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Posted by : Ham uza Apr 1, 2015

Chapter Three
The Radical Traditionalism
of the Nahdlatul Ulama in
Indonesia: A Personal
Account of the 26th National
Congress, June 1979,

Mitsuo Nakamura

Introduction: An Apparent Paradox of the Nahdlatul Ulama

  The Nahdlatul Ulama (literally, 'The Awakening of Islamic
Scholars') is one of the oldest Islamic religious organisations in
Indonesia. It was established in 1926 as an association of ulama,
i.e., Islamic scholars and teachers, as well as ordinary Muslims
who followed strictly the Sunni orthodoxy of Islam.1 After a
half-century's history, the Nahdlatul Ulama, or the NU as it is
commonly abbreviated, is reported to have grown to be the
largest of all Islamic religious organisations or, for that matter,
of all non-governmental organisations in Indonesia today in
terms of membership and organisational strength.2
  I had the opportunity of attending the 26th National
Congress of the Nahdlatul Ulama held in the city of Semarang,
the provincial capital of Central Java, for seven days from the
5-11 June 1979. My experience with the NU prior to this
occasion was not only meagre but somewhat biased. I first came
into contact with some NU members while I was doing
anthropological field work in the Central Javanese town of
Kotagede from 1970 to 1972.3 The NU in the town was,
however, rather insignificant in its size and influence, for it was
over-shadowed by the Muhammadiyah, the so-called reformist
rival of the NU, which dominated the religious sphere of the
town. Doctrinal and organisational conflicts between the
Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah coloured part of the
pre-War history of the town, as they did elsewhere. But these
conflicts were already things of the past and the NU itself was
regarded as largely irrelevant by most of the Muhammadiyah
members, who made up a large portion of the informants for my
study. In this situation, I did not feel any disagreement with a
characterisation of the Nahdlatul Ulama widespread among
Western students of Indonesia that it was the organisation of old
and old-fashioned ulama in the countryside of Java who were
religiously traditional, intellectually unsophisticated, politically
opportunistic, and culturally syncretic.4 In other words, I did not
think much of the NU as a subject of study.
  Yet several developments during the 1970s have since aroused
my curiosity about the Nahdlatul Ulama. Politically, the NU has
emerged as the boldest and most defiant critic of the New Order
government.5 The NU has not only withstood the merciless
onslaught of the government upon the existence of any social
forces independent of it but has even developed broad criticism
of the development strategy of the current regime.6 There are
emerging from among the NU circles a number of young
intellectuals who are seeking alternative development inspired by
Islamic social ethics.7 Young, well educated ulama and 'lay-
activists' are growing as a new leadership of the NU at all levels
of its organisation. The stereotype of the NU as 'a gerontocratic
organisation of opportunistic and unsophisticated rustic ulama
seems to have become less appropriate in view of the reality of
the NU today, if indeed, it ever was justifiable.
  Religiously, however, the NU's traditionalism seems to have
remained intact. It proudly calls itself ahlus sunnah wal
jama'ah, 'the people of the Sunna (the tradition of the Prophet
Muhammad) and of the community,' and its members remain
strict followers of the Sunni tradition. It treasures the institution
of pondok-pesantren, the rural Islamic boarding school, where
the traditional scholarship of ulama is maintained, transmitted,
and regenerated.8 Hence I was puzzled by the paradox of political
radicalism and religious traditionalism within the recent
developments of the Nahdlatul Ulama. I was also curious about
whether this paradox had anything to do with the organisational
strength of the NU. So I attended the 26th congress of the NU
held in Semarang full of curiosity and hoping to learn as much as
possible about the organisation first-hand. The experience I
gained at the NU congress met these expectations. Most
importantly, I realised that there was only an apparent paradox
in the conjunction of political radicalism and religious
traditionalism within the NU. In fact, what I had seen as a
paradox was illusory, caused primarily by a prejudice in my own
perception that radicalism could not co-exist with traditionalism.
The fact of the matter is, however, not that the NU is becoming
politically radical despite its religious traditionalism but that it is
becoming politically radical precisely because of its religious
traditionalism. It seems, therefore, no contradiction to talk
about the radical traditionalism of the Nahdiatul Ulama. The key
to resolving this apparent paradox seems to lie in an
understanding of the organisational features of the NU as an
Islamic religious association of the Sunni tradition.
  I would like to expand this point in the rest of my paper as
follows: in Section II ,which immediately follows, I shall present
an account of my personal observation of the NU congress; in
Section III, I shall develop, on the basis of my observations,
some points of analysis and interpretation of what I call the
radical traditionalism of the NU; and finally, in Section IV, J
shall conclude this paper with a few remarks on the study of
religion and politics.

