About the Author(s)

Lailial Muhtifah Email symbol
Department of Islamic Educations, Faculty of Islamic Education and Teacher Trainning, IAIN Pontianak, Pontianak, Indonesia

Zaenuddin Hudi Prasojo symbol
Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Ushuluddin, Adab and Dakwah, IAIN Pontianak, Pontianak, Indonesia

Sukman Sappe symbol
Department of Islamic Educations, Faculty of Islamic Education and Teacher Trainning, IAIN Sorong, Papua Barat, Indonesia

Elmansyah Elmansyah symbol
Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Ushuluddin, Adab and Dakwah, IAIN Pontianak, Pontianak, Indonesia


Muhtifah, L., Hudi Prasojo, Z., Sappe, S. & Elmansyah, E., 2021, ‘The theology of Islamic moderation education in Singkawang, Indonesia: The city of tolerance’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 77(4), a6552. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6552

Original Research

The theology of Islamic moderation education in Singkawang, Indonesia: The city of tolerance

Lailial Muhtifah, Zaenuddin Hudi Prasojo, Sukman Sappe, Elmansyah Elmansyah

Received: 19 Feb. 2021; Accepted: 29 July 2021; Published: 28 Oct. 2021

Copyright: © 2021. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This article explores the trends in the implementation of Islamic moderation through aqidah and sharia in Singkawang, as it is considered the most tolerant city in Indonesia based on a research report published in 2019. Using grounded research analysis, the authors found three structured patterns: implementation strategies (as related to vision, mission, position, programme and impact), implementation processes (as related to main actors, levels of success and obstacles) and implementation patterns. This study shows that these strategies and methods, implemented through a flexible, straightforward and easy-to-implement model are relevant to the fundamental values of Islamic education and offer a means of forming a complete and comprehensive network. These implementation patterns encourage religious communities to develop and maintain healthy social relationships. Hopefully, such implementation patterns can be imitated and modified by policyholders to realise Islam rahmatanlil ‘alamin [as a blessing for all].

Contribution: Scholars in the fields may benefit from the findings of the research as it provides a new perspective of the Islamic educational moderation theory grounded from the field research. It argues that the practice of community tolerance, especially by the Muslims, has been based on the good understanding of the theology of Islamic education moderation. Education matters in the process of community peace building and in generating tolerance through the implementation of Islamic moderation values.

Keywords: Islamic moderation; Aqidah; Sharia; Islamic education; implementation patterns.


Developing and implementing Islamic moderation (al-wasatiyyah) is necessary to realise the grace, blessings and pleasure of Allah in Indonesia, including by uniting all Indonesians in a safe, orderly, comfortable, harmonious and peaceful nation built on four pillars: Pancasila, Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tungga Ika), the 1945 Constitution and the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. Such moderation, both as an endeavour and as a spirit, has its roots in various Islamic paradigms and understandings, as well as the diverse cultures, ethnicities and religions spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago. As observed by Umar (2016):

[S]ince 2004, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has campaigned for ‘Moderate Islam’ as the main image of Indonesian Islam. Within this discourse, Islam is conceived as ‘moderate’ and ‘tolerant’ as well as inherently compatible with democracy. (p. 404)

However, the public needs to critically analyse this discourse from a political and discursive perspective, using a genealogical approach to consider its integration into education as a means of character building.

Community studies conducted amongst Muslims in the United States (US) and Indonesia have focused primarily on the mission of rahmatanlil ‘alamin [as a blessing for all] Moderate Islam is perceived as a blessing for all creation, a character value and a set of best practices (Kasdi 2019). It is global, providing a pattern for Islamic education in which peace can be realised in everyday life. In the US, Muslims have aggressively begun engaging in social worship, which Corbett (2016) identified as humanitarian assistance and community service. This has become particularly prominent since the 11 September 2001 (9/11) attacks, being used by Muslims to find acceptance. In Indonesia, meanwhile, Islam spread through the efforts of the Walisongo (the nine saints), who accommodated the culture of local communities in their exegesis. Values of moderation spread throughout Islamic society, especially in Java. Today, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, two of the largest socio-religious organisations in the world (Binfas, Fitriani & Wahjusaputri 2019), have actively worked towards stemming radicalism and realising moderate Islam. Both have underscored the importance of an Islamic education based on rahmatanlil ‘alamin.

The example of moderation in Indonesia may perhaps best be illustrated through the case of Singkawang, a city in West Kalimantan that has been identified as the nation’s third most tolerant city (Anon 2018). In 2015, according to Setara Institute’s results, Singkawang was in the third place, after Pematang Siantar City and Salatiga City (Taufiq 2019). In 2018, Singkawang was ranked as the first most tolerant city in Indonesia (Grid Network 2018). In 2020, Singkawang was in the second place, after the city of Salatiga (Berita 2020). Furthermore, in 2021, Singkawang returned to Indonesia’s second most tolerant position (Antara 2021).

