The role of tradesmen and ulamas in the early process of Islam development in Indonesia – Sea navigation and trade activities were parts of the initial process of Islam’s arrival in Indonesia. Trade relations between Indonesian people and merchants from Gujarat, Arabia, and Persia had contributed significantly to the coming and development of Islam in Indonesia.
The foreign merchants did not only play a role as tradesmen but also as propagators of Islam. The process of Islamization by the foreign tradesmen began with the contacts they made while waiting for the favourable time to go back to their countries.
The communication with in the begginning was only about trade gradually developed into discussions about religious matters. The native people who were interested then converted to Islam. Later on, the domestic tradesmen, especially port officers, also played a role in spreading Islam. Many of the foreign and domestic tradesmen married the daughters of local kings and aristocrats.
The marriages form strong kinship ties between the two parties. As a result, Islam developed in the circles. On the other hand, after the kings and aristocrats professed Islam, many of the people automatically followed them.
At the early stage, Islam spread in Indonesia by the following means
1. Trade, this was the spread of Islam conducted by Muslim merchants (Arabic, Persian, and Gujarati merchants) to other merchants.
2. Marriage, in this way Muslim people married people who had not professed Islam so the latter finally converted to Islam. Some examples are the marriage between Maulana Iskak and the daughter of Blambangan king that finally gave birth to Raden Paku (Sunan Giri) and the marriage of Syarif Abdullah with the daughter of Prabu Siliwangi which resulted in the birth of Syarif Hidayatullah (Sunan Gunung Jati).
3. Art, this was the propagation of Islam by means of puppet shown, music, gamelan orchestra, architecture, sculpture, and literature.
4. Religious edication, this was the propagation of Islam by building Islamic scholls.
5. Preaching, this was the spread of Islam conducted by teachers or preachers by preaching in their circles.
6. ‘Tasawuf’ or mysticism teaching.
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