KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf serves as General Secretary to the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council (Katib Syuriah PBNU). As the world’s largest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama adheres to the traditions of ahlussunnah wal jama‘ah (Sunni Islam), and teaches that the primary message of Islam is universal love and compassion. The organization was established in 1926, in direct response to the Wahhabi conquest of Mecca and Medina the previous year.
Shaykh Yahya was educated and trained in the formal and esoteric (spiritual) sciences of Islam by the late Kyai Haji Ali Maksum (1915–1989) at his pesantren (madrasah) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. KH. Ali Maksum was himself a direct disciple of Shaykh Umar Hamdan al-Makki (1858 – 1948) and Shaykh Hasan Masshat al-Makki (1900–1979) of Mecca.
Shaykh Yahya was a member of Indonesia’s National Electoral Commission during the nation’s successful transition from authoritarian rule to democracy, and served as presidential spokesman to Indonesia’s first democratically-elected head of state—Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, who himself headed the Nahdlatul Ulama from 1984–1999.
With his position in the NU, has been primaryily responsible for the expansion of NU operations to North America, Europe and the Middle East.