Several essential and exciting elements can be explored. Firstly, Singkawang has a diverse and heterogeneous community, where social interactions are harmonious, conducive, orderly, safe and peaceful and where radical actions, extreme acts and conflicts are rare. Secondly, the Singkawang City Government and the Ministry of Religion have worked together with the Forum for Religious Harmony (FKUB) and various Islamic community organisations such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), NU, Muhammadiyah, Islamic Holiday Committee (PHBI), Indonesian Hajj Association (IPHI), Chinese Islamic Association of Indonesia (PITI) and Tarbiyah Islamiyah Foundation (YASTI) to realise a moderate Islam in Singkawang. This has been made possible both by the instructors and scholars’ good understanding of moderate Islam, as well as the strategic, effective and efficient roles of the City Government, Ministry of Religion, FKUB and aforementioned Islamic organisations.

In this article, the authors reveal how the Singkawang community tangibly implements Islamic moderation in its education and teaching practices. It is also the limitation of this research: how the people of Singkawang apply Islamic moderation in their educational and teaching practices. These real practices are rooted in the Qur’an, the Ḥadīth (the collected words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]), as well as examples provided by scholars, philosophers and Muslim scholars. In doing so, a foundation is provided for shaping students’ fundamental values (Sarjono 2005). Islamic education must refer to four basic values: faith and service, freedom and independence, respect for human existence and all its potential and social responsibility. All four values are relevant to the implementation of moderate Islam in aqidah and sharia, as realised through Islamic education.

This research aims specifically to identify the patterns and systems used to implement Islamic moderation in Singkawang, and offer these patterns and systems as best practices that may be implemented by other city and regency governments throughout Indonesia. This study identifies obstacles in implementation and ascertains whether specific implementations succeed or fail. This research not only has theoretical and practical implications but it can also facilitate harmonious, peaceful, secure and orderly social interactions.

Research method and design

For this study, the authors used a qualitative research design with a grounded theory (GT) approach. The authors’ decision to use a GT approach was based on the following considerations: (1) GT offers a good way to study human behaviour and deal with sensitive topics, even in different cultural contexts (Wolcott 1980) and (2) through GT, the authors could produce a theory from extracted data. Central to GT were the methods developed inductively from collected data, a point confirmed by Charmaz (2006).

The GT approach in the present context is a research approach that seeks to theorise data to produce a theory about a social phenomenon. This research does not start from a theory but tries to theorise data into a theory. Therefore, researchers construct and build theories from the data collected (Wardhana 2011).

This research was conducted in Singkawang City, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, which is known as the most tolerant city in Indonesia (Suhardiman 2015). As a result of GT, researchers discovered a social phenomenon that emerged in the people of Singkawang City. This social phenomenon can be explained as follows: Firstly, the people of Singkawang City consist of various ethnicities (Chinese, Dayak, Malay, Javanese, Madurese, etc.). Each ethnic group is mainly identical to the religion they adhere to, for example, China is identical to Konghuchu, Malay and Madura are identical to Islam, Dayak is identical to Christian/Catholic, and so on. Secondly, the people of Singkawang City consists of various religions and beliefs (Confucian, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and other faiths), which are integrated with the jargon ‘We are Singkawang People’. Thirdly, under conditions of ethnicity and religion, they still live in harmony and peace, without horizontal (between communities) and vertical (society and government) conflicts ever occurring (Munawar 2017).

Systematically, this research will be carried out with a scheme as shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1: The process of the grounding theory.

This study offers insights, increases understanding and provides meaningful guidance for implementing Islamic moderation in Islamic education using the values of aqidah and sharia. Its theories are derived from data that were collected and analysed systematically throughout the research process (Corbin & Strauss 1990).

In-depth interviews were used for data collection. The authors interviewed 20 key informants from various backgrounds, including the Singkawang City Government, the Ministry of Religion, FKUB, and diverse Islamic organisations. Data were collected until the point of saturation, when no new data emerged and then grouped to form theories. The authors coded the transcripts of interviews with critical informants, using a line-by-line approach, identified categories and subcategories, grouped these categories to theorise regarding the implementation of moderate Islam in Islamic education.

Result of the research

The concept of moderation: Western and Islamic versions

Moderation is a value that helps people make the most appropriate moral judgements and behaviours. With moderation, one should choose the better of two good things, the lesser of two evils or the best of the two options. Moderation allows adaptation and requires a willingness to cooperate and compromise. It focuses on searching for interests and ideological attributes that can facilitate implementation (Islam & Khatun 2015).

Various definitions of ‘moderate’ can be identified with specific references to liberal social norms, hermeneutics, political pluralism, democratic processes, organisational closeness and state legitimacy (White 2012). Generally, however, moderation is defined primarily as appropriate and moderate behaviour in various aspects of life and therefore exists as a universal norm. Moderation can be used as a principle for universal social organisation, a means for pursuing general welfare (Afsaruddin 2009). This correlates with the fundamental focus of Islamic education: Islamic beliefs that adhere to the principles of justice and tolerance.

