The Subud Movement


 At the turn of the 20th Century, a new cult-like movement started in Indonesia in a secretive manner. After some time, it became open to a few people who accepted its teachings. During the years that followed, the founder (of this cult) reached his message to individuals across the city and introduced it to specific individuals. As the years passed, people of different places began to hear about this new cult, and a few were taken to its teachings. Unfortunately, this new cult reached the shores of our Country via its few followers (who were both Muslims and non Muslims) and Muslims began to hear about it.

It is based upon this, a number of Muslims enquired about this ‘cult like’ movement, and after having researched the ‘History of Subud’,  the following answer was given by the Darul Ifta of Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.


 With respect to the questions asked regarding the Islamic ruling of subud, the performance of salaah behind one who is involved in it, and what is required of an Imam who is involved in it, I hereby submit the following answers:

First of all, it must be known that subud seems to be a creed and a persuasion which can be termed as a cult that originated in the early 20th Century  in Indonesia. This cult has no relation to Islam, and its teachings and practices are in total  opposition to the teachings of Islam.

The word subud is an acronym of three words Susila Budhi Dharma, which are all derived from Sanskrit.

A glimpse into this movement reveals that it was introduced by one Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo in Indonesia during the period (1901 – 1959). Based on the historical facts regarding  this movement, it is clear that Bapak Muhammad ( the founder) made several claims regarding certain issues which the followers hold to be true. These claims, when viewed in light of the teachings of Islam, are all baseless and unsound, and they amount to false claims which cannot be attested to as being the truth.

While giving details regarding the experiences Bapak Muhammad had while formulating the subud  creed, his followers have written, ‘During those thousand nights of intense preparation, while following the latihan  (training, exercise), sometimes there arose in him the Muslim prayers, while on other nights he found himself doing pencak silat (an Indonesian martial art similar to karate or judo) with movements he had never learned before. He was made to dance every kind of dance, and walk in the way that men from different  races walk. He experienced how different nationalities behave and the custom of the people in distant lands. He moved, not only as men move, but he also followed the movements of animals, for instance a tiger, buffalo, cat, snake, and even a mosquito’. (History of Subud  Vol. 1  Bk. 1  Pg. 51 written by Harlinah Longcroft, a long time subud member. Published by International Subud Committee).

This is what the founder (of subud) claimed to have experienced, which he considered to be divine and God given, and it is the same type of experiences that the followers of the subud  do and witness.

Muslims should take note of the fact that these experiences have absolutely no connection to Islam, and it is sheer falsehood and blasphemy to attribute these weird actions to Allah. These are nothing but experiences that emanate from the satans, devils and evil jinns. It is a matter of utter folly and idiocy on the part of the followers to accept the act of walking like cats, snakes and mosquitoes to be divine, and a sign of godliness in a person.

Bapak Muhammad Subuh also claimed to have received books which vanished into his chest after looking at the contents. While describing this, his followers wrote, ‘Then, quite suddenly, a large book fell into his lap. It was about the size and shape of a World Atlas. Bapak actually felt that something was falling, and he automatically looked up. He opened the book, and found the pages were very thick, like a photo album. On the first page there was a man dressed like an Arab, in a long robe and wearing a turban. He noticed that below this picture was some writing in Arabic. He had learned to read Arabic as a child, but  had forgotten most of it. However, he started to try to work out what was written. Then the writing was helpfully changed into Roman characters, and at the same time translated itself into Dutch. So Bapak went on turning the pages until he had turned five of them. He shut the book and held it close to his chest, praising God Almighty. He was then even more surprised because the book vanished into his chest’. (History of Subud Vol.1 Bk. 1 pg 53).

Here, we see that Bapak made a claim of receiving a book from God, which he explained as having vanished into his chest. Further to this, he also laid the claim to have received revelations. About this, his followers wrote,  ‘In 1933, shortly after his ascension, Bapak received another revelation which must have seemed very surprising at that time. In a letter to Hussein Rofe dated January 9, 1953, Bapak says,  ‘Wignyosupartono obtained this contact from me in 1932, when I was still resident in Semarang, just after I had received the revelation from Almighty God’. (History of Subud Vol. 1 Bk. 1 Pg. 73).

