THE clearest definition yet of Islam Hadhari - and the progressive principles encompassing its implementation - was spelled out by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his opening speech yesterday.
The concept, which also calls for moderation and a balanced outlook in life, was first promoted in January but this was the first time the defining principles had been formulated in tenet-form.
Abdullah, who has said that Islam Hadhari, if approached honestly and sincerely, can be a guide through the rigours of time for Muslims to be progressive, has 10 principles:
• Faith and piety in Allah
• A just and trustworthy Government
• A free and independent people
• Mastery of knowledge
• Balanced and comprehensive economic development
• A good quality of life
• Protection of the rights of minority groups and women
• Cultural and moral integrity
• Safeguarding the environment
• Strong defences.
These principles, according to the Umno president, were to ensure that the implementation and approach would not cause anxiety in multicultural land multi religious Malaysia.
"Islam Hadhari is complete and comprehensive, with an emphasis on the development of the economy and civilisation, capable of building Malay competitiveness.
"The glorious heritage of Islamic civilisation must be used as reference and become the source of inspiration for the Malay race to prosper," he said in his speech.
It is quite clear that this concept of "civilisational Islam", as some call it, is aimed at bringing back the glory days of the Islamic world,which once produced the fore most scientists, astronomers, thinkers and philosophers.
And the greatest challenge in this lies in changing the mindset of Muslims particularly in their approach to the quest for knowledge and the need to forget worldly needs in preference for the requirements of the here after.
As Abdullah said: "The misconception that there exists a difference between so-called secular knowledge and religious knowledge must be corrected."
Islam Hadhari also fits well with the Malay agenda Umno is trying to achieve in the Malaysian context.
The agenda concerns the need to further improve the economic standing of Malays and Bumiputeras since the inception of the New Economic Policy 33 years ago.
Knowledge, skills and expertise play an exceptionally important part in the pursuit of the Malay agenda.
And this, by extension, would require them to be bolder and more independent in acquiring wealth without having to rely solely on government help.
Since it was first widely promoted, Islam Hadhari has been criticised by some, in particular those aligned with the theocratic Opposition Parti Islam, as a "new religion".
However, it was this concept of progressive Islam which many Umno members attribute as having stopped the "green tide", or Pas advances, in the Malay rural heartland during the March general election.
Abdullah referred to this in his speech when he said: "Islam Hadhari is not a new religion.
"It is not a new teaching nor is it a new mazhab (denomination)./ It is an effort to bring the ummah back to basics, back to the fundamentals as prescribed in the Quran and Hadith that form the foundation of Islamic civilisation," said Abdullah.