Muslim 500 Nominee:
Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf
Yahya Cholil Staquf is a distinguished Muslim scholar, General Chairman of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—the world’s largest Muslim organization, with over 90 million followers and 14,000 madrasahs—and co-founder of a global movement (“Humanitarian Islam”) that seeks to restore rahmah (universal love and compassion) to its rightful place as the primary message of Islam.
Shaykh Yahya also serves as Emissary for Indonesia’s largest Islamic political party, PKB, to Centrist Democrat International (CDI), a coalition of over 100 center-right parties from across the globe, including the largest and most influential political party in the European Union, the European People’s Party (EPP). Mr. Staquf secured PKB’s accession to full membership of CDI in 2018, and works closely with CDI/EPP to pursue the Humanitarian Islam agenda worldwide.
Descended from a long line of Javanese ulama, including the renowned Bisri family of Rembang, Central Java, Shaykh Yahya was educated from earliest childhood in the formal and esoteric (spiritual) sciences of Islam—by his father, grandfather and uncle. Mr. Staquf later served as presidential spokesman to Indonesia’s first democratically elected head of state, Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, and as a member of Indonesia’s National Electoral Commission during that nation’s successful transition from authoritarian rule to democracy, work instrumental in Nahdlatul Ulama’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Inspired by President Wahid’s vision to bring Islamic teachings into alignment with the modern world of freedom, democracy and human rights, in 2014 Shaykh Yahya co-founded the U.S.-based religious entity Bayt ar-Rahmah li ad-Da‘wa al-Islamiyah Rahmatan li al-‘Alamin (Home of Divine Grace for Revealing and Nurturing Islam as a Blessing for All Creation), to serve as a hub for the worldwide expansion of NU operations.
Shaykh Yahya has mobilized a large body of Sunni Muslim authorities to engage in a wide-ranging, concerted and explicit project of theological renewal (i.e., reform) for the first time since the late Middle Ages. A series of historic declarations drafted by Shaykh Yahya form the basis for this renewal, and Mr. Staquf has secured unanimous adoption of three distinct PKB resolutions by CDI’s Executive Committee that endorse these declarations, affirm that “Western humanism, Christian democracy and Humanitarian Islam are kindred traditions,” and call for “a 21st century alliance to promote a rules-based international order founded upon universal ethics and humanitarian values.”
In the past year, Shaykh Yahya’s efforts have met with a rising tide of international recognition that has brought the message of Humanitarian Islam into the heart of the Vatican; the world’s largest evangelical Christian organization; and ruling political parties across Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Mr. Staquf’s global engagement is part of a systematic effort by NU spiritual leaders “to prevent the political weaponization of Islam, whether by Muslims or non-Muslims, and to curtail the spread of communal hatred by fostering the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.” ~ Nusantara Statement