The Crescent and the Rising Sun: Indonesian Islam under the Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945

By Harry J. Benda | Go to book overview

Chapter One
INDONESIAN ISLAM AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF DUTCH ISLAMIC POLICY

The Islamization of the islands of the Indonesian archipelago covers a period of several centuries. It is, indeed, a process which has even today not been entirely completed. A Muslim principality appears to have existed in northern Sumatra as far back as the beginning of the thirteenth century. In due course it was followed by the conversion of other ruling dynasties on that island, among which Acheh has come to play a prominent role in Indonesian history. By the early fifteenth century, Islam had established itself at Malacca, the nerve-center of Southeast Asian trade routes, whence the new faith radiated to other parts of Indonesia.

By the middle of the century, Islam had already reached the Moluccas in the east and, more important still, some of the trading towns on the northern litoral of the island of Java, center for many centuries of a flourishing Hindu-Javanese empire, Majapahit. Majapahit succumbed under the armed onslaughts of its rebellious, Islamized vassals, leaving the interior of Java in political chaos. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, however, a new dynasty, that of Mataram, gained prominence in central Java, and ultimately succeeded in subjugating the coastal principalities. With the conversion of the ruler of Mataram to Islam the victory of the new faith was well-nigh complete over the greater part of Indonesia at the beginning of the seventeenth century, which marked the first Dutch involvements in Indonesian affairs.1

This victory was the more remarkable since the carriers of Islam had not, as in some other parts of the world, been Muslim conquerors, but in the main peaceful traders from India, where Islam had established itself during preceding centuries. Attracted

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