How did Islam Become the Dominant Religion in Indonesia?


Indonesia has had every major religion in the world land on its shores. Currently Islam has reigned supreme. But before Islam arrived, Hinduism and Buddhism held control of the region through the dominant kingdoms that existed at that time. The earliest account of Indonesian Muslims is in 1292. Most likely to be Sufi version of Islam. Islam’s origins in Indonesia are hard to pin down, but most scholars point to the late 12th century as being the time in which Muslim Indonesian people started to show up. What is agreed on is that Islam’s spread across Indonesia was relatively slow. It took several hundred years for Islam to become the dominant religion in the country.

As Islam began to spread throughout the Middle East, Muslim missionaries took the role as merchants to bring Islam to Asia. Many Indonesian rulers and royalty converted and subsequently their subjects mirrored their conversion. Muslim conquest throughout the islands was another factor for many Indonesians converting to Islam from Hinduism and Buddhism. Now more than 220 million Indonesians are Muslim, about 87% of the population.

Why it spread and has stayed dominant

Islam has remained the largest majority in the country for many decades. This is due to many reasons, the most primary being the culture of Islam. Islam’s culture naturally encourages multigenerational devotion and helps with the spread of its beliefs. This cultivated strong devotion along with the endorsement of Islam by high-ranking officials in various kingdoms around Indonesia. These factors caused Islam to rise to the top. In doing so it also cemented its status as the majority religion of the country.

How this affects the culture

Islam’s impact on culture can be seen in many of the cultures of this country. Formerly matriarchal cultures now are patriarchal. The mysticism roots of these cultures have Islam grafted in. This creates a hybrid culture where the local witch doctor gives you spells and magical pendants that are prayed over using Islamic prayers and incantations.


The Gospel continues to spread in Indonesia despite the state of the country and many Muslims are coming to faith. Unfortunately, the spread of Christianity is a threat to Muslims. Radical Muslims often respond by attacking Christian churches and individuals. Others may respond by aggressively teaching and warning their Muslim family and friends against having spiritual conversations with Christians. In Islam, it is considered a major sin to question the faith. Even questioning thoughts are considered sinful. This can cause significant resistance to hearing the Gospel. Although these challenges and roadblocks exist, we shall continue to praise our Mighty God that the Gospel still goes forth in dark places!