According to Islam and Khatun (2015:75), the word moderation can be understood within Western and Islamic contexts. In the Western perspective, moderation is not a category, but a process that is contextualised by democracy, de-radicalisation and pluralism. The first is understood as ‘the aspiration of all people for an international order based on the principles stated in the Charter of the United Nations’ (Bassiouni et al. 1998). However, participation in the democratic process alone is not a sufficient indicator of moderation, as – according to Nancy Bermeo – moderation is not a necessary condition for democracy (Wegner & Pellicer 2009). De-radicalisation, meanwhile, describes pro-democracy forces and is used as an antonym for ‘radical’. Finally, pluralism is defined in a comparative context, for instance, in an Islamic context, groups that are pro-Western, non-violent, liberal and opposed to anti-western groups are generally deemed moderate.

For example, radicals may demand substantive systemic change and strongly oppose the power configuration of the status quo (Schwedler 2006). For de-radicalisation, moderation is thus required. Radical groups are given the opportunity to function in a democratic domain so that they may abandon their revolutionary mottos and radical programmes. Moderate behaviour is thus considered to precede and give birth to ideological moderation (Tezcur 2015). This moderation is simply political; it has nothing to do with belief systems or legal systems.

Such a Western perspective is thus distinct from moderate Islam, which is not limited to the political arena, but a legal, moral, intellectual and behavioural approach to life. Its concept of wasatiyyah [moderation] comes from Islamic doctrine that emphasises fairness, balance and proportional benefit. Islamic moderation comes with such universal values as justice, balance, mercy, equality and benefit and encompasses various sciences – including sharia, tafsir [interpretations] (Hanapi 2014), Ḥadīth (Siswanto 2020) and da’wah [missionary endeavor] (Siswanto 2020). It is not a new teaching, a new ijtihad [individual interpretation, effort] that emerged in the 21st century AD (14th century H),1 but rather something embraced and realised by Muslims following the original texts and the examples of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his friends and his pious followers. This was actualised during the Prophet’s lifetime by, amongst other things, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

Arif (2020a) identifies two paradigms. In the first one, commonly termed the ‘new khawarij’ [attitude towards government], is rigid, inflexible and unready to accept new exegeses. It sees Islam as a religion of texts and thus as a constant system that neither accepts changes nor embraces new teachings, especially in matters of faith, worship, law and muamalat [transactions]. It is thus necessary to cleanse Islam from the elements of shirk [polytheism] and bid’ah [innovation in religious matters]. Such views and thoughts have often received negative responses and contributed significantly to Islam’s stigmatisation as a hard, closed, radical, intolerant and inhuman religion.

In the second paradigm, meanwhile, a wide range of new things is embraced, including Western thought, culture and lifestyles. Such thinkers have referred to texts other than the Qur’an and Sunnah and some have even claimed that they are no longer relevant to modern human life. It is often identified as a form of Islamic liberation, as mu’tazila al-judud (new mu’tazila) [the position among the two] and as presenting a rationalist narrative that promotes freedom. It sees Islam as a rational and fluid religion, one that can find a place in any culture and any time. To do so, Islam must adapt in matters of sharia, worship, law, muamalat and even creed.

Modern Islam recognises that the clash between the extreme right (tafrith) and the extreme left (ifrath) is very dangerous for Islamic civilisation, and it commonly increases competition in civilisations around the world. Moderate Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Ridha, Hasan Al-Banna, Abu Zahrah, Mahmud Syalthout, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Madani, Sheikh Al-Thahir Ibn Asyur, Muhammad Abdullah Darraz, Muhammad Al-Ghazali, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Wahbah Ad-dzuhaili and Ramadan Al-Buthiy have directed Muslims to achieve an understanding of moderation and to implement moderation in Islamic education.

Islamic moderation in the Qur’an and Sunnah

According to As-Shalabiy (2007), in his book Al-Washathiyahfil Qur’an Al-Karim, the word wasatiyyah is derived from four words in the Qur’an that share similar meanings. Firstly, wasatiyyah means ‘fairness’ and ‘choice’, as evident in QS 2: 143, which identifies ummatanwasathan [justice and kindness] as the fairest and best human qualities. Secondly, wasatiyyah means ‘best’ and ‘middle’, as evident in QS 2: 238 and its discussion of the best prayer times. Thirdly, wasatiyyah means ‘in the middle’ or ‘mid-puff’, as in the description of Allah as ‘storming into the midst’ (QS 100: 5). Fourthly, wasatiyyah represents the best and the most knowledgeable ideal, as evident in QS 68: 28.

