Tradition is based on religion; religion is based on tradition
February 15, 2017 12:27 AM   Subscribe

How did Indonesia and Malaysia become majority-Muslim when they were once dominated by Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms? This extensive (with citations!) answer by PangeranDipanagara on r/AskHistorians is worth every gold star it received.

To wit, you will find:

- Introductory post
- Why did rulers convert?
- The role of commerce (in two parts)
- Islam and royal authority (in two parts)
- Genuine piety
- Why did the people convert?
- Role of state policies (in two parts)
- Role of Sufi missionaries (in two parts)
- Popular perspectives on Islam
- Islam as magic
- Islam in a changing world (in two parts)
- Islam as part of life (and a conclusion of sorts)

- Addendum: Islam and the Sword (in two parts)
- Addendum: Why did some parts of Southeast Asia not convert to Islam? (in two parts)
posted by cendawanita (17 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is excellent, thank you. Really superb.
posted by tavegyl at 12:44 AM on February 15, 2017


That's really good, even by the high standards of AskHistorians. Truly the one heavily-moderated gem on reddit.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 2:08 AM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


There's a very interesting notion there that Hinduism and Buddhism were religions of the elite, not the people.
But Christianity and Islam both came with a sort of prepackaged franchise model of a hierarchical government.
So that you could sign up and you get a special hat that says you're the boss and only god gets to question you, and then also a team of clerics and churches and often judges and laws.
A whole model of organising society so that you stay the boss and everyone fits in neatly beneath you.
Oh also I guess if anyone says you're not in charge you can call up head office (The Pope, or the um.. Islam Pope?)and they'll help out.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:02 AM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


But Christianity and Islam both came with a sort of prepackaged franchise model of a hierarchical government

... I did not realise this is the case for Islam (esp Sunni Islam). Let me go get that number of that Islam Pope now, just to update my address book, you understand.
posted by cendawanita at 4:27 AM on February 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


Well, that was just an impression I got from the article (which is about the sum total of my knowledge of Islam).
"Another way Islam helped strengthen royal authority was by association with the three greatest empires of the Indian Ocean region, the Ottomans in Turkey, the Safavids in Iran, and the Mughals in India."
But certainly a suggestion that there are now external bodies to whom you can go to in order to further cement your position as king.
Perhaps around the time in question converting the Ottoman Caliph might be the closest comparison to the Catholic Pope?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:27 AM on February 15, 2017


Well, I guess I can say is that the impression is misplaced? Just because the Maritime Southeast Asian Sultans claim association, it doesn't mean that they're waiting on anyone to anoint them, or deny them. Why would the Ottoman Caliph had anything to do with them, unless if they're actually part of the empire? And when that is the case, then the local governors do get appointment, but that's civil governance, not a theocratic one. Even the religious scholars do not carry with them letters of appointment from anyone, but certificates or their academic degrees and reputation. The association mentioned here is really along the lines of reputational or profile boosting, since it's much better to claim relations with ascending imperial powers than descending ones. If anything, the region's kings vie for actual military/government assistance from China and/or Siam at that time.
posted by cendawanita at 5:37 AM on February 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


If anything, the region's kings vie for actual military/government assistance from China and/or Siam at that time.

mind you, that's based on my layman's upbringing of our local Malay history. But yeah, no one seriously goes about their lives in expectation of the Ottoman empire or the Mughals having anything to do with us theologically.
posted by cendawanita at 5:40 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, Hinduism and Buddhism do come, at least in many variations, as "franchises," maybe without a central "pope," but with set hierarchies and social organizations (and many Protestant denominations lack robust central authorities). The issue with Indonesia is that the elite religion didn't penetrate outside of the elite, leaving the field open for Islam, since animists tend to lack structure.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:55 AM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


...since animists tend to lack structure.

Spirits are typically amorphous.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:09 AM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Ah, well thanks for the clarification.
The Article seemed to suggest that the Ottoman Empire was an influence on the conversion of Indonesia and Malaysia to Islam.
I find it interesting to look at how various religious structures supported political structures.

Do Hinduism and Buddhism also have the same elevation of Royal Authority (as in associating it with divine authority) in the same way that Christianity and Islam do?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:13 AM on February 15, 2017


In theory, no, but in practice there's the Dhali Llama, who was practically venerated as a God-king at one time among his people. Like any other religion, people bring who they already were to their adaptation of it. Buddhism in particular had a tradition of being extraordinarily tolerant of incorporating existing cultural practices and traditions into Buddhist practices as they were newly adopted.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:54 AM on February 15, 2017


I always thought of the caliph as more of a Holy Roman Emperor analogue than pope. Or maybe both.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:34 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I always thought of the caliph as more of a Holy Roman Emperor analogue than pope. Or maybe both.


well, that's certainly something postcolonial pan-Islamists were very eager to promote, ha.
posted by cendawanita at 7:43 AM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


This was very good, the discussion of the "why/how did Islam spread" question always seems simplistic. Someone really needs to revive the yahoo index of "good links" as a sort of internet wide sidebar.
posted by sammyo at 7:53 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


thanks very much for this fascinating post.
posted by smoke at 6:02 PM on February 15, 2017


I hope they get this guy on for an episode of the podcast because I need 90 minutes of this comment and the AH podcast is pretty much my fave.
posted by litereally at 3:53 AM on February 16, 2017


@ocular shenanigans: Do not think that r/Science, r/AskScience, r/DepthHub, r/linguistics, or r/buildapc aren't good?
posted by koavf at 1:16 AM on February 18, 2017


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