The Civilisational and Cultural Heritage of Iran and the Malay World: A Cultural Discourse aim to chronicle the unity in diversity of the Islamic world with a focus on the historical relations and interactions between the Persian and Malay world, Persian linguistic influence on the Malay language, the impact of Persian music in the Malay world, Sufi connections between the Iranian and Malay worlds, the Persian roots of classical Malay political thought, representations of Iran in Malaysia, and the importance of cultural dialogue between the Persian and Malay worlds. Iran played a significant role in the spread of Islam in many parts of the world, including Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia and, of course, the Malay world.
Along with Arab and Indian Sufis and traders, Iranians started travelling to the Malay world and introduced Islam to the people here since the 13th century. There is general agreement that the period between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries was one of the rapid expansions of Islam in the archipelago, beginning with the Pasai region in northern Sumatra in the thirteenth century, and its eastward spread to the Malay Peninsula, Maluku and Sulu in the fifteenth century, and then Java in the sixteenth century. The regional cultural abode of Islam in the Malay world, that is, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines, also known as Nusantara, accounts for about 250 million people. In this region, as well as on the Indian Subcontinent and anywhere else where Iranians played a role, the Sufi tradition of Islam was established.
For more than seventy years various theories have been presented as attempts at delineating the causes and modes of conversion to Islam as well as the consequences of the coming of Islam to the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago. Some of these theories are specifically directed to the period spanning the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Many authors stressed the fact that Islam was brought to the region by traders from Arabia, Persia, India and China. Although it was clearly through trade routes that Islam was initially introduced into the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, it is extremely doubtful that the large-scale conversions after the thirteenth century can be explained simply in terms of these early trading contacts.
Theories that suggest other modes of conversion to Islam need to be considered. These theories explain large-scale conversion in terms of economic and political motives, the rivalry between the Muslims and Portuguese, inter-marriages, and Sufi proselytization. This is not the place to go into the details regarding the Islamisation of the Malay world. It can be mentioned, however, that one of the issues involved in studying Islamisation is not just how Islam came to the region but who were the carriers of this new religion. The present volume deals with this question, focusing on the role of Iran and its connection with the Malay world.