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Academic writings

Al-Imam Magazine

Among the publications that have shaped the minds of the Malays for many generations was the Al-Imam (The Leader) magazine founded in 1905.

Influenced by the Al-Manar magazine published by Mohammed ‘Abduh and Rashid Rida, the editors of Al-Imam (Sayyid Shaikh Al-Hadi and Sheikh Tahir Jalaluddin, among others) saw the magazine as a means by which Malay society could be cleansed of the superstitions and intellectual backwardness that had stifled independent thinking. Al-Imam was to be a platform to “remind the forgetful, to arouse the slumber, to guide those that have been led astray and to give voice to the wise.” Continue reading “Al-Imam Magazine” »

Continue from Part 1

Using the trading kingdoms of Sumatra as their strategic base, the scholars and graduates of the pondoks established a whole network of similar institutions in other parts of the Malay World. Among the places that established Islamic centers of education of international standing were Patani, Malacca, Kelantan, Trengganu, Mindanao, Lombok, Banten and Makassar. By the mid-15th century, Patani had already caught up with Sumatra into becoming the new center of Islamic education in the Malay World. Students came from all over the Muslim World to study with the Tok Gurus (Sages) whose mastery of the Arabic language was superb. The first pondok was built by a well-known ulama by name of Wan Mustafa (also known as Wan Pa) at the Yarang district in Patani.

Continue reading “Islamic Education in the Malay World: A History for Our Time Part 2” »

Published in the Vizier Magazine, Issue 16, June 2014

Muslims of today tend to have their eyes fixed on the centers of Islamic education in the Arab World in their endeavour to pursue Islamic studies. This is unsurprising given the fact the Al-Azhar, the University of Madinah, the Muslim colleges that populate modern-day Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Morocco are sites by which generations of students and scholars have spent the prime of their lives to satisfy their thirst and appetites for religious knowledge.

What have so often been neglected, if not forgotten, are the many other reputable hubs of Islamic learning elsewhere that have produced equally notable scholars and intellectuals. Studies of the Muslim communities in Africa, Central Asia, Russia, the Balkans and the Malay World have shown us that there exist thousands of centers of Islamic education that have maintained their presence and traditions for hundreds of years. These were places where men and women from all over world converged to study about Islam – its laws, history, philosophy and other branches of knowledge at the feet of the erudite.

Continue reading “Islamic Education in the Malay World: A History for Our Time Part 1” »

On the Islamization of the Malays and Malay Contributions to Islam

The coming of Islam to the Malay World could be pushed back to as early as 9th century when the first traders from Yemen came and converted some Malays here. But Islam as a civilization took root much later on. By 11-12th century, Islam had taken root in places such as Aceh, Trengganu and Pasai not the Nusantara as a whole. By 14th century, Islam had spread so rapidly, thanks to the work of Malay missionaries, so much so that the Arab wayfarers would come to learn under the feet of scholars based in this part of the world.

So influential was Islam here in the 14th century that even the cultures here were brought home by the Arabs who came to marry with local women. In Hadramaut, kain pelekat was used by the Masyaikhs in Tarim and Hadramis would read kitabs written by scholars here back home. Malays became Great People. The Malay missionaries together with Arabs and Indian Muslims went all over the region to as far as Lombok to spread Islam.

Continue reading “On the Islamization of the Malays and Malay Contributions to Islam” »

Rescuing History from the Orientalists:

Syed Muhd Naquib Al-Attas and Islam in the Malay World

By: Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied

Islam and the process of Islamization in the Malay World have received wide attention from scholars in Asia and elsewhere. Varying – and sometimes conflicting – interpretations have been presented and aired, and the points of contention are on issues pertaining to the question of origins and influences, as well as the backgrounds of persons and institutions responsible for the spread of Islam in this region, notwithstanding the collateral consequences which flowed from the shift in religious affiliations among the Malays. To this must be added a mention of the unending inquiries into the nature and validity of evidence available. Tainted by myths and legends, indigenous sources have been subjected to critical scrutiny and seen as too unreliable to be used to reconstruct the history of the conversion to Islam. It has been argued that one way to overcome this limitation is to turn to alternative European, Chinese and Arabian accounts of developments in the Malay world, for they provide us with a supposedly more dependable depiction of events and happenings and the circumstances that resulted from the rapid spread of Islam in the Malay world.

Continue reading “Rescuing History from the Orientalists: Syed Muhd Naquib Al-Attas and Islam in the Malay World” »