The Propagation of Islam in the Indonesian-Malay Archipelago




Gordon, Alijah (Ed.)

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Malaysian Sociological Research Institute


Islamization of the Indonesian-Malay Archipelago was deliberately stymied by the colonial powers of the 16th century, violently by the Spanish in what became the Philippines, and ‘administratively’ by the Dutch, beginning with Maluku, the ‘Spice Islands’. Where the Dutch claimed the ‘right of conquest’, they claimed ‘the right to implant churches’. But wherever they gained a foothold, Islamization was prohibited while Christianization was allowed. Their policy divided the islands, which is violently manifested today, five centuries later. For the Portuguese and the Spanish, the expulsion of the Muslim Moors from Granada in 1492 was to be emulated when Muslims were again encountered in Asia. Being few in numbers led to calculated cruelty to overawe their enemies. In what is now the Philippines, the islands of the Spanish King Philip II, the indigenous Muslims were termed Moors - Moros - to emphasize the continuity in the Spanish Catholic crusade against Islam. Cover photograph: Masjid Tanjong Kling, Melaka, with pagoda-like architecture, symptomatic of the historical role of Muslims from many lands in the propagation of Islam. It is bitter irony that had the Ming Empire not withdraw into itself in 1433, European colonialism could not have breached Asian ramparts. China had ruled the world’s oceans, but not for the purpose of colonization. Fleets of more than 300, under Muslim Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) made seven epic voyages, reaching Africa. Supportive relationships were established with a multiplicity of states, with Melaka, for instance, which kept Siamese Buddhist land aggrandizement in check. In 1419 in response to complaints by Melaka’s Sultan Iskandar Shah, the Emperor of China admonished Ayudyha: “I have learned that without reason you have intended to send troops against him… those who are fond of employing troops do not have virtuous hearts. If he has committed an offense, you should report details to the court. You must not rashly send troops on this account. And then China turned inward, lost its technological edge over Europe, and Asia was left without comparable defence when the marauding Europeans arrived.




Gordon, A. (Ed.). (2001). The Propagation of Islam in the Indonesian-Malay Archipelago. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: MSRI.