Concept of 'syura'
Indeed, it is very interesting to read your "Discourse" article by Mochtar Buchori entitled PDI-P yet to learn about democratic basics (The Jakarta Post, March, 28, 2000).
First, "there are some who say that it is impossible for Islam to accept democracy because Islam already has a system called syura, which is regarded as being equivalent to democracy."
Second, "but actually, the core of democracy is the sovereignty of the people whereas syura is a council of leaders of the people and not the people themselves".
Apart from whether the first opinion is right or wrong, the second view is nevertheless merely a matter of hatred countering the first.
Clearly, if the first statement is right, there won't be any second opinion. Or, if there is any, it should be supportive or testimonial to the first. Because, based on the teaching of the Koran, Sunnah and Hadiths, the utmost trilogy of reference in Islamic jurisprudence, undoubtedly, syura is the most reliable democratic way to represent our grassroots people.
The simplest example of this kind of fair and honest democracy was given directly by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in the very beginning of the dawn of Islam. When the small Muslim community in Madinah was threatened by the big number of unbelievers, a well equipped military force of Meccans to defend the life and future of the universal Islamic teaching was asked by Prophet Muhammad.
Salman Al-Farisy proposed that a canal should be dug around Madinah. In short, the Muslims were successful in their battle, known as The Canal (Khandak) Battle. This was because Prophet Muhammad, although a leader of Madinah, accepted the grassroots' demands. Indeed, such thing has not been reflected at present time.
Today we still can witness an example of real syura (democracy) practiced in Bandung. Hundreds of jamaah at An-Nashir Mosque had successfully elected their quota of six persons representative of their Yearly National Majlis Syura. The jamaah were invited by their leader from a thousand members, based on their undisputed righteousness within the year, such as believing in the unseen, praying five times a day, regularly paying Chandah, Zakat, Sidqah, loyalty to humanity and the community, and other almsgiving.
Included in the six-person syura representatives were Pak Rafiq, a street vendor, and Pak Reza, a banker. The others included a teacher, a businessman, and other professionals. So the community was well represented by the six-person syura. The syura's term is for only one year. So next year a new syura is elected. There is no guarantee that the same person will be reelected to the syura, however rich or clever he might be. The absolute power is in the hands of the people.
Of course it would be too early to try to implement syura for our political life. But at least we can socialize the idea and adopt the good things of syura philosophy.
MEMET M.A. SURAHMAN
on Islamic Studies