2Early Proof of Entry of Islam in the Archipelago

Marco Polo Travels Seafarers from Europe

Aceh in the past few centuries has become an important area in the spread of Islam in the archipelago. The strategic position of Aceh, which is on the track of the world, makes this area a haven for Muslim traders from all over the world. When Muslim traders set foot in the Southeast Asian region they stopped for the first time in Aceh so that Aceh became the earliest region that accepted Islam. Historians have agreed on the beginning of Islam in the archipelago in Aceh. Then, the problem among historians of the time was that which region of Aceh received the earliest Islam? Is it Perlak, Pasai, or Barus? These three areas are believed to be the first to accept Islam. To answer the problem historians from the 1960s to the 1980s have made several national seminars. The first seminar was held in Medan in 1963, then in Banda Aceh in 1978, and the last one was in Rantau Kuala intersection in 1980. Based on the result of the seminar they have agreed to establish Perlak as the starting center of Islam in Nusantara. But over time many Acehnese people who no longer care about history. The result has recently arisen some distorted claims about the early history of Islam in the archipelago. One of them is the new problem that is set as the zero point of Islam Nusantara by the government in the middle of 2017.

Early Proof of Entry of Islam in the Archipelago

Therefore, to know where the beginning of Islam in the archipelago we must refer to several sources such as ancient manuscript sources from both Western and Eastern explorers and Archeological heritage objects. Well, First I will discuss the earliest records from the west of the record Marcopolo. In the note he explained among the small kingdoms on the way to Sumatra is Perlec which is already in control by the Islamic religion. The following quote “This is the Saracen merchants that they have converted the natives to the Law of Mohammad – I mean the town people only” (Ed Yule 3 (1903) II: 284) “a the Dutch historian Dr B JO Schrieke in his book “Het Boek van Bonang (Diss Leiden, 1916) he has spoken again about Perlak as one of the places visited by Marco Polo and he believes Islam has existed in Perlak since 1292 AD.

After a trip to Perlak Marco Polo continued his journey to “Basma” no one knows for sure where the place is, but from several sources have mentioned Basma is in the Ocean or close to the city of Lhoksemawe now. Another Western historian Groeneveldt in his speech explained that the name Perlak is also contained in the story of Expedia China to Java in 1292 AD, as Pa-la-la or Paara. It is not that Sahaja, Perlak has also been mentioned also in some ancient manuscript books such as Malay History, Hikayat Pasai Raja and Negarakartagama although written in several spellings. In these books it is very clear that Perlak is in Sumatra or Aceh. One more source about Perlak is the book of Idharul Haq fi Mamlakatil Peurelak, by Abu Ishak al-Makarani al-Pasy. But the opinion and the source of the proposed is also still doubt its authenticity and validity.

Furthermore Ibn Batuttah’s account in his book “Rihlah” Ibn Battuta said that he landed on the Ocean in 1345 Masihi, he walked to Sarha and was accepted by Amir Dawlasa, to face the sultan Malikuz Zahir, who was busy “Islamizing the kuffar countries” or countries that are not yet Islamic around it. The other country he once visited was “Muljawa”, which is also a great country that has not yet embraced Islam (II: 152 – 155). Probably what Muljawa meant is Java Island now, but there are also some historians who say the Malay Peninsula today (H.A.R. Gibb, Ibn Batuttah. Travels in Asia and Africa, London, 1929). Ibn Battutah’s record is very clear that he was welcomed by one of the Pasai Raja Ocean named Malik Az-Zhahir who was obedient even busy spreading Islam into the interior. This means that there has been Islam for a long time.

The Malay chronicle of the Pasai Ocean tells that at that time came a man from Mecca named Sheikh Ismail, who first broadcasted Islam in Pasai. He Islamicized the king of Pasai who resided in his country’s mother named Samodra, and thus little by little can Islamize the entire population. This story is also contained in the essay of Prof. Dr. Vet h, named Atchin, p. 28. From this Pasai Islamic religion developed into other areas, thus thereby exhausting the influence of Hinduism in Aceh.

Well, now we will discuss about the archaeological source found in Southeast Asia. One of the archaeological objects used by researchers is the Stone of Nisan. Until so far experts still use the Tomb of Malik Al Salih as a reference to know the beginning of the entry of Islam in the archipelago. Two Dutch researchers Snouck Hurgronje (1907) and Moquette (1912) who examined the early traces of Islam in Aceh, concluded that Samudra Pasai was the earliest Islamic empire in Aceh and Southeast Asia. This evidence is based on the gravestone of Sultan Malik al-Shalih in Samudra Pasai (North Aceh) who died 1297 AD.

Actually it is not the only gravestone that has the earliest trim but still many other graves containing the earliest Tarikh in Southeast Asia, such as the Tomb of Fatimah bint maimun in Gresik East Java. But the Tombstone is located on the Coast. According to Moquette (1914) this headstone belonged to a merchant from Arabia who died there. Different things with the Tomb of Malik Al-Shalih who is believed to be the Sultan in the Kingdom of Samudera Pasai.


Actually there are many other headstones older than Malik Al Shalih’s gravestone in Samudera Pasai like Al-Malik Al-Kamil’s grave leaving the world on Sunday 7 Jumadil Early 607 H or 1210 M. In addition there is a gravestone Ya’kub, his brother is a commander who Islamized the Gayo and West Sumatra people. It was written on the headstone that he died on Friday 15 Muharram 630 H or 1232 M. Each of these gravestones uses Granite and Marmar stone imported from Gujarat but no western writer mentions the two tombs. Is this questionable?

Well, if the question where the first entry of Islam then the answer is in Pasai and Perlak. Because it is based on two written evidence that is evidence of explorers records and evidence of archaeological objects obtained in Sana. Samudera Pasai and perlak were the first two areas to accept Islam in almost the same time. This is no longer a matter of debate as the two regions are located on the adjacent north coast.

Then what about Barus who is considered as the zero point of Islam in the archipelago? So far, there are no sources mentioning that Islam existed there earlier than Pasai and Perlak. We know that there are two roads between China and Arabia, the first road and both the sea roads. This way of the sea, either by story or by maps left by past historical writers from Arabs or Westerners, always through North Sumatra and East Sumatra or through the Strait of Malacca, it has never been told that there is an Arabic voyage through the West Sumatra island. The voyage to the west of Sumatra Island was only started by the Arabs, after the Portuguese occupied Malacca in 1511 AD and was hostile to the Arabs, who were forced to take the road from China to Arabia through the west coast of the island of Sumatra. The reason I think is very clear that Barus is not the place of entry of Islam let alone the center of Islamic development. The designation of Barus as the zero point of Islam has “wounded” history because it has denied more complete historical evidence.

Finally, quoting Prof. Dr Aboe Bakar Aceh, to solve the problem in which the beginning of the entry of Islam in Indonesia it must be emphasized first what does it mean the beginning of the Islamic kingdom in Indonesia? Or is there a movement of Islam in Indonesia? Or there are some Muslim traders in Indonesia? Insha Allah we will discuss one by one in the next article.


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