The Arrival of Islam in Southeast Asia

What factors contributed to the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia?

Beginning in the late thirteenth century, Islam became an increasingly important political, social and economic presence in Southeast Asia. While the primary vehicle for the spread of the religion was trade, a variety of factors supported an environment that welcomed Islam and encouraged its growth throughout the region. By the end of the eighteenth century, because of trade links, Islam was established in southern Philippines, the Malay Peninsula, eastern Borneo, and among the Cham people on the coast of central Vietnam. The greatest expansion of Islam was in the Indonesian archipelago, but certain areas experienced a more intense and long-lasting influence. Geographic, economic, and social (including linguistic) factors contributed to specific patterns of the development of Islam in various places across Southeast Asia. Students will use readings and maps showing trade, the expansion of Islam, linguistic groups, land and sea elevation, and major religious groups to investigate reasons for those patterns.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify historical patterns of Islamic expansion in Southeast Asia.
  • Identify several factors that contributed to the spread of Islam throughout the region.
  • Discuss the impact of Islamic expansion on economic and social activities in Southeast Asia.
  • Read and analyze primary documents and maps.
  • Use maps to acquire and analyze information from a spatial perspective.
  • Analyze spatial organization of people, places, cultural artifacts, and environments on the earth’s surface.
  • Use features of geography to interpret the past.

  • Reading and analyzing documents, responding to questions: two class periods
  • Sharing responses, generating list and ranking influences: one class period
  • Sharing essays (written as outside assignment): one class period (optional)

Introduction to Southeast Asia: History, Geography, and Livelihood
Barbara Watson Andaya

Islam in Southeast Asia: A Chronological Table
R. Michael Feener

  1. Southeast Asia: Dominant Religions, circa 2000 (use as overhead projection)
  2. Document Packet, including:
    Mapping Exercise 2
    Mapping Exercise 3
    Mapping Exercise 4
    Mapping Exercise 5
    Melaka reading
    Mapping Exercise 7
    Spread of Islam

    Map packet, including:
    Eurasia: Expansion of Islam

    Southeast Asia: Expansion of Islam
    Political Map of Indo-Malay Region
    Trade Links of Melaka
    Land and Sea Elevations of Indo-Malay Region
    Linguistic Families and Preponderant Groups of Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia: Dominant Religions, circa 2000
  1. Organizer: Factors that Influenced the Spread of Islam (one per student plus one to project)

  1. Anticipatory Set:
  • Begin class by asking students: How do cultural practices or traditions spread or change?
  • Share the overhead projection of Religions in Contemporary Southeast Asia, circa 2000. Highlight the areas where Islam is represented. Ask students where Islam originated, pointing out the distance between the Arabian Peninsula and Southeast Asia.
  • Have students theorize how and why Islam may have spread to this part of the world. Explain to students that this activity will provide information on how and why Islam spread to some regions of Southeast Asia.
  1. Small Group Work:
  1. Sharing Responses:
  • As a class, have students share their responses. A list of factors influencing the expansion of Islam should be recorded as the responses are shared, for reference in completing the organizer below.
  1. Completing Organizer:
  • Introduce the organizer entitled “Factors that influenced the spread of Islam.”
  • Ask students to rejoin their groups and discuss this question: How important do you think each of the factors was in the expansion of Islam?
  • Have members of the group discuss their views, though each individual should develop his or her own chart.
  1. Class Discussion:
  • Have the class reconvene as a whole. Using a blank, projected copy of the organizer, compile a list of the factors students deemed most important in the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia, offering support from the documents and history, for their responses.

Student’s understanding will be assessed on student’s ability to:

  • Participate in small group analysis of documents including maps and readings.
  • Participate in the development of a chart identifying key factors of Islamic expansion.
  • Develop an essay that answers the following question: What elements exist in Southeast Asia today that would support the spread of Islam?

For classroom populations with diverse learners or English language learners who may struggle with the unit’s vocabulary, it may be helpful to read the first document (Excerpt from Background Essay by Barbara Watson Andaya) aloud, recording information for the response questions as a class. Small groups may then work on the remaining maps or reading selections, as assigned
by the teacher, and shared through a jigsaw format with the class before the organizer is completed. As an alternative essay, students could utilize their chart as an outline for a five-paragraph essay on the question: What are the three key influences that spread Islam in Southeast Asia?

Answer these questions in a journal or as a “ticket out the door” strategy:

1. Do religious practices continue to spread around the world today?
2. How does this happen?