Meanwhile, in the Sunnah and Ḥadīth, the Prophet Muhammad PBUH mentioned the word wasatiyyah several times, which can be linguistically meaningful. It is used to mean ‘justice’, ‘height’, ‘blessing’, ‘best’ and ‘balance’, as in Ḥadīth No. 6463, 23013, 1176, 3600, 2041 3057, 3029 and 6955 (Ardiansyah 2016).

Wasatiyyah according to Ulama and Fuqaha

The views of Salaf and Khalaf ulama regarding wasatiyyah are also worth consideration. In their concepts and definitions, these preachers provide textual and logical guidelines for understanding Islam (Arif 2020). These are elucidated here:

Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (505 H/1111 CE): Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali introduced the principle of wasatiyyah whilst discussing the attitudes of the Prophet’s Companions. Al Ghazālī (2003) argued that, to actualise Islam’s teachings, it was necessary to follow the ‘middle path’, to be fair, balanced and proportional in one’s interactions with the world and the hereafter, with the spiritual and physical and with the material and spiritual. Although Al-Ghazali was best known for his views on tasauf [Sufism] and zuhud [asceticm] life, he still recognised and believed that a ‘perfect’ life based on the Qur’an and Sunnah would be realised not through manhajghuluw [extreme] Islamic teachings, but through moderation.

In discussing uzlah [self-isolation as a form of worship], Al-Ghazali broadly yet deeply explored the connection between absolute uzlah and human interaction. He argued that, even though the benefits of uzlah are emphasised in the lives of the Prophet and his companions, moderation is still necessary; one must balance between uzlah, learning and preaching.

Imam As-Syatibi (790 H/1388 CE): Imam As-Syatibi, also known as Abu Ishak As-Syatibi, is recognised as one of Islam’s greatest Maqashid Ulama [The Objectives of Ulama] in Islam. As-Syatibi (2003) explained that wasatiyyah or manhaj (moderation) is characteristic of sharia, and its teachings and values contain moderate principles and reasonable goals. All ijtihad and fatwa [legal opinions from Ulama for the people] related to sharia must be informed by the principle of moderation. According to As-Syatibi, the obligation to behave moderately (manhaj) rather than passively is not only rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah but it is also an eternal and absolute standard. As such, where fatwa, ijtihad fiqhiya [individual interpretation of Islamic Law] and other products of Islamic law are seen as abusive, they must be returned to moderation.

Al-Imam Hasan Al-Banna (1368 H/1949 CE): Al-Bannā (1992) views Muslims as having the most powerful ideology and conceptual framework in the world, as they have and preach the greatest justice, as emphasised through the Qur’an. Al-Bannā believes that Islamic civilisation and teachings are perfect and moderate, reflecting following human nature and correctly explained in the sacred texts. He understands Islam as an excellent, integral and comprehensive religion.

Syekh Muhammad Rasyid Ridha (1354 H/1935 CE): Syekh Muhammad Rasyid Ridha was a modern Islamic thinker, a scholar whose works, views and thoughts influenced Islamic faith, law and society. He viewed Islam as a religion that focuses neither solely on the spiritual nor on the physical, but rather on both simultaneously; as such, it is balanced, moderate and integral. He criticised the Egyptian Sufis, most of whom he viewed as focusing excessively on spiritual purification and development, foregoing the development of their bodies, skills, intelligence and technology. Rasyid Ridha was very vocal in criticising this partiality, seeking instead a perfect and moderate Islam. He viewed Islam as a religion of common sense, combining spirituality and physicality simultaneously. Islam, he wrote, is based not on lust and emotion but on the Qur’an and Sunnah (Syafi’i 2009).

Fundamental values of Islamic education

By examining empirical data collected in the field, the authors explored the basis of Islamic moderation and the value of rahmatanlil ‘alamin. Islamic education values can be integrated into education materials, as their essential points can be internalised into students’ Islamic attitudes. Islamic moderation has four fundamental elements: flexibility, compassion, openness and honesty, all of which are inexorably bound. As rahmatanlil ‘alamin, Islam contains values of internal harmony, interfaith harmony and interreligious harmony, all of which synergise with fair and wise government. Its fundamental values emphasise both individual and social righteousness. In general, teachers and religious leaders teach personal devotion through ritualisation (hablumninallah). Social piety, conversely, is taught through interactions with other people, with the natural environment and with other living things (hablumminannas).

Halstead (2004) identified three elements of Islamic education: tarbiyya, ta’dib and ta’lim. Tarbiyya means to grow or increase and refers to the development of individuals’ potential by guiding children towards a higher level of maturity. Ta’dib means refined, disciplined or cultured and refers to the process of character development, through which individuals are imbued with a solid moral and social foundation that guides their behaviour in the community and in society at large; this includes understanding and accepting the fundamental social principles such as justice (Al Attas & Ashraf 1979). The last term, ta’lim, comes from the root word ‘alima [knowing, being informed, understanding, differentiating] and refers to the transmission and acceptance of knowledge, usually through training, teaching and other forms of education.

