The trend of atheism is increasing year by year. In 2013, about 8% of the population in the Middle East claimed to be atheists. In 2019, this trend rose to 13%. President of Muhammadiyah Haedar Nashir mentioned that the phenomenon represents two aspects, namely the process of Islamization through power that creates resistance, and the absence of Islamic da’wa groups that provide solutions to the theological turmoil of youths there.
“The findings affirmed a viral post on social media in 2021 that Walid al Huseini claimed to be God, whereas what he did was satire and propaganda for atheism in the Middle East,” said Haedar at the Ramadan Preaching 1444 H at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta on Tuesday (4/4).
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, around 1% of the population claimed to be atheists in 2002. This trend of atheism is increasing each year. Due to internet support, the trend of puritanism is also lifting. This puritanical trend creates a gap between Islamic and Indonesian identities. These two contradictory trends are today’s obvious phenomena in Indonesia.
On one hand, Islam needs to fulfill spiritual thirst. On the other hand, it is often presented in a rigid and verbalistic manner and has an all-bayani (textual) approach. Muhammadiyah has opportunities and challenges to present life-advancing Islam and life-enlightening religious teachings.
According to Haedar, Western modernism emerged as a result of trauma towards religion. At that time, the church had full control over the economy, politics, and state, so anyone against the church was abolished. It, then, prompted the emergence of secular-humanistic spirit and placed religion only on ritual and personal aspects. Western philosophers and social theorists as Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx came from religious families, but they turned into the main critics of the religious community. Hence, Haedar proposes a notion that Islam is an enlightening religion.
First, Islam is a fitrah (nature) and authentic religion. Fitrah means that all humans fundamentally have a religion and a tendency to believe in God. Thus, every person before being born essentially believes in God, including those who later decide to become atheists.
“What we need to do is to adapt to human beings who essentially have a religious spirit. If we would like to perform da’wa showing an enlightening religion, we should present a religion that is compatible with their fitrah (nature),” said Haedar.
Second, Haedar said that it is necessary to reintroduce religion as something hanif (inclined towards the truth). A hadith of Prophet Muhammad mentioned a hanif religion refers to al-hanafiyyah as-samhah that is a religion recognizing diversity, promoting compassion, and upholding tolerance. According to Ahmad Ibn Faris, the word sa-ma-ha means to allow and give, while sa-mu-ha means generosity, and sam-hu means tolerance.
Third, it is essential to practice a moderate religion. Prophet Muhammad PBUH once showed a wasathiyah (moderate) attitude when having a dialogue with his companions. ‘Aisyah narrated three companions who claimed to practice their religion well. Each of them claimed to diligently fast and not break their fast, always pray at night and never sleep, and not get married for fear of disrupting their worship. At that time, the Prophet said, “I am the best among you” because he fasted and broke his fast, prayed at night and slept, and got married.
“Therefore, trying to enliven the atmosphere at mosque is great, but simultaneously Islamic spirituality should be presented in the market, mall, or even in places where people are restless and marginalized. Indeed, if possible, the moderation should be among the authorities,” said Haedar.
Fourth, practicing a religion should be able to lead people from darkness to enlightenment. For instance, Prophet Muhammad PBUH who successfully transformed the pagan Arabs into a monotheistic Islamic society and established a noble social-national order. For about 23 years of carrying out Allah’s mission in the Arabian Peninsula, the Prophet had successfully built a civilized Arab society from the backward village of Yathrib into the enlightened city of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah.
Haedar believed the ultimate goal of this enlightening religion is to promote Islam as a mercy for the universe. Islam brought by the Prophet spreads the main virtues and mercy for the entire universe that transcends boundaries.