About the Author(s)

Imam Kanafi Email symbol
Department of Tasawuf and Psychotheraphy, Faculty of Ushuluddin, Adab, and Dakwah, The State Institute for Islamic Study Pekalongan, Pekalongan, Indonesia

Harapandi Dahri symbol
Department of Akidah, Faculty of Ushuluddin, Kolej Universiti Perguruan Ugama Seri Begawan, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam

Susminingsih Susminingsih symbol
Department of Islamic Economics, Faculty of Islamic Economics and Business, The State Institute for Islamic Study Pekalongan, Pekalongan, Indonesia

Syamsul Bakhri symbol
Department of Hadis, Faculty of Ushuluddin, Adab and Dakwah, The State Institute for Islamic Study Pekalongan, Pekalongan, Indonesia


Kanafi, I., Dahri, H., Susminingsih, S. & Bakhri, S., 2021, ‘The contribution of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah’s theology in establishing moderate Islam in Indonesia’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 77(4), a6437. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6437

Original Research

The contribution of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah’s theology in establishing moderate Islam in Indonesia

Imam Kanafi, Harapandi Dahri, Susminingsih Susminingsih, Syamsul Bakhri

Received: 25 Dec. 2020; Accepted: 24 Mar. 2021; Published: 20 May 2021

Copyright: © 2021. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Radicalism and Islamic phobia have the potential to cause conflict amongst religious communities so that it needs social movements in building religious moderation. This study aims to understand and analyse the Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in the six largest Islamic community organisations in Indonesia in implementing religious moderation. This study uses a qualitative method with a phenomenological approach. Data obtained from interviews, observations and in-depth interviews regarding the process of externalising, objectifying and internalising the theology of Ahlusunnah Waljamaah in Nahdlatul Ulama, Rifa’iyah, Muhammadiyah, Al-Irsyad, Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia and Front Pembela Islam organisations. Then, the data were analysed through social construction theory of Peter L. Berger and T. Luckman. The results show that the six largest Islamic community organisations in Indonesia apply Ahlussunnah Waljamaahs theology. Those Islamic community organisations differently understand the externalisation of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology based on its teaching. Thus, it has implications for Aswaja’s model of application (objectification) in the fields of state, preaching, social and cultural life. Aswaja’s internalisation is reflected in the moderate character of the figures and followers of mass organisations in Indonesia. The Islamic community organisations contribute to build Islamic moderation character by applying an established and consistent theology of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah in various fields.

Contribution: This article provides insight into the contribution of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah’s theology in establishing moderate Islam in Indonesia. It contributes to build Islamic moderation’s character by applying an established and consistent theology of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah in various fields.

Keywords: Islamic moderation; Islamic theology; social construction; Indonesia; Islamic community organisations; moderate Islam.


Since its inception, Islam in Indonesia has had distinctive characteristics, namely politeness, tolerance, mutual cooperation and being peaceful and moderate. Islam emphasises the teachings of brotherhood, compassion, mutual forgiveness, self-control and abstinence hostility and resentment amongst human fellow (Meftah 2018). The majority of Indonesian people believe that Islam is a religion that teaches doctrine of love and friendship amongst humans. Believers who come from various nations, tribes and races, acknowledge and love God, prophets and divine saints, then friendship, impressions and peace will be maintained in human relations everywhere (Bidabad 2017). There are Muslims who are mostly passionate about studying the Qur’an by heart, studying the books of Fiqh and believing in old traditions such as amulets and holy graves that they believe provide peace (Steenbrink 2015). These are some practices that build the behaviour of peaceful Islam because Indonesian Muslims are very passionate about learning al-quran hadith and fiqh but still respect the traditions and culture of their ancestors.

Organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Rifa’iyah, Muhammadiyah, Al-Irsyad, Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia (LDDI) and Front Pembela Islam (FPI) understand and apply theology of Islamic teachings in line with Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah (Saleh 2008), which is disseminated through polite and wise preachers and Sufi figures. Theology of Ahlusunah Waljmaah is Islam that loves peace (Alhadri & Ramle 2018; Mibtadin 2018; Rifai, Dian & Alimi 2017). Multi-cultural and multi-religious Indonesia really needs moderation in religion (Ramli 2019; Sutrisno 2019). Many cases of radicalism occur because of the application of religious moderation that has not been massive and comprehensive yet in Indonesia (Mibtadin 2018; Van Bruinessen 2002, 2013). However, the development of Indonesian Islam in the early 20th century shows that a friendly and tolerant Islam (Sufism) will fade from social life along with the modernisation process of Indonesian society supported by clerics (Howell 2001).

It happened because of the development of global culture, ideologies and movements that came to Indonesia. Various understandings and ideologies exist based on religion, philosophy, economics, politics and so on. Some of Islam-based movements are Wahhabis, Ikhwanul Muslimin, Hizbuttahrir, Jama’ah Islamiyah, Shia, Ahmadiyah, Jama’ah Tabligh, even Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is affiliated with Middle Eastern countries (Woodward 2017). The growth of understanding and movement has spurred the emergence of various Islamic attitudes and characters. The scattered Islamic movements with several characters along with the technology development and social media show the phenomena of religious activity spirit in the wider community (Solahudin & Fakhruroji 2020).

