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.