Field Observation: The Militancy of Local Delegates

  I spent most of the seven-day period of the NU congress
attending and observing its plenary sessions and commission
meetings and I mingled with local delegates as much as possible
by eating, talking, staying, sleeping, bathing, and commuting to
and from the congress with them in the same accommodation
and facilities provided by the congress organisers.9 I learned so
many new things within that very short period of seven days
that it is still difficult for me to present a comprehensive picture
of what took place at the congress.10
  Certainly, this NU congress was conspicuous for one feature,
that is, the militancy on the floor of the local delegates vis-a-vis
the central leadership. As far as I know, all reports on the
congress in the Indonesian mass media unfailingly mentioned
this fact.11 It seemed to me, then, that the appreciation of the
significance of this phenomenon of local militancy might lead us
to an understanding of the congress and of the NU as a whole.
Therefore, I have focussed on this aspect of the congress, at the
expense of others, in representing a brief account of my
observations in this section.12

The Reports of the Central Executive Council

  The first half of the seven-day congress was spent in what
may be termed a grand dialogue between the Central Executive
Council and the local delegates of the NU in discussing the
former's performance since the last national congress held in
Surabaya eight years earlier. First, the congress heard the 'reports
of responsibility' (laporan pertanggung-jawaban) presented by
Idham Chalid, the general chairman and the Achmad Sjaichu, a
chairman of the Central Executive Council, Tanfidziah.13 They
were followed by the presentation of responses and views from
the local delegates, in geographic order with a set limit of time
for each speaker. Then the Central Executive Council took its
turn again and replied to the local delegates. Finally, the congress
made a decision on whether to accept the reports of the Central
Executive Council.
  In reviewing the past performance of the Central Executive
Council, Jdham Chalid covered general, external and political
aspects, while Achmad Sjaichu covered internal, organisational
and business aspects. In their respective reports, both Idham
Chalid and Achmad Sjaichu emphasised the fact that the period
of eight years since the last congress had been full of challenges,
difficulties, and even threats to the very existence of the NU.
There had been a major modification in the organisation, i.e.,
the relinquishment of its political activities to the newly formed
Development Unity Party, or PPP, and the reaffirmation of its
status as a religious association. This change had caused a lot of
sadness, disappointment and even anger from within and without
the organisation. But, in the end, the NU had survived the ordeal.
'Alhamdulillah, we thank God, the Compassionate,' exclaimed
Idham Chalid, 'that we have survived and we have returned to
the status of the NU prior to 1952 in original quality but in much
larger quantities (dalam kwalitas yang asli tetapi dalam
kwantitas yang lebih besar). We are to consolidate ourselves
through this congress. After the phase of consolidation, we will
be able to hope for continuous growth in the future' (Idham
Chalid 1979].

The Response of the Local Delegates

  To an outside observer like myself, the reports by the two
leaders sounded reasonable. Therefore, I was surprised to observe
that their reports were severely criticised by the overwhelming
majority of the local delegates who occupied the podium for the
following two full days to present their responses. Altogether,
about 40 speakers presented the views of the local branches.
Some common points of criticism which emerged from their
speeches included the following: (a) the Central Executive
Council was not active in representing and defending local
branches which had been faced with extreme pressures from the
outside, pressures which in some cases had led to the point of
physical extinction, especially during the two general election
periods of 1971 and 1977; (b) the Central Executive Council was
secretive about its own activities vis-a-vis the local branches,
especially with regard to aid and grants received from Muslim
countries overseas; and (c) the format of the reports of the
Central Executive Council was inadequate in that the program
adopted at the 25th Surabaya Congress was not used to evaluate
its performance.
  Besides these points of substance, more characteristic still was
the tone of outright defiance of the authority of the Central
Executive Council expressed in the speeches of a number of the
local delegates. They asserted that the NU's survival owed very
little to the Central Executive Council but a great deal to the
efforts of the local branches. The local branches were entitled to
exercise their sovereignty: 'If there are no local branches, the
central leadership will not exist (Kalau tidak ada cabang, tidak
akan ada PB [Pengurus Besar, lit. Big Management])'-a
delegate from Jakarta shouted in the face of the Central
Executive Council. 'The sovereignty of the local branches
(kedaulatan cabang) should be the order of the day'-many
other delegates echoed the slogan of the Jakarta delegate. Some
of them asserted determinedly: 'We should make a clean sweep
of those irresponsive and irresponsible elements when we have
the election of a new leadership in this congress.' 'Rats called
politicians (tikus-tikus yang disebut politikus) must get out of the
NU leadership from now on,' a delegate from West Sumatra
boldly proclaimed, and received sympathetic applause from
many of his colleagues on the floor.
  All but a few speakers expressed some degree of criticism of
the Central Executive Council. Speakers from East, West and
Central Java, the areas providing the largest numbers of
delegates, were the most vocal in denouncing the performance of
the Central Executive Council over the past eight years.14 They
simply and clearly stated that they were not able to accept the
reports of the Central Executive Council: tidak dapat menerima
sama sekali laporan pertanggung-jawaban PB.

