The Nahdatul Ulama, known as Nahdlatul Ulama or NU, is a traditionalist conservative SunniIslam group in Indonesia. Its traditionalist nature is evident in the name Ulama, referring to the scholar-preachers of Islam, trained in Koran studies, including the interpretation of the religious laws contained therein. Despite its traditionalist nature, its chairman Hasyim Muzadi opposes the establishment of Indonesia as an religious (Islamic) country, and calls for greater cooperation and understanding between all the religious groups in Indonesia.
The NU was established in 31 January1926, around the same time that the reformist Muhammadiyah was established. Its first president was Hasyim Asy'ari, who was the most respected Ulama in Indonesia at the time. Abdurrahman Wahid is the grandson of Hasyim Asy'ari, and inherited the leadership from his father. He was elected President of Indonesia in 1999 and was impeached in 2001.
The ulama are the scholar-legists of Islam, trained in the religious sciences such as the Qur'an, exegesis and interpretation of the relgious law, shari'a.
Its stated purposes further include the scrutiny of textbooks to ensure their orthodoxy, the establishment of madrasas for the training of future generations of ulama, the running of mosques, care for orphans and the poor, and the establishment of bodies to promote trade, industry and agriculture run along Islamic lines in accordance with the shari'a.
The Nahdatul Ulama, meaning the 'awakening of the ulama', was established in 1926 by Javanese ulama concerned to strengthen traditional Islam and unify Indonesian Muslims against the threats posed both by the secular appeals of nationalism and communism, and also the rival religious appeals of the reformist Muhammadiyah and the heretical Ahmadiyah.
The most obvious example of ulama involvement in politics is of course the NahdlatulUlama organisation, which was a political party from 1952 (when it broke away from Masyumi) until its fusion in 1973 with three other Muslim parties in the PPP; it remained an integral component of this party until 1984.
Ulama were requested to join government officials in campaigns to propagate the programme, and later the MUI was asked for a fatwa in its support.
Although many ulama privately had their doubts or were strongly opposed to the idea of contraception on religious grounds, the government found sufficient numbers willing to take part in the campaigns, which seems to have contributed considerably to their success.
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