In the last decade, the often reductionist view of jihād and sharīa has become the face of what and who the Muslims are. This view is further advanced by the loud number of Islamist groups that adopt highly antagonistic or repressive readings of jihād and sharia. There are numerous counter-arguments by the Muslim to demonstrate that such views and readings are unqualified to become the representative interpretations of the message of Islam. Often such effort is received tepidly and—at best— simply ignored. However, there is a bigger effort from the majority Muslim groups though slowly but surely of promoting a concept whose relevance must be pointed out in order to bring to the fore groups larger and more relevant than the extremist elements. This is the concept of ‘moderation’ or wasaṭiyya in Arabic. Notably, this concept is placed as being of central relevance to understanding the silent majority of Muslims.
Despite the debates about what it means to have a ‘moderate’ Islam, there has been a demand among citizens across the globe that religious believers—Muslim in particular—promote moderation and tolerance. Undoubtedly, this way of understanding remains challenged by a number of conservative groups who seek out a literal approach to the Divine texts. The main thing that different Islamic denominations theorists unanimously agree on is the need to stay away from the ‘margins’ and ‘extremes’ of religion, and remain in a middle position. Exceeding those borders would provoke misconceptions, and effectively it will take us away from the core of the faith.
The expression of wasatiyya in terms of modernization can be found since the last intersection of the 19th century with the emergence of various figures, thinkers and activists such as; Jamaludin Al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Rasyid Ridha, Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Iqbal, Ahmad Dahlan, Hasyim Asy’ari, Rahmah El-Yunusiyah, Soekarno, Mohammad Hatta, Muhammad Natsir etc. This is a period in which almost the whole of the Islamic world such as Egypt, India, and Indonesia are colonised by European countries. Although colonialism led to the destruction of Muslim political power, on the other hand also led to the awakening of Muslim consciousness about the importance of developing and modernisation in various fields from governing, planning and management, economic, culture, education, etc. It recalls instead of rejecting various aspects of European progress, Muslims need to further learn and develop it.
In the recent times, we are witnessing some states that have been observing the ‘Islamic turn’ in their foreign policy. They use ‘moderate Islam’ as a means to undergo international public diplomacy. In the Indonesian context, we see how Nahdlatul Ulama, an Islamic organisation promoting orthodoxy and tradition, has been an important ally for the government to maintain a national harmony. The former chairman of NU, Hasyim Muzadi, used the Quranic term “rahmatan lil ‘alamin” (mercy to all mankind). Meanwhile,—the current chairman—Said Aqil Siradj, adopts moderate Islam which exemplifies the concept of Islam Nusantara (Islam of the archipelago). Notwithstanding the different terms, both emphasise the interaction between written Islamic doctrines and cultural norms. It is safe to suggest that the multiple articulations of ‘moderate Islam’ shed light on the dynamics between political affairs and the struggles for religious authority. In Palestine territory “Wasitia movement’ was established in 2007 to reach out between Hamas and The Israelis government.
Wasatiyya Islam', is often translated as 'Justly-balanced Islam', 'the middle path' or 'the middle way' Islam. It embodies centrism, moderation, justice, balance, goodness, and fairness. The term comes from the Arabic word "wasat" meaning "middle of the road" or "centre of the circle." It is a balance of extremes — between have and not have, high and low, empty and full, euphoria and phobia. In the political spectrum, it would be the position between the extreme right and the extreme left. Above all, the concept of wasatiyya emphasizes the avoidance of extremes and the rejection of radicalism.
This conference seeks to define and understand the concept of al-wasaṭiyya and then—considering the scriptural sources—seeking to illustrate where it can find the concept of moderation in the people’s daily lives as well as in the state’s affairs; how moderation is defined and the way in which the centrality of the Islamic message relies upon the correct interpretation and practice of moderation.
In so doing, it pays attention to how state and non-state actors deal with being a moderate Muslim. In addition to the discussion pertaining to religious affairs, it will address the following issues: Civic duty, Radicalism, Integration, Social Ecology, Economy, Media, Security, Gender role etc.
This conference is co-organised by Special Branch of NU for the Netherlands (PCI NU Belanda) and Radboud University, Nijmegen. The conference aims to bring together scholars, researchers, and activists to discuss relevant ideas concerning the topic and sub-topics of the conference.