The reply of the Central Executive Council

  When the speeches by the local delegates were finally over,
towards the end of the fourth day, it was then the turn of Idham
Chalid and Achmad Sjaichu to respond to these storms of
criticism. In giving their replies, the two leaders again spoke
separately. And in responding to the local delegates' criticisms,
they performed remarkably differently.
  Idham Chalid did not attempt to defend himself or the Central
Executive Council. Instead, he completely surrendered to the
critics. He stated that he was responsible for all the mistakes the
Central Executive Council had committed and he could only beg
for the forgiveness of the delegates (minta ma'af sebesar-
besarya). He praised the militancy of the local delegates in
criticising the central leadership. He said that he was very proud
to see that democracy was vigorously alive in the NU, a genuine
kind of democracy which would be hard to find anywhere else in
Indonesia. In concluding this reply, he expressed the hope that
the new leadership would learn from the old leadership's
mistakes, including his own, and be able to avoid any repetition
of similar errors. I felt as if I had been watching a show of magic,
for Idham Chalid's straightforward 'forgive me' (minta ma'af
speech received long enthusiastic applause from the floor, and
thus his authority was obviously re-established.
  In contrast, Achmad Sjaichu tried to fight back against the
criticisms of the local delegates by explaining in detail particular
actions of the Central Executive Council. For example, he said
that the scholarship aid from Saudi Arabia had indeed arrived and
had already been distributed to a number of pesantren which met
the academic standards and qualifications specified by the donor;
however, a public announcement about this scholarship program
had not been made for fear of an indiscriminate rush of
applications from a large number of unqualified pesantren.15
When Achmad Sjaichu ended his speech of self-defence, only
weak applause was heard.16

The Election of the New Leadership

  The contrast between Idham Chalid and Achmad Sjaichu in
terms of their respective performance in response to the
criticisms from the local delegates during the first half of the
congress was very obvious and seemed to forecast their later
performance in the election of the new leadership which became
the climax of the second half of the congress. In the election
held on the seventh and last day of the congress, those two
leaders competed for the position of general chairman of the
Central Executive Council, Tanfidziah. Idham Chalid, who had
begged for the forgiveness of the local delegates, defeated
Achmad Sjaichu by a two to one majority in popular ballots from
the floor. Achmad Sjaichu thereafter completely withdrew from
the national leadership of the NU.

Analysis and Interpretation of Field Information

  In this section, I would like to delineate, first of all, some
structural features of the NU organisation as background
information for the interpretation of my field observation
presented in the previous section. Then I shall proceed to
analyse and interpret my field information in three sub-sections
as follows: (a) the significance of the reports by the Central
Executive Council; (b) 'central' vs. 'local' in the NU
organisation; and (c) the implications of personal rivalry
between Idham Chalid and Achmad Sjaichu and the outcome of
their electoral contest. Finally, I shall conclude this section with
a general discussion of what I call the radical traditionalism of
the Nahdlatul Ulama.

The Structural Features of the NU Organisation

  In the introduction of this paper I stated that the Nahdlatul
Uiama adheres to the orthodoxy of Sunni which, according to its
followers, goes back to the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad
himself and has been transmitted through unbroken chains of
ulama to this day (sanad). In the NU circles the ulama are
regarded and respected as the most learned and most reliable
interpreters of the Qur'an, the Message of God, and of the
Sunna, the records of the deeds and words of the Prophet
Muhammad. The ulama are the most authentic guides for the
faithful to follow in pursuing a religiously righteous way of life.
The ulama are, therefore, called the primary pillar, tiang utama,
of the community of the faithful, umat (Achmad Siddiq 1979:13]
  The ulama are thus the spiritual leaders of the faithful. But
they are not clergymen, for Islam does not know ecclesiastical
orders. The social standing of an ulama depends on the respect
he commands from his local community as well as on the
consensual recognition he receives from among a wide network
of his ulama colleagues. He is, therefore, himself the ultimate
unit of authority and autonomy. The NU is essentially a
horizontal confederation or collegial alliance of such
autonomous ulama, not a monolithic, centralised hierarchy.
  The organisational structure of the Nahdlatul Ulama seems to
embody well those two aspects of the Sunni tradition described
above, i.e. (a) the spiritual leadership of the ulama vis-a-vis the
community of the faithful, and (b) the collegial solidarity among
the ulama. From the central to the local levels of the NU
organisation, the structure of the leadership at each level is
characterised by the presence of the two tiers of councils, i.e.,
the religious council, Syuriah, and the executive council,
Tanfidziah (see Fig. 1). The religious councils consist exclusively
of the ulama and occupy a superior position of legislative and
supervisory function over the executive councils, which consist
of both the ulama and 'lay-activists' and are in charge of day-
to-day affairs. An official document of the NU defines the two
councils as follows:

 Syuriah is the highest leadership (pimpinan tertinggi)
which functions to develop (membina), guide (membimbing),
direct(mengarah), and supervise (mengawasi) the activities
of the Nahdlatul Ulama. Tanfidziah is the daily executor
(pelaksana sehari-hari) [Nahdlatul Ulama 1979a: 17].

