A Portrait of Indonesia, the World’s Most Populous Muslim Nation
When some people think of the most populous Muslim nation on the planet, it is not unusual for them to assume that an Arab nation like Egypt is the champion. However, what many do not realise is that the most populous nation of Muslims on the planet is not even in Arabia or anywhere in the Middle East. It is located in southeast Asia and it is the nation of Indonesia. Yes, Indonesia.
Officially referred to as the Republic of Indonesia, this country has almost 270 million people. This makes it the fourth of the most populous countries in the world. It also has other superlatives. For example, with more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is also the world’s largest archipelago nation. Some of the most prominent of these islands include Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (also called Borneo), New Guinea, and Sulawesi.
Even though Indonesia has thousands upon thousands of islands, it will interest you to know that just one of the islands is home to over 50% of the country’s population. This is the island of Java and as you might have guessed, it is the most populous island on the planet.
Almighty Allah (SWT) endowed Indonesia with a lot of gifts and resources. Apart from the wonderful people that it has in abundance, there are also several other natural resources that the country is blessed with. Regarding the people, more than 300 ethnic groups are speaking a total of well beyond 700 languages. If there is any country that can be truly described as being colourful, diverse, multiethnic, and multilingual, then it is Indonesia. A lovely thing about this Muslim nation is that the people there see their diversity as a source of strength. That is a good one because Almighty Allah (SWT) enjoined us to see each other as one, He said in the Holy Quran:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. – The Holy Quran, 49:13
Those verses are demonstrated by the people of Indonesia who see themselves as one irrespective of their ethnic or linguistic background. Talking of Islam in the country, not a few people will be interested in knowing how this all happened in the first place since Indonesia did not start as a Muslim nation. Buddhism, Hinduism, and traditional faiths were the predominant religions before the advent of Islam in this part of the globe.
However, all that changed in the 13th century when Islam reached the northern sections of Sumatra. It was from Sumatra that Islam spread to other parts of Indonesia and the people widely accepted the faith. The acceptance was so widespread that by the 1700s, Islam was already the leading faith in both Java and Sumatra. Even as it spread, Islam in Indonesia has tolerated and coexisted with the existing faiths, thus reflecting the harmony inherent in the faith.