chapter  17
18 Pages

Contemporary South-East Asian Muslim Intellectuals

South-East Asia is usually characterized as a peripheral region of the Muslim world and “mainstream” studies of Islamic history, doctrine and character generally do not make much reference to the region. This is not different, of course, from other “peripheral” regions, like Africa South of the Sahara or the Balkans; as regions outside of the Middle and Near East they too are seen as outlying areas relegated in the scholarly realm to “specialists”. This is not to deny the work of several prominent scholars, such as Frederick M. Denny1 and John O.Voll,2 who have attempted to see the Muslim world in very wide terms. On the other hand, much of the exclusiveness of research on South-East Asian Islam probably rests with the scholars who deal with that region themselves, who frequently make the point that conditions are “different” and subject to other rules of interpretation than prevail in the “central Muslim world”. The work in customary law by Dutch scholars at the turn of the twentieth century, such as Cornelis van Vollenhoven,3 and examination of social sectors in the 1950s done by Clifford Geertz,4 have been important markers in this trend. Still, there have always been scholars working on that region who have seen clear relationships among Muslims in South-East Asia and those elsewhere, such as the famed Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje5 earlier, and Fred von der Mehden6 recently.