Top News from Top Sources

Impact of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama on Indonesia

Baiturrahman Grand MosqueIllustration, the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Aceh. (Photo credit: Tugiono)


Jakarta, – The two biggest Islamic organizations in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), are almost simultaneously holding their muktamar (national congress) this week.

Muhammadiyah, the older of the two, is holding their 47th congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi, from August 2nd to 7th. Meanwhile, NU’s 33rd congress is being held in Jombang, East Java, from August 1st to 5th. Both congresses aim to elect the next leader of Muhammadiyah and NU, in addition to discussion of current events and each organization’s goals for the future.

With a theme of ‘Enlightening Movement towards a Developed Indonesia’, Muhammadiyah’s congress will discuss the strategic steps that Muhammadiyah’s central committee will take in the coming years. The congress has been running smoothly so far, and there seems to be no power struggle for the chairmanship.

Under the system adopted by Muhammadiyah, 2,568 congresspersons will choose 13 formateurs from 39 candidates, who will then try to obtain a consensus to elect the next chairman and secretary. These 13 names are Haedar Nashir, Yunahar Ilyas, A. Dahlan Rais, M. Busyro Muqoddas, Abdul Mu’ti, Anwar abbas, Muhajir Effendy, Syafiq A. Mughni, Dadang Kahmad, Suyatno, Agung Danarto, M. Goodwill Zubir, and Hajriyanto Y. Thohari.

MuhammadiyahNahdlatulUlamaLogoThe NU’s (left) and Muhammadiyah’s logo (right).

On the other hand, NU’s congress is rockier. There was a moment of chaos when the congress cannot reach an agreement on how to choose NU Sharia Council’s Rois A’am (highest leader). It is a position of leadership within NU Sharia Council, regarded as the highest ruling body in NU.

Together with the NU Central Committee’s Chairman, the Rois A’am directed the NU during its tenure. Finally, the Rois Syuriah (a council of sharia officials), voted 252 against 235 to elect the Rois A’am on the basis of consensus, otherwise known as Ahlul Halli Wal’aqdi or AHWA. According to an NU official from Gorontalo, NU representative from Papua and South Sulawesi almost got into physical conflict, as reported by Kompas.

NU’s next Rois A’am is predicted to be either KH. Hasyim Muzadi, NU Central Committee’s former chairman, or KH. Mustofa Bisri, the interim Rois A’am. Meanwhile, the Central Committee’s Chairman is currently being coveted by KH Said Aqil Siradj (incumbent), KH Salahuddin Wahid, and Said As’ad Ali.

Meanwhile, in their long history, the two organizations have massively contributed to the lives of millions of Indonesians. Muhammadiyah was established in 1912 by KH Ahmad Dahlan as a reformist movement, advocating a modernist interpretation of Islam by seeking balance between the Holy Scripture and an individual’s logic and understanding. Furthermore, Muhammadiyah also aims to ‘cleanse’ Islam in Indonesia, which is permeated by elements of the local beliefs and traditions.

Now, Muhammadiyah has 29 million members all over Indonesia. Other than its religious activities, Muhammadiyah is also active in education, charity, healthcare, and many forms of social welfare. Records show that Muhammadiyah operates 4,623 kindergartens, 2,604 primary schools, 1,772 junior high schools, 1,143 senior high schools, and 172 universities/colleges. It also run 72 hospitals and many smaller clinics, orphanages, retirement homes, schools for the disabled, and training centers.

On the flipside, Nahdlatul Ulama was originally created as a response to Muhammadiyah. Contrary to its counterpart, NU advocates a traditionalist view of Islam which emphasizes the ulama’s (religious scholars) interpretation of the Scriptures. This rings true with the organization’s name, which is translated as Revival of the Ulama.

Another point of difference between NU and Muhammadiyah is their view towards practical politics. While the Muhammadiyah does not align itself with any political party, NU is closely affiliated with the National Awakening Party (PKB). As a result, PKB successfully placed NU Central Committee’s Chairman, KH Abdurrahman Wahid, as the President of Indonesia in 1999. Currently, PKB is a part of President Joko Widodo’s ruling coalition, a position which enables it to contribute in the forming of government policies. Within the society, NU is active in religious affairs, politics, education, social, culture, and the economy.

This article, Impact of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama on Indonesia, first appeared on – Indonesian Perspective to Global Audience.