UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Islam in Aceh Gedacht, Joshua

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Aceh enjoys a reputation as Indonesia’s “Verandah of Mecca,” a place of special piety and devotion to Sunni Islam. With the confirmed presence of Muslims in the region by the 13th century, Aceh gave rise to one of the oldest Islamic kingdoms in Southeast Asia and emerged by the 1600s as a center of Muslim scholarship during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda and several female “sultanah” successors. After the Dutch colonial invasion of the sultanate, Acehnese Muslims leapt to the forefront of religiously inspired resistance against colonialism during the long Dutch-Aceh War (1873-1914), forged vibrant Islamic schools during the 20th century, and claimed “special autonomy” status in matters of religious administration in the aftermath of their incorporation into the newly independent Indonesian nation-state in 1945. Since the end of Suharto’s “New Order” regime in 1998, Aceh continues to forge ahead with the implementation of a distinctive Islamic legal and bureaucratic system (Syariat Islam) as part of its special autonomy status. Within this general framework of Sunni Islamic piety, Acehnese Muslims have embraced varied religious practices, textual traditions, political affiliations and approaches to the interpretation of Islamic law.

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