Nahdlatul Ulama as a Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah Religious Movement

            Islam came to Indonesia in the form of Sufism. However, in its development this form of Sufism was experiencing continuity, discontinuity and dialogical and it produces either tension or harmonious with the local culture. The development of Islam then depends on those scholars who for the first time introduced it to the society, those who came to continue the preaching and non-the least on haw the tradition as well as the reality of the local influence Islam that inters into that place. This can proven in the case that Islam that comes to Java has different appearance then the same Islam that introduced into Sumatra. In the narrow scope, the higher land peoples of Java embrace Islam in different way compared to those live in the costal areas, even though all of them are the inhabitants of the same island.
            Pesantren is the religious institution of learning that teaches Sufism to the pupils.  
 Nahdlatul Ulama was established in Surabaya in 1926 by a group of Ulama of Pesantren who maintained the same tradition and promoted the same interest. These Ulamas had had something in common long time ago before they decided to establish Nahdlatul Ulama as a religious organization. They got the same training in Pesantren and learned the same subject of Islamic studies; therefore they grew up in the same tradition. Further, they then adopted the same method and selected the same material when they came to teach their pupils on Islamic studies. These similarities could build the solidarity among them, besides that some of them had a family relationship or they arrange intermarriage among them.

            When many groups of Muslim in Indonesia had established a nation-wide organization, these Ulamas did not think as an urgent to bind their fellows in one organization in the modern sense. They did not do it because they had many ways to unite and to communicate among them. As mentioned earlier among these Ulamas had already existed a network in the form of institution of learning as well as in the structure of kinship. Within the Pesantren there are Kiyais (Ulama who lead the Pesantren) and Santri (pupils) who regularly held a meeting either for the purpose of leaning or social gathering. These pupils still met once in a week, in month or in holy days to broaden their religious knowledge after they completed their training in Pesantren. Indeed, Pesantren is an educational method that adopts a long live education system. This makes it possible for Kiyais and Santris to interact themselves in Pesantern and in out side it. In another occasion they also come together to attend the wedding party for one of the pupils or to commemorate their late teacher and the founder of the Pesantren. 
                    Besides they were also tied by the kinship relationship. A study by Zamakhsari has shown the relation of the Kiyai in Java.
            All these networks allowed them to communicate and interact with each other. Therefore before 1926 they felt it was not an urgent to establish a nationally organization to manage their movement. They started to think that the establishment of the modern organization was important when they realized that without it they could not advance their aspirations concerning the religious issues as well as the mundane problems. So the establishment of Nahdlatul Ulama was motivated by religious as well as political reasons.
            The abolition of the Ottoman caliphate after the World War II by the nationalist leader, Kamal Attaturk forced Muslims all over the world to revive it. For this purpose Muslim prepared to organize the second assembly and it was to be held in Mecca. In this regard Muslims in Indonesia gathered to select the representation to attend the assembly. Since the representation to the Mecca meeting should come from the formal Muslim organization, K.H. Wahab Chasbullah nominated by the traditionalist Kiyai as the representation of  Pesantren could not participate in that scheduled meeting even though the Kiyai had as the fellow thousands pupils and a national-wide network throughout the country.
            By that time, Arab Saudi government was not only a country that had an interest to revive the caliphate by organizing the international assembly to unite Muslim all over the world under one caliphate, it just replaced the ideology and ban all teachings that were considered unorthodox. The Arab Saudi initiated a policy that made other than the government-acknowledged Islamic teachings unlawful. The Kiyais from Pesantren could accept of being not to be one of the delegations to the Saudi Arabi assembly provided that the other delegations were agree to bring the Kiyais’ message. The Kiyais of Pesantren demanded that the government of the Saudi Arabi give the freedom to Muslim to practice their belief and traditions. Since the other delegations supported the Saudi Arabia government policies, they did not wont to convey the message from the Kiyais.
This case was the trigger that led the Ulama from the Pesantren to build a religious organization to promote by themselves their aspirations and ideas. Being fail to be the one the delegations to the Mecca meeting and even not allowed to sent the message to the King of Saudi Arabia, the Kiyai of Pesantren prepared a committee to go to Mecca to present by themselves their request to the King to give the freedom for Muslims in this country to practice their belief. The committee than is known as the Hijaz Committee. 