These three terms differently emphasise the possibility of using Muslim education to foster individual development, increase understanding of society’s social and moral rules and spread knowledge. Such an analysis is by no means exclusive to Islamic thought, but unique because no aspect of a Muslim’s life remains untouched by religion.

Husain and Ashraf (1979) emphasised that Islamic education seeks to improve students’ sensitivity by using a broad range of knowledge and deep ethical values. It imbues students with discipline and is aimed to help students acquire comprehension and satisfy their intellectual curiosity. It also aims to transform students into rational and pious individuals who can bring about the spiritual, moral and physical well-being of their family, their people and all of humanity. This attitude stems from deep faith in God and wholehearted acceptance of Islam’s God-given moral code. More specifically, its primary sources are the Qur’an and the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH (Halstead 2004). Humans require the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah to succeed in this world and the hereafter.

Other experts, such as Ashraf (1979) and Saada (2020), reinforced the objectives of Islamic education. Education is intended to maintain children’s spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical abilities (Al Attas & Ashraf 1979). Scholars generally agree that Islam seeks to achieve three main objectives: tarbiyya, ta’lim and ta’dib. In other words, it seeks to promote spirituality and ethical behaviour, to transfer knowledge, and to cultivate morality (Saada 2020).

Here, the authors focus on the third goal: ta’dib or muamalat, broadly understood as Muslims’ obligations to their fellow humans, their communities and their environments (Niyozov & Memon 2011). It also discusses Muslims’ civil responsibilities towards the adherents of other religions, non-adherents and members of different cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, political and ethnic groups (Saada 2020).

Highlighting the humanistic values of Islam challenges the West’s fear of the religion, as well as the lack of intellectual honesty that prevents the recognition of Islam’s plentiful benefits for humanity (Boisard 1988). This argument implicitly understands Islam and its law as contributing essentially to human rights and their protection around the world. This is not intended to simply gain sympathy but also to recognise historical evidence, which lays out a clear obligation to protect human beings and create social order.

Singkawang: The city of tolerance

Singkawang City, West Kalimantan, was identified as Indonesia’s third most tolerant city in the Tolerant City Index (Anon 2018). This may be attributed to several factors. Firstly (contextual factors), the city government has regulations that are conducive to the practice and promotion of tolerance, both during planning and during implementation; violations of the freedom of religion/belief are few or even non-existent; values of religious, ethnic and cultural harmony and diversity are promoted; the Singkawang City government provides as much space as possible for the people who express their messages and transmit them intergenerationally and FKUB and other religious organisations have proactively managed the community.

Secondly, Singkawang City has many nicknames. It is known variously as Amoi City, as the City of a Thousand Temples, as the City of TASBIH, as a city of tourism and as a city of remarkable cultural diversity. (These will be described in further detail.) Firstly, the word Amoi – a term commonly used to identify young Chinese women – is used because almost half of Singkawang’s population is of Chinese heritage (Irfani 2018); the remainder are predominantly Malay, Dayak and Madurese. Secondly, and stemming from the first, there are temples (commonly known as peking) throughout the city. These buildings have distinctive architecture, are predominantly red in colour and bear extraordinary ornamentation. As such, Singkawang is recognised as the City of a Thousand Temples.

Thirdly, the city of Singkawang is also nicknamed as the City of TASBIH. This word, although it denotes the prayer beads used by Muslims, is used as an abbreviation: ‘T’ for tertib [‘orderly’], ‘A’ for aman [‘safe’], ‘S’ for sehat [‘healthy’], ‘B’ for bersih [‘clean’], ‘I’ for indah [‘beautiful’] and ‘H’ for harmonis [‘harmonious’]. This abbreviation is not intended to highlight Islam as Indonesia’s majority religion but to highlight the desired characteristics (Irfani 2018).

Fourthly, Singkawang is known as the City of Tourism owing to the many tourism destinations found therein. According to Tripadvisor (n.d.), travellers’ favourite destinations include: Tjhia Family House, Tri Dharma Raya Temple, Lemukutan Island, TanjungBajau Beach, Mimi Land BatuPayung, Kijing Beach, Randayan Island, Bougenville Park, Taman Rekreasi Bukit Bougenville and PasirPanjang Beach. Travellers may thus enjoy a wide range of natural attractions.

Fifthly, the City of Singkawang has a unique cultural diversity, stemming from the broad range of cultures found therein. There are traditionally Chinese celebrations such as Cap Go Meh (held after Lunar New Year), the lantern parade, the lion dance and the dragon parade and other cultural events such as the Tatung procession (Ar 2013). Regarding these celebrations within the context of Islamic moderation, the leaders of Islamic organisations have called for cultural tolerance. So long as such celebrations are not mixed with Islamic beliefs, religious, cultural and ideological diversity are respected. Cap Go Meh celebrations are held easily and outside groups (be they Muslim or otherwise) do not interfere. This is a proof that the application of wasatiyyah values has been successful, as have the principles of tolerance and religious harmony.

