World Bulletin / News Desk
Islam in Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, dates back many years and is a crucial part of the government and social life.
As in most other Asian countries, Islam's roots in Indonesia go back to the time of Holy Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Indonesia met with Islam in ancient times but its acceptance by large groups of people took place many years later.
The "Wayang" shadow play had a great role in spreading Islam and its evolution with a fast pace in Indonesia.
While "Wayang" shadow play has its roots in India and involved Indian tales, the shadow play focused on Islamic values after Islam was introduced and a large number of Indonesians became Muslims after watching the play.
Indonesia was a Dutch colony until 1945. Islam played a great role in the independence of Indonesia, a country with thousands of islands and sultanates.
Indonesia, with a population of 250 million people, gained its independence by establishing unity based on "religion and language".
The Istiklal Mosque, which happens to be the world's fourth biggest mosque and where 200,000 people can pray at the same time, is regarded as Indonesia's monument representing independence and freedom. The architectural structure of the Istiklal Mosque represents Islamic principles.
Indonesia has a democratic state and the Muslims are the dominating component of the Indonesian society. Accordingly, the Muslims are highly influential in the governance of Indonesia and in the social life.
Aside from the Istiklal Mosque, which was built by public funds, no other Indonesian mosque has organic ties with the Indonesian government.
The needs of mosques and the salaries of those working at mosques are met by individuals praying at mosques and related associations as well as foundations.
The mosques and religious figures have an influential role in the social life of Indonesia. Every mosque is responsible for the Muslims in its area from birth until death.
Indonesian mosques are not merely places of worship. The mosques can be used for lodging purposes by the disadvantaged individuals and travellers. Women can organize separate religious, social and cultural programs in mosques if they wish to do so.
Religious and National Education
The Indonesian government encourages religious education and religion has an important position in the educational system.
Indonesia has two separate educational systems. The Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Religious Affairs provide services under two separate roofs.
The educational system under the Ministry of Religious Affairs offers courses that are part of the national education program and, at the same time, provides education in Islamic sciences.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs is responsible for education at the Muslim theological schools where Islamic sciences are taught.
Regardless of which educational system they have graduated from, all Indonesian students are presented with a valid diploma.
Indonesia has thousands of Muslim theological schools and millions of students studying at such schools. The majority of students at the Muslim theological schools do not pay any tuition fees.
Indonesian officials say that some of the Muslim theological schools gained excellent reputation with time and, as they got more modernized, they trained individuals who later became prominent figures in the Indonesian government.
Islamic principles in Indonesia get implemented by institutionalization. One of the most important institutions is the Alms (Zakat) Organization. The head of Indonesian state gives alms to this organization every year with the hope of being a role model to the nation.
Another organization is responsible for "Halal Food" and high attention is attached to halal certification. Halal certificates are issued by the Assembly of the Ulema. Indonesians view halal food not just as an obligation but as a sensitive issue.
Influence of Ottomans
As in most Asian countries, the Ottomans had a crucial role in spreading Islam all over Indonesia.
As in all regional countries, Indonesia had a deep relationship with the Ottomans. Indonesians have great affection towards the Ottoman state and Turkey.
The Sultanate of Mataram, on the Java island and including the current capital of Jakarta, declared its loyalty to the Ottoman state in the 16th century.
In those years, many other sultanates declared their loyalty to the Ottoman state and accepted the protectorate of the Ottomans.
There are many documents showing the relationship between the sultanates and the Ottoman state.
In a letter sent to Suleyman the Magnificent, the Sultan of Aceh, Alauddin stresses that Aceh was a village of the Ottomans and that he was an attendant of Suleyman the Magnificent.
Such remarks of Alauddin show how influential the Ottomans were in the region, thousands of kilometers away from the Ottoman state.
Historical sources indicate that the region was an important commercial and military base for the Ottomans.
The Ottoman state sent Kaptan-i Derya Sinan Pasha to the region along with a strong naval fleet during the time of Suleyman the Magnificent so that the locals could struggle against the Portuguese. The Ottomans sent troops to the region and provided logistics support.
Throughout history, the Ottomans did not merely provide military and commercial assistance to the region. The Ottomans played an important role in the development of education in the region as well.
The Ottomans accepted many students from the region, including the islands of Sumatra, Java and Aceh, and provided scholarships.
Indonesian officials often stress that Turkey has a great influence in their country. Indonesian Muslims receiving education in Turkey get esteemed positions in the Indonesian government.
Indonesian authorities say that those fellow citizens receiving education in Turkey carry prestige in Indonesia and having been educated in Turkey is viewed as distinction.