Figure 1: Leadership Structure of the Nahdlatul Ulama

Administrative Levels Leadership Levels
Centre Religious Council (Syuriah) Pengurus
(Pusat) Executive Council (Tanfidziah) Besar (PB)
Province Religious Council (Syuriah) Pengurus
(Propinsi) Executive Council (Tanfidziah) Wilayah
Regency/Municipality   Religious Council (Syuriah) Pengurus
(Kabupaten/             Executive Council (Tanfidziah) Cabang
Subdistrict Religious Council (Syuriah) Pengurus
(Kecamatan) Executive Council (Tanfidziah) Wakil Cabang
Village Religious Council (Syuriah) Pengurus
(Desa/Kelurahan) Executive Council (Tanfidziah) Ranting
Source: Nahdlatul Ulama[1979a: 17-18]

  The principle of collegial solidarity among the ulama is
reflected in the ways by which the relationships among various
levels of the religious councils are regulated. A decision taken by
the religious council of a higher level in the NU organisation
does not automatically bind lower-level religious councils or
individual ulama. In order to be effective, the decision must be
persuasive and accepted voluntarily and wholeheartedly.
Otherwise, lower-level religious councils and individual ulama
may exercise the right to reserve their decision or the right to
disagree and request further discussion, for there are no human
beings, including the most learned and revered ulama, who can
assume the position of ultimate authority on truth: that position
is reserved only for God.
  In this organisational structure it may also happen that an
ulama of a local religious council is much higher in authority and
prestige than a 'lay-activist' member of the Central Executive
Council. In this case the latter must pay due respect to what the
local ulama has to say and accommodate this properly in the
organisational action.
  The situation described above might look like a lack of
discipline or an organisation infested by factionalism. Indeed, to
the secular observer, the internal politics of the NU often appear
to he hopelessly disorganised and perennially ridden by factional
strife. However, when viewed in reference to the religious values
underlying the organisational structure of the NU, apparent
disagreements within the organisation present themselves not so
much as a pathological state but rather as a healthy state of the
organisation. With regard to this point, the ulama themselves
often quote a hadith, a record of the Prophet's sayings, that
disagreement among the ulama is the blessing of God for
mankind. This being the case, therefore, when a consensus is
reached on a particular issue among the ulama its morally
binding force among the ulama, as well as over the community
of the faithful, is extremely strong.17

The Significance of the Reports of the Central Executive Council

  In the light of the basic organisation of the Nahdlatul Ulama
described above, it seems possible now to appreciate better the
significance of the major thrust of the reports delivered by
Idham Chalid and Achmad Sjaichu. Both acknowledged that there
had been many attempts to alter the fundamental character of
the Nahdlatul Ulama. However, it had withstood these threats
and dangers, and succeeded in adhering to its original character,
the Islamic association of the Sunni tradition. That seemed to be
the reason why Idham Chalid, as mentioned above, thanked God
for the successful survival of the NU and implied that the
direction which the NU had taken since its last congress was
basically correct.18

'Central' vs. 'Local' in the Nahdlatul Ulama

  From the preceding analysis of the structural features of the
NU organisation, it should also be clear by now that the
locational centrality of the Executive Council situated in Jakarta
does not necessarily mean that it has more power and higher
authority vis-a-vis local branches in the social geography of the
Nahdlatul Ulama. Since the domiciles of nationally renowned
ulama have been mostly in the pesantren of rural areas, often
located deliberately remote from urban centres, it is a matter of
natural order that 'local' usually connotes a higher place of
esteem and authority than 'central' in the NU circles.19
  The militancy of the local delegates displayed in the NU
congress, 'therefore, should not be taken as a 'rebellion of the
local rank and file against the Central Executive Council.' That
might be an appropriate picture for a modern bureaucratic
organization in which the principles of centrality and hierarchy
coincide, but not for the NU, with an organization based upon
the collegial solidarity of autonomous llama. The claim of a
local delegate, which I mentioned in the previous section, that
the existence of the Central Executive Council depended largely
on the local branches but not vice versa, is not mere rhetoric but
rather an accurate presentation of the structural features of the
NU organization. Thus, beneath the surface phenomenon of the
militancy of local delegates which I observed in the congress,
there seems to be the fundamental autonomy of the local
branches of the NU under the leadership of the llama.

