Eid al-Fitr and State Morality

Eid al-Fitr and State Morality

Erdian Andi

Lecturer of HTN/HAN at the Faculty of Sharia and Law, UIN Jakarta/ Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy and Law Studies (Puskapkum)

The celebration of Eid al-Fitr holds significant meaning for both individuals and the state. This colossal celebration has both spiritual and social dimensions. Moreover, referring to data from the World Population Review, Indonesia, with the second-largest Muslim population (236 million) after Pakistan (240.8 million), the celebration of Eid al-Fitr has both tangible and intangible impacts on the citizens and the country.

Eid al-Fitr is synonymous with "mudik," which means returning to one's hometown. This activity sparks economic movement from cities to villages in various regions of Indonesia. Returning to one's hometown is also interpreted as self-evaluation of one's journey over the past year. Simplicity, togetherness, and cohesion as noble values are relevant to be reintegrated into activities in the city after the annual pilgrimage.

For the state, Eid al-Fitr becomes a space for articulating the administration of governance, especially in the transportation sector, the management of essential commodities availability for citizens, and ensuring order and security in public spaces. The mobility of millions of citizens simultaneously requires precision and accuracy in orchestrating the movement of people from cities to villages.

Furthermore, Eid al-Fitr is also a moment to evaluate the administration of governance. Various notes and public criticisms regarding the administration of the state should be elaborated upon as part of public participation in democratic governance. The celebration of Eid al-Fitr is an appropriate moment for state officials to restore integrity in governance. For the state, Eid al-Fitr signifies the supremacy of morality in governance as mandated by the constitution.

Constitutional Morality

The exercise of state power, whether in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches, necessitates the involvement of morality. Morality in governance serves as both a compass and a brake for the state, which fundamentally possesses coercive and monopolistic characteristics in exercising its authority. Throughout history, from classical to modern times, it has been confirmed that the absence of morality in governance will parallelly give rise to absolutist, authoritarian governments prone to abusing power.

In contemporary democratic practice in various parts of the world, terms like "stagnation democracy," "backsliding democracy," "illiberal democracy," "regression democracy," "managed democracy," and even "dying democracy" emerge as portraits of democracy that sideline state morality. The consequence is not only a stagnant or regressive democracy but also its transformation into authoritarianism and eventual demise. This is a situation that must be collectively avoided.

State morality is manifested through constitutional morality, which is actualized through the actions of officeholders under the constitution in accordance with the virtues required by law. Constitutional morality is not based on abstract conceptions like "good people" with noble characters but emphasizes the fulfillment of requirements to be good in public office (Bruce P. Frohnen & George W. Carey, 2016).

The authority held by state officials, whether in governance, legislation, or the judiciary, should be based on constitutional morality guided by the principles of separation of powers and limitation of power, which are integral parts of constitutional functions. Public criticisms and notes, such as in the field of legislation that, at an extreme point, normalize the marginalization of meaningful public participation, including the neglect of ethics in the exercise of governmental power in the form of public policies or the implementation of judicial power through its legal decisions.

Andre Béteille (2008) mentions that although a constitution is carefully written, it tends to give rise to arbitrariness, uncertainty, and changeability. Yet, a constitution provides guidance on impersonal legal rules and distinguishes matters to be resolved through political competition.

This underscores the importance of activating constitutional morality in governance. According to Béteille, without constitutional morality internalized by public officeholders, including public intellectuals, the constitution will merely become a tool for power brokers.

This warning should serve as a collective reflection on the importance of upholding and elevating constitutional morality in state governance. The celebration of Eid al-Fitr becomes a contemplative moment for the state to strengthen and return to the constitutional path. This stance should be taken as a consequence of the relationship between religion and the state from a material aspect, placing religion as a source of values in state management.

Returning to the Constitution

The celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which is close to the implementation of the general elections (Pemilu) 2024 in February and approaching the commemoration of the 26th anniversary of the reform movement in May, is an opportune moment to reaffirm the aspirations of the founding fathers as enshrined in the constitution.

Various fundamental issues in the management of state administration should be returned to a constitutional format. Ronald Dworkin (2006) argues that a constitution must be read morally by restoring it to its intended meaning, not interpreted based on whose views are acceptable.

A constitution containing general principles, according to Dworkin, treats the moral and political status of citizens equally. He advocates that the state must strive to treat every citizen equally, with equal concern, including the freedoms inherent to individual citizens.

For state officials, Eid al-Fitr is not simply a time for networking among elites converted into short-term practical politics. Eid al-Fitr must be a religious celebration that can reignite the essence of statehood, meaning placing the public interest as the foundation in formulating every public policy.

As stated by the 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford (1913 - 2006), the constitution has buried long-standing nightmares for America because the constitution functions as "Our constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men". (ZM/Faadhila Idris/ This article was published in the opinion column of Jawa Pos, Tuesday, April 16, 2024)