The politicians, the preachers

II. Establishmnet
            Nahadlatul Ulama was established on the basis of the deep understanding that human beings could only fulfill all what they need if they cooperate with the other in a social life. Only by living in cooperation with the other, makes it possible for them to achieve the happiness and to get rid of the dangers. Unity, solidarity, mutual cooperation, integrity are the requirement to enhance the brotherhood and to nurture the love which both are the foundation for the establishment of an ordered, good and harmonious society.    
As a religious organization, Nahdlatul Ulama is a instrument where the Ulamas and their followers are striving to protect, maintain, develop and practice the teachings of Islam according to the Ahl Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah’s understanding, by following one of the four schools: namely the school founded by Ma>lik ibn Anas, Abu> Hanifah, al-Shafi‘i> and Ah}mad ibn H{anbal; and to unite all Ulamas and their Santris in their activities to create the welfare of the people and to honor the dignity and position of the community.
Thus Nahdlatul Ulama is a religious movement that puts as its goal the development and character building of the human being and society to be the fearer of God, smart, practicable, moralist, harmonious, just and prosperous.
To achieve its goals, Nahdlatul Ulama works through several efforts based on the religious principles that can build the special character of Nahadlatul Ulama. That is the know as the Khit{}t}ah Nahdlatul Ulama.
Khit}t}ah Nahdlatul Ulama is a basis of thought, manners, and actions for the followers of Nahadlatul Ulama and it should be reflected in their behaviors both in their capacities as personal and organizational as well as in each activity to set up the decision.
That basis is the ideology of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama>‘ah that applied according to the real condition of Indonesian society, which covers the principles of the religious activities and societal deeds.
The Khit}t}ah of Nahdlatul Ulama is also derived from the core of historical experience of its whole dedication from time to time.