Idham Chalid vs. Achmad Sjaichu

  This fundamental autonomy of the ulama and the
concomitant militancy of the local branches in the NU
organisation vis-a-vis its Central Executive Council seems to
have played a decisive role in shaping the outcome of an
electoral contest between the two Council members. Idham
Chalid and Achmad Sjaichu. I must admit that my interpretation
of the proceedings is almost entirely based upon my own
observation of the overt events and actions on the floor of the
congress. I must, therefore, have missed many events and actions
concerning the electoral contest taking place behind the scenes.
However, so far as observed facts are concerned, it seems that
the difference in the two leaders' response to the criticisms from
the local delegates determined the outcome of the election.
  My impression is that Idham Chalid's total surrender to the
criticisms of the local delegates was seen by many of them as his
acknowledgment of the distinguishing feature of the NU
organisation, the sovereignty of the local branches and the
ultimate autonomy of the ulama. Furthermore, it seems that
many delegates felt it to be religiously commendable to forgive a
man and give him another chance when he had honestly
admitted and apologised for his mistakes, especially when the
man is of obvious high calibre like Idham Chalid.
  In contrast, Achmad Sjaichu's self-defence, technically
flawless and well argued if he had been a secular politician,
sounded in fact tremendously arrogant, showing disrespect
towards the local ulama and lack of appreciation of the primary
role the local branches played in the NU organisation. It is my
impression that Idham Chalid appeared to speak as a
representative of the central service functionaries, while Achmad
Sjaichu spoke as a representative of the central power holders.
Idham Chalid affirmed the traditional ethos of the NU by
expressing due respect towards the local ulama whereas Achmad
Sjaichu defied the tradition and attempted to raise himself to the
position of a supreme commander.20
  More generally, it can be observed that the fame of a leader in
secular politics does not necessarily entail respect or trust in the
NU circles. Rather, as indicated by the statement of the West
Sumatran delegate quoted in the previous section equating
politicians with 'rats', there seems to be a genuine distrust of
secular politicians in the NU. An NU leader must, therefore,
prove his leadership qualities primarily in religious terms whether
he is sitting in the Religious or Executive Council.

The Radical Traditionalism of the NU

  Let me conclude this section by discussing what I have called
the radical traditionalism of the Nahdlatul Ulama. First of all, it
is my observation that the NU is organisationally radical in the
original sense of the term, i.e., 'of or pertaining to a root or to
roots; fundamental, primary' (Webster). As we have seen above,
the NU organisation is structured on the basis of the principle of
autonomy and independence of its primary component units, the
ulama. The NU is not derivative of any other organisations. It
stands on its own terms. Watak mandiri, the character of
autonomy and independence, which constitutes the ethos of the
pesantren, according to Abdurrahman Wahid, seems to run
through the organisation of the Nahdlatul Ulama as well.21
  Secondly, there seems no denying that the NU has displayed
an increasingly radical stance in politics in recent years: radical
in the sense of broad, open, fundamental criticisms of the status
quo. This recent radicalisation of the NU makes a stark contrast
to its 'opportunistic' past. Has the NU changed its nature? It
seems not. Rather, the basic religious nature of the NU remains
constant. What has changed is its expression in the field of
politics in response to national political developments. What
concerns the NU all the time is whether it is striving to follow
the Syari'ah, i.e., the Way of God or the religiously righteous
way of life, as a group of individuals and as a collectivity of the
community of the faithful, the umat.
  In pursuing this goal, the NU works directly from within the
umat. The NU is committed to the well-being of the community
of the faithful, and seeks divine guidance in the Qur'an and the
Sunna, as they are interpreted by the ulama, in order to find
appropriate ways for the faithful to behave in response to
changing external situations. In so doing, the ulama know no other
authorities than God Himself. The ulama cannot be
dictated to by the temporal political authorities. The ulama are
independent of the 'establishment', sometimes to the extent of
open defiance. This gives a feature of fundamental 'people-ness'
(kerakyatan), a sort of populism, to the NU. If the NU sees an
external situation moving in the same direction as it is heading,
it will take an adaptive or 'opportunistic' stance vis-a-vis the
external situation. Equally, if it sees the external environment
moving in a direction contrary to its own, it will become
radically critical of the external environment. The NU's stance
can thus be situationally selective. At present, it is undoubtedly
entering a radical phase. Yet, in both phases, the religious ideal,
the Syari'ah, remains fundamental for the NU.22
  Thirdly, the NU is traditional in one vital area of religious
life, the transmission of religious values through scholarship and
education. It is traditional in the true sense of the word, i.e.,
'adhering to the act of transmitting something from generation
to generation' (Webster). This characteristic of the NU is self-
evident and does not seem to require any further elaboration.23
One point, however, to be remarked upon here is the fact that
the NU's traditionalism in the area of religious scholarship and
education does not necessarily mean that the content of what is
being learned and transmitted is traditional in the sense of being
mere blind repetition of past things. Instead, what is learned and
transmitted is an ideal system to which individuals must adapt
themselves and after which social reality must be remoulded. The
mode of transmission may be traditional but what is transmitted
is radical. I believe that this is one of the reasons why the NU's
religious traditionalism does not hinder but rather enhances its


*  This article was originally published in Southeast Asian Studies
   (Tonan Ajia Kenkyu), vol. 19, no. 2, September 1981, pp. 187-204, and
   is reprinted here with the kind permission of the publishers.

