islam.gifBeginning in the 7th century A.D., Muslim merchants from India, Persia, and South Arabia often came to Southeast Asian harbors. Eventually, they settled in larger numbers, bringing along with them their own “religious experts, or “mullahs” (Houben 153). They also built prayer houses and religious buildings in their towns. When a local ruler converted to Islam as a result of these Muslim traders’ inhabitance of the harbors, he could “command a new, more universal kind of legitimacy that transcended his own group and therefore allowed for the rise of greater policies” (Houben 153). In other words, because he converted to Islam and became a religious ruler, he had a new kind of authority. An important point in Islam is legitimacy through the power of God. When this local ruler converted to Islam, he became more powerful because of his self-proclaimed legitimacy via the power of God. Because of these traders’ practice of Islam in their towns and subsequent influence on the locals, Islam was spread to Indonesia starting with seaside ports and harbors. These harbor cities became places for the transportation of goods between China and the West and were incredibly diverse and idiosyncratic; they were the focal point of Islamic settlements (Esposito 421). Because of the functionality of these cities and their dynamic role in Indonesia’s culture and economy, the Muslims that inhabited them were very involved in the culture, therefore spreading Islam from the outside inward.


When Islam spread its people to Eastern China and Indonesia in the 13th century, many religious conflicts frequently came with their move. The Islamic people brought Muslim missionaries with them to their conquered territories, and started colonies in Indonesia. The missionaries were able to slowly convert people to become Muslims. The main problem was that with Islamic religion comes Islamic law. Islamic law is very strict and did not always match up with those laws of Eastern China. Traditionally, the Muslims would come in and take over a piece a land, put in new laws, and honor the old laws as part of Islamicate law. However, at this time, the old laws of Indonesia coexisted with Islamic law. Even if they did not directly correspond then the old laws would still be flattered in the “Islamicate” society. The Islamic people were allowed to enforce their own laws in Indonesia unless the problem was involving someone outside of the Islamic religion. The problem was that, “During the 19th and 20th centuries, Dutch colonial officials attempted to use customary law (adat) as a way to weaken the authority of Muslim jurists and the influence of the sharia in Indonesia” (Campo, 1). The Islamic laws did not seem to have the power to fight back and the customary laws came through. The spread of Islam to Indonesia were so influential because Indonesian laws and Islamic laws were able to coincide with each other for such a long time.

Indonesia is now the world's third-largest democracy, the world's largest archipelagic state, and home to the world's largest Muslim population. The most practiced of the Indonesian religions is the Islamic religion maintaining an 86.1% of followers. Thus, Indonesian Muslims are about 90% of the 213 million Indonesians. The first Indonesians to adopt Islam are thought to have done so as early as the eleventh century, however, on the governmental aspect of Islam’s affect in Indonesia, it took many years before leaders adopted the Islamic faith as the main religion. Political Islam refers to efforts that promote Muslim aspirations and carry an Islamic agenda into laws and government policy through the electoral process and representative (legislative) institutions. In early years after independence, Indonesia went through a period of liberal democracy. The following are political groups which later rose due to the spread and influence of Islam. The first president of Indonesia and leader of PNI promoted the 5 principles, promoted Islam as the state’s foundational principle. Liberal democracy was short lived and later, four Islamic political parties were forced to merge into a single party named the United Development Party (founded 1973).
The first Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle,
The moo and star party (founded 1998),
The prosperous Justice Party (1998),
The National Awakening Party (founded 1998),
The national Mandate Party (founded in 1998),
and finally, The Golkar Party (founded 1964).
As a result of all the political support, there has arisen the possibility that the country could one day move towards becoming an Islamic state. To date, however, Indonesia’s leaders have not identified with the idea of an Islamic state, preferring to maintain other forms of government and adhering to the Indonesian theory of Pancasila. Similarly there has never been any real widespread public support for the establishment of an Islamic state, although there have been occasions where Muslims have rallied behind particular Islamic issues. Democracy in Indonesia has not brought any significant electoral success for intensely Islamic parties, however, this is the current news of Islam in Indonesian nation states.

Campo, Juan. "Islamic Customary Law." Encyclopedia of Islam, Encyclopedia of World Religions. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2009. Web.


Beetz, Kirk. "Migration and Population Movements in the Medeival Islamic World." Encyclopedia of Society and Culture in the Medieval World. New York: Facts on File, Inc, 2008. Web.

Houben, Vincent. "Southeast Asia and Islam." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 588. Sage Publications, Inc, 2003. Print.

Esposito, John L. "The Oxford History of Islam." Questia. 1999. Web. 31 Mar. 2010. <http://www.questiaschool.com/read/111912677>.

CIA Factbook. CIA. Web. 4 Apr. 2010. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/>.

Jstore. The University of California Press, Sept.-Oct. 2004. Web. 4 Apr. 2010.