Indonesia together with Malaysia and the Philippine islands, is home to over 250 million Muslims. Geography is a major determinant of history. Geographic interconnections ensured political military interactions between North Africa, Egypt, West Asia, Central Asia and India. East Asia is separated from this interconnecting landmass by the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
The pre-Islamic Archipelago had a Hindu ruling class over a Buddhist-Hindu-animist matrix. The first infusion of Indian elements into the Archipelago occurred during the reign of Ashoka (269-232 B.C.E.). Due to its remoteness, the political and military events in East Asia were affected only peripherally by the events in the rest of the Muslim world.
The introduction of Islam into the Archipelago (Indonesian region) may be divided into three phases: (1) the first phase extending from the Hijra (622) to 1100 (2) the second phase covering the period 1100 to 1500 and (3) the third phase extending from 1500 to modern times. Merchants from Yemen and the Persian Gulf followed the monsoons to the coast of Malabar and from there to the islands of Sri Lanka, Java and Sumatra.
The powerful Abbasids in Baghdad especially encouraged global trade. To the west, trade caravans traversed the Sahara through West Africa deep into what is today Ghana and Nigeria. To the east, the Silk Road to China was brisk with activity. Sufi orders appeared and spread the faith throughout Sumatra during the 14th century. Impressed by the honesty and integrity of these merchants, a large number of Malays accepted Islam. Intermarriage also played a part in conversions, as happened in Malabar and Sumatra.
Overall, we could see that international economics was one of the main factors that spread Islam across the world to Indonesia from the Middle East.
international relations Graduate,