Islamic practice that emphasises peace is an implementation of a method of thinking that takes a middle ground. Middle-way thinking has an accommodative and dialogic character in addressing a problem. This middle ground thinking is appropriate if it is applied to a pluralistic, multi-ethnic, linguistic society such as Indonesia. In its application, the principle of middle way thinking must be applied in various aspects of life in order to achieve a peaceful social order. However, in recent years radicalism has emerged because of the inconsistent application of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah.

The phenomena of Islamic understanding and movements that have developed in Indonesia in the last few decades appear as a normative textual pattern in understanding religion, which is fundamental in the movement and radical anarchists in voicing their aspirations (Ahnaf 2016). As Bruinessen discovered, Islamic radicalism has entered Indonesia over the past 15 years through major books. and a transnational Islamic movement that competes with established organisations such as NU and Muhammadiyah (Van Bruinessen 2013). Radical movements generally refer to a rigid, textual and intolerant pattern of Islamic interpretation and practice (Sabic-El-Rayess 2020). Various robberies, riots, bombings, destruction of public facilities and various acts of anarchy adorn the face of Indonesian Islam. There are also a number of Islamist groups that take justice into their own hands and behave violently by using jihadi discourse and mobilising followers to follow the teachings of jihad against those who are considered infidels in conflict areas (Van Bruinessen 2002). There are also many conflict cases in Indonesia that show tragic conflicts in the name of religion. In recent developments, there is also violence against the Ahmadiyah minority by hardline Muslims (Burhani 2014). Some radical and fundamental figures claim to learn and practice Ahlussunnah Waljamaah, of course this shows something that is inconsistent with the basic concept of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah who are friendly, peaceful, full of brotherhood and tolerant. This is one of the focus of the problem to be examined in this research.

In addition, Pekalongan is one of the regions in Indonesia that is the centre of the development of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah teachings with the charismatic figure Habib Lutfi (Aryani 2017). He is an Islamic figure who has many followers such as NU, Muhammadiyah, al-Irsyad, Rifa’iyyah, Front Pembela Islam (FPI or the Islamic Defenders Front), Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia (LDII or Indonesia Institute of Islamic Dawah) and Jama’ah Salafi. Wahabis also claim to be followers of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah. Thus, it is interesting to do further study to seek what things affect the character and behaviour of the characters and the community and how to map the concept and implementation of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah to Islamic leaders in Pekalongan. This map will show Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah’s contribution to form the elegant Islamic character of Lil Alamin, which is useful for references to Nusantara and even international Islam. This research focusses on answering the social construction process of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in Indonesia; the process of externalising Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in Islamic mass organisations; and its implementation in various aspects of life and internalisation on the formation of the character of moderate Islam in Indonesia.

Some radical and fundamental figures claim to learn and practice Ahlussunnah Waljamaah, of course, this shows something inconsistent with the basic concept of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah who are friendly, peaceful, full of brotherhood and tolerant. This is one of the focusses of the problem to be examined in this research. The difference between this research and past research is that the current study examines the implementation and theology of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah in the six largest community organisations in Indonesia, namely NU, Rifa’iyah, Muhammadiyah, Al-Irsyad, LDDI and FPI. This study aims to provide solutions to the problems of radicalism and Islamic phobia.

Research methods

This research uses qualitative approach with a phenomenological approach method (Roberts 2014). Using a phenomenological approach, the researcher will find out about the experience and knowledge of each leader of community organisations who adhere to the Ahlussunnah Waljamaah’s theology. This will then be coded according to the dimensions of social construction theory and compiled into a summary table. We are investigating how knowledge is externalised, objectified and internalised in the theology of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah. A qualitative approach is oriented on understanding and interpreting a phenomenon in the naturalistic sense that humans have (Sumintono et al. 2015). The data are focussed on the concept of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah and its implementation on Islamic leaders in Indonesia. The primary data sources are leaders or administrators of NU, Muhammadiyah, Al-Irsyad, LDII, FPI and Rifa’iyyah mass organisations.

The data were collected through interviews, in-depth interviews and observations (Crist & Tanner 2003; Mulhall 2003). The interview method is used to obtain concept and implementation data about the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah from leaders of Islamic organisations in Indonesia. Then, the data are applied to various parties mentioned, so this interview process applies the snowball model (Vogt 2015). The researchers observe the Muslim community that follows those Islamic mass organisations with various religious activities and others in the fields of religious practice, worship, economy, politics, education and culture.

Based on data sources and its collection techniques, the researchers process and analyse data critically with hermeneutic interpret phenomenological methodology based on Heideggerian philosophy (Crist & Tanner 2003). The theory is used in recognising the social construction of Berger and Lukman (2016) to produce a comprehensive and substantive understanding of the process of externalisation, objectification and internalisation of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in Indonesia. Its socio-cultural analysis is very useful because it is necessary to explore how the socio-cultural influence of Muslims is manifested in understanding and practicing doctrine (Black 2007).

