Islam in the Philippines

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This article is concerned with the religion of Islam in the Philippines. For ethnicity and culture, please see Moro people.

Islam originated in Mecca, an Islamic holy city in Saudi Arabia, with the Prophet Muhammad. Islam means “unreserved submission to Allah.” Followers of Islam, known as Muslims, consider Allah as the only God.

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Pillars of Islam

There are five simple but essential observances that all practicing Muslims accept and follow. These “Pillars of Islam” represent the core that unites all Muslims.

The ‘Declaration of Faith’

A Muslim is one who testifies “La illaha ilallah Muhammadan Rasulullah (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah).” This declaration is known as the “shahada” (witness, testimony). By making this simple proclamation, one becomes a Muslim. The proclamation affirms Islam’s absolute belief in the oneness of God, His exclusive right to be worshipped, as well as the doctrine that associating anything else with Allah is the one unforgivable sin as we read in the Koran:

Allah does not forgive anyone for associating something with Him, while He does forgive whomever He wishes to for anything else. Anyone who gives Allah partners has invented an awful sin.” (Quran 4:48)

The second part of the testimony of faith states that Muhammad, may God praise him, is a prophet of Allah like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muhammad brought the last and final revelation. In accepting Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets,” Muslims believe that his prophecy confirms and fulfills all of the revealed messages, beginning with Adam’s. In addition, Muhammad serves as the role model through his exemplary life. A believer’s effort to follow Muhammad’s example reflects the emphasis of Islam on practice and action.

The Prayer (Salah)

Muslims pray five times a day: at daybreak (Fajr), noon (Dhuhr), mid afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and evening (Isha). It helps keep believers heedful of Allah in the stress of work and family. It resets the spiritual focus, reaffirms total dependence on God, and puts worldly concerns within the perspective of the last judgment and the afterlife. The prayers consist of standing, bowing, kneeling, putting the forehead on the ground, and sitting. The Prayer is a means in which a relationship between God and His creation is maintained. It includes recitations from the Quran, praises of God, prayers for forgiveness, and other various supplications. The prayer is an expression of submission, humility, and adoration of God. Prayers can be offered in any clean place, alone or together, in a mosque (masjid) or at home, at work or on the road, indoors or out. It is preferable to pray with others as one body united in the worship of God, demonstrating discipline, brotherhood, equality, and solidarity. As they prepare to pray, Muslims face Mecca, the holy city centered around the Kaaba - the house of God built by Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ishmael.

The Compulsory Charity (Zakah)

In Islam, the true owner of everything is God, not man. People are given wealth as a trust from Allah. Zakah is worship and thanksgiving to God by supporting the poor, and through it one’s wealth is purified. It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s wealth and assets. Therefore, Zakah is not mere charity, it is an obligation on those who have received their wealth from God to meet the needs of less fortunate members of the community. Zakah is used to support the poor, orphans, and widows, help those in debt, and to free slaves.

The Fast of Ramadan (Sawm)

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar which is spent in fasting. Healthy Muslims abstain from dawn to sunset from food, drink, and sexual activity. Fasting develops spirituality, dependence upon God, and brings identification with the less fortunate. A special evening prayer (taraweeh) is also held in mosques in which recitations of the Quran are heard. Families rise before sunrise to take their first meal of the day to sustain them till sunset. The month of Ramadan ends with one of the two major Islamic celebrations, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, called Eid al-Fitr, which is marked by joyfulness, family visits, and exchanging of gifts.

The fifth Pillar is the Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca

At least once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able is required to sacrifice time, wealth, status, and ordinary comforts of life to make the Hajj pilgrimage, putting himself totally at Allah’s service. Over two million believers from a diversity of cultures and languages travel every year from all over the world to the sacred city of Mecca to respond to God’s call.

The Spread of Islam in the Philippines

Islam is one of the most popular religions in the world. Today, it is now the world's second fastest growing religion(Christianism is the first). The spread of Islam in the Philippines started at around 13th century C. E. The spread of Islamic faith in the country was a result of trade and missionary activities of Malay Muslims. Prior to the Islamization of several sections of the Philippines, Islam had already reached different places (such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia) from its birthplace, Arabia. Consequently, it had undergone various changes as a result of adaptation. Thus, Islam in Southeast Asia has some differences with Islam in Arab countries. Clearly, the Islamization of the Philippines was a process of cultural diffusion and indigenization. Nonetheless, the basic teachings of Islam are being followed by Filipino Muslims (Moro).

