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Islam and Colonialism

Becoming Modern in Indonesia and Malaya

Muhamad Ali

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Explores the ways in which Islam and European colonialism shaped modernity in the Indo-Malay world

Focusing on Indonesia and Malaysia, this book looks at how European colonial and Islamic modernising powers operated in the common and parallel domains of government and politics, law and education in the first half of the twentieth century. It shows that colonialisation was able to co-exist with Islamisation, arguing that Islamic movements were not necessarily antithetical to modernisation, nor that Western modernity was always anathema to Islamic and local custom. Rather, in distinguishing religious from worldly affairs, they were able to adopt and adapt modern ideas and practices that were useful or relevant while maintaining the Islamic faith and ritual that they believed to be essential.

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Part I: Making Islam Modern
Chapter 1. Organizing Da’wah and Spreading Reform
Chapter 2. Colonizing the Muslim East and Reinforcing Culture

Part II: Modernizing Politics and Government
Chapter 3. Building Siyasah and Reforming Sultanate
Chapter 4. Controlling Politics and Bureaucratizing Religion

Part III: Modernizing Law
Chapter 5. Integrating Shari’ah, Adat, and European Laws
Chapter 6. Formalizing Legal Plurality

Part IV:  Modernizing Education
Chapter 7. Teaching Agama and the Secular
Chapter 8. Secularizing Education


About the Author

Muhamad Ali is an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He has published articles in several refereed journals including the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences and Indonesia and the Malay World.


Through its critical approach to the interplay of Islamic religious reform and dynamics of both British and Dutch colonialism, this work of comparative history opens up illuminating perspective on the rather different shapes that Islam and Muslim societies have taken in the neighbouring nation-states of modern Malaysia and Indonesia.

- Michael Feener, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

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