carpe diem quam minimum credula postero
(seize the day, trusting little in the future)
– Quintus Horatius Flaccus –
December 8, 65 BC – November 27, 8 BC
Born in Sidoarjo, East Java, the city where the mud flows upwards, on November 23, 1982, I was named Muhammad Latif Fauzi. This name, my father hopes, carries a wish that may I become an exquisite, well-mannered and victorious man in the future. I have one brother and one sister. My father is both a teacher of Islam and a preacher in a village. He looks on me as one who in the next generation can replace his social role in the centre of the community. Therefore, although it was debated among my family as to what education would be taken, I finally entered the Islamic Junior High School located in my own village. This school is called Madrasa Tsanawiyya “Darun Najah”, an Islamic education institution under the foundation of the Islamic boarding college and Ma’arif Education Institution of Nahdlatul Ulama’. Besides taking a formal education, I also studied in the pesantren, an Islamic boarding college with a traditional education system. In the pesantren, I studied many facets of Islam, such as theology (‘aqidah), fiqh, Arabic grammar, tajwid, and so on which all are taught in the Javanese language.
After graduating from this school in 1994, I was confused about where to go from here. Finally, I decided to continue at the State Islamic Senior High School or Madrasa ‘Aliya of Jember, East Java, mainly in the Religious Program (MAK). This was the first experience I had of living away from home. Similar to the pesantren education system, I also received additional tuition in subjects such as tafsir, fiqh, hadith, nahw sharaf, during the day and at night. Living in the boarding school, I and my friends had to speak in both English and Arabic.
Utilising my ability in these two languages, and the high mark I had received, I applied for the Undergraduate Full-Scholarship Program in the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta in 2000. I successfully passed this selection to take a BA at the Islamic University of Indonesia, in the Faculty of Islamic Studies, the Department of Islamic Law. During my BA studies, I had to live in the Islamic Boarding College and take some additional courses. This period became my starting point to study and deeply focus on Islamic law and thought. I wrote the thesis for my BA –“Toward Reformulating the Epistemology of Islamic Law (Study the Epistemology of Muhammad ‘Âbid al-Jâbirî),” – in English as required, and completed my BA in four years, from 2000 to 2004. In order to graduate from my boarding college, I wrote a thesis “The Property Right in the Islamic Law Perspective and Its Relevance to the Intellectual Property Right Protection in Indonesia.”
Again, because of the scholarship, I had the opportunity to study Islamic Studies at Master’s level in the Postgraduate Program of the State Islamic University (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta. I took Islamic Family Law. Under the supervision of Prof. Khoiruddin Nasution, I finished my thesis entitled “Pandangan Ulama’ Nahdlatul Ulama’ dan Muhammadiyah terhadap Counter Legal Draft Kompilasi Hukum Islam (Studi di Yogyakarta)”. Fortunately, I graduated with a Master’s in September 2006.
During my master program until now, I have worked at the Centre for Islamic Studies, Islamic University of Indonesia (Pusat Studi Islam–Universitas Islam Indonesia). This non-profit organization focuses on research, seminars and training in order to develop the value of humanity and the justice of religion and empower the community. I have conducted research related to the problem of social religion in Indonesia, for instance, “ Tipologi pemikiran umat Islam Yogyakarta: Studi terhadap buletin-buletin Jum’at di Masjid Yogyakarta ”, “Nalar Islam Universitas Islam Indonesia (UII): Studi terhadap Pemikiran Keislaman UII dari Tahun 1945-2005” and ”Teks Kajen dan Serat Cebolek sebagai Model Pembelajaran Resolusi Konflik (Studi Meta Etika) ” Then, in cooperation with Cordaid, a donor organization in the Netherlands, the latest field of esearch I undertook was on “The Religious Attitude of Gender Equality and Justice in the Family in the Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta Province”.
Besides that, from 2005-2006, I was also on the editorial board of Millah journal. The journal, which focuses on the study of religion, is published by Masters of Islamic Studies of Islamic University of Indonesia. Many writers, either from Indonesia or other countries, contribute to this journal. I have also worked as a graphic designer for the book publisher, Safiria Insania Press, which publishes books concerning Islamic studies discourse.
Devoting most of my life to studying Islam, I am more conscious that the study of religion, mainly Islam, has become my focus and it can be explained as follows. First of all, this kind of study has been my academic interest since graduating from the Islamic Junior High School about ten years ago. I have been reading and focusing on religious discourse which until today still leaves many interesting issues that need to be analysed further. For instance, Indonesia in recent times has faced serious problems with the radical and fundamental religious movement. Sometimes, this can occur through a misinterpretation of the religious teachings. I am deeply aware that misunderstanding of religious doctrine has to be corrected in order to establish a peaceful world. Secondly, I see that religion is something which cannot be separated from human activities, especially in Indonesia. Here, everyone must have a religion and should understand it well then disseminate its teaching to the community in general. Thirdly, religions teach adherents to establish a peaceful life on the one hand, but on the other hand, there are some people who, on behalf of certain religions, commit acts of violation, terror, and other activities threatening the goodness of human beings. Therefore, to reduce this, people need to have a thorough, not partial, understanding of religious teachings. I want to be one of those who understands religion completely and sees it as a mercy for all human beings and conducts its teaching in my daily life. Finally, from my point of view, I can see that there are two things lacking in the field of Islamic studies; lack of empirics and lack of systematization. Of course, various theoretical and methodological approaches which can give meaningful contributions to overcome this problem must be mastered.
In conclusion, being a participant of the program of Indonesian Young Leaders in cooperation between MORA, Universiteit Leiden, and The Embassy of the Netherlands, I am taking a second MA in Islamic Studies at Leiden University for one-and-a-half years. Through the knowledge and the valuable international experience obtained from this study, I hope to be able to develop either academic or non-academic activities which attempt to present religion in a humane manner, such as research and training, in order to disseminate the idea that religion should lead people to a prosperous and peaceful world.