Islam in Indonesia

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Islam is the largest religion in Indonesia, with 86.7% of the Indonesian population identifying themselves as Muslim in a 2018 survey.[2][3] Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority country, with approximately 231 million adherents.


  • In Indonesia we were almost at the limit of the Islamic world. For a thousand years or so until 1400 this had been a cultural and religious part of Greater India: animist, Buddhist, Hindu. Islam had come here not long before Europe. It had not been the towering force it had been in other converted places. For the last two hundred years, in a colonial world, Islam had even been on the defensive, the religion of a subject people. It had not completely possessed the souls of people. It was still a missionary religion. It had been kept alive informally in colonial times, in simple village boarding schools, descended perhaps as an idea from Buddhist monasteries.
    Islam and Europe had arrived here almost at the same time as competing imperialisms, and between them they had destroyed the long Buddhist-Hindu past. Islam had moved on here, to this part of Greater India, after its devastation of India proper, turning the religious-cultural light of the subcontinent, so far as this region was concerned, into the light of a dead star.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - Beyond Belief (Vintage, 1999)
  • The fact that Islam sits lightly on most Muslims in Indonesia, has not prevented a hard core to display the patented behaviour pattern of Islam. In Irian Jaya (West New Guinea), the Papua tribals are overrun by immigrant Muslims from Java. Many of them have already been converted by force or social pressure. In ex-Portuguese East Timor, which Indonesia has annexed against the United Nations' will, massacres of Christians or Animist natives by Muslim immigrants and soldiers have happened on a large scale. In Bali, the Hindus are not exactly persecuted, but Muslim immigrants from Java have acquired the positions of power. By the standards which Indian Muslims use to measure "discrimination against the minorities", the Hindus of Bali could claim that they are discriminated against. Nevertheless, the situation in most of Indonesia still seems to be much better than in Bangladesh (let alone Pakistan), and the communities live together rather peacefully. But it has taken tough rulers to uphold this relatively stable pluralism.
  • From the fourteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, the (Indonesian) archipelago saw almost no organised Muslim missionary activity.
    • Van Nieuwenhuijze CAO (1958) Aspects of Islam in Post-Colonial Indonesia, W. van Hoeve Ltd, The Hague, p. 35
  • Islam has struck deeper roots on the coast, and has tended to be at its most self- conscious among trading communities. There has often been tension, and sometimes devastating warfare, between the coast and the interior. Although it is attractive to think of Islam as a causative factor in this conflict, it would probably be more correct to think of it as deriving from primary economic and political differences, with a rather more self- conscious Islam providing from time to time a convenient rallying banner for the coastal states.
    • Ricklefs MC (1979) Six Centuries of Islamization in Java, in N. Levtzion ed. Nehemia Levtzion - Conversion To Islam (1979, Holmes & Meier Publishers)
  • It has sometimes been assumed, with extraordinary unconcern for the historical evidence, that the more self-conscious Muslims of the coast were the greatest enemies of the Dutch Protestants, while the less firm Muslims ruling the interior kingdom of Mataram more readily became the tools of the Europeans. But this is simply not so.
    • Ricklefs MC (1979) Six Centuries of Islamization in Java, in N. Levtzion ed. Nehemia Levtzion - Conversion To Islam (1979, Holmes & Meier Publishers)
  • In the course of the centuries, Islam spread throughout the Javanese population, until its adoption by the last large district, the “east hook,” was accomplished in the late eighteenth century. This process seems on the whole to have been peaceful, or as peaceful as it could have been in a period of Javanese history characterized by almost incessant warfare. Conversion by arms may have occurred when a Muslim dignitary defeated a non­ Muslim, whereupon the vanquished and his people would presumably have embraced Islam.
    • Ricklefs MC (1979) Six Centuries of Islamization in Java, in N. Levtzion ed. Nehemia Levtzion - Conversion To Islam (1979, Holmes & Meier Publishers) 106-7
  • The people of Perlak (Nth Sumatra) used to be idolaters, but owing to contact with Saracen merchants, who continually resort here in their ships, they have all been converted to the law of Mahomet.
    • Marco Polo, quoted in The lslamization of Southeast Asia by Anthony Reid, 1984. Reid, A., 'The Islamization of Southeast Asia', in: Bakar, M. A., Kaur, A. and Ghaz- ali, A. Z. (eds), Historia: &says in Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Department of History, University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur, 1984).
  • ‘At the time when there were heathens along the sea coast of Java, many merchants used to come, Parsees, Arabs, Gujaratees, Bengalees, Malays and other nationalities, there being many Moors among them. They began to trade in the country and to grow rich. They succeeded in way of [sic]making mosques, and mollahs came from outside, so that they came in such growing numbers that the sons of these said Moors were already Javanese and rich, for they had been in these parts for about seventy years. In some places the heathen Javanese lords themselves turned Mohammedan, and these mollahs and merchant Moors took possession of these places. Others had a way of fortifying the places where they lived, and they killed the Javanese lords and made themselves lords; and in this way they made themselves masters of the sea coast and took over trade and power in Java . . .’
    • Pires, Suma Oriental, I, p. 182. The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires: An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, writ- ten in Malacca and India in 1512–1515, 2 Volumes (New Delhi, 1990). also quote din Al-Hind-The-Making-of-the-Indo-Islamic-World-Volume-III-Indo-Islamic-Society-14th-15th-Centuries

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