Results and discussion

The theology of Ahlusunnah Waljamaah

Based on language, Ahlu-sunnah Waljama’ah (اهل السنة والجماعة)consists of three words, namely Ahl (اهل), Al-Sunnah (السنة) and Al-Jama’ah (الجماعة). Ahl means family, class or followers. Al- Sunnah means al-thariqah wa law ghaira mardhiyah or way even though it is not pleasing. Meanwhilst, Al Jama’ah comes from the word jama’a, which means to collect something by bringing some of it closer to some of the others. The word ‘Jama’ah’ also comes from the word ijtima’ (association), which is the opposite of tafarruq (divorce) and also the opposite of firqah (division). Jama’ah or a congregation is a large group of people or a group of humans who gathered based on one goal. In addition, the congregation also means people who agree on a problem.

Meanwhilst, based on the term, sunnah is a name for a way that is pleasing in religion, which has been taken by Rasulullah Shallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam (SAW) or amongst those who understand Islam such as the companions of Rasulullah SAW. As the name implies, As-Sunnah is sunatur rasul and jama’ah are the companions. So, Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah are people who follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and his friends.

Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in Indonesia developed initially from the entry of Islam in Indonesia. In the historical record, Islam came to Indonesia since the time of Khulafaur Rasyidin, to be precise, at the caliph Utsman bin Affan. There are two routes for the entry of Islam in Indonesia, namely from the southern route with the Shafi’i sect (Arabic, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malacca, Indonesia) and the northern route (the silk route), which has the Hanafi school of thought (Turkey, Persia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, China, Malacca, Indonesia).

Initially, Islam, which was present in Indonesia, had two sects, namely Sunni and Shia. The Sunni understanding was the origin of most of the followers of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in Indonesia. Whilst the Shia is carried by followers of Shi’ah Islamiyah sourced from Persia. One of the influence of the Shia in Indonesia is in Pariaman, West Sumatra. There is the understanding that Mahdi, a descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib, will come. There is a tradition of ‘ark’, which is made from a stretcher decorated with flower carried out around village. It is commemorated in every ten Ashura whilst chanting ‘oyak osen’ (hasan-husen), the names of the two grandchildren of the Prophet and the descendants of Ali and Fatihah. However, Shia understanding does not have a place in the hearts of Indonesian people. They are more interested in Sunni and choose its ideology (Kristeva 2014).

The spread of Islam in Indonesia has been successful especially on the island of Java since the thirteenth century by Wali Songo (the nine guardian). The guardian has the important role in changing and building the beliefs of society through their cultural movements so that Islam is accepted peacefully. Wali songo movement later became qibla for many religious organisations in Indonesia with the application of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology.

Through the Islamic boarding schools, at the end of the eighteenth century, which spread in various areas, the understanding of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah was increasingly developing in society. Students of guardians develop Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia such as Shaykhuna Kholil Bangkalan (Madura), Shaikh Arsyad Al Banjari (Banjar, Kalimantan), Shaikh Yusuf (Sulawesi), etc.

Then, newly Islamic organisations with Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology were born in the society. Firstly, the birth of the Muhammadiyah in Kauman Yogyakarta on 18 November 1912, which was founded by Muhammad Darwis or KH Ahmad Dahlan. Secondly, on 6 September 1914, Al-Irsyad was founded by Sheikh Ahmad Surkati, Umar Manqush, Sa’id bin Salim Masy’abi, Salih ‘Ubaid’ Abdat and Salim bin ‘Iwad Balwa’al. Thirdly, Nahdhatul Ulama (NU) was founded by Kyai Hasyim Asy’ari on 31 January 1926 in Surabaya. Fourthly, LDII was founded by Drs. Nur Hasyim, Drs. Edi Masyadi, Drs. Bahroni Hertanto, Soetojo Wirjo Atmodjo BA and Wijono BA on 3 January 1972 in Surabaya. Fifthly, the Rifa’iyah was founded on 25 December 1991. In 1965, this organisation was previously Yayasan Pendidikan Islam Rifa’iyah (Yasrif or the Rifa’iyah Islamic Education Foundation), which was founded by Carbin, Ramli, Achmad Chambali, Mohammad Nasir, Solechan, Ali Hadji Abdurachim, Thoha and Abdullah Thohir in Pemalang. They are young Rifa’iyah clerics who have the passion to preserve KH Ahmad Rifa’i’s da’wah struggle. Sixthly, FPI was founded on 17 August 1998 in South Jakarta by a number of Habaib, Ulama, Mubaligh and Muslim activists and witnessed by hundreds of Islamic boarding school students from Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi).

According to Islamic leaders, Aswaja contains various meanings:

‘As the name implies, As-sunnah is sunnatur rasul and the congregation is the friends. So Aswaja is a people who follow the teachings of the Prophet and his friends.’ (Zainuri, Nahdlatul Ulama, 3 June 2020).