1  The spelling of the name of Nahdlatul Ulama in this paper follows the
   one employed by the organisation itself. Also in this paper, a          distinction made in the Arabic original between 'alim (singular) and          ulama (plural)--meaning 'man of knowledge'--has been ignored,          following the Indonesian convention. In other words ulama is used          both for singular and plural.

2  The NU was established in 1926 as jam'iyah diniyah Islamiyah, or
   'Islamic religious association, and its fundamental character has not
   changed since. However, from the viewpoint of its relationship with
   government and politics, the history of the NU can be divided into          five periods as follows: (a) 1926-1942, when the NU maintained a          strict non-political and non-cooperative stance vis-a-vis the Dutch          colonial government; (b) 1942-1945, when it was forced to cooperate          with the Japanese occupation authorities; (c) 1945-1952, when it          participated in the newly established Republican government through          the Masyumi party, in which it held the status of a special member;          (d) 1952-1973, when it participated in government and politics                directly and independently in its own name, i.e., the NU as a          political party; and (e)1973-present, when it relinquished its          political activities to the newly formed Development Unity Party, or          Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP), and re-conformed its fundamental          character as jam'iyah diniyah, religious association. The most recent          change has been described by one of the NU leaders as the act of          'releasing' (melepaskan) and 'bestowing abundantly' (melimpahkan,          limpah denotes overflowing of some liquid from a container) the          'practical political activities (aktivitas politik praktis) of the NU          to the PPP [Achmad Siddiq 1979: 7]. These expressions seem to          illustrate aptly the change as viewed by the NU leadership.

3  Nakamura [1972] gives an overview of the scope of this field work.          For a history of social and religious developments in the town from          the turn of the century up to the early 1970s, with a particular          focus on the growth of the Muhammadiyah, see Nakamura [1976;1977].

4  This picture of the NU, first presented and developed by Harry Benda
   and Clifford Geertz in the 1950s [Benda 1958; Geertz 1960a; 1960b],
   was unchallenged for the next two decades and even elaborated into a
   particular type in the political constellation of modern Indonesia by
   Feith and Castles [1970].

5  The earliest documentation of this phenomenon seems to have been made
   by Ken Ward when he observed the 1971 general elections in East Java
   [Ward 1974]. On the basis of Ward's report and also of his own          earlier work [Anderson 1970] in which the pondok-pesantren, the          traditional rural Islamic boarding school, was viewed as the          generator of revolutionary youths for the Indonesian independence          struggle of 1945-1949, Ben Anderson warns of prejudice often found in          the conventional secular view of the Nahdlatul Ulama as 'politically          opportunist' [Anderson 1977: 23-24]. For descriptions of the             struggles of the NU and the PPP in and around the 1971 and 1977          elections, see Liddle [1978], May [1978], and McDonald [1980].

6  Various parts of the 'Basic Program for the Development of the
   Nahdlatul Ulama, 1979-1983' adopted by this NU congress in
   Semarang attest to this [Nahdlatul Ulama 1979b]. A more politically
   explicit criticism of the government can be found in the statement of          the Development Unity Party presented to the MPR (Majelis
   Permusyawaratan Rakyat, or People's Consultative Assembly) on
   March ] 5, 1978, by one of its leaders, H. A. Chalid Mawardi, who is          also a member of the current Central Executive Council of the          Nahdlatul ulama. Criticising the presidential speech on the          government's performance, 1973-1977, Chalid Mawardi advocated the          following six points: (1) change the economic structure from one          which is colonial and dependent on international markets into one          that is more independent and based on self-reliance; (2) change          dependence of the economy on imported capital, technology, and          management to reliance on domestic human resources; (3) first          priorities should be given to the basic needs of good, clothing,          housing, education, and health; (4) the bottom 40% of the population          must receive special attention; (5) a nation-wide full employment          policy is needed; and (6) inequalities in the distribution of          property ownership, trade facilities, and the availability of          education must be reduced (See McDonald [1980: 247-2491).

7  The most articulate spokesmen for this category of young activists
   include Abdurrahman Wahid and Mahbub Djunaidi. The former was
   elected to the position of vice-secretary of the Central Religious
   Council, Syuriah, and the latter, to that of second chairman of the          Central executive Council, Tanfidziah, of the Nahdlatul Ulama through          the Semarang congress. Both are popular and frequent contributors to          a number of newspapers and magazines, including the most widely
   circulated, Kompas and Tempo. Their recent writings are now
   conveniently compiled into booklets, Abdurrahman Wahid [1979] and
   Mahbub Djunaidi [1978] respectively. Wawasan, a journal for
   intellectual discussion in search of alternative development             strategies (published by the Lembaga Studi Pembangunan (LSP),                 Institute of Development Studies, Jakarta), should be given          particular attention for the fact that its initial chief editor was          Abdurrahman Wahid. Of course, the search for alternative development          models is not confined to the NU circles. A number of young          intellectuals and social activists are emerging and cooperating with          each other regardless of their diverse ideological backgrounds and          formal organisational affiliations. LSP is only one example of such          cooperation. The popular social science journal Prisma also provides          a common forum for these people. For earlier attempts by a group of          young Islamic intellectuals at re-evaluating the pesantren for its          potentiality in rural community development, see Dawan Rahardjo          [1947a; 1974b; 1975] and Sudjoko Prasodjo et al. [1974].

