Book Review: Gus Dur on Religion, Democracy and Peace

  • Tuesday, 18 September 2018 13:05
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As a student and also Indonesian people who truly believes in the importance of maintaining peace among diversity, religion is often used as an excuse as an act of triggering division. Responding to what is currently developing mainly the problems that occur between religious diversity, there are interesting books to read, namely Gus Dur’s book on religion, democracy and peace. Remembering Islam as a great religion and the issue of democracy are an important part of decorating the democratic order in Indonesia. Likewise how it can also unite the two, through this book answers to doubts about these two things can be found.


Hairus Salim HS


INFID, Yayasan LKIS Yogyakarta

Book Resume:

Gus Dur’s book, about religion, democracy and peace, is a book that contains a collection of various kinds of essays that describe Gus Dur’s thoughts as a political actor in looking at Islam. This book contains four chapters in which the first chapter contains four essays which in its entirety introduce the figure of a Gus Dur and his views on Islam which are also supported by family background and educational background of a Gus Dur.

The first chapter also consisting of four essay that brings Gus Dur thoughts on relationship between Islam, nation state and democracy. Chapter 2 contains five essays on Islam and culture. Gus Dur states that islamization must be differentiated from Arabization. The Revival of Islam, for Gus Dur, is not a formal politic revival, but it is more on the manifestations of ethical values and universal Islam. Chapter 3 consist of two essays on Gus Dur view’s on the enforcement of human rights and social movement. Through the understanding of rights that began growing on his time, Gus Dur questioned the liberal perspective in rights campaign and the importance of economical dignity. Without the existence of economy, it is impossible to enforce human rights. The chapter 4 present two essays on Gus Dur views on reconciliation and anti-violent attitude.

In this book, Gus Dur emphasized that the ideologization of religion must be distinguished into the state of life with religious morality into the life of the state. At this level religion and politics can be connected and not at the level of ideology. That is, how religion can be a source of dignified political morality as a necessity to create an honest and responsible government for the people. Gus Dur’s rejection of Islamic ideologization, because it will lead to violence. He rejects violence, especially in the name of religion. Gus Dur’s non-violent attitude is based on “QS. al-Baqarah/2: 208, udkhulû fi al-silmi kâfah, “entered al-silmi perfectly.” “Al-Silmi,” Gus Dur interpreted as “peace.”

Therefore, for Gus Dur, Islam condemned violence and not allowing its adherents to use violence, except to defend themselves. Violence perpetrated by Muslims, according to Gus Dur, is due to three things: first, they are only concerned with institutions in Islam, which are now being threatened everywhere in a technologically advanced society. Secondly, those who carried out terrorism never studied Islam as a study. Third, they commit violence as a result of the dry understanding of Islam and the short history of memory, because many factors and elements enter and become part of the religion itself, and therefore not absolute. In addition, Muslims who committed violence, for Gus Dur, felt left behind. To catch up, it requires the use of rationality and scientific attitudes, not violence.

Therefore, the reason for using violence to defend Islam cannot be justified, because it is actually embarrassing Islam. Thus, the use of Radical Islam groups as a measure for Islam is a big and inaccurate error, because the majority of Muslims are precisely moderate in almost everything. Rejection of ideologization of Islam and violence, because of Gus Dur’s great attachment to humanity. He defended the oppressed and became a victim of a structure and system of both tyrannical and religiously closed government. Gus Dur was willing to sacrifice his personal fame in defense of what he believed was right based on religious teachings he understood.

In explaining the relationship between religion and the state, Abdurrahman was accustomed to connecting between religion (Islam) and Pancasila. In almost all of his writings, Gus Dur emphasized the importance of the separation between Islam as religion and Pancasila as the state ideology. Abdurrahman put Pancasila as the constitutional foundation in the life of the nation and state, while Islam became aqeedah in the life of the Muslims, and that between ideology as a constitutional foundation was not opposed to religion, did not seek a replacement and was not treated as a religion. According to Gus Dur, Pancasila is also often deviated by the authorities. For this reason Gus Dur argued that:

“Pancasila is a series of sustainable principles. He contains good ideas about state life that are absolutely fought for. I will maintain Pancasila which is pure with my body of soul, despite the fact that it is not infrequently castrated or manipulated, either by a handful of soldiers or a group of Muslims.”

