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Sources of Islamic Influence for Southeast Asia

on 5 March, 2008 at 3:52 pm


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 an artist impression of Ibn Arabi, whose 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. 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)

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