8  As far as I know, the best, though brief, exegesis of the NU             tradition written for its own members is found in Achmad Siddiq          [1979], an NU leader of national fame living in Jember, East Java. An          'autobiographic novel' written by Saifuddin Zuhri [1977], an NU          leader from Banyumas, Central Java, and former Minister of Religion,          depicts vividly the world of rural kiai and ulama and the development          of the Nahdlatul Ulama from the 1930s through the post-independence          period. An invaluable semi-official source book for the history of          the NU is the commemorative volume dedicated to the late Wahid          Hasjim, the NU leader from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, edited          by Haji Aboebakar [1957]. For historical and ethnographic accounts in          English of the intellectual and social organisational aspects of the          pesantren tradition, see Zamakhsyari [1980; 1981].

9  The congress was held in the Sports Hall of the Province of Central          Java (GOR, Gedung Olah Raga Propinsi Jawa Tengah) in the city of
   Semarang, gathering together about 4,500 delegates from 343 branches          of the Nahdlatul Ulama in all provinces of Indonesia (except Timor          Timur). The delegates were accommodated in numerous middle to low          class hotels and lodging houses (losmen) in the city, from where they          were transported to GOR every day by a large number of micro-buses          hired by the congress Organising Committee. A common kitchen (dapur          umum) was set up, under a huge tent raised next to the GOR building,          to serve meals to the delegates three times a day.

10 The agenda of the NU congress was as follows: (a) first day:          registration and provincial meetings; (b) second day: plenary          sessions for the opening ceremony and the reports of the Central          Executive Council; (c)third and fourth days: plenary sessions for the          speeches of the local delegates and the replies from the Central          Executive Council; (d) fifth and sixth days: commissions and          committee meetings; (e) seventh day: plenary sessions for the          adoption of resolutions and statements, the election of new          leadership, and closing ceremony. The scope of the debates in the NU          congress can be appreciated by looking at the discussion material          prepared for the participants in the congress, Rancangan Materi          Muktamar N.U. Ke-XXVI [Nahdlatul Ulama 1979a], which contained 'The          Rules for the Order of the Congress (Peraturan Tata Tertib          Muktamar),''Draft Constitution of the Nahdlatul Ulama (Rancangan          Anggaran Dasar Nahdlatul Ulama).''Basic Program for the Development          of the Nahdlatul Ulama, 1979-1983 (Program Dasar Pengembangan          Nahdlatul Ulama. 1979-1983).''Draft Resolutions and Statements to be          adopted by the 26th Congress of the Nahdlatul Ulama (Rancangan          Pernyataan/Sikap Nahdlatul Ulama yang diputuskan Muktamar N. U. Ke-         XXVI.)' and some other items. The official version of the 'Basic          Program...,' amended and adopted by the congress, is now available          separately [Nahdlatul Ulama 1979b].

11 Of the Indonesian mass media which covered this NU congress in
   Semarang, Suara Merdeka, a local daily of Semarang, and Tempo, a
   weekly magazine in Jakarta, seem to have produced the most detailed
   reportage of the congress. Other newspapers in Jakarta, such as       Kompas, Sinar Harapan, and Islamic Pelita, and nationalist Merdeka,       also devoted many articles to it. For the official report oft       congress by the Nahdlatul Ulama itself, see its organ Risalah       Nahdlatul Ulama.

12 The reader should, therefore, be warned of the limitations of this                paper. It only deals with one aspect of the congress, which certainly       had many other aspects not reported in this paper. Furthermore, I       must make it clear that I still lack first-hand information on the NU       in local social contexts, an aspect which has to be studied in any       serious attempt at understanding the NU at its grass-roots. A full-      scale research of the NU is yet to be done.

13 The report by Idham Chalid is available in mimeograph, Pidato Ketua
   Umum PB Nahdlatul Ulama KH Dr. Idham Chalid pada Muktamar NU
   Ke-XYVI di Semarang. For the Report by Achmad Sjaichu, no printed
   version was distributed and I have relied on my own field notes.

14 Although the delegates from East, West, and Central Java were by far       the most numerous, one feature of this congress which surprised me       was that the NU branches are now well spread throughout all parts of       the country. They are no longer confined to the islands of Java and       Madura, the traditional bases of the NU. A large number of delegates       came to this NU congress from Aceh, North, South and West Sumatra,       South Kalimantan, South and Central Sulawesi, and Eastern Indonesia.       The conventional view still held by many Western observers that there       is an inherent affinity between the NU and certain cultural traits of       the Javanese, Madurese, and Sundanese seems now to require critical       re-examination.

