The spread of Islam in Asia through trade and Sufism (ninth–nineteenth centuries)

Authored by: Paul Wormser

Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415635035
eBook ISBN: 9781315758534
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636465


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This chapter deals with the spread of Islam in Asia from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries. In order to restrict somewhat the huge geographical area and timeframe covered here, we have decided to exclude the places where Islam spread through military conquest in the seventh and eighth centuries, i.e. the Middle East, Iran, Sindh and the southwestern regions of Central Asia. 1 We thus focus on three broad regions where the spread of Islam mainly followed major trade routes: Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. In these three regions, Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, figured prominently in the early diffusion of the new religion and was almost universally practiced by local Muslims until the late nineteenth century. As opposed to the central lands of Islam, in these eastern regions Islam generally spread peacefully through trade rather than through military conquest and these shared Islamisation patterns form the main thread of this chapter. First, we deal with the general trends common to the three regions. Second, we detail the particular political and social chronology of Islamisation along the continental and maritime branches of the Silk Road.

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