Rahmat Islam Nusantara (The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam) documents the enthusiasm with which Indonesian Muslims commemorate the historic role of the 15th/16th century Walisongo (“Nine Saints”) movement, which precipitated the development of a great Islamic civilization in the East Indies, rooted in the principle of rahmah (universal love and compassion). These saints’ legacy inspired the founders of Indonesia to establish the newly-independent nation as a multi-religious state, rooted in the principals of pancasila and bhinneka tunggal ika, or “oneness amid diversity.”
This profound spiritual legacy explains the failure of Darul Islam, Jemaah Islamiyyah and other extremist movements, which have never been able to convince a majority of Indonesians of the need for an Islamic State. It also explains why ISIS propaganda is relatively ineffective in Indonesia (where less than 2 persons per million inhabitants have joined ISIS), in contrast to Tunisia (273 per million inhabitants), Libya (95 per million), Saudi Arabia (79 per million), Belgium (39 per million inhabitants, but in fact 649 per million MUSLIM inhabitants), or France (19 per million inhabitants, and 187 per million Muslim inhabitants).
The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) was founded in 1926 by heirs to the Walisongo tradition, in direct response to the Wahhabi conquest of Mecca and Medina. ISIS and al-Qaeda are both “Wahhabi” movements, known for their enmity to the spiritual traditions of Islam; their systematic destruction of saints’ tombs; and virulent animosity towards those of other faiths.
“The NU is responsible for providing authentic and legitimate religious guidance to its members,” said Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Secretary of the NU Supreme Council (Katib Am Syuriah PBNU), and one of the many prominent religious scholars who appear in the film. “With 70 million members spread throughout Nusantara (the East Indies Archipelago), the NU also has a profound civilizational mission: i.e., preserving the traditions bequeathed to us by the Walisongo.”
Muhammad Abul Fadl, deputy editor of al-Ahram—one of the oldest and most widely read newspapers in the Arab world—observed in a recent column: “[T]he Nahdlatul Ulama has consistently nurtured the values of Islam Nusantara for [nearly] a century, and is now poised to export its collective wisdom and experience throughout the world, for the benefit of humanity.”