Focuses on the heartland of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, and on the role of ulama (religious leaders), or kiai as they are known in Java, within NU. Based on substantial fieldwork, this study provides an informed glimpse into the intimate relationships among kiai, their role in local and national politics and their leadership of the Islamic community. Argues that the charismatic authority exerted through the leadership of the kiai in Java has limitations in terms of its legitimacy. At the very least it has boundaries that determine areas or circumstances for its legitimate expression. It also argues that the kiai's influence in politics is not as strong as in other domains.