Another Islamic leader put it like this:

‘Ahlu means a group or community, Sunnah means actions, speech, and what the Prophet ordered and his provisions, jamaah means something that was agreed upon by the people of the Prophet’s time, namely the friends and the era of Khulafaurrasyidin’s leadership. So Aswaja is a community of people who are always guided by the Sunnah of the Prophet and the path of his companions.’ (Mustajib, Rifa’iyyah, 7 June 2020)

Thus, Aswaja, according to some Islamic figures is a group of loyal followers of the Prophet and his companions, or people who always followed the way of life of the Prophet and his companions. Based on this understanding, definitions emerge that explain who Aswaja followers are:

‘Aswaja is a community of people who are always guided by the sunnah of Rasul, and the path of his friends.’ (Shodiqin, Rifa’iyyah, 9 July 2020)

In line with this:

‘The religious understanding that follows the Sunnah of the Prophet and the congregation, the congregation here means to follow the friends.’ (Ayash, Front Pembela Islam, 30 June 2020)

The chief of LDII stated:

‘We have to follow what is revealed by God, the Qur’an and hadith on which the basis for Aswaja.’ (Ayash, Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia, 30 June 2020)

On another occasion the head of the regional committee of Muhammadiyah Pekalongan interpret Aswaja as follows:

‘Every Muslim who carries out teachings in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet and friends. The congregation here is the Muslim community after the Prophet, namely the companions, tabi’in and Tabi’it tabi’in. As long as the community adheres to The Qur’an and al-Hadith, they are Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah.’ (Affandi, Muhammadiyah, 2 July 2020)

Then, Hasan Bisri, a Muhammadiyah figure, added:

‘The teachings are in accordance with The Qur’an and hadith and the understanding of Islamic teachings is good. We must follow what is revealed by God, namely Al- Qur’an and al-Hadits on which the basis of Aswaja.’ (Bisri, Muhammadiyah, 5 July 2020)

Said Awud, chairman of Al-Irsyad also said the same and placed Ahlussunnah Waljamaah in the context of Indonesia:

In Indonesia, Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah is the largest school and the majority is Sunni. (Awud, Al-Irsyad, 9 July 2020).

‘As the name implies, As-sunnah is the sunatur of Prophet and the congregation is the friends. So, people who follow the teachings of the Prophet and his friends. The main basis of Ahlussunnah is The Qur’an and as-sunnah and both are supported by ijma and qiyash as explanations because in The Qur’an related to muhkamat verses and qath’i arguments have become an agreement but what is mustasyabihat and dzanni and other things are still in the area of ijtihadi which must be explained with ijma and qiyas. So, don’t understand The Qur’an as rice eaten raw, but rice that can become rice, porridge, rice cake. the area of interpretation, that’s the area of ijma and qiyash.’ (Basyaiban, Nahdlatul Ulama, 11 July 2020).

All teachings have a foundation that is believed to be a reference that makes them believe in carrying out their daily practices. Likewise, with the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah to Islamic leaders. According to Abu Ayash from FPI, the basis of his Aswaja teachings is the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma’ and Qiyash.

This is affirmed:

‘The Qur’an and Hadith. while sticking to both of them, it will be safe.’ (Haryadi, Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia, 11 July 2020).

Said Awud, the leader of Al-Irsyad, stated that the basis is the Qur’an and Hadith. Muhammadiyah identifies, in addition to the Qur’an and Hadith as its main basis, the tarjih carried out by its leaders as the basis:

‘The Qur’an and Hadith, and Muhammadiyah do not stick to a particular leader to take the base. And in Muhammadiyah there is no imitation. As long as the opinion is good, Muhammadiyah takes it. As the opinion of Imam Shafi’i, Imam Hambali and other Mujatahid Imams. and in Muhammadiyah there are Majlis Tarjih and Tajdid in processing law.’ (Affandi, Muhammadiyah, 2 July 2020)

‘Al-Qur’an and Hadith, imitating the Prophet and his companions.’ (Bisri, Muhammadiyah, 5 July 2020).

NU believes the basis are the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma and Qiyash as he emphasised:

‘Following the sunnah of the Prophet and friends namely the The Qur’an and hadith. Apart from that Ijma’ and Qiyas. Ijma’ and qiyas do not contradict the Qur’an and hadith. For example, in the case of the prayer which is not explained in the Qur’an and the hadith, how the movement is. Ijma’ is a local Ulama agreement that is international in scope. Qiyash is an example such as the basis of adultery, wala takrabu zina, do not approach adultery, textually it is forbidden to approach, but implies forbidden.’ (Zainuri, Nahdlatul Ulama, 3 June 2020)

Rifa’iyyah also did too. Shodiqin Bin Ismail and Mustajib said that the basic teachings of Aswaja that they adhere to, are the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma and Qiyas.

In addition to the basic teachings of Aswaja, the teaching reference also refers to the figure as their reference for practice. By understanding the figures, they will be able to trace their thoughts and characters in their daily behaviour. FPI emphasised Aswaja figures for them, as stated by Abu Ayash, that the figures are people who are competent in sharia, the four schools of thought, such as al-Gazhali in the field of Sufism and Al-Maturidi in the field of faith.

