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Largest Muslim Nation

Golden dome mosque in west java, Indonesia /eye-maps.com

Source: By S.M.H.Akbar/"Hajj and Umra"magazine/December/2009

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world. Muslims account for nearly 88 per cent of the population of more than 200 million.

INDONESIANS adopted Islam as early as the 11th century, although Muslims had visited Indonesia early in the Muslim era. The spread of Islam was driven by increasing trade links outside of the archipelago. In general, traders and the royalty of major kingdoms were the first to embrace Islam.

Dominant kingdoms included Mataram in Central Java, and the sul­tanates of Ternate and Tidore in the Maluku Islands to the east. By the end of the 13th century, Islam had been established in North Sumatra; by the 14th in northeast Malaya, Brunei, the southern Philippines and among some countries of East Java; and in the 15th in Malacca and other areas of the Malay Peninsula. Islam became the dominant religion of ]ava and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. Bali and the outer islands adopted Islam in the 17th century.

Despite being one of the most sig­nificant developments in Indonesian history, historical evidence is frag­mentary.

Ricklefs (1991) identifies two over­lapping processes by which Islam came to Indonesia - Indonesians either came into contact with Islam and converted, and/or foreign Muslim Asians (Arabs, Indians, Chinese, etc.) settled in Indonesia and mixed with local communities. Islam is thought to have been present in Southeast Asia from early in the Islamic era. From the time of the third caliph of Islam, Othman Bin Affan (644-656)

 Muslim emissaries were arriving in China who must have passed Indonesian sea routes from the Islamic world. It would have been through this contact that Arab emis­saries between 904 and the mid-12th century are thought to have become involved in the Sumatran trading state of Srivijaya.

The most reliable evidence of the ear­ly spread of Islam in Indonesia comes from inscriptions on tombstones and a limited number of travellers' accounts.

The earliest legibly inscribed tomb­stone is dated 475H (1083G). The first evidence of Indonesian Muslims comes from northern Sumatra. Marco Polo, on his way home from China in 1292, reported at least one Muslim town.

And the first evidence of a Muslim dynasty is the gravestone, dated 696H (1297G), of Sultan Malik Al-Saleh, the first Mus­lim ruler of Samudra, with more grave­stones indicating continued Islamic rule. The presence of the Shafi'i school of thought was reported by the Moroc­can traveler Ibn Battuta in 1346. In his travelogue, Ibn Battuta wrote that the ruler of Samudera Pasai was a Muslim who performs his religious duties with utmost zeal.

Firmer evidence documenting con­tinued cultural transitions comes from two late-14th century gravestones from Minye Tujoh in North Sumatra, each with Islamic inscriptions but in Indian-type characters and the other Arabic. Dating from the 14th сеntury, tombstones in Brunei, Treng-ganu (northeast Malaysia) and East Java are evidence of Islam's spread. The Treng-ganu stone has a predomi­nance of Sanskrit over Arabic words.

Ma Huan's Ying-yai Sheng-Ian: The overallSurvey of the Ocean's Shores(1433), reports that the main states of the northern part of Sumatra were already Islamic. In 1414, he visited the King of Malacca, who was Muslim and also his people and they were very strict believers. The establishment of more Islamic states in North Sumatra is documented by late 15th-and 16th-century graves, including those of the first and second Sultans of Pedir, Muzaffar Syah, buried in «902H (1497G) and Ma'rufh Syah, buried in 917H(1511G).

Aceh was founded in the early 16th century, and the Aceh Empire's first sultan was Ali Mughayat Syah, whose tombstone is dated 936 H (1530G). The book of Portuguese apothecary Tome Piers documents his observations of Java and Sumatra from his 1512 to 1515 visits. At this time, ac­cording to Piers, most Sumatran kings were Muslim; from Aceh and south along the east coast to Pelam-bang the rulers were Muslim, while south of Palembang and around the southern tip of Sumatra and up the vest coast, most were not. In other Sumatran kingdoms, such Pasai and Minangkabau the rulers were Muslim although at that stage their subjects and people of neighboring areas were not, however, it was reported that the religion was continually gaining new adherents.

Founded around the beginning of the 15th century, the great Malay trading state of Malacca was, as the most important trading centre of the western archipelago, a centre of for­eign Muslims, and it thus appears a supporter of the spread of Islam. From Malacca and elsewhere gravestones survive showing not only its spread in the Malay Archipelago, but as the reli­gion of a number of cultures and their rulers in the late 15th century.

When Indonesia declared indepen­dence in 1945, it became the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world.Muslims constitute a majority in most regions of Java, Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, parts of North Sumatra, most inland areas of Kalimantan, and North Sulawesi. Together, these non-Muslim areas originally constituted more than one third of Indonesia prior to the mas­sive transmigration effort sponsored by the Suharto government and recent spontaneous internal migration.

While government-sponsored transmi­gration from heavily populated Java and Madura and to less populated areas con­tributed to the increase in the Muslim population in the resettlement areas, no evidence suggests that the government intended to create a Muslim majority in non-Muslim areas, and most Muslim mi­gration seemed spontaneous.Introduced piecemeal by various trad­ers and wandering men of piety from India, Islam first gained a foothold be­tween the 11th and 15th centuries in coastal regions of Sumatra, northern Java, and Kalimantan.Unlike coastal Sumatra, where Islam was adopted by elites and masses alike, in the interior of lava the elites only gradually accepted Islam.

The Constitution provides "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief" and states that "the nation is based upon belief in onesupreme God." Although it has an overwhelming Muslim majority, the country is not an Islamic state.

The Government organizes the Hajj pilgrimage. Indonesian media reported in October 2008 that the government will build four accom­modation towers for Indonesian Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia that can house 100,000 people as there have been problems related to their stay during the pilgrimage.

"The government is trying to work together with property companies," Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni was quoted as saying,

The Indonesian government signed agreements twice with two prop­erty companies in Saudi Arabia. The first agreement was to build three towers with rental cost of SR 1,650 per person. But the project could not be realised because of a land dispute.

The second agreement was the most recent with a rent­al cost of SR1,800 per person. However, the construction at Haram in Makkah has changed again, with the rental costs rising to SR2.000 for the first three years and SR2.500 from the fourth to the tenth year. The price could be reduced or even increased by five per cent after nego­tiations in the 11th year.

The government planned once again to invite the Saudi Arabian prop­erty companies to discuss the prices. Construction of the towers is expect­ed to take two years to complete and be ready for use in the third year.

Director for Hajj organizing and information system M. Abdul Gha-fur Djawahir said the tower con­struction was a long-term plan. Meanwhile, the government will con­tinue to accommodate pilgrims until construction is finished. "We will rent buildings immediately before the Hajj season starts," he said

 

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