Gus Dur and NU’s statement of loyalty as an organization he led towards Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution can be seen as a concern for Pancasila which was increasingly freely translated and in the name of democratization while trampling on Pancasila. The debate about the existence of Pancasila broadly attempts to influence the substance of the national political debate. By making the terms of state, religion and Pancasila a vehicle for expressing his thoughts and messages, Abdurrahman wanted to distinguish himself from other parties who chose Islam for the same purpose. Also, it may be that Abdurrahman made Pancasila a tool to improve his footing amidst the most widespread Islamic movement.

According to Gus Dur in a democratic society; 1) all citizens have the same position before the law; 2) the role is legal sovereignty not sovereignty; 3) freedom of opinion is opened to the widest extent; and 4) there is a strict separation in functions that cannot influence each other between executives , legislative and judiciary.

It is also stated that a democratic country is capable of guaranteeing basic human rights, which include: 1) physical safety guarantee; 2) guarantee of safety of religious beliefs; 3) guarantee of the life of the integrity of the household; 4) guarantee of property rights; and 5) reason safety guarantee. The value of democratization according to Gus Dur needs to be carried out continuously, because without that it is impossible for democracy to work.

In the end of this book, precisely in the last essay, it is more explained about how Gus Dur fought against violence, especially Islamic groups which declared past but brought division. Gus Dur explains and sees violence as a physical action group overpowering the less authoritative ones, Gus Dur sees the process of national development as well as violence, especially if the process does not include and on the aspect of the nation-state.

Responding to Gus Dur’s main points, it is only natural that he was categorized as an inspiring Islamic thinker. His appreciation and acceptance of pluralism and democratic values ​​including relations between religion and state. In addition, pluralistic values ​​have been infused into the structure of faith (Islam) as the core value of Islam itself. For him that is Islam, a religion that serves to provide solutions to every issue of the people but on the contrary religion becomes a problem for the people. The ideas that had been built by Gus Dur inspired many young Indonesians to get out of the shackles as Gus Dur sometimes came out of NU’s thought that raised him. The thought of Gus Dur has also brought fresh air to religious life in Indonesia, minority rights have begun to be noticed. The birth of the idea of ​​local wisdom as a solution to the conflict is evidence that today the appreciation of something local/minority has now gained recognition, even considered to be a solution at the national level amid many national problems. Through this book we can know these things more deeply.


  1. Each essay does not explain who the author is.

  2. This book does not contain the reasons for selecting the essays listed in the book.

  3. This book is only published in the English version, the Indonesian version has not been made yet, even though this book is very important and then read and understood by Indonesian people.


  1. This book is simple to read.

  2. This book provides a broad view and a new view of Islam born of the thought of a Gusdur.

  3. This book contains essays that have been well arranged so that they can be fully understood.

  4. In the first part of this book, there is an introduction to the figure of gusdur and how then Gusdur can find ideas about Islam that are more democratic and peaceful.

  5. In this book also contains a final note which can also be said as a bibliography to be able to access more papers containing Gusdur’s thoughts.

  6. The contents of this book are interesting because in addition to discussing how Islam can work peacefully with democracy, this book also contains good practice thinking in running the Indonesian state which has many inhabitants with Muslims without having to cause division.


  1. It is strongly recommended if this book is made in the Indonesian version, considering that not all Indonesian people can understand and understand or can read English.

  2. It is more appropriate if the next opportunity is given a statement from the author of each essay that is recorded. through this, the reader can find out the originality of the idea of the author of the book captured from the recorded essay.

  3. It would be better if in writing a book that contains a collection of essays that explain the thoughts of a character, it is also associated with an essay that contains the latest issue or topic and then compares the two so that good practices can be taken from the viewpoint of a character in dealing with current issues.

**Writer: Veni Ayu Kartika Sari***

*The writer is participant of Human Rights Cities Youth Fellowship INFID 2018. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of INFID.