For LDII, as emphasised by Abdul Aziz, the leading figure is Prof. Abdullah Syam as the founder:

‘Chairman Prof. Abdullah Syam and several of his friends’ rank. Prof. Sindiq is in the ranks of the Province, but all of them take the basis of the Prophet Muhammad.’ (Haryadi, Lembaga Dakwah Islam Indonesia, 11 July 2020)

Muhammadiyah circles emphasised that their figures are the Prophet Muhammad SAW and the friends of Abu Bakr, Umar bin Khatab, Ustman bin Affan, Ali Bin Abi Tahlib and also the Tabi’in. However, another Muhammadiyah figure, Hasan Bisri, said their figures are all Aswaja figures in several mass organisations.

Zainuri, who represented NU, summarised the Aswaja figure as follows:

‘Salaf figures in Nahdlatul Ulama are divided into three. Friends, Tabi’in, and tabi’it tabi’in. After that Muta’akhirin or contemporary Ulama. All schools in Aswaja, as in the Shari’a, are Imam Hanafi, Imam Hambali, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Maliki. In terms of faith, namely Imam Abu Hasan Al-Asy’ari and Imam Abu Mansur Al-Maturidi. And in the case of Sufism Imam Abu Djunaid Al-Baghdadi, Imam Abu Yazid Al-Bustami, and Imam Ghazali. And the figures in Indonesia are walisongo, because Nahdlatul Ulam is continuing the preaching of walisongo.’ (Zainuri, Nahdlatul Ulama, 3 June 2020).

According to the figure of Rifa’iyah, Shodiqin Bin Ismail, confirmed by Mustajib, Aswaja figures are:

‘Imam Abu Hasan Al-Asy’ari, Abu Mansyur Al-Maturidi, Imam Shafi’I. Other Imams are Hanafi, Maliki, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Imam Djunaid Al-Baghdadi. And other Imams whose opinions do not come out of the four bases above.’ (Mustajib, Rifa’iyah, 7 June 2020)

Al-Irsyad emphasised that their figures are the founders and the heroes:

‘The founders of Al-Irsyad and Indonesian clerics who fought for Islam and liberated the country.’ (Said Awud, Al-Irsyad 9 July 2020)

This shows that Ahlussunnah Waljamaah teachings are obtained from figures who have a scientific path that is trusted in each Islamic mass organisation. But each mass organisation figure has a different figure. The decision of the figure will determine the practice.

Externalisation of Theology of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah

Externalisation in this study is an adaptation process and a learning process for members of mass organisations and leaders of Islamic organisations in Indonesia regarding the concept of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah. The understanding of the leaders of Islamic organisations in Indonesia about the concept of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah is relatively same, namely people or groups who are guided and carry out the teachings of the Prophet(s) and his friends. There is a slight difference in understanding, namely from the figures of LDII and al-Irsyad who emphasised more on the implementation of the Qur’an and As-Sunnah as benchmarks or criteria for Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah. The understanding concept map that understands from the interview data processing of researchers can be seen as follows:

NU People who follow the teachings of the Prophet and his companions
Rifa’iyyah A community of people who are always guided by the Sunnah of the Prophet and the ways of his friends
Muhammadiyah Muslim community who carry out teachings in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet and his companions
Al-Irsyad The majority of the community who follow the teachings of the Qur’an and al Sunnah
LDII People who follow the Qur’an and al-Sunnah
FPI Religious understanding that follows the Sunnah of the Prophet and his companions

Understanding the concept of knowledge has implications for attitudes and behaviours embodied in social and organisational life (Chiu, Hsu & Wang 2006; Connelly et al. 2019). Likewise, understanding the basic concepts of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah, namely understanding the source of teachings only from the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, the results of the thoughts of Muslim companions and scientists from time to time are not taken into account. It causes a break in the scientific chain and the understanding of religious texts is rigid, textual and non-historical.

Principally, the basis and sources of law required by Islamic organisations are the same, namely the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma’ and Qiyash. The views of the leaders of Islamic organisations about the sources of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah teachings are divided into three groups. The first group holds the view that the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah are based on four things: The Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma’ and qiyas that are followed by NU, Rifa’iyyah and FPI. The second group holds the view that the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah are based on the Qur’an and Al-Sunnah that are followed by Al-Irshad and LDII and Allah knows best. However, both groups recognise the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah.

These doctrinal references have an impact on teaching references and taking examples in everyday life, which are taught to the people and society. The figures who refer to the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljam’ah in the view of Islamic leaders in Indonesia can be seen as follows:

NU Companions, Tabi’in, Tabiut tabi’in, Ulama afterward (creed: Abu Hasan al-Asy’ri and al-Maturidi, Fiqh on 4 madzhab and Sufism Djuned al-Baghdadi) so on to Walisongo in Java and Ulama successor scholars
Rifa’iyyah Imam Abu Hasan al-Asy’ri and Abu Mansyur al-Maturidi, 4 imams of the madzhab and Sufism Djuned al-Baghdadi and all views in line with their views
Muhammadiyah Rasulullah and his companions and the tabi’in
Al-Irsyad Founders of foundations and heroes
LDII Prof. Abdullah Syam (Founder of LDII) and regional leaders
FPI Ulama who are competent in their fields (faith, syari’ah and Sufism)

