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The Specialty of Islamic Portrait in Indonesia

Yohan12 holds a bachelor's degree in Islamic guidance & counseling, master's degree in education and Doctor Cand. in Islamic Studies

Peaceful, No Hatred

Peaceful, No Hatred


Due to the rich of ethnic and geographical features in nature, Indonesia contains a lot of uniqueness. These also influence the characteristics of Indonesian Muslims which are particularly different from Arabs.

These conditions make Muslims in Indonesia to be more unique in particular. In addition, these uniqueness regularly supported by both partial and collective acceptable agreements among Indonesians.

Thus, these make Indonesian Muslims to be in line with the principle idea of Indonesia to be more inclusive for all diversity.

Peaceful Islam

Peaceful Islam in Indonesian context means to freely doing goodness and justice, restfully to build equal social interactions to all groups of communities of all kinds of religions, races, ethnics, sects, beliefs and or other diversities. All of them must be equally protected by the law.

Today, Indonesian Muslim can be peacefully identified through their openness to any religious perspectives as long as those do not violate governmental rules, social-political rights, religious norms and other relevant guidelines.

Peaceful Islam have to be put forward when it is related to the rights of other believers. It should be a real protector to other cooperative believers, not to be a predator to others. This is one of the main principles of peaceful Islam in Indonesian context that has been one of the hard works to succeed.

Religious Moderation

Indonesian government as being mandated to the Ministry of Religious Affairs have massively campaigned to the society to establish serious efforts in strengthening religious moderation. This is a way to keep the goodness and improve the values of tolerance of inter-religious interactions.

Religious moderation is a moderate perspective and not excessively decide other people's beliefs with misleading and extreme judgments. All the religious conflict should be handed to government in finding best solution by making a wise hearing among the elements. All Indonesian have to be given the free right to implement their beliefs as long as they do not violate the public rules.

Indonesian Muslims have striven for formatting the middle Islamic perspectives since several years ago; not be too liberal and not be too conservative. And the most important thing is not too fundamental, and yup, even not be too radical, it is dangerous.

Everything must be run and managed in normal ways based on religious norms, government rules, local wisdom, and Indonesian characteristics in the whole. This is a hard work to achieve and compromise.

Nevertheless, Indonesian Muslims will do their best by supporting various moderate perspectives, helpful social regulations, restful traditions, and peaceful action and movements.

Sunni but Shia alike

Islam in Indonesia has been existing for a very long time, hundreds of years ago. It was brought by traders of Persian and Arab descents from Gujarat.

In the very early period, and certain other periods, Shia Islam took its place in the social and religious life of Indonesian society. On the other hand, in other periods, Sunni Islam also played a significant role. They were interchangeably set the the minds and religious traditions of Indonesian Muslims.

As a result of religious acculturation in that certain periods that alternately came to Indonesia from these two mainstreams of Islamic versions and traditions, sometimes Shia and sometimes Sunni, make Indonesian Islamic portraits to be naturally mixed and own its rich of religious values.

In general, Sunni followers in Indonesia are almost similar to Shia, especially the dominant NU (Nahdlatul Ulama: the largest Islamic organisation) community, because they have been practicing many Shia Islamic traditions since hundreds year ago.

On the other hand, Shia people have been also generally behaving in almost similar way religiously to Sunni's.

Although there have been several differences in certain things, they basically have the same things in common, which clearly to say: Muslim. Thus, for today's reality, Sunni but Shia alike, or Shia but Sunni alike is not a matter, because they are generally able to interact, build religious solidarity and peacefully live together under Islamic guidance and norms.

Local Beliefs Systems

Indonesia has various local belief systems spread over the East to the West and from the North to the South, especially in some certain rural and even urban areas, for example, Kejawen in Java island, Sunda Wiwitan in Banten, Parmalim in North Sumatera, Marapu in Sumbawa island, Kaharingan in Borneo island, Aluk Todolo in Sulawesi, and Buhun in West Java, and many others that almost come to hundreds local belief systems supported by each local wisdom as well as local government to survive and exist in Indonesia.

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Those Local belief systems should be well protected because they can be one of Indonesian richness which might be involved in beautifying and diversifying the local culture uniqueness.

Uniquely, some of those local belief system believers are Muslim. Thus, this can be probably and tentatively said that they are local beliefs system followers in nature with their own local wisdom but supported by Islamic perspectives in daily formalities.


