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ABDURRAHMAN WAHID (7 September 1940 – 30 December 2009) the articale need changes as ABDURRAHMAN WAHID died.



, Indonesian Islamic thinker, writer, and politician. One of the most influential Muslim intellectual leaders in Indonesia today, Abdurrahman Wahid is also a popular columnist on cultural, social, and political affairs, urging Islam’s contribution to pluralism, social justice, and democracy. He currently serves as chairperson of the Executive Council (Tanfidziyah) of the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), an association of traditionalist `ulama’ with a reported thirty million supporters, mostly among the rural population, is widely called “Gus Dur”; Gus is an honorific for a young man from a respected Javanese family, and Dur is a diminutive of Abdurrahman.

Gus Dur was born in 1940 in Tebuireng, Jombang,East Java. His grandfather was Hasyim Asy’ari (18711947), a great `slim (Islamic scholar) of the Shafi’i schools, who founded a pesantren (rural Islamic boarding school) at Tebuireng in 1899 and established the NU in 1926 as a federation of pesantren leaders. His father was Wahid Hasyim (1914-1953) a leader of the NU and minister of religion of theRepublicofIndonesia. His mother, Shalihah, was the daughter of Bisri Syamsuri, the head of a pesantren at Tambakberas, Jombang, and a cofounder of the NU.

In spite of his family’s background in pesantren, Gus Dur received his primary education at a government school (sekolah rakyat) inJakarta(1947-1953) and went on to a secular secondary school inJogjakarta, graduating in 1956. He then studied at the pesantrens of Tegalrejo (1956-1958) and Tambakberas (1958-1963). From 1963 to 1970 he went abroad to study at the Department of Higher Islamic and Arabic Studies of al-Azhar University inCairoand the Faculty of Letters at theUniversityofBaghdad. Upon returning toIndonesia, he taught first as a lecturer and then as dean of the faculty of ushuluddin at theUniversityofHasyim Asy’ariin Jombang from 1972 to 1974. He served as the secretary at the pesantren of Tebuireng from 1974 to 1979.

By the end of the 1970s Gus Dur had become widely known outside pesantren circles through his contributions to major newspapers and journals. He participated actively in a number of seminars, symposia, and conferences on national development. Through these opportunities he attracted public attention to the pesantren’s role as an agent for the development of the rural community and the growth of a democratic society at the grassroots level. He also become known as a spokesperson for the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) ofIndonesia, among which development-oriented pesantrens occupied an important position.

Gus Dur represents the trend of neomodernism among the new generation of Muslim intellectuals inIndonesia. He strives for the liberation of the Muslim community from the restrictions of traditionalist as well as modernist scripturalism. He endeavors to reconstruct socio-ethical guidelines for Muslims today through thorough reinterpretation of the Qur’an and sunnah in historical perspective. He argues that principles for such values as basic human rights, social justice, fair development, and democracy are inherent in Islam; thus contemporary Muslim pursuit of those values is not an ideological compromise or cultural mixture with Western liberalism, but an undertaking genuinely grounded in Islamic teachings. However, the preoccupation of traditionalist `ulama’ with ritual correctness and that of modern Islamicists with legal formalism have both hindered the rediscovery of these principles, leaving the Muslim community in a state of ignorance, backwardness, and poverty.

Gus Dur finds sufficient potential in the NU’s traditionalism for its self-renewal. There is a dynamism in its Shafi`i worldview, and its methodology of Islamic jurisprudence provides ample room for adaptation to new situations. He first joined the NU’s national leadership in 1979 as a junior secretary to the Syuriyah or Consultative Council of Ulama. At the muktamar (congress) of the NU in 1984, he was elected chairperson of its executive council for the period 1984-1989, and again in 1989 for another five-year term.

Since 1984 Gus Dur, in collaboration with Ahmad Siddiq, new president of Syuriyah, has initiated a bold turnaround in the direction of the NU. Under their leadership the NU accepted the state philosophy of Pancasila (Five Pillars) as the sole foundation of its organization, reconfirming its loyalty to the present regime. It withdrew from party politics, severing its relationship with the PPP (Development Unity Party), a coalition of four Islamic parties. It decided to return to its original identity as a social, religious, and educational movement, working for the wellbeing of the rural population under its influence and for the consolidation and rationalization of its organization.

Gus Dur opposes making Indonesia a secular state, but he stands firm against that form of Islamic fundamentalism that claims Islam to be a comprehensive way of life superior to existing secular regimes. He believes that Islam, as a revealed religion, should not be degraded to the level of an alternative to any human-made ideology, but should be regarded as an eternal source of moral and ethical inspiration for Muslims in any regime. In the Pancasila pluralism ofIndonesia, neither Islam nor any other religion should be in confrontation with the state or with another religion. In practice, he established the Democratic Forum in 1991 as an interreligious coalition, mostly with Christian intellectuals, intending it to be a move to counterbalance the recent tendency of exclusivism within the Muslim community.

Gus Dur is more an independent intellectual than a conventional Islamic scholar or organizational functionary. He is widely read in history, philosophy and literature in Arabic and English, as well as Indonesian, and has many friends among academics, writers, and artists. He is a sociable person, at ease with people from all walks of life, foreign as well as domestic. He is bold in criticism and brave in dissent, often inviting controversy, but always full of humor and he maintains a simple, egalitarian lifestyle. He was presented with the 1993 Raman Magsaysay award, the “Asian Nobel prize,” for “his guiding Southeast Asia’s largest Muslim organization as a force of religious tolerance, fair development, and democracy inIndonesia.”

[See alsoIndonesia; Nahdatul Ulama.]


The reader may consult the following works by Abdurrahman Wahid: “Pesantren sebagai sub-kultur” (Pesantren as a Subculture). In Pesantren dan Pembaharuan (Pesantren and Reformation), edited by M. Dawam Rahardjo, pp. 39-6o.Jakarta, 1974. One of the earliest writings of Abdurrahman Wahid, introducing the pesantren as a distinct subculture with significant implications forIndonesia’s national development.

“Making Islamic Law Conducive to Development.” Prisma (English edition) 2 (November 1975): 87-94. Delineation of his idea of the innovative adaptability of fiqh methodology.

“Menetapkan pangkalan-pangkalan pendaratan menujuIndonesiayang kita cita-citakan” (Setting Up Landing Bases towards an Indonesia We Hope For). In Dialog:Indonesiakini dan esok (Dialogue: Indonesia Today and Tomorrow), edition by Imam Walujo and Kons Kleden, pp. 103-129.Jakarta, 198o. Discussion of his strategy for constructing Muslim community gradually as a basis for democracy, social justice, and fair development.

“Religion, Ideology and Development.” Prisma (English edition) 19 (December 1980): 56-65.

“Hukum pidana Islam dan hak-hak asasi manusia” (Islamic Criminal Law and the Basic Human Rights). In Muslim di tengah pergumulan (Muslims in the Midst of Struggle), pp. 94-100.Jakarta, 1983. Explicit argument for the contribution of Islamic law to basic human rights.

“The Islamic Masses in the Life of State and Nation.” Prisma (English edition) 35 (March 1985): 3-10. Justification of the acceptance of Pancasila as the state ideology of theRepublicofIndonesia.

“The Nahdlatul Ulama and Islam in Present DayIndonesia.” In Islam and Society inSoutheast Asia, edited by Taufik Abdullah and Sharon Siddique, pp. 175-186.Singapore, 1986. Excellent summary of his vision on the role of the Nahdatul Ulama in contemporary Indonesian society.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/abdurrahman-wahid/

  • writerPosted On: October 5, 2012
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