New website introduces Humanitarian Islam movement to Arabic-speaking audiences in the Middle East

“To restore the majesty of Islamic civilization, Muslims must renew religion itself by returning to the Prophet’s original message of rahmah (universal love and compassion)”

Nahdlatul Ulama co-founder Kyai Haji Hasyim Asy’ari is pictured alongside the NU flag and point 15 of the International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL) Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration, which reads:

“The Nahdlatul Ulama calls upon people of goodwill of every faith and nation to join in building a global consensus not to politicize Islam, and to marginalize those who would exploit Islam in such a way as to harm others.”

The three linked blue buttons, from right to left, state: “Read the Declaration”; “International Summit”; and “Watch CNN’s Coverage

JAKARTA, Indonesia and ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: Spiritual leaders of the world’s largest Muslim organization have launched Bayt ar-Rahmah’s website in Arabic, signaling a new phase in the worldwide expansion of Nahdlatul Ulama operations. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam ac nisi dictum, cursus orci vel, efficitur libero. Sed tincidunt enim eu neque vestibulum tempor. Aliquam euismod mi ac eleifend semper. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in.

The launch of Bayt ar-Rahmah’s Arabic website reflects a growing realization among intellectuals, governments and religious leaders across the Middle East that Nahdlatul Ulama — the largest independent civil society organization in the Muslim world — offers a successful alternative to what award-winning scholar of political Islam Ahmet T. Kuru refers to as the “mosque-state alliance,” a failed governance paradigm that has kept much of the Muslim world trapped in a cycle of authoritarianism, underdevelopment and violence for centuries.

Still image with Arabic subtitles from the film The Divine Grace of Islam Nusantara (“East Indies Islam”)

On the eve of the 9/11 attacks’ 20th anniversary, leading Arabic-language daily Al-Arab translated and prominently featured a hard-hitting article titled “The Taliban’s control of Afghanistan spotlights the failed model of government in Muslim states.” In the article, geopolitical analyst and Senior Fellow at National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, Dr. James M. Dorsey, observed that “Nahdlatul Ulama, a politically influential civil society movement, is the only non-state player in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam that will determine the degree to which a moderate Islam incorporates principles of tolerance, pluralism, gender equality, secularism, and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Dr. Dorsey’s analysis appeared as a full-page feature in the “Political Islam” section of Al-Arab newspaper under the headline: “The Taliban’s control of Afghanistan spotlights the failed model of government in Muslim states”

Translated into Arabic by Alexandria-based Egyptian scholar Eslam Saad Mohamed Eldadda, the website is a further illustration of the growing — though largely unacknowledged — synergy between major Muslim institutions, governments and civil society in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority democracy, and Egypt, an ancient center of Islamic learning and culture in the heart of the Arab world, and its most populous state. Mr. Saad is an accomplished author and student of the late Ali Mabrouk (1961 – 2016), a Professor of Islamic Philosophy at Cairo University and one of the greatest Egyptian intellectuals of his generation. During the final years of his life, Dr. Mabrouk worked closely with Humanitarian Islam co-founders C. Holland Taylor and KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf.

The statue of an unknown Ptolemaic pharaoh stands at the entrance to Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. Completed in 2002, Bibliotheca Alexandrina was built to commemorate the greatest library of the ancient world and to affirm the enduring value of Egypt’s ancient heritage.

In February 2019 — under intense pressure from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to acknowledge and address problematic tenets of Islamic orthodoxy employed by Islamist movements and terror groups — the Grand Shaykh of Egypt’s pre-eminent center of Islamic authority, al-Azhar,  jointly signed A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together with Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Document on Human Fraternity was drafted under the auspices of the Egyptian security services by a committee of public intellectuals who adopted a theological and conceptual framework first articulated by senior Nahdlatul Ulama leaders in the 1980s and further elaborated in the 2017 Gerakan Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam.

Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Chairman H. Yaqut Cholil Qoumas (center) speaks to Indonesian media in May of 2017, following adoption of the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam by Nahdlatul Ulama’s 5-million-member young adults organization. H. Alfa Isnaeni, the Commandant of Ansor’s militia, Banser, stands to one side. The Arabic text is point 13 of the Declaration, which reads:

“If Muslims do not address the key tenets of Islamic orthodoxy that authorize and explicitly enjoin such violence, anyone—at any time—may harness the orthodox teachings of Islam to defy what they claim to be the illegitimate laws and authority of an infidel state and butcher their fellow citizens, regardless of whether they live in the Islamic world or the West.”

The three linked buttons, from right to left, state: “Read the Declaration”; “Read the Political Communiqué”; and “Media Analysis

Between February and March 2019, over 20,000 Nahdlatul Ulama scholars and their followers from all 34 of Indonesia’s provinces gathered at Miftahul Huda al-Azhar Islamic Boarding School in Banjar, West Java, to attend the 2019 National Conference of NU Religious Scholars (Musyawarah Nasional Alim Ulama NU), or Munas. These scholars produced a detailed set of theological arguments in support of — and a practical road map to achieve — the aspirations expressed in the Document on Human Fraternity, including new ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) that abolishes the legal category of infidel within Islamic law; theologically legitimizes the nation state and laws derived from modern political processes; and establishes a religious obligation for Muslims to foster peace rather than wage war on behalf of their co-religionists, whenever conflict erupts between Muslim and non-Muslim populations anywhere in the world. These groundbreaking theological arguments — including Arabic translations of NU’s legal analysis and rulings — can be accessed via the home page of the Arabic website (pictured below).

NU founders KH. Hasyim Asy’ari; KH. Abdul Wahab Chasbullah and KH. Bisri Syansuri (counter-clockwise from upper left) alongside Nahdlatul Ulama’s 2019 leadership: KH. Miftachul Akhyar; KH. Said Aqil Siradj; KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf; and H. Helmy Faisal

The Arabic text reads: “God’s way (shariah) is rahmah (universal love and compassion).”

The three linked buttons, from right to left, read: “The Recontextualization of Islamic Law and Transformation of the Prevailing ‘Muslim Mindset,’ for the Sake of World Peace”; “National Conference of NU Religious Scholars”; and “Nahdlatul Ulama’s Ruling on Equal Citizenship

“If the great intellectual fires are reawakening within Islam, after centuries of torpor, then that will be the best weapon yet against extremism.”

~ Nicholas D. Kristof, writing in the New York Times

An English translation of Bayt ar-Rahmah’s mission statement, from its Arabic home page, may be read below.