This strengthens our understanding of wasatiyyah as a value long embraced in Indonesia, similar to how ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ was first introduced by the Majapahit Empire and how the Sasak of Lombok have maintained togetherness, brotherhood and peace (Asmara 2018). Indeed, the authors argue that there are similarities in the City of Singkawang and in the Sasak community. Residents are broadly involved in everyday religious ritual construction and social interactions and in this manner all cultural actors – including Islamic organisations – have produced a moderate version of Islam.

Implementing and teaching Islamic moderation

This study found that Islamic moderation was implemented through aqidah and sharia along the following patterns.

Figure 2 depicts actors’ implementation strategy, including their vision, mission, position, programme and impact, as well as their main actors, level of success, constraints or obstacles and solutions. As the authors did not find any significant obstacles, they will not be explored here. The other points will be discussed next.

FIGURE 2: Implementation strategy of moderate Islam.

Implementation strategy

In this section, this article will employ five models of pattern theory, as explained previously. The ‘Implementation Pattern’ consists of two elements: the implementation strategy and the implementation process. The former consists of vision and mission, position, programme, and impact of implementation, whilst the latter consists of the main actor, level of success and constraints/obstacles.

Implementation process

This part examines three significant aspects. Firstly, the main actors or figures – in this case the Singkawang City Government, the Ministry of Religion of Singkawang City, MUI, FKUB, NU, Muhammadiyah, PHBI, IBHI, PITI, YASTI, Islamic Religious Instructors and educators – who work collaboratively to realise their individual visions and missions. Their concepts and purposes have been compiled and determined. Secondly, the organisations’ visions, missions and programmes of Singkawang City are analysed in terms of their level of success, shortcomings and constraints; corrective actions are then offered. Thirdly, constraints and obstacles are also identified as challenges. Actors have a key role in implementing moderate Islam through aqidah and sharia, as do their programmes, visions and missions.


Implementation pattern

Irfani (2018) emphasised that patterns offer a model or more abstractly, a set of rules, to create or produce results. These patterns are examined within two contexts: firstly, their means of operation or working system and secondly, their fixed form (structure). Alter (2017) described working systems as systems wherein human and machine participants perform work (processes and activities) using information, technology and other resources to produce specific products or services for internal and external customers. According to his analysis, work systems always contain at least one activity that includes one or more business processes (Alter 2017). As such, one or more set of actions can be sufficiently interrelated sequentially to qualify as a process.

The authors expand on this theory by exploring policy implementation. The implementation is related to specific activities, programmes and specific activities designed with known dimensions. The process is purposeful and described in sufficient detail to detect its presence and strengths (Fixsen et al. 2005). The systematic study of policy implementation is relatively new in the social sciences, where experts have generally investigated implementation failure as stemming from practical strategies and a lack of theoretical sophistication (Khan 2016).

Policy implementation has multiple elements. Fixsen et al. (2005) identified four elements: source, destination, communication link and feedback mechanisms. All four elements function as part of the sphere of influence. According to Fullan (2015), a public policy expert in the field of education, there are five aspects of implementation in various frameworks: (1) task allocation and accountability, (2) objectives and tools, (3) resources, (4) time and (5) communication and engagement strategies with stakeholders. In contrast, Imamura (2015:48) observed five implementation patterns: (1) implementation strategies, (2) main actors, (3) success rates, (4) obstacles and (5) solutions. Fixsen et al. (2005) defined an implementation strategy as a series of activities designed to put into practice activities or programmes from known dimensions. The implementation process is purposeful but independent observers can nevertheless detect the presence and strength of particular sets of activities. As such, strategies may be seen as guiding operational systems to achieve a certain effect.

Implementation strategies are related to vision and mission, position, programme and implementation impact. They generally appear as imaginative mental pictures of specific situations or as a clear view of the future, using specific people, teams, and/or organisations.

A vision guides and perpetuates organisational existence. Vision, in terms of strategy, cannot become commonplace, as it is a view of the future based on specific ideas (Papulova 2014). Mission, on the other hand, must be designed before strategy development. As stated by Abrahams (2007), the mission must provide an essential statement of an organisation’s existence, goal and management. In other words, a mission must show members why their organisation must exist (Henry 2008).

Position theory is focused on position analysis, which traces its roots to studies in the fields of education, international relations and – to a more advanced level – organisation that began in the early 2000s. This article uses pattern theory to understand three elements: implementation strategies, implementation processes and implementation patterns. This pattern approach is useful, as it is more flexible, more straightforward, less complicated and more comfortable.