15 As one of the criteria for assessing the qualifications of a       pesantren for the scholarship program, Achmad Sjaichu mentions the       level of teaching in Arabic. Certainly the command of Arabic seems to       be a basic prerequisite for a student to be considered eligible for       advanced study in the institutions of higher learning in the Middle       East; and the local delegates agreed with that. However, many of them       seem to have been disturbed by the arbitrariness of the way in which       a student's level of competence in Arabic was equated with the size       of the fame of the pesantren to which the student belonged. Many       delegates obviously wanted to have a more open competition and to       give equal chances and encouragement to all students aspiring to       study in the Middle East.

16 The reports by the Central Executive Council were finally accepted          by the floor with a 'footnote' (catatan kaki) by the chairman of the       plenary session who stated that the reports themselves were far from       perfect; that all criticisms and suggestions for improvements should       be added to the reports; and that the new leadership should heed the          criticisms presented by the local delegates. With this critical        'footnote', the reports were approved by voice vote.

17 I attended a session of the Syuriah meeting held during the congress       in the huge prayer hall of the Baiturrahman Mosque, next to the GOR
   building. The meeting was carried on in a serious but informal       manner. There was no furniture at all except for one simple low desk       in front of the chairman and the secretary, around whom the       participants sat directly on the carpeted floor in irregular       concentric circles. There was no seating order except that the         Central Syuriah members and local Syuriah delegates occupied the       inner rings while ordinary delegates, observers and onlookers like       myself sat in the outer rings. The chairman seemed to be making a       conscious effort to canvass and exhaust different views among the       participant ulama on the subject under discussion. Debate went on       endlessly around some issues. It sounded as if, on average, one-
   third of the oral presentation by a speaker was made in Arabic,
   apparently direct quotations from the Qur'an, the Hadith or a
   commentary, without being translated into Indonesian. Since I do not
   have a command of Arabic, I was not quite certain of what exactly was
   being discussed in the session. But it seemed to me that the meeting       was, more often than not, agreeing to disagree over a number of       issues and then deciding how to deal with the disagreements.       Certainly there were a number of renowned and revered senior ulama in       this Syuriah session as well as in other meetings of the congress I       observed. However, their seniority or 'charisma' did not at all       stifle free and lively discussions. The absolute obedience of the       santri (student) to the kiai (teacher), supposedly an ethos of the       pesantren, did not seem to apply to the debate in the Syuriah or in       any other meetings of the NU congress. A statement made by Idham       Chalid in the beginning of his report that 'the NU had been pursuing       its goals without being dictated to by anyone (tanpa dikomando),       internally or externally' sounded truthful to me. In observing the       sessions of the NU congress, I was sometimes irritated by an excess       democracy rather than by any lack of it. The NU's way of deliberation       brought home to me the true meaning of musyawarah mufakat       (deliberation for consensus), which is often mistaken as compromise       for convenience.

18 I did not hear a single objection to the direction being taken since           the Surabaya congress, that is the relinquishing of political          activities to the PPP and the reaffirmation of the NU's status as a       religious association. The suggestion of the Vice President of the       Republic, Adam Malik, made in his opening address to the congress,       that 'the NU people do not need to be non-political (tidak usah perlu       tidak ber-politik),' was light-heartedly appreciated but did not       become a focus of serious discussion. Besides Adam Malik, a number of       generals and government dignitaries came to address the congress. The       response from the floor was generally polite and cordial, but       sometimes refreshingly open.

19 Ken Ward [1974: 94-95] and Ben Anderson [1977: 24] discuss this
   phenomenon from a slightly different angle than mine.

20 A common image of Achmad Sjaichu outside the NU circles is that he is
   more 'modern', 'progressive' and closer to the 'reformists' like the
   Muhammadiyah than to the mainstream of the NU, and that he has strong
   ties with the international Muslim world, especially with the Middle
   Eastern countries. My observation of his performance in the congress
   leads me to question the appropriateness of this characterisation.

21 On the concept of watak mandiri, see the important paper entitled,
   Pesantren dan pengembangan watak mandiri (Pesantren and the
   development of the character of autonomy), presented by Abdurrahman
   Wahid to the Second National Congress of the Indonesian Association
   for the Advancement of the Social Sciences (HIPIIS) held in Menado,
   North Sulawesi, November 1977 (now included in Abdurrahman Wahid

22 It seems necessary to take a fresh look at the history of the NU from     the viewpoint of the NU's self-perception. For this, another recent          work of Saifuddin Zuhri may provide a useful framework [Saifuddin       Zuhri 1979].

23 Since my knowledge of traditional Islamic scholarship is very             limited, I am incapable of appreciating whether there are any new       developments which might challenge this tradition from within the NU       circles. Even if there are any, my feeling is that they are more       likely to be advanced in the name of tradition rather than in the    name of reform. See Zamakhsyari [1981] on this matter.

Thank's For Visiting
Title : Nahdlatul Ulama, Traditional Islam and Modernity Of Indonesia. Chapter Three
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