How Islam Spread to Southeast Asia

That’s the call to prayer at the local mosque. It’s a common thing to hear in the Islamic
world, but I am not in the Middle East, I am not in North Africa, I am in Southeast
Asia, more specifically Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia’s official state religion is Islam,
and it’s a somewhat widely known factoid that the largest country by Muslim population
is nearby Indonesia. So, just how did Islam spread to this corner
of the world? Indonesia has about a quarter of a billion
inhabitants, making it the fourth largest overall country in the world. Of those roughly 270 million people, about
87% of them said they were Muslim, according to a 2010 census. Nearby Malaysia doesn’t lag all that far
behind either, though smaller and more religiously diverse, Malaysia has Islam as the official
state religion. In fact, 42% of the population of Southeast
Asia identifies as Islamic, comprising about a quarter of all the Muslims in the world. However, while there are sizeable Muslim communities
in other Southeast Asian countries, most are concentrated in Malaysia and Indonesia (also
small shout-out to Brunei). So, before I get carried away with repeating
the intro over and over again, how did Malaysia and Indonesia get so Islamic? Islam started in the Arabian Peninsula in
the 7th century, and from there quickly spread throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa
with the conquests of the early Caliphs, reaching from Pakistan to Portugal to P… Persia? Nevertheless, Islam didn’t spread so quickly
to the east, at least not in the same way it spread westwards. During this time, the Silk Road trade networks
were in more effect than ever, with well-traveled trade routes connecting Europe and Africa
with eastern Asia by land and by sea. It was through these trade networks that Islam
would come to spread to the east. The Silk Road is a very notable cause for
the spread of Islam across the south of Asia, as it also wasn’t the only religion to have
made use of the Silk Road. Buddhism, a religion that started in Northern
India and Southern Nepal, took advantage of the Silk Road, and now dominates virtually
all of East Asia. Islam did have a somewhat slow uprising in
this area though. This new religion, brought in by some sailors,
preachers, and Sufi mystics from faraway lands, obviously didn’t become the dominant religion
overnight. Islam initially started to spread around the
coasts of Sumatra by the 9th century, but these communities didn’t spread much at
first. Before Islam started to gain a foothold in
this part of the world, the various kingdoms around here were primarily either Buddhist
or Hindu, or even a combination of the two, like the Indonesian Mahapajit… Mapajahit… Majahapit… Roman… Majapahit Empire. Matter of fact, the world’s largest Buddhist
temple, Borobudur, is located on the Indonesian island of Java, built during the 9th century
AD, under the Sailendra Dynasty. In fact, one likely contributing factor to
the spread of Islam in this area was the presence of various mystic Sufi orders, as many Islamic
teachings were even combined with various previously established Hindu-Buddhist teachings,
basically amalgomating Islam with some of the more native beliefs of the area. Around the 10th and 11th centuries, Muslim
traders started setting up shop in Aceh, on the northwesternmost tip of the island of
Sumatra. Malacca, the main choke point of the region
for oceanic trade, also housed many Islamic traders and scholars, and it’s likely from
there that the religion spread throughout the rest of the region. There are multiple factors that went into
Islam spreading to the Malay… Indonesian… Nusantara Archipelago though, one other likely
factor being the mass translation of many Islamic holy texts into Malay and Javanese…
you know, the languages people actually speak in Malaysia and Java. One more factor was the ruling classes embracing
Islam, especially the rulers of Malacca, who started converting to Islam in the 15th century,
which definitely wasn’t unconsequential. That is definitely a bit late to be the one
true source though, since Islam had already been prevalent in the region for several hundred
years, with Marco Polo even going to states like Perlak and saying “yep, they’re Islamic
alright”. So, while Islam initially spread slowly amongst
the local people, so too was this the case with the rulers of the area. In fact, the island of Java didn’t get its
first true Sultan until 1641. So, why is it important to talk about the
spread of Islam into Southeast Asia, or at least important enough for me to make a video
about it? Well, besides me wanting to make a video relating
to having gone to Kuala Lumpur, I feel it‘s important to recognize the fact that “the
Islamic world” isn‘t just the Middle East and Northern Africa, but many other places
as well. The country with the most Muslims is Indonesia,
while the country with the second highest is India. Also, the northernmost Islamic-majority country
is Kazakhstan. In fact, just this map can tell us many things
about the Balkans, or the Caucasus, or Western China, and how these places impact the geopolitical
situations in their areas. Religion plays a big role in daily life around
the world, and has especially played a big role in world history, so just understanding
what people believe and where they do so can help one understand the world in new ways…
or at least tell people why they shouldn’t expect to get many pork dumplings in Jakarta. Thank you as always for watching. If you want to see more videos like this,
do consider liking, subscribing, and supporting KhAnubis on Patreon, to help everyone learn
something new every Sunday. Whether or not you can or want to support
the channel though, I will see you next week with a video from Singapore.


  1. An amazing video 👍! I love learning about the history of an of the Abrahamic religions. The only kinda un accurate information i saw was the map you used for the spread of Islam, as regions like Central Asia aren't fully muslim plus that, Macedonia and Albania were fully colored in green, though that may have been only the limitations of the map itself 😂

  2. Great video, only one thing: the country with the second highest number of Muslims isn't India, it's Pakistan.

  3. A video about why India, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia all have so many people could be a great video.

    Also, the northernmost Muslim country used to be the Sibir Khanate that was east of the Urals.

  4. Actually lot of Muslim in Indonesia isn't religious even lot of people still worship folk deities (even every year in the southern coast of java they give offering to "nyi roro kidul" ) another example is lot of people still worship their ancestor even they're Muslim but Muslim in Indonesia were becoming more religious in the past decade(I'm Indonesian btw)

  5. hahaha just like how my people spread in china. our islam is an amalgamation of islam and confucianism, but they're oddly similar to begin with.

  6. There's also large community in southern part of the Philippines
    The region of ARMM ( Administrative region of Muslim Mindanao)

  7. TL;DW: some guy named Muhammad wrote a book and then people bought it. Also, it’s about god, so people started to believe it so strongly they wanted to spread it.

  8. There is another reason why islam spread easily in Indonesia. For some region like java, it is because the similarities of the original religion which pre-dates the hindu-budhist kingdom in nusantara archipelago like "kapitayan" for the javanese. This religion have some similarities with how islam perceive god but it has some animistic component in it, like how they believe in the ancestral spirits and some sort. This religion kinda still exist today but as a syncretic religion with islam called "kejawen". You can find some of the follower of kejawen in java.

  9. Learning new things everyday. Keep it up my friend. Thank you! I'm from Malaysia and I'm also learning about my own country 😊👍

  10. Maybe next, you can explain how the region of South, East, and South East Asia can host more people than the rest of the regions of the world combined.

  11. Some by sword,
    Mandailing (in sumatra) got a choice back then, leave their original religion or death

  12. Thank you for the video!!! Only few people actually knows that malaysia and indonesia are mostly muslims

  13. Why peoples always having hard time when spelling Mapajahit, eh i mean Mahajapit, oh no no no Majahapit, duuudee i mean Majapahit (I know this is not funny :P). But, maybe i want to correct a little miss information you have. Javanese sultanate began in 1475, it's just small coastal city (maybe city state) of Demak. At that time Demak is located near coastal area, but maybe because sediment of river, now it some tens km from a shore. No one knows for sure. Demak Sultanate, maybe at first is vassal to Majapahit Empire. But as soon as Majapahit decline, they tried to take over. In fact, Demak nobility are predominantly Majapahit ones, so yeah they are actually just Majapahit who transform into Muslim…

  14. Hey, if you're still in Malaysia, I recommend you to visit the Putra Mosque. It's open to visitors and it's beautiful

  15. islam spread in Sabah like wildfire in the 80s when Mahathir's dictatorship installed UMNO in Sabah. They pay anyone who chose to convert to Islam. My mom used to go to suraus and pray, but she converted to Catholicisim before the illegalization of Muslim apostasy.

  16. In the western region of Java island (Banten, Jakarta, and West Java Provinces) it was happened in invasion. This is important so people don't miss understood this fact.

  17. Hi I'm Filipino from the Philippines and I'm Christian

    In South East Asia
    We can't do crusade because we're the only nation here that is majority of Christians
    We hope European brothers would send help


  18. The fact that our history books are reluctant to dive into preislamic history, made me fed up with our government's approach to history. Perhaps they want to keep these 'dangerous knowledge' that could lead them astray out of their reach. Not to mention that the racial & religious hatred looms and grows by day… I tell you, this has to be a grand scheme to convert everyone to Islam so that they can get their 'good deeds' done

  19. I am a Thai . I am respectful of Buddhism. I tell you directly that in Southeast Asia there should not be a Muslim. It is a selfish religion with compassion only for Muslims. Looking at people of different religions is Satan. Use violence and stretches the women in the world.

  20. Do you know that there are muslims in Vietnam 🇻🇳 even though there are only Less than 1% of the pop practices it

  21. 5:24 There's actually a lot of pork buns in Jakarta. Usually in Central, West, or North Jakarta, where there's a lot of Chinese. They're really easy to find (for locals).

  22. In Indonesia it's taught that Islam spread through;
    1. Walisongo, kind of like saints. Some of whom had Chinese ancestry.
    2. Cheng Ho, a Chinese Muslim admiral from Ming dynasty.
    3. Indian and Arab Merchants, many of whose descendants can still be found throughout the archipelago as Indian Indonesians and Arab Indonesians.
    4. The conversion of religion by certain sultans like the ones Riau, and subsequently his subjects.

    I think the Champa kingdom in Vietnam played a role in strengthening Islam's position in Indonesia? CMIIW

  23. Fun fact about islam in my country (The Philippines)!did you know muslim or islam in my country (the philipines)is mostly found in a region called ARMM or Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or in the rest of Mindanao

  24. Wrong maps.
    Islam first spread to east Africa before reaching North Africa and most of the Middle East.

    Some of the oldest mosques in the world are located in Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Pre dating all mosques outside of Saudi Arabia.

  25. Its also worth noting that Indonesia is neither a Islamic authoritarian theocracy, nor a secular, liberal, western, democratic republic. Its somewhere in the middle. The constitution has Islam as the state religion, but its quite religiously tolerant, especially in the more touristy parts and more urban parts. There is also internal debate on what does that explicit recognition of Islam mean. On one hand it could be argued as a simple recognition of the fact that it is majority Muslim, yet others argue it means for an Islamic government. And yes the government is Islamic, but that isn't because of religious zealots, but simply because the people are majority Muslim, and the government reflects that. Furthermore, they do have open and free elections. What about Aceh? They have Sharia law, but it wasn't imposed by zealots, but came about as a result of the democratic process. Also, see Ahok, a Chinese Christian politician who was quite prominent, and arguably still is. He was governor of Jakarta, but was sentenced to jail based on blasphemy laws. Meanwhile, there was a lot of dissent on that to varying degrees of support. He was also given a relatively light sentence of two years, and he was and is still quite famous for good governance. A steady pair of uncorrupt hands is not as common as one would hope.

  26. I love the way you prefer the term "Nusantara archipelago" instead of either Malay or Indonesian archipelago. Here, take my like. (I rarely give like on YouTube videos).

  27. Hindu in Nusantara Archipelago was not so much similiar to nowadays hindu practices by Indian. You may need to refer to Balinese hindu or the remaining Hindu Champa people in South Vietnam. Also, Christianity came to SEA after Islam hence the Spanish conquest in the Philippines archipelago caused millions to convert to Christianity whereby before Magellan, the region predominantly Islam and Pagan/Animisme

  28. Forward to 2119, Britain, USA, etc looking back like current Iran, Sudan, etc, asking, how did we go from LAND of the FREE to sharia law; very subtlety and deceitfully (Islam religion of peace – wool pulling over eyes), Now, women, hijab over head and be prepared to be shared with up to three other wives, and if you are a woman who wants a divorce in Islam, see Quran 4:11, 2:228, 5:6, 4:3, 4:24 & 33:50). Thank God I believe in the Biblical Jesus Christ, totally different from the Jesus Christ in Quran. Unfortunately, evolutionary belief is also as wicked, evil, subtle, and deceptive as Islam.
    Prayers for humanity to leave Islam and the belief in evolution.

  29. Buddhism didn’t start in northern INDIA, because back then India wasn’t a thing yet. It started in whatever empire or kingdom that ruled the area that is now modern day northern India.

  30. It's nice to see you use the term, Nusantara Archipelago or Kepulauan Nusantara instead of Indonesian Archipelago (Kepulauan Indonesia) and Malay Archipelago (Kepulauan Melayu)

    Heck, Eastern Indonesians aren't even malays at all. For ex, Papuans, Malukuans, Nusa Tenggarans, they are not malay at all, lmao

  31. 2:50 Indeed a man of culture as well. truly remarkable a westerner try to find that pronunciation. And I am a Roman as well? hahaha

  32. Just like The Middle East and Asia, Southeast Asia has been ruined by Islam. Now I'm sure that: (1) I'll never go to the Islamic countries of the region. (2) Never trade with those countries. (3) Never help people from those countries.

  33. 90% Muslims are not arabs, don't generalize ! And there's nothing like muslim world, islam is only Religion with over 4/10 of all it's followers living in non muslims majority countries and making second largest huge majorities there (for example China, Philippines, Christan Countries in Africa, latim america, north America, majority i south europe and second largest huge majorites in russia and north europe, Sri lanka,nepal, burma, Thailand , cambodia, india etc and etc) those who didn't know should turn off fox news

  34. Please start referring to the "Hindu religion" as SANATAN DHARM Well its time to change back to the origin or if u like the "official brutish name" who couldn't pronounce it or the Islamic invaders or basically any western invader thanQ. 🙏💪🇮🇳💪

  35. indonesia province of north sulawesi is somehow likely to became the second constantinople, since we are the only province left to have dominance religion of christianity

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