RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture by Professor Dr K.H. Ma’ruf Amin, Chairman, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI)
"The Emergence of Wasatiyyah Islam: Promoting ‘Middle-Way’ Islam and Socio-Economic Equality in Indonesia"
Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, has long been held up as a global example of democratisation and moderation, where Islam and democracy can go hand-in-hand. However, in recent years conservative and radical Islamist groups have gained ground within Indonesian state and society. As a counter narrative to the conservative Islamic group’s interpretation of Islam, President Joko Widodo recently launched a new endeavour to promote the Islamic philosophy of wasatiyyat (middle path) or “moderation in Islam” that can create a peaceful and safer world. The concept emphasises several characteristics of moderation in Islam; including, tawassut, (middle of the road approach); i’tidal (fairness with responsibility); tasamuh (respect for differences); and shura (consultation and consensus in problem-solving).
President Widodo has nominated Kiai Haji Ma’ruf Amin, General Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to become his Vice Presidential Nominee. With more than two decades of experience in the MUI leadership, Kiai Ma’ruf possesses the best expertise to promote wassatiyat Islam, which has become the President’s platform to safeguard Indonesia from the dangers of growing religious conservatism and radicalism. As President Widodo’s running mate, Kiai Ma’ruf is also responsible to promote policies that develop socio-economic equality for Indonesian Muslims, the majority of whom still live in or near poverty conditions.
In this Distinguished Public Lecture, Kiai Ma’ruf will share his vision regarding the promotion of wassatiyat Islam and how to address socio-economic equality in Indonesia.
About the Speaker
Kyai Haji Ma’ruf Amin is the Chairman of Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia’s paramount Muslim clerical body that produces non-binding, but nevertheless authoritative legal opinions, legal religious opinions (fatwa) and advice for the Muslim community on various issues. Kyai Ma’ruf Amin concurrently served as Rais Aam (Supreme Leader) of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) until he vacated the position recently due to his vice-presidential candidacy with President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo in the upcoming 2019 national elections. Kyai Ma’ruf Amin also served as a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Presidential Advisory Council from 2007 until the end of President Yudhoyono’s second term. Following the fall of President Soeharto in 1998, Kyai Ma’ruf became an advisor to President Abdurrahman Wahid from 1999-2001.
Born in Tangerang in March 1943, Kyai Ma’ruf Amin attained his education from Tebu Ireng Islamic boarding school (in Jombang, a renowned Islamic boarding school founded by Kyai Haji Hasyim Asy’ari, the founder of Nahdlatul Ulama). He later completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees in Islamic Studies at Ibn Khaldun University in Bogor, West Java. Shortly after his undergraduate studies, Kyai Ma’ruf went on to spend his young adult life as a preacher and Islamic teacher in Jakarta. As an NU activist, he became the chairman of a local NU youth wing in 1964.
Kyai Ma’ruf was elected to Jakarta’s provincial legislature in 1971 representing NU, which at the time was an active political party before it was later amalgamated to form the United Development Party (PPP) in 1973. He briefly served in the House of Representatives in 1973, before returning to Jakarta’s provincial legislature. During his tenure as provincial legislator, Kyai Ma’ruf served as the chair of the PPP caucus. Kyai Ma’ruf departed from politics in 1982 to concentrate on NU, before his re-entry in 1998 when he was influential in establishing the National Awakening Party (PKB). He went on to be elected to the national level House of Representatives in 1999-2004, serving as the chairperson for the Commission IV – overseeing agriculture, food and maritime affairs, as well as a member of both Commission II – overseeing government affairs and regional autonomy – and the Budgetary Board. He chose not to seek re-election after his term ended.
Concurrent with his political career as a legislator, Kyai Ma’ruf was also appointed to the MUI in 1996. He served as the deputy chairman and chairman of MUI’s fatwa committee in 1996 and 2000, respectively. Kyai Ma’ruf was pivotal in pioneering the emergence of the Islamic banking system and the insurance sectors in Indonesia, and the broader sharia economy. In 2015, he ran for the position of the Supreme Leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, which he eventually got elected for after the incumbent withdrew his name from the race. Shortly after, Kyai Ma’ruf was elected as the Chairman of the MUI, succeeding Din Syamsuddin.
- Indonesia’s V-P Candidate Aims to be Unifying Islamic Figure, The Straits Times, 18 October 2018
- Primetime World (8:13 – 10:10), Channel NewsAsia, 17 October 2018