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Ulil Abshar Abdalla
Academic background
Alma materBoston University
Harvard University
Academic work
Ulil Abshar Abdalla, 2011
Ulil Abshar Abdalla, 2011

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla (born 11 January 1967 in Pati, Central Java) is an Indonesian scholar affiliated to Jaringan Islam Liberal (Liberal Islam Network). He comes from a family of Nahdlatul Ulama background: His father Abdullah Rifa'i is from pesantren Mansajul Ulum (Mansajul Ulum Islamic school) in Pati, Central Java, and he is married to the daughter of Mustofa Bisri, a someone from Pesantren Raudlatut Talibin, Rembang, Central Java.


Ulil completed his secondary education in Madrasah Mathali'ul Falah, Kajen, Pati, Central Java. This school is led by Ahmad Sahal Mahfudz which sits in the Nahdlatul Ulama leadership board during the period of 1994‑1999. Ulil also studied in Pesantren Mansajul 'Ulum, Cebolek, Kajen, Pati, and Pondok Pesantren Al-Anwar, Sarang, Rembang, all in Central Java.

He graduated with bachelor's degree in Sharia faculty in LIPIA (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Islam dan Arab - Islamic and Arabic Knowledge Institute) in Jakarta. He was also educated in Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Driyarkara (Driyarkara School of Philosophy). He once held a position as chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama's Lakpesdam (Lembaga Kajian dan Pengembangan Sumber Daya Manusia - Human Resources Research and Development Centre), as a researcher in ISAI (Institut Studi Arus Informasi), Jakarta, and as Program Director in Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP).

He is also well known for his activism as a coordinator in Jaringan Islam Liberal, a group who claim to deliver a liberal interpretation of Islam. Due to his activism in this group, he gained praises, sometimes deemed as another reformer after Nurcholish Madjid, as well as controversies.

After completing his master's degree in religion at Boston University he went on and continued his PhD studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University.


In 2003, a group of Indonesian Islamic clerics from Forum Ulama Umat Islam issued a death fatwa against Ulil[1] for an article that Ulil wrote in Kompas in 2002, "Menyegarkan Kembali Pemahaman Islam" (Rejuvenating the Islamic Understanding) [2][3] that is considered heretical by the clerics. In March 2011, a letter bomb addressed to Ulil at Komunitas Utan Kayu exploded, injuring a police officer.

Ulil also defended the right of the Ahmadi people, which is an uncommon stance within conservative Islam. He also opposes many of fatwas by Majelis Ulama Indonesia, such as the one forbidding to give Christmas greetings to Christians.


  1. ^ Atika Shubert, CNN Correspondent. "CNN". Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  2. ^ Kompas Archived May 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Article in JIL website". Archived from the original on 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2012-06-11.