Furthermore, the basic teachings of Islam that consist of Islam (Sharia), faith (theology) and Ihsan (Sufism), which are believed by Islamic leaders are described in the following:

Understanding of Islam and Sharia
NU Islam is the implementation of the pillars of Islam as the main thing and sharia is furu’iyyah whose practice follows the fiqh of 4 madzhab
Rifa’iyyah Islam is worshiping Allah and syari’at is a law or law established for its implementation. There is only one pillar of Islam, namely syahadah (the witness). The implementation is consistent adherence, so that marriages by state officials are not valid.
Muhammadiyah Islam is the religion of Allah revealed in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Hence the implementation of Islam as in the hadith of the Prophet
Al-Irsyad Islam is a part of the creed which manifests in the behavior of life which is known as devotion
LDII Carrying out the Shari’a is actually theory and practice based on the pillars of Islam. Its implementation must be in accordance with the capabilities in frame the Qur’an and Sunnah guidelines
FPI Islam is what is in the pillars of Islam
Understanding of Faith and Aqidah
NU Believe in 6 faith pillars, which are the implementation following Abu Hasan al Asy’ari and al Maturidi.
Rifa’iyyah The justification (tashdiq) of all that Allah brings through the Messenger of Allah. It is obligatory to follow aqoid seket (50 about the attributes of Allah and the Prophet) to achieve ma’rifat.
Muhammadiyah Having faith in the pillars of six faith by believing in your heart, making oral vows and carrying out your actions, and the main thing is to worship Allah purely.
Al-Irsyad The faith and the sharia are an inseparable unity. The implementation aims to form a pious person
LDII Whatever is in accordance with Allah and His Messenger, namely believing in six faith pillars. Its implementation must be sincere and must refer to the results of the study by LDII leaders
FPI Believe in the six faith pillars, plus the principles of da’wah, hisbah (the doctrine of amar ma’rif nahyi mungkar) and jihad. These three must be implemented because they are pillars of the faith, if one is left behind, there will be social inequality in Islam

It is interesting to see the views of FPI figures who added that there are three principles of teachings that are believed to be the pillars of the implementation of the faith, without these posts it is impossible to enforce, namely the principle of da’wah, hisbah and jihad. The three of them are believed to be unwary obligations and must complement one another. Da’wah about Islam focusses more on enforcing amar makruf nahyi mungkar in society and carrying it out with jihad as much as possible by using the means at its disposal. These three principles have great potential to be mobilised in realising an order of loved worship and loved by Allah in the world to the future.

According to researchers, the tough character that is often mentioned even in FPI movement is because of beliefs based on these three principles. The three, if analysed, are also Islamic teachings based on the Qur’an and Al-Sunnah. However, the formulation of the three that must be carried out rigidly, normatively and without compromise is the result of the formulation of certain numbers based on certain conditions, which are also specific. However, the excessive fanaticism of figures and leaders has made their personal profile more widely used as a guide in religious movements compared with the Prophet and a gentle companion in preaching, being polite in forbiddance and conditional in jihad.

Understanding of Ihsan or Sufism
NU Ihsan performs worship as if with Allah and worships to reach Him (wushul) by following the guidelines from Juneid al Baghdadi, Abu Yazid Busthami and al-Ghozali. The experience by following the Tarekat which is practiced synergistically with faith and sharia.
Rifa’iyyah Worship seems to be with Allah based on the hadith of the Prophet, and its implementation with Sufism as a knowledge to cleanse the heart from reprehensible traits filled with praiseworthy qualities.
Muhammadiyah Ihsan is the culmination of consistent implementation of the correct faith and Islamic teachings. It is the manifestation of a believer and trustworthy Muslim.
Al-Irsyad Sufism is a method of approaching oneself to Allah and practicing it leads to someone who is Sufi.
LDII Ihsan is a form of appreciation and implementation of Islam in accordance with the Qur’an and al-Sunnah. The practice of Sufism by implementing Islamic law is the most correct religion.
FPI Referring to the hadith of the Prophet, worship as if seen by Allah. Sufism is an effort to get closer to free the heart from worldly affairs so that God is devoted to his servitude.

This shows that these characters have similarities in understanding the meaning of Ihsan as the hadith of the Prophet SAW who worshiped God as if he or she see Him or see Him wherever he or she is. So, the concept of Ihsan is different from Islam and Iman. However, Muhamadiyah community has a slightly different view from other figures, that Ihsan is a consistent implementation of the correct faith and sharia practice (istiqomah or consistent).

