Dr Nathan Franklin – 2022

Gus Dur’s Enduring Legacy: Accruing Religious Merit in the Afterlife

Dr Nathan Franklin

Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), Indonesia’s fourth president (1999-2001) and head of the traditionalist Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (1984-1999), confronted many of the same political and social challenges that exist today in Indonesia, including religious intolerance, regional tensions, and surviving New Order elements. The muted responses from politicians and Islamic leaders in defence of those persecuted, like Ahmadiyah or former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) who was convicted of blasphemy, or the public naming and shaming of politicians or the military for improper behaviour, highlights the fact that no one has replaced Gus Dur. His legacy continues through the Wahid Foundation, which is dedicated to improving Islam and Indonesian society through documenting religious intolerance and injustice, and by issuing recommendations. Gus Dur’s statements when he was alive, and more recent comments from his daughter, Yenny Wahid, provide us with a reasonable understanding of his view for a modern, civil Indonesia. Gur Dur’s political party, the National Awakening Party, remains another institution which supports pluralism and secular-inclusiveness. Despite his passing in 2009, Gus Dur produced an enduring legacy, and he should be understood in the way that traditionalist Muslims believe that one’s deeds which produce on-going benefits to society will, in the afterlife, continue to accrue religious merit (pahala).


Dr. Nathan Franklin specialises in Indonesian Studies at Charles Darwin University (CDU). He teaches units on Indonesian language and Indonesian Politics. He has served as coordinator and resident director at the Kupang and Lombok in-country language programs. Dr. Franklin’s research interests include Indonesian politics, political Islam, and history, mainstream Islamic and radical jihadi movements, as well as Indonesian language and culture.  His most recent works include, “Islam and the Dutch in the East Indies: Oppression or Opportunity?” (2020), and “Decentralised Governance in Indonesia’s Disadvantaged Regions: A Critique of the Underperforming Model of Local Governance in Eastern Indonesia” (2020). For more see: Dr Nathan Franklin’s staff profile.

Dr Nathan Franklin
Lecturer in Indonesian Studies, College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts
Charles Darwin University