The Basis of Religious Understanding of Nahdlatul Ulama,
            Nahdlatul Ulama bases its religious understanding on the Sources of Islamic teachings: al-Qur’a>n, the Sunnah, the ijma>‘ amd qiya>s.
            In the understanding and interpreting Islam from the sources, Nahadlatul Ulama adopts the ideology of Ahl Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah by adopting the madzhab approach. In the filed of belief, Nahdlatul Ulama follows the teaching of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama>‘ah through the school of thought of Imam Abu> H{asan al-Ash‘ari> and Abu> al-Mans}u>r al-Maturidi>. In the filed of fiqh, Nahadlatul Ulama adopts the madzhab system by following one of the four founder Islamic schools of law:  Ma>lik ibn Anas, Abu> Hanifah, al-Shafi‘i> and Ah}mad ibn H{anbal. While in the filed of Sufism, Nahdlatul Ulama follows among others the teachings of Imam al-Junaid al-Baghda>di> and Imam al-Ghazali>.
            Nahdlatul Ulama approves the principle that Islam is a fit}ri religion that is aimed at completing the good things held by human beings. The religious thoughts adopted by Nahdlatul Ulama are to perfect the good values that has already existed and has become the special character of the group of human either as a race or nation and does not to eradicate that values.
            The principles of the above Islamic values then will make it possible to cultivate the social attitudes that characterized as: the first is Tasamuh and i‘tidal,  (the middle path and justice). It means the middle path, which essentially denotes the principles of life that exalts the necessity to do justice and to be steady amid of religious life. With this basic principle Nahdlatul Ulama will be a group who stands as the example who behaves and act steadily and always promote the development and avoid every extreme approach. The second is the tasamuh, tolerance to the differences of outlook either in the issues of religion, especially to that concern with the branches and being the matters of controversial, or to the social and cultural problems. The third is the tawazun, to means the balance in the dedication. To be balanced in dedication to Allah and to human being and to the environment. It also means to be equilibrium in the requirement of the past, the present and the future.  Lastly amar ma‘ruf and nahy ‘an munkar, the follower of Nahdlatul Ulama should always be ready to act to promote the good deeds, valued, beneficial works for human beings, and to prevent all things that destroy and make worthless the values of life.      
The basic principles and social behaviors mentioned earlier will build the manner of the followers of Nahdlatul Ulama either in the capacity as personal or organizational to be:
1.      Always uphold the values as well as the norms of Islam.
2.      To priority the communal needs over the personal needs.
3.      To uphold the values of the sincerity, dedication and struggle.
4.      To promote the brotherhood, unity and mutual love.
5.      To maintain the loyalty to religion, nation and the state.
6.      To promote the value of the good deeds, works and prestige as part of the dedication to Allah.
7.      To respect the knowledge and those who posses it.
8.      To always get ready to adapt themselves to every change that creates the benefit for the welfare of human being.
9.      To always make an effort to the example in the effort to foster, race and to accelerate the development of the society.
10.   To uphold the togetherness amid the life of nation and state.
To achieve the religious and societal goals and aims, since the time of the inception Nahdlatul Ulama has put as the priority some activities. These works include the activities that can build silat al-rahim, to ties the relationship between the Ulamas; can promote intellectual, education and training activities; can enhance the da‘wah, Islamic preaching and can improve the quality of life.   
To Nahdlatul Ulama, Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah is not only a religious grouping who set up certain regulation for the social behavior but is also a system of the ways of religious thought. As the system of religious thought Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama>‘ah is a comprehensive approach, combines the revelation and reason when look at all aspects of life, consists of the moderation principle, upholds the balance and toleration. This system of thought emerges out the intense process of historical dialectic of thought and movement.  Following proportionally the guidance of both the revelation and the reason all of which are in accordance with the humanity and law of life, Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama>‘ah avoids the political conflict and group fanaticism to influence the religious understanding. With this principle and attitude, it can be accepted by and develop among the community and is able to take part in creating the peaceful life in the frame of nation and state together with other civilization, culture and tradition.  

B. Is Nahdlatul Ulama the Main Holder of the Ideology of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama>‘ah?
            Roughly speaking the Islamic world consists of two important groups: the follower of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama>‘ah and the followers of the Shi>‘ah. There is still other group of the Khowarj and Mu‘tazilah but the number of the follower is very small. Iran is claimed as the country that the majority of population is the adherent of the Shi>‘ah doctrines. While the rest of the country is inhabited mostly by the followers of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama>‘ah. As it happens in the case of the Shi>‘ah which divided into several factions, the followers of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama>‘ah also consist of several groups.  
            There are many factors that make the followers of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama>‘ah divided into several factions. However, the different method in understanding of Islamic teachings stands as the fundamental factor that lead them separated into factions. The school of thought in Islam almost becomes the religion itself to each of the adherent. Each person considers the school of thought as the right one and thinks other person who clings on other school of thought as committing wrong practices. Naturally among the same adherent of the school of thought it develops a solidarity that lets them to be a strong group.
            The majority of Indonesian population claim themselves as the follower of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama>‘ah tradition. However, they are also divided into several groups as a result of the different approach in interpreting the Islamic teachings. One group follows certain madzhab in the way to understand and to practice Islamic teaching. Others abandon madzhab system and prefer to do the ijtihad by themselves.
            Muhammadiyah founded in 1912 is a religious movement, which reject the madzhab system and is in fever to exercise ijtihad in understanding Islamic teachings. Even though the members of Muhammadiyah do not introduce special method of ijtihad as it is known in the usul al-fiqh, it has become a common jargon among them the word “to return to al-Qur‘a>n and the Prophetic Sunnah”.