Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf is a distinguished Muslim scholar and the co-founder of a global movement (“Humanitarian Islam”) that seeks to reform obsolete tenets of Islamic orthodoxy that enjoin religious hatred, supremacy and violence, by restoring rahmah (universal love and compassion) to its rightful place as the primary message of Islam. As General Secretary of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—the world’s largest Muslim organization, with over 90 million members and 14,000 madrasahs—Mr. Staquf is bringing the civilizational wisdom and spiritual authority of Islam Nusantara (East Indies Islam) to the world stage, where a harsh, repressive and all-too-often violent understanding of Islam has predominated for decades.
Shaykh Yahya is descended from a long and illustrious line of Javanese ulama (religious scholars), including the renowned Bisri family of Rembang, Central Java. Educated from earliest childhood in the formal and esoteric (spiritual) sciences of Islam—by his father, grandfather and uncle—Mr. Staquf later became a disciple of venerated Islamic scholar and Chairman of the NU Supreme Council, Kyai Haji Ali Maksum (1915 – 1989), studying classical Islamic sciences under his direct tutelage at the prestigious al-Munawwir Krapyak madrasah in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. KH. Ali Maksum was himself a disciple of Shaykh Umar Hamdan al-Makki (1858 – 1948) and Shaykh Hasan Masshat al-Makki (1900 – 1979) of Mecca, and mentored several of Indonesia’s most influential modern figures, including its first democratically-elected head of state, H.E. KH. Abdurrahman Wahid (“Gus Dur,” 1940 – 2009), and Shaykh Yahya’s uncle, the widely revered religious scholar, public intellectual, painter and poet, KH. A. Mustofa Bisri (“Gus Mus,” 1944 – present), who also served as Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Supreme Council.