As I mentioned in the previous part, generally, Indonesian Muslims do not really care about sectarianism conflicts. They say, "Just fight for your elite interests, but sorry, we don't." And Indonesian Muslims, in fact, have passed through those hard time over and over since several years ago and they succeeded.

Sectarianism conflicts usually come only when general political election secretly driven by some certain communities to crowd and make riots the national political concern, but unfortunately in daily life we get difficulty to find it.

It means only the Indonesian top elites; political and business groups, that directly or indirectly have closed relationship with some figures that are secretly connected to global elites to frequently use this issue to control and then make new deal with the political powers. Certainly, they only use it for their political and business profits.

Indonesians said, "this is the political and business wars among the top elites; local, national or global, but not the grassroots, so just keep on doing what they want, but never demanding and involving Indonesian people to do so because they might fail to do so particularly at the current time. What about in the future? It will be certainly something different.

Traditional Islam

Traditional Islamic communities mainly have taken place and developed in rural areas. It was previously followed by ordinary people with Sunni's perspective combined with the traditions of Shia. But recently, step by step, traditional Islamic communities have dominated the urban areas because some of their elites hold important roles in the government as state policy makers.

Traditional Islamic communities in Indonesia are commonly well-known due to their moderate perspectives. Their followers are more tolerant to the local wisdom and to various local and global beliefs systems, even to other religions, then making this group becoming popular and getting larger in the terms of both influences and numbers.

A Beautiful Woman with Beautiful Hijab

A Beautiful Woman with Beautiful Hijab

Women's full Hooded (Veil)

Muslim women wearing full hooded or veils (it is called hijab) are getting improve from the younger to the older from time to time.

Uniquely, the way and style of Indonesian Muslim girls in wearing hijab (veils) are quite different from Arabians.

This condition has been supported by several movements derived from, for example, the movement of several transnational modern Islamist that wanted to purify the current traditional Islamic beliefs in Indonesia.

The transnational modern Islamist have done their religious actions inclusively and some other certain movements exclusively to lead Indonesian Muslim back to the earlier Islamic practice.

They assumed that those practices were implemented and exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad and his fellows in the first period, then implemented by the next followers in the second and the third period in Arab land. Now it is the turn of Indonesian Muslim to do so. But seemingly their dreams to do so encountering hard situation now.

The movements of this transnational Islamist perspectives and other related communities in Indonesia, one of them, by creating small groups of Islamic teaching, for example, in schools (the movement is named as 'Rohis' or Islamic spiritual group), colleges and universities (it is usually named as 'Tarbiyah' or education), and even in some certain rural areas (it's usually name as 'Majlis' or religious meeting), and some other certain names and terms.

Regardless of the phenomenon above, basically, Muslim women have got their own strong principle values in loving and implementing Islam, loving and following the Prophet Muhammad and his closest family members (Ahlulbait) before transnational Islamist come to Indonesia.

Thus, when such transnational Islam came to Indonesia several years ago with all of its peculiar movements in the term of 'dakwah' (Islamic teaching propaganda), indeed, that's only a polishing of strengthening the existing beliefs to the obligation of wearing veil which is particularly obliged to all Muslim women that have been performed since many years ago.

Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that the coming of such transnational Islamist have been able to assist in improving the acceleration of femininity obligations in implementing Islamic rules in Indonesia. And I think that's quite helpful.


As an additional new phenomenon, competing in building and decorating new and magnificent mosques might be one of new peculiarities, not to mention as an anomaly, at the end of today's Islamic period. This has been happened since several years ago by striving to surpass one and another. Seemingly it has likely become a matter of individual pride of each community in a some areas.

Actually, there are still other peculiarities as well as some other Islamic anomalies that we can find in Indonesia that I can not mention all here now. I think those uniqueness as I describe above might be enough for us to discuss and some other anomalies will be informed in other related articles.


When we talk about Islam, Arab would be probably the point, as if it is more Islamic than others with its generalities and peculiarities. But in reality, Islam has taken its own characteristics that would be unique from one region to another. Thus, Islam is Islam, Arab is Arab, and Indonesian is Indonesian. They have their own identities and distinctions. Hopefully, this article can be useful for you.

If you disagree with the descriptions above, please share your best alternative arguments, descriptions, questions, comments or critics-friendly below.

© 2022 Yohan Nur Yahya

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