“Islamization was a process not an event and it still continues as Islam seeks deeper roots and greater influence.” (Ricklefs et al., 2010)
In this essay, I will be looking at the adoption of Islam in Island South East Asia, how it spread over time and why the people of this region converted to Islam.
Islam is a religious practice dating back to the Prophet Muhammad in approximately the year 570 in Mecca, the followers of this religion are called Muslims. There are 5 central rules in Islam, called the Five Pillars, which all good Muslims should adhere to, these are: 1. Confession of Faith, 2. Pray 5 times a day, 3. Fasting during the month of Ramadan, 4. Pilgrimage to Mecca, 5. Giving a percentage of Income in Alms.
Islam is one of the largest Faiths in the world, Muslims make up 23.2% of the population of the world (Pew Research Centre, 2012), with approximately 240 million of them living in South East Asia. With around 40% of the population. Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei holding the largest majority of Muslims in South East Asia.
Islam was founded in Arabia, but soon spread across into an empire spanning North Africa, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and southern Spain, later being brought into India which enabled it’s travel into Asia and in many of these places Islam was spread by the sword. There are two rival branches of Islam, Sunni and Shi’a. Sunni accumulates around 85% of Muslims today (Cult Education, No date) and 10% are Shi’a. The rest is made up of the many other branches, such as Wahhabi as seen in Saudi Arabia which is an extremely conservative version of Sunni Islam, as well as Sufi a lighter and more mystical version of Sunni Islam.
Islam would have made contact with Island South East Asia long before the conversion of local people. Not long after the time of Muhammad, around 644-56, Emissaries were sent to the court of China by Caliph ‘Uthman as well as several thousand Muslim Traders in Canton by the 9th Century (Ricklefs et al., 2010). They must have gotten to China via South East Asian waters, which means they would have had contact with locals when stopping to rest and wait for the winds to change.
Despite this contact, there is no evidence of any conversation of South East Asian people to Islam until centuries later. So although traders were the ones to bring Islam to South East Asia, they were seemingly not the agents of conversion.
A.H. Johns believes that the Rise of Sufi Islam in popularity after the Fall of Baghdad was responsible for converting South East Asians to Islam (Ricklefs et al., 2010). The Fall of Baghdad to the Mongols caused a large exodus of religious teachers, many of whom would have ended up on South East Asians shores and their version of Islam, Sufi, would have appealed to local people much more than previous forms of Islam they had seen. Sufi is a much less orthodox version of Islam, more mystical and magical. This would have integrated well with the traditions and beliefs already followed in South...