Objectification of Ahlussunnah Walajama’ah teachings
Views on the implementation of Aswaja in the State
NU It supports the legitimate government as long as it does not conflict with the sharia for the sake of the continuation of Aswaja. It also supports Pancasila because the precepts contain elements of Islam. It does not rebel against the government.
Rifa’iyyah It is loyal to Pancasila and Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia (NKRI or the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia) and defend them to the death, as Ahmad Rifai.
Muhammadiyah It obeys the government as a form of obedience to the Prophet and Allah as long as it is in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah. Pancasila as darul abdi wal syahadah. It maintains Pancasila and NKRI and the 1945 Constitution.
Al-Irsyad It obeys the state (ulil amr) as a form of obedience to Rasulullah and Allah as long as it does not conflict with each other. Religion and state must be in sync.
LDII The legitimate government must be obeyed.
FPI NKRI is a legacy of Islamic fighters. Muslims must love and own it. NKRI syari’ah is to fully practice Pancasila.

Islamic leaders in Pekalongan Indonesia agree to obey to Pancasila because they consider it contains elements of Islam. FPI even stated that Indonesian state was considered sharia if it was able to fully implement Pancasila. Therefore, all figures have the same viewpoint in illustrating their Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah view that NKRI is a divine gift that must be preserved, loved and fought for until it runs out of blood. As long as the government and the country do not violate religious rules, supporting it is inevitable.

Views on the implementation of Aswaja in culture
NU It allows cultural event to maintain it as long as it does not conflict with religion.
Rifa’iyyah Its acceptance of a culture is a necessity because culture is the identity of the existence of religion and state.
Muhammadiyah The acceptance of a culture must be seen as being compatible with religion, even being maintained. It must create an Islamic culture.
Al-Irsyad A cultural practice must be in accordance with tauhid or monotheism.
LDII Culture is a form of behaviour in the local realm as the embodiment of religion. The two must not conflict.
FPI True Islam must be able to be manifested in Indonesian culture as long as Indonesian values are in line with Islamic values

In creating Ahlussunnah Waljamaah teachings in culture, all figures in principle have the same attitude that culture is undoubtedly because in culture there is a community, even rifa’iyyah figures emphasise culture as identity. It means that the existence of community and teachings must be manifested in a cultural form. As for the existing culture, as long as in accordance with religion, it will be accepted and fostered. Muhammadiyah firmly states its stance that the existing culture must be Islamic, does not contain elements that are against the Qur’an and Al-Hadith.

Views on the implementation of Aswaja in Da’wah
NU Da’wah with mauidhatul hasanah, not harsh as walisongo. The principle of preaching is al-ta’lif qabla taklif (persuading before tying), al-taisir laa tasir (making it easy not difficult) and al-tadrijiyyah (gradually). NU’s preaching also supports the government.
Rifa’iyyah Da’wah is adjusted to the level of understanding of the congregation
Muhammadiyah Da’wah must adhere to the verses of Allah and the Sunnah, and must not conflict with government regulations. The method of amar makruf must be with wisdom, exemplary and fastabiqul khaerat.
Al-Irsyad Da’wah amar makruf nahyi mungkar must be modelled on as true Muslims. Da’wah must be in accordance with Pancasila and other regulations
LDII Da’wah should be carried out peacefully and coolly and with exemplary behaviour. Don’t think that the other group is wrong.
FPI Da’wah is the pillar of Aswaja that is united with hisbah and jihad. All three actors must be supported and should not be criticised.
The view on the implementation of Aswaja in organisational life

It means the attitude of Islamic leaders towards social or social life; how to see themselves and how to view groups.

NU It must be tolerant (tasamukh), know each other (ta’aruf), help each other (ta’awun), have a fair culture (ta’adil) both internally and externally with Islam.
Rifa’iyyah It is kind and fair with others even with non-Muslims too (Surah Mumtahanah: 8)
Muhammadiyah It believes in the need for a good relationship to God (hablun minallah) and to others (hablum minannas wal alam). The three of them must be balanced. It supports tolerance and respect with non-Muslims if it does not contradict Islam with the principle of lakum dinukum waliyadien
Al-Irsyad It respect one another based on the principle of lakum dinikum waliyadien
LDII It must respect, get along well and not clash with one another because Islam rahmatan lil alamen
FPI Muslims must respect their fellow human beings, both within and without. Muslims must be tolerant and respect one another

The given explanation shows that a doctrine has the power to lead to an action that ultimately shapes characters either individually or institutionally in an organisation. The four factors prove that friendly morals are not organised by including congregations, coloured by the understanding of the concept of Ahlussunnah Wajama’ah teachings and the implementation in life. The types of characters produced by each organisation can be seen in the following:

NU It is defenders of scholars, guardians of schools of thought, lovers of thoriqah, mutual tolerance (tasamukh), know each other (ta’aruf), help each other (ta’awun), do justice (ta’adil), brotherhood (ukhuwah) are accommodating to cultural traditions. It is defenders of the Republic of Indonesia
Rifa’iyyah It is kind and fair with others and non-Muslims. It also obeys the government
Muhammadiyah It believes in goodness to God (hablun minallah) as well as others and nature (hablum minannas wal alam). It must be tolerant and respect non-Muslims if it does not conflict with Islam. It obeys the government. Anti-traditions such as tahlil, manakib, khaul mauludan.
Al-Irsyad It respects one another based on the principle of lakum dinikum waliyadien. It also obeys the government.
LDII It respects, get along well and do not clash with one another because Islam rahmatan lil alamen.
FPI It is defender of scholars, guardians of schools of thought, lovers of thoriqah, mutual tolerance (tasamukh), know each other (ta’aruf), help each other (ta’awun), do justice (ta’adil), brotherhood (ukhuwah) are accommodating to cultural traditions. It is defenders of the Republic of Indonesia.