The process of Islamic moderation in Aqidah and Sharia

Zulkarnain and Samsuri (2018) asserted that religious leaders are important actors in citizens’ spiritual lives. The religious leaders contribute to maintaining harmony and peace, and – together with organisational and community leaders – they have a role in creating and preserving balance. People must maintain their existence and character to develop and strengthen spiritual peace. They strongly influence people, enabling them to avoid conflict and maintain harmony. Therefore, it is urgent to explore the role of religious leaders in applying Islamic moderation through aqidah and sharia.

Firstly, based on the empirical data on actors’ individual visions and missions, the authors reveal that Islamic moderation has become embedded in management, especially in the government because ‘moderate Islam is the original character of Muslim diversity on the islands’ (Basya 2013). The vision and mission are formulated in accordance with the principles of Islamic moderation in the Qur’an, particularly justice (Lajnah Pentashihan Mushaf Al-Qur’an Badan Litbang dan Diklat Kemenag RI 2012), as well as tolerance, harmony and interfaith cooperation (Hilmy 2013).

Fixsen et al. (2005) defined an implementation strategy as ‘a series of activities designed to practice activities or programmes from a known dimension’. Implementation processes are often managed in detail, and thus self-management is possible; at the same time, independent observers can observe the presence and strength of particular sets of activities. Viennet and Pont (2017) described implementation strategies as operational plans that guide policies and make them work.

This position is related to the nature of Islamic moderation and its implementation in the application of religion and sharia in Singkawang. It has been strategic to realise a moderate Islam that embraces (1) Islam as a religion of peace, (2) Islam as a religion of grace and (3) Islam as a religion of tolerance. These values have influenced Singkawang’s actualisation of tolerance, as manifested through Regional Regulation of Singkawang City No. 3 of 2018 regarding the Singkawang City Medium Term Development Plan 2018–2022 and its mission, preparation and cooperative work programmes. This affects external environmental strategies, internal resources, competencies and stakeholder expectations/influences. Secondly, Islamic teachings and moderation values have profoundly affected political life and foreign policy in Indonesia, as moderate Islam offers an important source of values and norms that guide people’s behaviour and life. This view reflects Purwono’s statement that Islam is essential in the social and political legitimacy of society (Purwono 2016).

Thirdly, Singkawang has implemented moderate Islamic teachings through clear programmatic principles, including the philosophies and values that underlie its programmes (McGuire 2016). Its implementation proves the principle of justice, balance (tawdzun) and tolerance (tasamuh). God created and managed this universe with justice and demanded that justice should be applied to all aspects of life, including matters of creed, law, morality and even love and hate (Kementerian Agama RI 2019). This justice is very diverse, covering fairness to oneself (when speaking, writing or thinking) as well as justice in upholding the law and resolving disputes. Verses relating to justice are found in Surah al-Hadid (57: verse 25), Surah an-Nisa’ (4: verses 58, 129, and 135), Surah an-Nahl (16: verse 90) and Surah al-Maidah (5: verse 8). As for the second principle, balance, it is recognition of the need to do things in measure, neither too much nor too little, neither too extreme nor too liberal. The Qur’an contains the word tawdzun and several derivatives, such as waznan in Surah al-Kahfi (18: verse 105), mawdzinuh in Surah al-A’raf (7: verse 8) and Surah al-Qari’ah (101: verses 6 and 8), alwaznu and almizanin Surah ar-Rahman (55: verses 7 and 9), mauzun in Surah al-Hijir (15: verse 19); al-Mizan in Surah al-’Anam (6: verse 152), Surah Hud (11: verses 84), Surah Ash-Shura (42: verse 17) and Surah al-Hadid (57: verse 25). The third principle is tolerance (tasamuh), that is, an acceptance of different views and a plurality in cultural identity.

Several programmes for implementing Islamic moderation through aqidah and sharia have been closely related to the three principles mentioned here: a moderate attitude, a willingness to conduct dialogue, and a respect for other groups. Abdurrohman (2018) showed that two major social organisations, namely Muhammadiyah and NU, have practiced a moderate attitude. These organisations have an essential role in maintaining, nurturing and strengthening the networks and institutions that support Islamic moderation and have even made Indonesia a pilot project of tolerance. Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia, has played a critical role in disseminating Islamic ideals that are tolerant and peaceful. Likewise, Muhammadiyah has aimed to adapt ‘pure’ Islamic teachings to contemporary life in Indonesia.

Values of Islamic education in the application of Islamic moderation, based on Aqidah and Sharia

The authors found several values of Islamic education in the application of Islamic moderation based on aqidah and sharia. These will be discussed next.

Firstly, these values are based on the foundation of ‘Islam as rahmatanlil ‘alamiin’’. Islamic education experts agree that by recognising Islam as a blessing to all creation (i.e. rahmatanlil ‘alamiin), they can integrate values of moderation into education materials and ensure that students internalise these values.

