Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri

In the Name Of

Some, in the name of God, debase and defile religion.
Some, in the name of “patriotism,” rob their nation blind.
Some, in the name of “the people,” oppress and exploit others.
Some, in the name of “humanity,” prey upon their fellow man.
Some, in the name of “justice,” demolish the very pillars of justice.
Some, in the name of “unity,” rend the fabric of social harmony.
Some, in the name of “peace,” harass and torment others.
Some, in the name of “freedom,” destroy its very foundations.
So, in the name of whatever or whomever you wish,
Let your curses fly.
Acting in My Name,
Battle the ignorant with love and compassion.

~ KH. A. Mustofa Bisri

Former Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Supreme Council (Rais ‘Aam Syuriah PBNU), Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri (“Gus Mus”) is often called Sang Kyai Pembelajar—the Great Religious Scholar Devoted to Learning—by members of the world’s largest Muslim organization.

Widely revered as a religious scholar, poet, novelist, painter and Muslim intellectual, Gus Mus has strongly influenced not only the 100-million-member NU, but also the social, cultural and political development of Indonesia over the past forty years—facilitating its transition from decades of authoritarian rule to an open, vibrant and successful democracy.

Descended from a long line of charismatic religious leaders, Gus Mus heads the prestigious Raudlatuth Tholibin Islamic boarding school in Rembang, Central Java, where he was born in 1944. As a child, he received a thorough education in Islamic studies, first from his parents, and then from other preeminent Muslim scholars—including the renowned Kyai Haji Ali Maksum at al-Munawwir Krapyak Islamic boarding school in Yogyakarta—all of whom encouraged artistic development and critical thought among their students.

This influence—combined with a unique set of native abilities, cultivated through a lifetime of devotion to God, humanity and the arts—has produced a distinctive fusion of spirituality and artistic expression widely admired in Indonesia, where Gus Mus is regarded as both a religious and a cultural icon. Often called the “President of Poets,” he is also celebrated for his courage in defending artistic and religious freedom in the face of radical onslaughts.

A graduate of al-Azhar University in Cairo, which regards him as a highly-distinguished alumnus, Mustofa Bisri’s personal philosophy can be seen in the “Mata Air” (“Living Spring”) interfaith community that he founded, whose membership is open to all who share its essential values: “Worship God; respect elders; treat those who are younger with loving kindness; open your heart to all humanity.”

Numerous books and doctoral dissertations have been written exclusively about Gus Mus, in addition to thousands of articles that reference his achievements in fields ranging from Islamic spirituality, theology, literature and the arts, to education and social politics.

“Gus Mus is a true mufti [a master of Sunni Muslim scholarship and jurisprudence]. But he is too humble to pride himself on this fact. Yet al-mufti is indeed his quality, and his spiritual station in life.”

~ Indonesian composer, musician and author/Sufi mystic Emha Ainun Nadjib

“[O]ne of the most influential liberal Islamic scholars worldwide: Ahmad Mustofa Bisri of Indonesia, who represents the world’s biggest Islamic association.”

~ Der Spiegel

“[T]he spiritual leader of Nahdlatul Ulama”

~ New York Times

Indonesia’s Minister of Religion KH. Lukman Hakim reciting a poem at a public celebration held in honor of KH. A. Mustofa Bisri’s 70th birthday. The event’s theme: “Humanism, Nationalism, Pluralism…”

Rois ‘Am ku, Antara Kebenaran dan Waktu

My Supreme Guide, Between (the Ultimate) Truth and Time

by Kyai Haji Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Minister of Religion
delivered on 6 September 2014 in Semarang, Indonesia
upon the occasion of Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri’s 70th birthday celebration

My Supreme Guide is one who knows (the Truth)
Firmly resolved
And profoundly enthusiastic
Whether wrestling with life’s challenges
Or immersed in the silence of prayer
Focused solely upon God
So that we may align ourselves fully with the Truth.

At every moment
He shifts in rapid succession
From one form to the next
In order to transfigure and create
Whatever is necessary
For us to align ourselves fully with the Truth.

Half the time
My Supreme Guide ceaselessly advises (me)
To prevent and protect (me from committing errors)
(Reminding me that only) half-truth is on our side,
and even that,
only half the time.

My Supreme Guide is Gus Mus.
He is Gus Mus.
Gus Mus who belongs to us all.

KH. A. Mustofa Bisri on:

Freedom of thought

KH. A. Mustofa Bisri on:

The crisis within the Muslim world

KH. A. Mustofa Bisri on:

Spirituality and reason


is a golden carriage
prepared by God
to convey you along the path
to His Divine Presence.
Don’t become mesmerized by its beauty,
much less enchanted to the point
that you come to blows with your own brothers and sisters
over who occupies the front seat.
He has been waiting for you
ever so long.

~ KH. A. Mustofa Bisri

“Allahu Akbar!”

A poem by KH. A. Mustofa Bisri

“Oh, My Muhammad, How I Long for You”

A poem by KH. A. Mustofa Bisri, recited by Ratih Sang

KH. A. Mustofa Bisri biography

Epilogue: Never Cease Learning

by KH. A. Mustofa Bisri

Resolving the polarizing global debate on Islam

by A. Mustofa Bisri and
C. Holland Taylor

Independence (Day) Prayer

by KH. A. Mustofa Bisri

Allahu Akbar

Painting by KH. A. Mustofa Bisri

“God the Most Great gives existence to space, time and the universe, to life and to the soul, which realizes its purpose in self-transcendent awareness of, and surrender to, Divine will”

~ from the film The Divine Grace of Islam Nusantara