At the Court of the Malay Sultans: The Making of Southeast Asian Islam

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Today Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population of any nation on the planet. But when, and how, was this region converted? And how were Islamic ideas and texts translated into the Malay language that became a regional lingua franca for Muslims across Southeast Asia at large? In this episode, we’ll survey over a thousand years of Southeast Asia’s religious history, from the arrival of early Arab merchants to the emergence of sultanates ruled by local Muslim rulers and the subsequent dynamics – and disputes – between mystical and legalist visions of the faith. We’ll also look at the overarching process of translation, both of cultural practices and particular texts, by taking a look at the emergence of the ‘Jawi’ literary tradition and the first complete commentary on the Quran in Malay. Bringing the story up to the present, we’ll finally ask how the relationship between local and global forms of Islam plays out across the region today. Nile Green talks to Peter G. Riddell, the author of Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World: Transmission and Responses (University of Hawaii Press, 2001).

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