May Allah forbid. This is nothing but a false claim and a fabrication. As Muslims, we know very well that revelations and scriptures came to an end with the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s). Hence, if this man lays a claim of receiving revelations, then it means that he has challenged the finality of the Holy Quran as being the last revelation, and has also attacked the finality of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s), since a revelation and a scripture comes only to a prophet.

This is another false claim of the founder of the subud movement which the followers are required to believe, and accept as the truth. For the non Muslim followers, (who are many), this is not an issue, since their beliefs are not connected to the finality of prophets and scriptures. However, for a Muslim, it is a matter of rejecting Islam, to believe that there were other revelations that were sent by Allah after the Holy Quran.

It is also evident that Bapak Muhammad Subuh made claims that he had a physical ascension in the heavens. In other words, he  also made the claim that he was taken on a Miraj by Allah, just as the Prophet (s.a.s) was taken. While explaining this ascension of Bapak, his followers wrote, ‘It was 9:30 p.m and the children was falling asleep. Bapak lay down on his bed  and just surrendered to God Almighty. Almost immediately he felt that he was being stretched, as if he were elastic, and was being  stretched and stretched until his head began to feel cold and so did his feet. So he asked within himself, the meaning of this coldness, and he received the answer that his head was now at the north pole and his feet at the south. Then his upper side was split open starting from his chest, and again  he was stretched and stretched, but this time outwards from the middle, until the two sides were joined again and he was  elliptical like an egg. He felt no pain while this was happening. Again he asked what was going on, and this time he was told that he was now surrounding the earth –surrounding the world’. The narration goes on to describe Bapak flying with tremendous speed, moving into the skies, the galaxy and the entire universe. It also states that he entered inside the sun and passed through the  heavens. While describing what he witnessed, his followers wrote,  ‘This was the first heaven, and there he saw God’s creatures, clad in white, and praising the majesty and greatness of Almighty God. And then he looked up, and saw above him a golden umbrella of light, similar to the one which had been seen above his house in Semarang. Soon after this   he came to a row of exquisitely beautiful women. Their bodies were made of light and were clothed in light which looked like silk and they were in fact, heavenly nymphs (bidadari). They danced  before him with  superb beauty, and sang with such wonderful purity that it was as if it gave Bapak goose flesh just to hear them. Bapak asked, in his heart, who they were, and he was told that they were his wives. He felt that this was strange, because he wondered how he could have wives among the heavenly nymphs, but the women then came up to him one by one, and opened their clothes to show that each had written, below their breasts, the name Muhammad Subuh’. In this way, Bapak explained his ascension with many  experiences. (History of Subud Vol.1 Bk. 1 Pgs. 68,69).

Readers would be startled at these  weird and strange encounters of Bapak, and how women uncovered themselves and exposed their breasts to him. Muslims would immediately realize that these are nothing but fabrications and concoctions of Bapak. Such claims have no basis in Islam, and one who makes these claims have lied against Allah, and have exited the fold of Islam.

Writings and talks of Bapak that have been recorded and published by members of the Subud cult show clearly that the claims laid by Bapak Muhammad Subuh are nothing less than that which have been made by false prophets and imposters of the past. Bapak did not directly make the claim of being a prophet, however, based on the claims he made of having received revelations and books, and having been taken up on a Miraj, show that there is an indirect claim that he was a prophet whom God Almighty had specially chosen.

