Islam Hadhari: Concept and Prospect

By Mohamed Sharif Bashir, PhD
Islamic University of Malaysia (KUIM), Kuala Lumpur
March, 03, 2005

The present prime minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, announced his vision of promoting Islam Hadhari as a model for development in Malaysia. His promotion of Islam Hadhari is seen as a compliment to Malaysia, for acknowledgment as an Islamic state.

What Is Islam Hadhari?

According to Badawi, Islam Hadhari, or civilizational and comprehensive Islam, is not an inclusive concept as it also emphasizes the importance of progress—with an Islamic perspective—in the economic, social, and political fields. Islam Hadhari emphasizes the need for balanced development, which covers both physical and spiritual development. Hence, Badawi proposes a holistic development approach for Malaysia. This means a shift in development approach from a “secular paradigm” to a “tawheed paradigm,” which emphasizes developing a thinking society, social harmony, and economic progress.

Badawi mentioned that Islam Hadhari is not a new religion. It is not a new teaching, nor is it a new madhhab (school of jurisprudence). Islam Hadhari is an effort to bring the Ummah back to basics, back to the fundamentals, as prescribed in the Qur’an and the Hadith, that form the foundation of Islamic civilization. If Islam Hadhari is interpreted sincerely and understood clearly, it will not cause Muslims to deviate from the true path.

Badawi explains that Islam Hadhari is merely an approach to foster an Islamic civilization built upon the noble values and ideals of Islam. It places substance over form. It is practical and pragmatic. It emphasizes development that is consistent with the tenets of Islam and that focuses on enhancing the quality of life for every citizen, regardless of his or her religion. This approach is also inspired by the Malaysian Muslims’ firm belief that the tide of radicalism and extremism can be checked and reversed with good governance, healthy democratic practices, and employment of the citizenry through education, as well as equitable sharing of the benefits of economic growth.

Islam Hadhari, as introduced by Badawi, aims to achieve ten main principles, which Muslim nations and communities must demonstrate, namely:

1. Faith and piety in Allah

2. A just and trustworthy government

3. A free and independent people

4. Mastery of knowledge

5. Balanced and comprehensive economic development

6. A good quality of life

7. Protection of the rights of minority groups and women

8. Cultural and moral integrity

9. Protection of the environment

10. Strong defenses

These principles have been formulated to ensure that the implementation and approach does not cause anxiety among any group in this multiracial and multi-religious country. These principles have been devised to empower Muslims to face the global challenges of today.

Islam Hadhari is complete and comprehensive, with an emphasis on the development of an economy and civilization capable of building the Muslim Ummah’s competitiveness. For a society to prosper, the glorious heritage of Islamic civilization in all its aspects must be used as a reference, and should be the source of inspiration.

Badawi encourages and guides the Muslim community to work hard towards not only regaining the glory of Islamic civilization but also move forward and share the emerging economic prosperity and face the challenges of the 21st century. With this, he believes that the goal of developing a Malaysian society of excellence, glory, and distinction can be achieved.

Is Moderation a Feature of Islam Hadhari?

Datuk Prof. Dr. Abdullah Md. Zin, minister of religious affairs, says, “Wasatiyah, or a balanced life, would be a more precise way to describe Islam Hadhari. Moderation, on the other hand, could imply caution to the point of neglecting traditions. Islamic scholars tend to shy away from using the word ‘moderate’ because it can be manipulated and exploited by external influences. In the same way, scholars are cautious about the word ‘modern,’ which they associate with Western civilization. The word ‘progressive’ could also be used to define Islam Hadhari but wasatiyah is preferable.”

The main objectives that Islam Hadhari is trying to achieve in Malaysia can be summed up in the following eight points:

1. Restoring moderation and embracing the mainstream, which will help strengthen both the people and the state.

2. Valuing good character, which should be central to the society in order to help it become a role model for both the Ummah and humanity as a whole.

3. Adopting seriousness and accountability in dealing with society’s main undertakings.

4. Building all social relations upon trust and good morals.

5. Respecting law and order.

6. Cherishing unity, cooperation, and solidarity.

7. Implementing genuine Islamic teachings and realizing the objectives of the Shari`ah

8. Empowering the state to be in a leading position, not feeble and weak-willed.

The main characteristics of Islam

The main characteristics of Islam Hadhari are as follows:

  • Universality: It is based on Islam, a universal message for mankind that is based on mercy.

  • Godliness: It is based on divine scripture and works on bringing people closer to their Lord. Hence, it is a godly end and means, and has a divine source and reference.

  • Morality: Its ultimate concern is maintaining a good character and good human relations.

