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External Sources of Islamic Influence for Southeast Asia

Picture 2

The Abbasid Empire of 750 A.D was curcial in the development of Islam that would eventually find its way yo Southeast asia. It was during this period that Islam was viewed universally and not ethnic based. It was a lso a period of Islamic Renaissance where the Quran was written as we know it today. For example, the picture 2 is the beginning of Tafsir al-Qur’an by Abdullah al-Razi, vol. 7, in an Abbasid manuscript, a commentary on the Qur’an copied in 569 H / 1174 CE. Specific modes of islamic learning like sufism, theology and philosophy and science all developed during his period like picture 1, a manuscript page (c. 1250) from the Abbasid period, depicting a fanciful representation of the archer associated with sagittarius positioned between the moon and Jupiter, reflects the interest in astrological science that thrived. The fall of the abbasids at the hands of the mongols triggered a ’snow ball effect’ in the spread of islam and its syncretization with new cultures which eventually finds its way to Southeast Asia and its own brand of islam.


This is the tomb of Ibn Arabi, who wrote over 350 works including the Sufi philosophical monism wahada al-wujud (wujuddiyah) later adopted by Southeast asian scholars like Hamzah Fansuri. It became popular with Southeast asians because the spirituality of sufism appealed to the previously hindu/animistic locals. Sufism later became the target of reform and violence from people like Al-raniri and during the Padri wars.


This is the tomb of Imam Shafi’i whose sunni school of taught is predominantly adhered to in Southeast asia.His full name was Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Idris Ibn al-Abbaas Ibn ‘Uthman Ibn Shaafi’ Ibn al-Sa’ib Ibn ‘Ubaid Ibn Abd al-Yazid Ibn al-Muttalib Ibn Abd Manaf and he was the grand son of Muhammad. He argued that the only valid sunnah wer those passed down from the prophet himself. The other 3 schools of taught include Hambali, Maliki and Hanafie. The School of taught found its way here thanks to prominent scholars who were of this orientation. Examples include Al-raniri, a mixed race hadhrami (Shafi’i law was adopted by the hadhramis) who actually made the shafi’i law prominent in his work al sirat al mustaqim - propagating the shafi’i way.


Source: Sayyid Jamal ad-Din “Al-Afghani” A Political Biography, University of California Press, Keddie, Nikki (1972).

This is the image of Sayyid Jamal ad-Din or simply known as “Al-Afghani”, a significant figure of 19th century Islamic history. Jamal ad-Din was one of the leading intellectuals to re-interpret traditional Islamic ideas in the face of the increasing incursion of the West and western ideas into the Muslim world. He is also known as a key ideologist of the “Pan Islamism” ideal that was developing and incresingly prevalent during the time. His ideas undoubtedly had a significant role in influencing the way Muslims in Southeast Asia viewed and interpreted the religion. His student, Muhammad Abduh (below) would be instrumental in revolutionizing how Islam was conceptualized in the early 20th century

Al-Azhar University in Cairo                                         Muhammad Abduh


Al-Azhar University was arguably the birth place of Islamic modernism - the place where Muhammad Abduh studied and disseminated his most important work the Risālat at-Tawhīd in 1897. Some suggested that he was the Luther of Islam. His works promoted a rational and practical Islam and the concept of Ijtihad and challenged the exclusive ight of established scholars ro interpret the Quran . Spin-offs of his teachings later included salafism which was founded by his disciple Rashid Rida. His teachings resulted in a reconfiguration of Islam around the world including Southeast Asia. By the 20th century, Islamic Modernist magazines like Al-Imam and Al-Munir were widely distributed in Southeast Asia, perpetuating the practice of ijtihad.


·  Map of Muslim Southeast Asia

·  Pre-Islam Southeast Asia

·  External Sources of Islamic Influence for Southeast Asia

·  Foreign Observers of Islam in Southeast Asia

·  Facilitators of Islam in Southeast Asia

·  The Muslim Royals of Southeast Asia

·  Mosques from Early Muslim Southeast Asia

·  Islamic Artefacts and Rituals in Early Muslim Southeast Asia

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The opening of Risālat at-Tawhīd


on 20 March, 2008 at 4:55 pm

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