Secondly, Islamic education experts can use moderation as a foundation for Islamic education, and such values as justice, goodness, idealism, knowledge, blessing, balance, spirituality, proportion and unity. The actualisation of these fundamental values has been reinforced by ulama [Muslim scholar] and fuqaha [Islamic Law scholar], for instance, Al-Qurthubi tells Muslims that Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT) wants them to be the fairest, most moderate and most intelligent people. Muslims must always be in the middle, take a reasonable position rather than extreme or excessive (Al-Qurthubi 2005). This statement is supported by As-Syatibi (2003), who argued that sharia is straightforward in advocating for the middle path, a balanced position between two opposing poles. Islam, according to Ridha (1999), is a religion of common sense, simultaneously spiritual and physical that uses the Qur’an and Sunnah (rather than feelings and spiritual experiences) as its guide. It can thus bring back life to those who are lame.

Thirdly, the idea of Islam rahmatanlil’alamiin contains the fundamental values of internal harmony and inter-religious harmony, all of which synergise with the government. There are two patterns, two aspects of holiness, namely individual and social piety. In general, teachers and religious leaders teach personal devotion through a ritual worship of Allah (hablumninallah). Social piety, on the other hand, deals with humans’ relationships with their fellow human beings, the natural environment and other living things (hablumminannas).

Such categories follow the opinions of experts. Ta’dib means character, discipline, culture and refers to the process of character development. Learning is a solid foundation for moral and social behaviour, both at the mezzo and macro level. Ta’dib accepts the most fundamental social principles, such as justice (Al Attas & Ashraf 1979). It emphasises efforts to improve society and reinforces social and moral rules. Ta’dib focuses on muamalat, on Muslims’ obligations to fellow humans, culture and their environment (Niyozov & Memon 2011). It also discusses Muslims’ civil responsibility towards adherents of other religions, non-adherents and members of different cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, political and ethnic groups (Saada 2020). Boisard (1988) wrote that Islam’s humanistic values challenge the West’s fear of the religion, as well as the lack of intellectual honesty that prevents the recognition of Islam’s plentiful benefits for humanity. Islam and Islamic law can make an essential contribution to the protection of human rights around the world, building on centuries of Islamic civilisation. It has clear and obligatory provisions to protect humans, to guide their destiny and to create order.


A range of actors, including various religious leaders, have implemented a moderate Islam that understands Islam as rahmatanlil ‘alamin in the tolerant city of Singkawang. Based on this review of implementation patterns, the authors identified three models: the implementation strategy, the implementation process and the implementation pattern. The implementation strategy follows the best practices for managing a pluralistic society, as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and the value of Islam rahmatanlil ‘alamin. As the authors did not find any significant obstacles, it may be concluded that actors have successfully implemented the concept of Islamic moderation by integrating it within Islamic education. The implementation pattern, finally, provided a complete and robust picture, a realistic mix of ideas about moderation that are disseminated by actors and internalised at all levels. Institutionalised relationships were found in the integration of programmes and policies oriented towards realising a specific vision and mission that also benefits moderate communities.

The implementation of Islamic moderation through aqidah and sharia follow the concept of ta’dib, which focuses on Muslims’ obligations to their fellow humans, society and environment (Niyozov & Memon 2011). It also refers to the civil responsibilities of Muslims towards adherents of other religions, as well as non-adherents and members of different cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, political and ethnic groups (Saada 2020). It is built around values of justice, goodness, idealism, knowledge, blessing, balance, spirituality, proportion and unity, thereby creating balance. Such values are reinforced by readings of the Qur’an and the Ḥadīth, wherein they are also evident.

In the principles of Islamic education, science does not recognise the terms gender, skin colour, ethnicity or religion. Science can be demanded anywhere, including countries where the population is not Muslim. Likewise, with teaching, a teacher must not distinguish his students from any group they come from. That is the principle of Islamic education concerning mutual tolerance.


The authors acknowledge Prof. Ibrahim (IAIN Pontianak) for reviewing the manuscript before it was submitted to the journal.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

L.M. conceived of the presented idea. Z.H.P. developed the theory and performed the computations. L.M. and Z.H.P. verified the analytical methods. Z.H.P. encouraged S.S. and E.E. to investigate [to Singkawang] and supervised the findings of this work. S.S. and E.E. edited and revised the manuscript as per the reviewers’ and editor’s instruction. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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1. Renewal in Islam will always be open because basically, Islam is shalihun likulli zaman wa makan [it will be good at any time and place]. Pintu Ijtihad [efforts to enact new laws] will always be possible. Meanwhile, Islamic moderation is not new because, since ancient times, Islam has constantly developed through the ijtihad of the scholars. Seeing the current situation and condition of Muslims, ijtihad in educational moderation is very urgent to be carried out immediately. It is necessary because Islamic moderation is the key to the sustainability of the existence of Muslims on earth.

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