Islam Throughout the World: the Philippines

World Contributor
Photo 161373466 © azizah Datar |

The Republic of the Philippines is a state located on the islands of the Pacific Ocean between Indonesia and Taiwan. The Philippines is a traditionally Christian state, however, it includes the Muslim region of Mindanao. Muslims living compactly in it make up 5% of the country’s population. The history of Filipino Muslims goes back to the 13th century CE.

The Mindanao group of islands is located in the south of the Philippines, in close proximity to the island of Borneo, which houses part of the territory of Indonesia and the sultanate of Brunei. These are the regions which brought Muslim influence to Mindanao. In the 13th century CE, Arab traders from the Persian Gulf appeared in this region of Southeast Asia. The local rajahs who ruled the islands of Borneo and Mindanao (Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan), having heard their stories about Islam and seeing their righteous life, did not hesitate to convert to the true faith. The rajahs declared themselves sultans, their states became Muslim and continued to exist on the territory of the Mindanao islands until the 19th century CE. The rest of the Philippine archipelago was subordinated to neighbouring Indian and Malay kingdoms.

Unlike the Arabs, the Europeans did not know anything about the existence of the Philippines until 1521, when the ships of Spain arrived here under the command of the Portuguese captain Fernand Magellan, who was looking for a sea route to India. Since then, the Philippines had become a Spanish colony. The Muslims who inhabited Mindanao resisted the Spanish colonizers longer then the rest of the country. While the entire territory of the country was converted to Christianity by the Portuguese, one fifth of it made up by Mindanao remained unconquered. The Spanish language and culture dominated the Philippines until the late 19th century CE, when Spain lost the Philippines following a war with the United States in 1989. A peace treaty was signed in Paris in which Spain sold the Philippines, Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States for $ 20 million. The war with the rebels, who demanded the independence of the Philippines, continued for almost 10 more years. The United States introduced the English language and culture to the Philippines, displacing the Spanish. In 1935, the Philippines received autonomy, and in 1946, independence from the United States.

The Muslim region of Mindanao retained its autonomy and had its own government. In 2019, as a result of the struggle of Minandao Muslims to grant the region more autonomy, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was transformed into the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Under the new Organic Law, Minandao received the rights of greater autonomy and self-government, and Sharia courts were introduced for Muslims. For the transitional period (until 2022), power in Minandao belongs to the Bangsamoro Transitional Government. In 2022, the state structure provided for by the Organic Law will begin to operate. This structure resembles the English parliamentary structure. The head of the Muslim state is the “wali” elected by Parliament (like the queen in Great Britain), currently the elected wali is Kalif Usman Nando. The executive power belongs to the Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister (this post is occupied by Murad Ebrahim).

The Muslims of Minandao have a rich cultural heritage. The musical style of playing the gong kulintang is especially unique. The region also developed a unique kind of architecture represented by the ancient Daru Jambangan (Palace of Flowers) in the city of Maimbung on the Sulu Islands. In 1932, the palace was badly destroyed by a typhoon and the Americans decided to dismantle it. Since then, campaigns have been underway in the country to restore the palace.

The Muslim region of Minandao in the Philippines is an original and culturally rich island of Islam in Southeast Asia and occupies a worthy place in the family of Muslim peoples.

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