  • Tolerance: Tolerance is essential to create a society based on peace, stability, unity, cooperation, and solidarity among all it segments and with all its different traditions and beliefs. This kind of tolerance is based on trying to genuinely understand the Other and respect cultural and religious convictions.

These are the characteristic features of Islam Hadhari that distinguish it from all the other relevant perspectives:

  • Comprehensiveness: It integrates both scripture-based sciences and modern sciences. Another feature is its all encompassing program to deal with the individual, society, and the state.

  • Moderation: This is the main methodology for the perspective, which is based on gradualism and easiness in implementation. Through this implementation, there will be a balance between the interests of all—the individual and the society, spiritual and worldly needs, and ideals and reality.

  • Diversity: The context of Islam Hadhari is wide ranging; it covers a wide range of interests on different levels; it is open to new adjustments and to other human experiments and experiences

  • Humanity: As a call, Islam Hadhari is focused upon people.

What Is the Difference Between Islam Hadhari and Political Islam?

Prof. Zin states that Islam Hadhari works from the bottom up, from the villages, and in a systematic way. Political Islam, which is practiced by some Islamic parties, works the opposite way, from up to down. Often it leads nowhere. This was how Ayatollah Khomeini ruled, and where did it take his country?

According to the writings of the Malaysian scholars, Islam Hadhari will focus on improving the quality of life, focusing on four areas as follows:

1. Knowledge: Islam demands a fully literate tradition. More knowledge automatically forces moral responsibility upon a man. “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

2. Balanced development: Avoiding extravagance in any area—including religion.

3. Wealth (pillar of livelihood): Encouraging earning an honest living to accumulate wealth.

4. Health care: Disability and sickness are not qadar (destiny) and striving to overcome these is on God’s shown path. Avoid decadence—drugs and other activities that destroy health.

In the early period of Islam, Muslims followed closely the examples of the Prophet in leadership and in the acquisition of wealth and knowledge, while still performing the compulsory `ibadah (acts of worship). It is clear that the Islam Hadhari concept contributes towards overall human progress that is balanced between spiritual and material, between progress and moral values, between religion and worldly concerns.

In conclusion, the introduction of Islam Hadhari by Ahmad Badawi, prime minister of Malaysia, is timely and should be well understood, and the details applied in daily conduct. Islam Hadhari has the potential to curb the militant instincts among religious detractors.

It is important for the Muslim Ummah to be guided in understanding and practicing Islam as a comprehensive way of life, as a means to build a civilization. A wholesome way of life will create the balance between a person’s responsibilities in this world and in the Hereafter. Islam is not merely a ritual, because ritualism is meant solely for the Hereafter. The government of Malaysia has never practiced secularism, which rejects the Hereafter and focuses solely on worldly matters. Islam must be lived as a system that integrates the worldly life with preparations for the Day of Judgment.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Brief

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was born on November 26, 1939, to a prominent family in Kepala Batas, Penang. He received a bachelor of arts in Islamic studies from the University of Malaya in 1964. After graduation, he joined the Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Corps. He resigned in 1978 to become the member of parliament for his constituency of Kepala Batas, which he still represents today.

Since coming into power as prime minister, Badawi has clamped down on corruption, giving more power to anti-corruption agencies and making it easier for the public to reveal corrupt practices to the authorities. He has also arrested several Mahathir-era cronies on charges of corruption, a move that is widely applauded by the public.

In the 2004 general election, Badawi’s first election as the incumbent prime minister, he delivered a stunning victory for his party’s coalition Barisan Nasional by winning 198 out of 220 seats in parliament. This wrested control of the Terengganu state government back from the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), as well as coming close to capturing the traditional PAS stronghold of Kelantan. The victory was widely regarded as an approval of his vision of moderate Islam over religious fundamentalism and support for his anti-corruption policies.


  • New Straits Times. Interview with Minster in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Prof. Dr. Abdullah Md. Zin, Kuala Lumpur, August 10, 2004.

  • Speech by prime minister of Malaysia on occasion of the conferment of the honorary degree of doctorate of law by the International Islamic University Islamabad, Pakistan, February 17, 2005.

  • M. Periasamy. Islam Hadhari: Prospect from a Non-Muslim Perspective. (Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Information, 2004).

  • Faisal Haji Othman, Islam Hadhari: Masalah Anjakan Paradigma Pemikiran Islam. (Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Information, 2004).

  • Speech by Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, UMNO Supreme Council, Kuala Lumpur, September 23, 2004.

  • Zainal Abidin Bin Abdul Kadir, Islam Hadhari in Malaysia, (Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Information, 2004).

  • Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Web site:

Mohamed Sharif Bashir, PhD Islamic University of Malaysia (KUIM), Kuala Lumpur.


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