The Theology of PBNU

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By : Nasaruddin Umar

Religious Affairs Minister Nasaruddin UmarKH Said Aqil Siroj had been at times dubbed the Four Pillars of Nation and State Building as “PBNU” (Pancasila, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, NKRI, and UUD 1945). As the general leader of the General Committe of Nahdlatul Ulama (Pengurus Besar Nahdlatul Ulama/PBNU), the statement above can be regarded as a claim for theological legitimacy to the Pillars.

This claim is not groundless. The formulation of the Pillars were involving several figures of Islam organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), one of them was the founder of the organization KH Hasyim Asy’ari, who were present in various formulation around “PBNU.” Looking through the historical journey, there are several moments of encountering and empowering between “PBNU” and PBNU. The vision and the mission of PBNU emphasizingly must be in line with “PBNU.”

Aswajah and “PBNU”

A theology of Ahlus Sunna wal Jama’ah (Aswajah) that has become the basis of NU community (or usually called as “nahdliyin”) gave a very important influence and contribution in the foundation and the empowerment of the “PBNU” Pillars. Without the support of Aswajah, the “PBNU” Pillars might not be standing as firm as it is now; this is so because the Pillars stand on Aswajah. Aswajah is known as an inclusive theological concept that has a unique perspective called “fikrah nahdliyyah”, refering to several principles namely moderate (tawasuthiyyah), tolerant (tasamuniyyah), reformer (islahiyyah), dynamic (tathawwuriyyah), and methodological (manhajiyyah). This concept is widely used in between the nahdliyin to measure and to finish every problems arising.

It is this concept that gave birth to the ethic and fikih of nation (fiqh wathaniyyah), with several products under them are the “ukhuwah” trilogy, which are ukuwah basyariyyah (brotherhood of humanity), ukhuwah wathaniyyah (brotherhood of nations), and ukhuwah Islamiyyah (brotherhood of Islam). This trilogy successfully surpassed the Three Concept of States in classical Islamic fikih: dari al-Islam (Islam state), dar al-Harb (enemy state), and dar al-Shulh (non muslim state with peaceful relations).

The Four Pillar of “PBNU” to many of nahdliyin is considered as manifestation of fikrah nahdliyyah, thus exist the fact that none of nadhliyin, from one Congress to another, ever rejected the statement “NKRI is a final form of nation and state.” This may also be the reason why none of nahdliyin is interested in ISIS, Al Qaedah, and other group that offer the concept of nation state which are not in line with the Four Pillar of “PBNU.” Moreover, PBNU and all of its autonomous bodies are willing to struggle and to defend “PBNU.”

In the context of nation and state, NU positions Islam as a sentripetal factor that is interested in emphasizing on a shared point, instead of as a sentrifugal factor that is interested in emphasizing on differences. PBNU often performs as “shelter” for minority, because in NU we can almost never find the vocabulary of “Other.”

NU is able to prove that the universality of Islam can be implemented without having to set aside any local culture. NU has faith that Islamic sharia can be implemented without having to wait for a formal institution to be formed. Meanwhile, NU has a multicultural horizon where its social regulation is designed to recognize the manifestation of local tradition and culture, seeing them as the entities which has the right to live in Indonesia.


The issue of purification has arisen an interesting phenomenon called “deaswajanization.” Is it by design or by nature for a number of traditional religio-social practices in which Aswaja forms itself is being weakened? For example, zanji, tahlil, mawlid, isra’ mi’raj, hand shake, group pray, praying ceremony after circumcision of a boy, 7-month pregnancy, tawashul or visiting a cemetery are considered bid’ah (something that has never been done by the Prophet).

In this reformation era, every theology, teaching, or preaching are given liberty to live. That is why, numerous religious mass organizations in the last decade are able to widely-develop. Besides Aswajah, there are other nomenclatures arisen, like Syiah, Wahabiah, Salafiah, and Ahmadiyah.

Religious mass organizations is not only centralized in Jakarta. They exist outside of the capital city, like Majlis Tafsir Al-Qur’an (MTA) in Solo and Wahdah Islamiyah (WI) in Makassar. There is also several familiar terms that are becoming the nomenclatures of mass organizations, like “Tarekat,” “Majlis Ta’lim,” and “Tahfiz Al-Qur’an.” There is also unregistered, unnamed, and unstructurized organizations that have intensive activities in the society.

Deprivation of Aswajah norm could also be considered as deprivation of “PBNU” Pillars. If one day the theology of Aswajah weakened and was replaced by another theology, it is not imposibble there will come a time when Indonesian society is not allowed to give salute to the Red-White Flag (“Bendera Merah Putih”), to celebrate the Independence Day, or to visit the cemetery of the fallen heroes as they are considered bid’ah. Or, there might come a time where Indonesian society is not allowed to sing its national anthems, or to put on the symbol of Garuda or the President’s photo, for doing so can be considered as infidelity. How would NKRI be without Aswajah?

 The writer is the Professor of UIN Jakarta and Mustasyar PBNU

This article was published on Opinion column KOMPAS, Monday 3 August 2015

Translated by Ichsan