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Open Access Conversion to Islam on Java and the Book of One Thousand Questions

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Conversion to Islam on Java and the Book of One Thousand Questions

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If numbers tell a story, the conversion to Islam of the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago can be counted as a great success. It is clear that Islam has taken strong root in the region and has influenced many facets of life – from politics and language to the economy and education – over several centuries, as it continues to do today. The protracted process of the region’s large-scale Islamization has given rise to various explanations and interpretations, representing different perspectives on when, where, how and why individuals and communities converted to Islam.The goal of this essay is to focus on a little-explored source for the study of conceptions about, and depictions of, conversion to Islam: the literary corpus of the Book of One Thousand Questions. Although this narrative is known in many languages, my emphasis here is on its versions in Javanese and their relationship to additional, more popular conversion narratives in that language. The comparative study of such sources reveals how early conversions were remembered, retold over time, and reconfigured to address local, and contemporary, events and concerns.

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