Contact with the Jaziras (Indonesians)
Today Indonesia holds the largest Muslim population in the world with a whopping 250 million Muslims. Even though not a single army from the Muslim world set foot their. Islam has had a huge impact on Indonesia and its people. The story of Islam coming to Indonesia is quite unique fascinating.
Before the Jaziras heard of the message of Islam, the majority of them were either Hindus or Buddhists or other vedic religions. A lot of Indonesia was influenced by the Southeast Asian Subcontinent. Even Before Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) the Arabs and Desis (South Asians) had good relation and would trade with them regulary. Arab traders would visit the Malabar region and Gujarat coast. Arabs would often sail and trade goods such as spices, gold, and more. Which wasn't that far away from the islands of Indonesia. So it makes sense that when the Desis started to accept Islam, naturally the Jaziras of indonesia started to accept Islam as well.
Merchants from Yemen and the Persian Gulf followed the monsoons to the coast of Malabar and from there to the islands of Sri Lanka, Java and Sumatra. This trade relation helped the spread of Islam into the region.
Trade and Travel
The first contact with the Jaziras was through trade on ships. The powerful Abbasid Khilafah in Baghdad encouraged global trade. Especially to the east, the Silk Road to China was brisk with activity. Sea borne trade was not far behind. Muslim merchants, both Arabs, Desis and Persians, sailed the Indian Ocean and traded with India, East Africa, Indonesia and China. Colonies of merchants grew up in Gujrat, Malabar, Sri Lanka, and Sumatra.
Al Masudi records that in 877, during the reign of the Tang emperor Hi-Tsung, there was a colony of almost 200,000 Muslims in Canton, China. A peasant rebellion in 887 forced these Muslims to flee and settle at Kheda on the west coast of Malaya, Indonesia. The merchant colonies along the rim of the Indian Ocean grew in size and prosperity between the years 750 and 1100. Many of the Malays were impressed by the honesty of the Muslim traders that a large number of them started to accept Islam within the early 8th century. According to these early accounts; the Indonesian islands were famous among early Muslim sailors mainly due to its abundance of precious spice trade commodities such as nutmeg, cloves, galangal and many other exoctic spices.
The spread of Islam
The Arabs, Desis and Persians sailors that came there adopted the local culture while introducing the doctrine of Tawhid and the requirements of the Shariah. The Arabs were always a small minority among the Malays but they enjoyed a privileged position in society. They spoke the language of the Qur’an and had a reputation for piety and steadfastness. They were sought after as ideal spouses. Even the rulers and the sultans considered it an honor to have an Arab marry within the family and those with Arab blood were honored as Sayyids, descendants of the Prophet’s family, even to this day.
The spread of Islam rapidly increased during the period between 1100 to 1500 that Islam spread widely in Indonesia and Malaya. The spread of Islam in the Archipelago followed a geographical progression over a period of 400 years (1100 to 1500) starting with Sumatra, followed by Java, Malaya, Borneo, Sulu (Mindanao), Sulawesi and Luzon (Manila). Shaykh Abdullah Arif, a scholar from Arabia, introduced Islam into Sumatra around the year 1100. One of his disciples, Shaykh Burhan Shah, carried on dawah work throughout northern Sumatra. The first ruler of northern Sumatra to accept Islam was Johan Shah (1204), but it was during the reign of Sultan Malik al Saleh (d. 1297) that Islam received major recognition. Commercial contacts had introduced the faith to the coasts of Sumatra and Java as well as the western coast of Malaya and the eastern shores of Vietnam in the previous centuries. The city of Pasai became a center of learning. Ibn Batuta visited Pasai in 1345 and found its ruler, Sultan Malik al Zahir to be a pious man, a patron of scholars and an enthusiastic propagator of the faith. Malik al Zahir was a grandson of Malik al Saleh. In 1396, Parameswara, a prince from the Java, fled to Malacca. He married a daughter of the Sultan of Pasai, accepted Islam and changed his name to Sultan Iskandar Shah, which made the Shafi School of Fiqh dominate in the region.
- "Islam in Indonesia." History of Islam. History of Islam-An Encyclopedia of Islamic History, 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.