As chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, and general guide of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world's largest independent Islamic organization, Ma'ruf Amin may serve as a conservative second opinion for Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, if voters decide to trust the incumbent president with another term in office. Ma'ruf is a seasoned politician who has already served as an adviser to two former presidents. Now he is poised to take on a more proactive role.
Gilang Al Farisi
Born in Tangerang, Banten, on March 11, 1943, Ma'ruf's religious views were shaped early in life while attending the influential Tebuireng Islamic Boarding School in Jombang, East Java, which was established by Hasyim Asy'ari, the founder of the Nahdlatul Ulama. He later earned a bachelor's degree in Islamic philosophy from Ibn Khaldun University in Bogor, West Java. Armed with the skills and knowledge he attained from these institutions, he ventured to Jakarta to proselytize Islam.
During this time, Nahdlatul Ulama was still an active political party, which saw Ma'ruf being elected to the House of Representatives in 1971. Six years later, he was again elected, this time to represent the United Development Party (PPP) in the Jakarta City Council, while he also led the party's caucus. After serving a single term, he returned to academia and social activism.
Following the turmoil of former President Suharto's fall in 1998, Ma'ruf became an adviser to the strongman's successor, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB). He returned to active politics to represent the PKB in the national legislature from 1999 to 2004. During his second term in the House, Ma'ruf chaired Commission IV, which oversees agriculture, food and maritime affairs, while he was also a member of Commission II, which oversees government affairs and regional autonomy. He also served on the Budget Committee during this time.
At the end of his second term as lawmaker, he opted not to run for re-election, instead returning to MUI to chair its National Shariah Board. He also served as an adviser to then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from 2007 to 2014. A year later, he ran for the position of chairman of the supreme governing council of Nahdlatul Ulama. However, despite finishing in second place, the organization's 33rd congress elected him to the position after the incumbent, Ahmad Mustofa Bisri, unexpectedly withdrew from the race. Weeks after his election to the post, he was also re-elected as MUI chairman.
With his vast experience in politics and religious affairs, Ma'ruf is expected to be a valuable sounding board for Jokowi.