South-east Asia is world’s most vital
area. Some Muslim states are also situated in this region. These states command
a great prestige in their region in general and in the Muslim world in
particular. They enjoy great fame in history. This article deals briefly with
the following four Muslim states of south-east Asia:
i) The Republic of Maldives,
ii) The Constitutional Monarchy of
iii) The Sultanate of Brunei, and
iv) The Republic of Indonesia
Islamic Rule in Maldives
Maldives islands are situated in the
Indian Ocean four hundred miles to the south of Sri Lanka. The official name of
the country is the Republic of Maldives. It comprises, 2,000 small and big
islands. None of these is bigger than four or five miles. Underneath the islands
are located volcanoes in the ocean. As the level of the earth is too low, fierce
floods and severe storms often assume dangerous proportions. Majority of the
population is Muslim. The literacy rate is 82%. Millet, coconut and fruits are
the main crops. Important industries include fishing, ship-building, coconut oil
extraction, tourism, etc. In 1965, Maldives achieved complete freedom.
Presidential form of government is current since 1968.
Islam reached Maldives during the first
century Hijrah through Arab traders. In 1214, all inhabitants embraced Islam at
the hands of the Sufi saint, Abu’l-Barakat Berberi. Even the Hindu ruler of
those times, Dharam Sant, accepted Islam. He was renamed as Sultan Muhammad Ibn
‘Abdullāh. The Maldivians refer to this historic event as ‘the Spiritual
Revolution’. The famous Muslim tourist-historian, Ibn Batūtah, visited the
islands during the fourteenth century. He even served the Maldives government as
a Qādī (judge). His interesting travelogues throw a floodlight on the island’s
life-style. Except for brief ruling periods of the Portugese, the Dutch and the
British, Maldives has always remained an independent Muslim state.
Maldives is now in the grip of Islamic
renaissance. Addressing a SAARC session in July 1984, the republic’s President,
Māmūn ‘Abdu’l-Rashīd said proudly: ‘Islam is my faith. Islam alone is an ideal
way of life. Islam is so dynamic and so adaptable that it can serve anyone,
anywhere, anytime. Islamic system alone is suited to the human society.’ In
November 1984, the president laid the foundation of a Jāmi‘ Masjid complex,
estimated to cost a total of seven million dollars. The biggest problem of
Maldives is the constant fear that if the sea-level rises a bit further, the
entire country will be washed away.
Tourism is progressing rapidly in
Maldives. This lively little island has been the centre of interest of many a
genuine as well as fake tourist. From November 1985, India has also started a
sea service between Bombay and Maldives.
The Muslim State of Malaysia
This south-eastern peninsula is
surrounded by Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur is its capital.
Seventy percent of the county is covered by thick forests. Majority of the
population is Muslim. Other religions include Buddhism, Hinduism and
Christianity. Literacy rate is 72%.
From time immemorial, Malaysia has been
a meeting place of diverse civilisations. With the passage of time, it gradually
assumed the shape of a dynamic centre of civilisation which had a pleasant
cultural impact on Arabia, Iran, India, Sumatra, Philippines and China. In 1292,
the boat of the first European tourist, Marco Polo, sailed through this
peninsula. In 1511, a Portuguese missionary, Albuquerque entered Malaysia with
the Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. His cherished wishes were
imposition of Portuguese rule over the entire east and disrupting the Muslim
trade between the east and Europe. He, however, failed to fulfil his dirty
dreams. In 1641, the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Malaysia and established
their firm footing in the peninsula. The British also ruled the country for
about a century. Malaysia achieved independence in 1957.
Modern Malaysia is facing two pressing
problems: (1) The mounting struggle to curtail powers of the present
constitutional monarchy and to expand parliament powers; (2) Outlining and
implementing various plans and projects for socio-economic development.
The main crops of Malaysia include
rubber, rice, coconut and timber. Small industries have also been established.
With a view to accelerate economic growth, private sector has been accorded full
freedom. Foreign investment has also been on the increase for quite sometime
during the past.
Islamic principles and practices play a
vital role in island’s everyday life. The recommendations made by the Islamic
Conference to promote co-operation among the Muslim states are accorded high
priority by the government and the people of Malaysia. An Islamic University has
also been established since July 1983. The same year the first Islamic bank was
inaugurated under the name of Islamic Bank of Malaysia. This magnificent measure
marks the beginnings of interest-free banking in Malaysia. The movement for
Islamic renaissance is in full swing. It derives its inspiration from the
organisation of the young folk known as ‘The Muslim Youth Movement’. This
dynamic organisation is active since 1972. Its attitude towards modernisation is
balanced and wholesome. Most of the Malaysian youth have been inspired by Iran’s
Islamic Revolution brought about by the great leader late Allama Khoumeni. In
recent years, organised campaigns against corruption, malpractices, social
injustice and several other ills and ailments have gained unprecedented
The Sultanate of Brunei
This lovely little south-eastern state
is situated in the Pacific Ocean. Its old name was Borneo. The present name is
Brunei Dāru’l-Salām. It is ruled by a Muslim king, under the title of Sultan.
Although small in size, it is the richest land in the region. Brunei is rich in
oil wealth. The per capita income is twenty two thousand dollars. Every fourth
person owns a car. It is a tax free land. All basic amenities of life are
provided by the state free of cost. There is no charge on medical and
educational facilities either. Literacy rate is 64%. A system of state pension
for the aged and the handicapped is in vogue. Loans are extended freely to the
citizens for purchase of articles of daily use.
