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NU stands for Indonesian independence

NU stands for Indonesian independence
Photo: NU Online
Photo: NU Online

In 1926, in Surabaya, the Pesantren clerics (kiai) of Ahlussunah wal Jamaah (Aswaja) established an organization (jamiyah) called Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the revival of ulama (Muslim scholars). Before founding the organization, its leaders had first established three main supporting pillars, namely Nahdlatul Wathan in 1914, Tashwirul Afkar in 1918, and Nahdlatut Tujjar in 1924.


When establishing NU, the NU clerics discussed the name of the organization. One of the kiai suggested the name Nuhudlul Ulama which means the revival of ulama. However, KH Mas Alwi Abdul Aziz proposed the name Nahdlatul Ulama. Kiai Alwi is of the view that the consequence of using the word nahdlatul is a revival having been strung together since centuries ago. It was not a sudden revival because the Aswaja ulama had the chain of scientific and struggles as the previous ones.


According to Choirul Anam in the book Pertumbuhan dan Perkembanagn NU (The Growth and Development of NU), at least, the rise of NU ulama is a continuation of the Wali Songo movement and other Islamic preachers in the archipelago. For hundreds of years, this struggle has been passed down from generation to generation, moving to defend Islam in the archipelago.


Still in the same book, Choirul Anam said, because the situation was changing, the challenges were different, therefore, the way the Aswaja clerics moved in defending and spreading Islam also changed. Previously, they had only gone through pesantren and moved independently, the clerics tried to establish organizations.


“This is just a matter of method, but the point is to defend Islam itself. The proof is that the pesantren is maintained, the organization is run,” wrote Choirul Anam in the book.


The new challenge is none other than the colonization of Europeans from the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and British, and finally the Asians (Japan). They not only dredge the natural wealth in the archipelago, but spread their religion and culture massively because they are well organized.


Thus, the clerics' motive to establish an organization was to fight against the spread of religion and cultures brought by the invaders. At the same time, they tried to escape the shackles of colonialism.


The motive for maintaining this religion is none other than the ongoing teachings, thoughts, practices of Islam Ahlussunah wal Jamaah with the four schools of thought. This was an affirmation of the developments at that time. In the Middle East, a new understanding emerged that initiated reform in Islam with the slogan of returning to the Qur'an and hadith and being opposed to the so-called taqlid to the four schools of thought.


In Saudi Arabia Wahhabism also emerged. This understanding was stronger and more massive when it was supported by the government. Since Ibn Saud, King of Najed conquered the Hijaz (Makkah and Medina) in 1924-1925, the Wahhabi sect was very dominant in the land of the Haram. Other Islamic groups were prohibited from teaching their schools of thought, even many muslim scholars were killed. These ideas also gained a strong support in the archipelago who campaigned against heresy everywhere. Taqlid is the cause of decline, prohibiting tahlilan, and other religious traditions that clearly have a basis in Islamic teachings themselves, which have been practiced by the Ahlussunah wal Jamaah understanding.


The Muslim scholars of Ahlussunah wal Jamaah in the archipelago were worried about the Saudi Arabian policy. They then planned to send envoys to the Holy Land of Mecca, meeting the ruler to ask to stop this policy. The plan to send envoys was carried out at the residence of KH Wahab Chasbullah in Kertopaten, Surabaya on 16 Rajab 1344 H coincided with January 31, 1926, to form the so-called Hijaz Committee which later gave birth to Nahdlatul Ulama.


While the second motive for the establishment of NU was nationalism or freeing from the shackles of colonialism.


Choirul Anam explained through the track record of KH Wahab Chasbullah who was involved in the Sarekat Islam (SI) from a young age, the Indonesische Club, founded Nahdlatul Wathan, Tashwirul Afkar, Syubanul Wathan and held a religious problems deliberation (masail diniyah) course for youth defenders of a school that is a nationalism movement.


According to Anam, the day before the Kertopaten meeting, a dialogue had taken place between KH Wahab Chasbullah and KH Abdul Halim Leuwimunding.


"Is the organization that the kiai will set up with the goal of independence?"


"Yes, Muslims are heading that way. Muslims were not free before our country became independent," Kiai Wahab replied.


Ahmad Mansur Suryanegara in his book Api Sejarah said: If you pay attention, the name Nahdlatul Ulama which means the revival of ulama, is in line with the conditions of the struggle of Muslims at that time,  which is in the struggle to raise national awareness.


On the next page of the book, Ahmad Mansur Suryangera said, NU, like the organization founded by its contemporaries, wanted to re-uphold Muslims as the majority. (Abdullah Alawi)


Editor: Sudarto Murtaufiq

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