Indonesia. Questioning the essence of MUI: to guide the people or to cause division?

Published: April 7, 2022


  1. Rosyid Mask Ushul Fiqh Lecturer, Walisongo State Islamic University (UIN) Semarang


I once received funds from the RI Baznas in collaboration with MUI in a doctoral study that I took at the Graduate School of UIN Syarif Hidayatullah. On that basis, I need to express my criticism of MUI through my writing.


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The MUI halal label does not apply gradually. M Risyal Hidayat/ Between Photos

Recently, the public has again highlighted the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) , an institution consisting of scholars from various mass organizations (ormas) based on Islam in Indonesia, and has played a major role for Muslims in the country.

This is because the institution, which was established on July 26, 1975, often issues counter-productive fatwas and responds to things that they do not really need to respond to and comment on.

A series of attitudes that tend to be anti-pluralism

Based on several studies , many fatwas have been officially issued by the MUI, as well as opinions expressed by the MUI management which are considered to have the potential to damage pluralism that has long been embedded in Indonesia.

The MUI, which is supposed to play the role of providing guidance, guidance, and advice to the public, tends to show a conservative-radical attitude .

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One of these trends can be seen from a number of fatwas issued by MUI, especially during the period 2005-2010 .

Some examples are the fatwa on the prohibition of pluralism, liberalism, and secularism , the fatwa on Ahmadiyah heresy , and the East Java MUI fatwa on Shia heresy .

These fatwas are certainly contrary to the spirit of unity and oneness.

There are also pros and cons that appear almost every year before Christmas celebrations, namely the MUI attitude which forbids Christmas greetings and the use of Christmas attributes for Muslims.

Recently, MUI Bekasi issued an appeal for food stalls to close during the day during the month of Ramadan. The appeal then triggered a negative reaction from the community.

As an institution that provides solutions to religious problems, MUI should know very well that closing stalls during the month of Ramadan is by no means a solution for the continuation of a Muslim’s fast.

Not only because in Indonesia there are many non-Muslim communities, but also because there are always Muslims who are not obliged to fast , for example because they are traveling, sick, or for other reasons.

It is not surprising that the hashtag #bubarkanmui then appeared and went viral on social media as a public reaction to the MUI’s attitudes.

Most recently, the right to issue halal certificates , which was originally the domain of MUI, as of March 1, 2022, has been taken over by the Ministry of Religion of the Republic of Indonesia.

The public, or at least individuals, consider that the current existence of MUI is no longer important. Moreover, it is added that there is an allegation of the politicization of the MUI fatwa by the government.

Government intervention

One of the objectives of the establishment of the MUI is to become a liaison between the ulama and the umara’ (government) in order to make national development successful. From this objective, it can be said that MUI is a partner of the government ( adīq al-ḥukūmah ) .

As a partner, of course, MUI always participates in the success of government programs. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, MUI was actively involved in encouraging government activities related to controlling the spread of the corona virus .

On the other hand, MUI has the right to provide criticism and advice to the government. For example, MUI once criticized the government for shifting religious holidays .

However, a study conducted by M. Atho’ Mudzhar, Professor of Sociology of Islamic Law at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, on the MUI fatwa in 1975-1988 shows that the MUI fatwa has strong indications of getting “pressure” from the government .

That is, there are socio-political factors that also influence MUI in issuing fatwas. Among the fatwas that appeared to be intervening were the fatwas on family planning and the Shia movement in Indonesia .

Supposedly, the issuance of fatwas or other legal products is neutral and should not be intervened by any party. Neutrality is important to ensure that the fatwa issued by the MUI really refers to the common good.

If a fatwa is contaminated by pressure from outside parties, such as the government, the good intentions of the fatwa will be questioned, and the independence and objectivity of the MUI will be questioned.

MUI cannot represent God

Basically, the scope of the MUI fatwa covers the fields of faith, worship, social and economic affairs. In issuing fatwas, the precautionary principle, iḥtiyāṭī , should take precedence.

According to Vice President Ma’ruf Amin , who is also the Chairman of the MUI Advisory Council, the principle of iḥtiyāṭī  in the field of worship and aqidah is realized through finding common ground in order to avoid differences of opinion among ulama.

Whereas in the field of muamalah, the iḥtiyāṭī principle is more emphasized on the goal of realizing the widest benefit for the people .

Thus, the MUI fatwa or opinion is required to be able to harmonize religious texts with the current social context of society.

Referring to this explanation, some of the MUI fatwas mentioned above actually indicate a disregard for the precautionary principle.

If a Muslim just wishes me a Merry Christmas and wears religious attributes of other beliefs, will his faith automatically fade?

If many of the rituals and principles of the Shia and Ahmadiyya beliefs are different from the Islamic principles adopted and believed by the majority of the people, then are these two groups necessarily heretical?

Furthermore, can the opinion that the Shia and Ahmadiyah followers are heretical can then be a reason to take actions that injure humanity, including discrimination against the basic rights of their adherents?

Isn’t it God’s prerogative to go to heaven or hell?

A mass organization can indeed be said to represent a particular religious sect, but it cannot represent God.

Therefore, MUI should be able to restrain itself more in order to stay focused on its main goal: to be a mouthpiece for unity and integrity.

Where do you want to take MUI?

As a large organization, MUI should focus more on programs and issues that are more significant, such as humanity and the community’s economy.

Minor things such as spirit dolls, firecrackers, street naming, Christmas, New Year, and homecoming events are not the MUI’s domain to comment.

MUI needs to be aware again that they are mere mass organizations, and cannot be said to represent Muslims as a whole, nor represent the government, let alone represent God.

The fatwa issued is not binding . May be obeyed, may or may not.

MUI needs to improve its communication patterns to be wiser and in accordance with its goals as a unifying nation. So that the statements they issue are expected to not only provide certainty regarding religious attitudes, but also provide a sense of comfort and coolness for the wider community, regardless of their beliefs and beliefs.


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