What are some of the meanings and impacts of practicing Sufism in modern Southeast Asia?

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  • Sufi-influenced Southeast Asian Islam: A Bridge between the West and the Muslim World


    Sufism performed a highly significant role in easing the transition to Islam from previous belief systems, through the barakat or spiritual power of Sufi “holy men” and rulers, whose tombs were and are still visited regularly by the faithful. Islam met most resistance in inland Java, where it had to compete with the highly sophisticated rituals of the Hindu and Buddhist courts, as well as the generally low esteem in which trade and merchants were held, although since many merchants were relatively wealthy and enjoyed a prosperous lifestyle, there was a sense in which Islam became identified with wealth, success, and power. When the Hindu-Buddhist polities did convert permanently, their elaborate court ceremonies were often retained.


    The neo-Sufi reforms included a reassertion of the importance of Islamic law as the basis for the quest for inner spiritual knowing; social activism in the cause of moral reform (including, in some colonial contexts, military campaigns to purge the community of the foreign presence); and a renewed emphasis on the Prophet Muhammad, not only as an exemplary figure made intimately known through close study of the hadith (canonical stories of his life and sayings), but also via meditation practices through which the inner sight might be opened to his guiding presence. Such “neo-Sufi” orders also effected organizational changes, knitting together loose networks of masters and disciples into hierarchical mass organizations capable of effective communication and mobilization across wide territories.

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    Sufi Mystics And The Nature Of Southeast Asian Islam

    The fact that Islam came to Southeast Asia primarily from India and that it was spread in many areas by Sufis had much to do with the mystical quality of the religion and its tolerance for coexistence with earlier animist, Hindu,and Buddhist beliefs and rituals. Just as they had in the Middle East and India, the Sufis who spread Islam in Southeast Asia varied widely in personality and approach. Most were believed by those who followed them to have magical powers, and virtually all Sufis established mosque and school centers from which they traveled in neighboring regions to preach the faith.

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    In winning converts, the Sufis were willing to allow the inhabitants of island Southeast Asia to retain pre-Islamic beliefs and practices that orthodox scholars would clearly have found contrary to Islamic doctrine. Pre-Islamic customary law remained important in regulating social interaction, while Islamic law was confined to specific sorts of agreements and exchanges. Women retained a much stronger position, both within the family and in society, than they had in the Middle East and India. Local and regional markets, for example, continued to be dominated by the trading of small-scale

    female buyers and sellers. In such areas as western Sumatra, lineage and inheritance continued to be traced through the female line after the coming of Islam, despite its tendency to promote male dominance and descent through the male line. Perhaps most tellingly, pre-Muslim religious beliefs and rituals were incorporated into Muslim ceremonies. Indigenous cultural staples, such as the brilliant Javanese shadow plays that were based on the Indian epics of the Brahmanic age, were refined, and they became even more central to popular and elite belief and practice than they had been in the pre-Muslim era.


  • Peace upon you and all truth seekers. Sufism has roots ever since [almost] Adam’s time on earth.

    I can give you the summery of the details, especially about whom are the Sufi.

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