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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

1 - Islam in Indonesia before the Revolution

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Summary

Indonesia today is the world’s fourth most populous country and the country with more Muslims than any other. As of the 2010 census, Muslims made up roughly 87 percent of Indonesia’s population,1 and national leaders estimated a similar percentage of Muslims around the time of independence.2 Muslims have been present in the archipelago for centuries, and Islamic sultanates were established on Sumatra as early as the thirteenth century of the common era,3 but the early twentieth century was a time of particularly important and particularly rapid change for the Muslim community. In part, this was because they were all under the colonialism of the Netherlands and then (briefly) Japan, tying together thousands of islands in a way they had not been politically united before. In other ways, the religious changes in Indonesia in the decades before the Indonesian revolution were the result of transnational forces within Islam, leading to theological reform and modernization, new ways of organizing the Muslim community, and new ideas about the future of that community.

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