Referring to the standard understanding of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah for the consistency of theological aspects that follow asy’ariyah maturidiyah, the sharia aspects that follow Shaafa’iyah and the aspects of Sufism that follow Junediyah wal Ghozaliyah on the basis of taking the Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijma and Qiyas and interrelated scientific relationships related, the highest level of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah is NU, Rifa’iyyah, FPI, LDII, Muhammadiyah and al-Irsyad. The higher the level of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah, the more mercy except FPI. Actually the concept of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah is high, but because the implementation of the teachings has the concepts of da’wah, hisbah and jihad, the FPI mercy value becomes less significant.

Internalisation of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah Teachings

The externalisation of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah teachings is based on three aspects of religion, simultaneously which consist of: (1) theological and religious fields, following the views of al-Asy’ari and al-Maturidi, (2) the field of Fiqh, following one of the four schools of thought (Maliki, Hanafi, Safi’i and Hanbali) and (3) the field of Sufism, following the views of al-Juneidi and al-Ghazali. Based on the meaning and scope of the concept of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah, the successive levels are NU, Rifa’iyyah, LDII, FPI, Muhammadiyah and al-Irsyad. The objectification of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah teachings in Indonesia is implemented in various social practices of Islamic mass organisations in Indonesia. In patriotic life, NU supports the government with Pancasila as the price of death; Rifa’iyyah is loyal to Pancasila and defends the Republic of Indonesia; Muhammadiyah obeys the government as the third form of obedience after Rasul; al-Irsyad obeys ulil amri as long as it does not conflict with Islam; LDII adheres to the legitimate government and NKRI as a legacy of fighters who must be guarded and faithfully practicing Pancasila. In the field of culture, NU accepts and maintains tradition. Rifa’iyyah also does too. Muhamamdiyah accepts the culture that is in accordance with the Qur’an. Al-Irsyad must adjust tauhid. LDII tradition is a form of religion so as not to conflict each other. FPI aligns it with Islam. In the field of NU da’wah with bil hikmah method, al-ta’lif qabl taklif, al-taisir wal tadrijiyah. Rifa’iyyah interrupted this condition. Preaching Muhammadiyah is based on the Qur’an and al-Irsyad in an exemplary manner, LDII in a peaceful manner and FPI synergising between preaching, hisbah and jihad.

The internalisation of the Ahlussunnh Waljama’ah Teachings appears in the social reality of friendly Islamic morals in Indonesia. Those are (1) the teachings of Ahlussunnh Waljama’ah whose contents will fully produce a more merciful character and meet the criteria of rahmatan lil ‘alamiin. Thus, they can contribute more than others. A figure with an NU background is in this position. (2) Rifa’iyyah and LDII have a second contribution because their understanding of the concept is less firm on Sufism so that it tends to be exclusive. (3) Muhamamdiyah and al-Irsyad made a strong contribution but must be adapted to the Qur’an and the Prophet’s hadiths strictly because the principles must refer directly to the basis of both. (4) Even though the concept of Aswaja FPI is adequate, the principles of da’wah, hisbah and jihad make its character hard. So, some of its movements are not in accordance with Islamic friendly character. Thus, the more consistent both its concept and implementation are with the teachings of Ahlussunnh Waljama’ah, the greater its contribution to the formation of the character of Islam rahmatan lil ‘alamiin at the local and national levels of Indonesia. Therefore, to increase their contribution to rahmatan lil’alamin character in the life of the nation and state, the leaders of religious community organisations should better understand the concept of Ahlussunnh Waljama’ah comprehensively and consistently implement it in accordance with the culture of the surrounding community. With regard to radical religious practices and even anarchy, one solution is to provide a better understanding of the teachings of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology consistently. The diversity of understandings and differences in the practice of social life that shape the social construction of theological Ahlussunah Waljamaah in Indonesia.


The social construction of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah theology in the moderation of Islam in Indonesia can be a model for other countries. Indonesia with its multi-cultural characteristics has succeeded in implementing it as a social movement of Islamic moderation. The process of externalising Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah theology of the six largest Islamic community organisations in Indonesia is understood differently in the basis of its teachings. So, it has implications for Aswaja’s model of application (objectification) in the fields of state, preaching, social and cultural life. Aswaja’s internalisation is reflected in the moderate character of the figures and followers of mass organisations in Indonesia. The contribution of Islamic community organisations in shaping and building the character of Islamic moderation is carried out by applying the established, consistent and massive theology of Ahlussunnah Waljama’ah in various fields.


The authors would like to thank the Rector of Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN) Pekalongan and the Chairperson of research institutions and community service of IAIN Pekalongan for their support in the implementation of this 2020 research. The results of this study are entirely the responsibility of the authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

I.K., H.D., S.S. and S.B. were all involved in the preparation, research design, data collection, analysis and article writing.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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