Centuries back, some Muslim traders had
arrived in Brunei. It is those early traders who disseminated Islam in the
country. Since then, Islam has been the dominant religion. The Muslims form 60%
of the entire population. In ancient times, a diversity of tourists and traders
had been visiting the place. In 1530, a visiting Dutch tourist wrote this about
the country. ‘Brunei’s king is ver rich and powerful. The country is very
peaceful and prosperous. Mutton, rice, corn and other commodities are available
in abundance.’ Towards the beginning of the nineteenth century several European
tourists and traders began to frequent Brunei. But the arrival of the British
heralded an era of unrest, conflict and chaos. In 1905, Britain even occupied
Brunei by force. Things, however, began changing after the Great War. In 1984,
Brunei achieved complete freedom from the yoke of British imperialism. She
emerged on the world map as a sovereign Muslim state. It may, however, be
remembered that the process of Islamisation of life and economy had started in
full swing even as early as in 1963.
Brunei’s main crops are rice and banana.
Besides oil, the important minerals include gas as well. Brunei’s basic problem
is severe labour shortage. It is, therefore, imported from Pakistan, India,
Philippines and Malaysia. As this procedure creates a host of unpleasant
problems, the government disfavours import of labourers. In 1985, Brunei entered
into a joint venture with Singapore for the establishment of an eight million
dollar pharmaceutical plant.
Muslim Rule in Indonesia
Standing strategically in between the
Indian Ocean and the Pacific, this great and gallant Muslim state is situated
towards south-east Asia. The Australian continent lies towards its south-east.
In ancient times, it was known as East India Islands. In 1921, the
freedom-fighters renamed it as Indonesia. The country comprises over four
thousand islands which are mostly unpopulated. Most of the islands are dotted
with volcanoes. Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country of the world from the
population point of view. Out of a total of 160 million people 90% are Muslims.
Literacy rate is 67%.
Geographically Indonesia can be divided
into four main parts: (1) Western islands which include Java, Sumatra, Bunka,
Madur, Borneo Balyun, etc; (2) Sonda Islands comprising Mali, Lumbuk, Somba,
Taimur, Roti, Florus and Sumbava; (3) Eastern Islands including Saladesi and
Malu; and (4) Islands comprising Western Irian, New Guinea, etc. The main crops
are rice, walnuts, soybeans, coffee, tea, coconut, spices and tobacco. The
mineral wealth includes oil, tin, copper, gold, silver and coal. The most
significant industries are food products, textiles, mining and oil refining.
The Indonesian culture dates back to the
pre-Christ period. Hinduism and Buddhism were popular here during the seventh
and eighth centuries. The Muslim entered the land during the eleventh century.
Islam attained an unprecedented popularity during the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries. In 1428, a famous Muslim missionary established the Islamic rule by
defeating Java’s ruler. However, that rule did not last beyond 1578. But when
Ibn Batūtah visited the country in 1346, he had even then found an Islamic
government in Sumatra. From olden days, various islands of Indonesia have been
targets of militant Dutch and Portuguese Christian missionaries. In 1511,
Albuquerque raided Maluka under orders of the Portuguese king, establishing
Portuguese rule over there. In 1595, the Dutch laid the foundations of the Dutch
East India Company in Taimur area. This ushered in an era of intrigues and
insurgencies against the native Muslims. The government of Holland forcibly
occupied many Indonesian islands in 1795. Later on, they conquered all the
islands one after the other. They then changed the country’s name to Dutch East
The situation went on deteriorating with
the passage of time. The exploitative designs of the intruding powers became
quite manifest to the local Muslims. Annoyed over the recurring external
interference, a famous religious scholar, Imam Bonjole, declared Jihād in the
beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1913, the Muslims established an
organisation, ‘Islamic Society’ for their religious and moral welfare. As the
organisation gained unusual popularity, the communists also set up their rival
organisation, ‘Peoples Party’. After World War II, Indonesia came under the
Allies in 1945. In September 1945, the British army invaded Indonesia but was
defeated. Passing through various stages of Islamic renaissance and political
emancipation Indonesia eventually won its freedom. On August 15, 1950 it emerged
as a united, independent Muslim state. Dr. Ahmad Seokarno was elected as the
first president of the new republic.
Indonesia has always been in the
forefront of all national and pan-Islamic movements for the revival of Islam.
From the very start its goal has been Islamic revolution. Students have played a
vital role in the progress and development of their country. Currently, the most
worrying problem of Indonesia is the fact that a number of hostile Christian
missionaries have again started turning towards the land. According to the
figures given by the renowned Muslim scholar, Dr. Ahmad Deedat, presently 650
Christian missionaries are actively engaged in converting innocent Indonesian
Muslims to Christianity. Their most favourite traps to lure the naïve Muslims
are ‘hospitals’, school’, ‘youth clubs’, ‘libraries’, ‘recreation centres’,
‘cultural associations’, etc. Several contemporary Christian powers in the west
are patronising these shrewd missionaries rather liberally. Their target is to
wipe out Islam and the Muslim from the whole of Indonesia. Consequently, about
15 million ignorant Muslims are reported to have already been converted to
Christianity thus far through different deceptive devices.
(Extracted from the ‘Hundred Great