Localization of Islam by Gus Dur: The Genesis of Islam Nusantara

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The term Islam Nusantara is not explicitly mentioned in the works of Gus Dur (Kiai Abdurrahman Wahid). This term gained prominence only after his passing in 2009, particularly when NU adopted it during the 2015 Congress in Jombang. Despite this, Gus Dur’s intellectual contributions play a crucial role in the concept of Islam Nusantara.

The association between Islam Nusantara and Gus Dur is not merely due to NU’s efforts to popularize it or because Gus Dur was part of NU. Rather, it stems from Gus Dur’s teachings, which emphasized practicing Islam while embracing Nusantara’s identity. His teachings are fundamental to the discourse on Islam Nusantara.


Gus Dur’s concept of the localization of Islam can be seen as the precursor to Islam Nusantara. This framework helps us understand the historical processes that shaped the manifestation of Islam within the Nusantara society.

Accommodation of Islam and Culture

Gus Dur’s concept of the localization of Islam can be understood as the process of accommodating or reconciling Islam with local culture. This is a key idea in appreciating the uniqueness of Islam Nusantara. The distinct character of Islam Nusantara is essentially a result of the ongoing accommodation between Islam and local culture throughout its history in the region.

According to Gus Dur, as discussed in his article “Localization of Islam,” religion and culture each have their own domains. Islam, sourced from divine revelation, has its own norms and tends to be permanent, while culture, being a human creation, evolves with time and is subject to change.

Although religion and culture have distinct domains, they often overlap. Religion, while inherently divine, is expressed through cultural interpretations. Conversely, culture is part of human expression, including religious life. Therefore, Gus Dur argued for the necessity of accommodation between religion and culture—not out of fear of conflict, but as a natural part of the localization process.

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