Where was the North Sumatran Nahdhatul Ulama (NU) born? In Medan, the Capital of the Province? It was not. The world’s largest Islamic organization was born in Padangsidimpuan 400 KM from the city of Medan. NU at the provincial level was born in a town that, if taken by road, would take about twelve hours. So then, who is the main character behind the birth?
The figure behind the birth of NU in North Sumatra was Tuan Guru Mustafa Hussein Nasution al-Mandaili. In 1303 H or 1886 AD, the charismatic teacher was born in Tano Bato, Mandailing Natal Regency, North Sumatra. Tuan Guru Mustafa is the third son of the couple H Umar Nasution-Hj Halimah. H Umar Nasution is a religious trader, so it is not surprising that since His early childhood, Muhammad Yatim, the nickname of Tuan Guru Mustafa, was educated to become a devout and pious person.
At school age, young Muhammad Yatim was enrolled by Umar Nasution to the Kayu Laut People’s School to study there until he graduated. The little orphan turned out to be an intelligent person. So, Umar recommended he continue his education at the King’s School in Bukittinggi. But Umar thought otherwise. He sent his son, Muhammad Yatim, to study with Sheikh Abdul Hamid Lubis, a prominent Mandailing cleric who lived in Huta Pungkut. Thus, a teenage orphan, about eleven years old, became the student of Sheikh Abdul Hamid Lubis.
Thanks to his perseverance, Muhammad Yatim was recommended by Sheikh Abdul Hamid to go to Makkah (1901). There lived in the family of Sheikh Abdul Qodir Almandily. On one occasion after wukuf in Padang Arafah, Muhammad Yatim changed his name to Mustafa Hussein Nasution al-Mandaili. He studied in Mecca for five years. At first, he intended to continue his education in Egypt. However, a friend said it would be better for him to continue studying in Mecca until 1915. After graduating from Madrasah Alshualatiyah Alhindiyah, he was allowed to teach fiqh there.