In the writings of his followers, it is evident that they considered him to be at a level of the Angel Jibrail (a.s). It is mentioned that on one occasion, while speaking about Bapak, the question was asked by some members, ‘Did Subuh (Bapak Muhammad) have a soul of the perfect human level? The reply was, ‘No. Still  higher’. The question was asked, ‘Was it at the archangelic level ? The reply was,’ Higher still’. The question was asked,  ‘Is it at the level of Roh Ilofi, which means the Holy Spirit; was Subuh at this level? To this question the Kyai Abdurachman replied,  ‘Probably’. (History of Subud Vol. 1 Bk. 1 Pg. 63). Sometimes, he will liken his experiences to those which occurred with the past prophets like that of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and Prophet Jesus (a.s.). On one occasion, he even gave up his job permanently. When his wife spoke to him about it, he said, ‘It was a Divine command that I should no longer accept paid employment from men, the onus of caring for our welfare has been assumed entirely by God. Have faith and you will see that we shall be well provided for, we shall lack nothing essential. But if you force me to choose between God and you, then we shall have to part’. (History of Subud Vol. 1 Bk.1 Pg. 66). There are many such instances where Bapak behaved in a manner as if he was a prophet, always attributing his personal thoughts as divine commands or God has spoken to him. In the above mentioned narration regarding his concocted ascension, it is clear that he  gave his own personal answers to the questions that came in his mind, and then attributed his answers and explanations to God, saying that they were divine.

In this manner, when one goes through the pages of ‘the history of subud’, he will be totally astonished at the many fabricated statements that have been coined by Bapak. All these claims and assertions give ample evidence to the fact that subud is nothing but a cult invented by Bapak. In order to win the favor of followers and to attract newcomers, he presented his message in a way that accommodated people of all religions. He taught them that all religions were one and the same, and they can come together to do the latihaan (spiritual exercise) by surrendering themselves to God. It is strange to know that while the followers are asked to surrender to God in their exercise, they are free to bring into their minds whatever comes in- all of which are understood to be personal experiences which are given by God. In this latihaan exercise, people begin to do foolish things  like making sounds, walking around, dancing, jumping, skipping, laughing, crying, screaming and anything they feel like doing – and all are considered to be good, God given and spiritual training in the subud teachings. This is nothing but pure insanity and a cult-like behavior.

From this, it should be well understood that following the subud is not simply a matter of doing different forms of meditation etc., instead, it is also about believing in the false claims that were made by the founder, and accepting his personal teachings to be true, when in reality, they are totally opposing to the teachings of Islam. In fact, based on the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.s), the claims that have been made by the founder of this  cult have actually  taken him out of the fold of Islam. In the history of Islam (after the blessed Prophet (s.a.s)), these claims have only been made by imposters and false bearers. Many of the great saints and Mashaikh have passed, and though they have been honored to great ranks by Allah, they have never made such claims which contradicted the sacred teachings of Islam. Having read the writings regarding the Subud movement/cult, and having read the claims and statements made by Bapak Muhammad Subuh, I have no doubt in my mind that this movement and its teachings are based on falsehood, misguidance and deviation which stands as a new concocted creed that has been fabricated by its founder. There is no place for any of these misguided teachings and practices in Islam and there is the fear of Kufr (disbelief) on the part of those Muslims who are followers of this cult, and who accept Bapak Muhammad Subuh as their leader. And Allah knows best.

As for the other question regarding the performance of salaah behind a person who is involved in this cult, then it must be understood that those who become followers of this movement do so by accepting the leader and also attest to the truth of his statements. As we have seen before, the teachings of this movement are in violation of the teachings of Islam and will definitely take a person out of the fold of Islam. With this, it is possible that one who is on the subud path may have already entered the arena of kufr, in which case, none of his acts of worship will be valid and acceptable in Islam. So my answer to you, having investigated this cult, is that you should, at no time, perform salaah behind such a person.

With respect to the third question regarding an Imam who is involved in this cult, then from the aforementioned explanations, it can be clearly understood that a person who adheres to the subud movement can never be an Imam over the Muslims who are the true believers in the sight of Allah. If it is known afterwards that an Imam has been involved in this  cult, then he must be requested by the relevant authority to resign from his position. If he fails to do so, then he must be dismissed (by the relevant authority) immediately. Leniency cannot be shown in a grave issue like this, since it is a matter relating to beliefs (Aqeeda) and not simply connected to Fiqhi issues.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan