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The Coming of Islam to Indonesia

The coming of Islam in Indonesia took an important role in the change of the country together with Europeans who also did travels for tradings and expansion. Indonesia is the largest Asian country after China where civilization was influenced by other countries, and Islam in Indonesia is the largest population today. Most of traders from overseas countries used the routes by docking their ships in Sumatra island, Java island, Moluccas and other ports in the country. Many of them stay long and even live for the natural herbs and agriculture which they exported to other countries.  When Marco Polo visited Indonesia in 1292, he noted that Islam was already established in parts of Aceh in north Sumatra. The religion was brought by Indian traders plying the India-China trade route.

From Aceh, Islam spread to the rest of Indonesia along the trade routes and the paths of economic expansion. To help spread the religion, rulers placed the royal gamelan (“GAH-may-lahn”) orchestras in meeting halls that were turned into mosques. People from the surrounding areas came to listen to the music and were converted in the process. By the 15th and 16th centuries, many Indonesian rulers had made Islam the state religion, persuaded by the desire to strengthen ties with the neighboring port of Malacca, which had then become the center of Islam and trade. The growing international Islamic trade network brought yet more power and wealth. Islam was also a more egalitarian religion than Hinduism. In calling for the equality of all men before God, it had great appeal to the common people.

In the 16th century the Islamic kingdom of Demak attacked the weakening Hindu Mataram kingdom in central Java, taking control of its rich lands and driving the Hindu elite east to Bali. The fall of this once great empire was recorded by Muslim court chroniclers as ‘the disappearance of the light of the universe.”

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