'Tarsila' or salsila, the genealogical record of Muslim leaders that shows their connection with the Prophet Muhammad, can be used in studying and analyzing the history of Islam in the Philippines. The genealogies of Sulu and Maguindanao are among the major tarsilas. According to Cesar Adib Majul, a prominent Muslim scholar, the foundations of Islam were laid in the southern Philippines around the latter part of the 13th century. This became possible through Muslim traders from the Malay Peninsula or the present-day countries of Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. They were led by Tuan Masha’ika and Tuan Maqbalu who went to Sulu for trading and commercial purposes. Eventually, they were able to marry local women and were able to establish the foundations of Islam in the Philippines. Tuan Masha’ika married the daughter of one of Sulu’s local princes.

The second phase of the Islamization of Sulu started during the latter part of the 14th century when the makhdumins, led by Karim ul Makhdum, arrived. Upon his arrival in Sulu, there were already Muslims in the island. What he did was spread Islam to non-believers and show them the beauty of Islam as a way of life.

In the 15th century, Rajah Baguinda, who came with the orankaya or rich people from Sumatra, founded a Muslim dynasty in Buansa (present-day Jolo) and established an Islamic administration. In the 16th century, another group of Muslims, led by Abu Bakr who came from Palembang, Sumatra, arrived in Sulu. After marrying Paramisuli, Rajah Baguinda’s daughter, he founded the first sultanate in Sulu. The title Sharif ul Hashim was given to him. He was the first sultan in the Philippines.

Islamization led to the consolidation and centralization of political authority in the Sultan who was the symbolic embodiment of Islam. The Sultanate, which integrated the datuships and rajahships as the foundation level of the political system represented an amalgamation of Islam and the indigenous political culture.

The Islamization of Mindanao was led by Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuan, who went to Malabang in the 16th century. Meanwhile, Muslim leaders of the kingdom in Manila came from Borneo and had ties and alliance with the Sultanate of Borneo. They were Rajah Matanda, Rajah Sulayman, and Lakandula. Raha Sulayman married the daughter of the Sultan of Borneo. Lakandula’s nephew married the cousin of the Sultan of Brunei. Rajah Matanda was the political leader while Rajah Sulayman was the military leader. Meanwhile, Lakandula was the king of Tondo. Indeed, the Karadyaan in Manila was the farthest extent of Islam in the northern Philippines. The Islamization of the northernmost part of the country was prevented by the arrival of Spaniards in the 16th century.

With the advent of colonialism in the 16th century, Muslim Filipinos had valiantly confronted the two colonial powers, Spain and the United States. To colonialism, the Christianization of the Philippines was an essential way to economically exploit the country.

Cultural Adaptation and Localization

While cherishing their Islamic identity, Muslim Filipinos are not willing to entirely abandon their native culture. Indigenous and Islamic cultural traditions were instead combined, resulting in the emergence of a folk Islamic tradition. Around this cultural synthesis has revolved the life of a Moro. Usually, the festivals and feasts for religious purposes or otherwise become appropriate times for folk-Islamic traditions to come to public notice as people gather to see themselves moving in a world of their own- Islam and native culture sharing preeminent roles in their activities. There was a process of the integration of Islam into the life of the people. The “al-Fatihah,” the opening chapter of the Holy Quran, has a special place in rituals which included varieties of local customs and traditions. At the hours of prayer, Muslim Filipinos perform the required rakaat in either the masjid or langgal. The latter was the typical Southeast Asian house of prayer rather than structurally and architecturally different from the mosque.

As seen from various well preserved ethnic literatures,Muslim Filipinos move from one diversity to another while being bound by a common thread. The Tausug parangsahil, an ethnoepic of beauty, glorifies the exploits of a unique individual called the sabilallah (one who dies for the faith). In the epic, the Moro emerges as a hero seeking death as the only means toward the highest self-fulfillment. The darangan, an epic of sublime passion, is an embodiment of Maranao and Maguindanao psyche. From the oral literatures of the three major groups (Tausug, Maranao, and Maguindanaon), the Moro image is an expression of a remarkable courage which defies death and is dedicated to the Moro cause.

The Concept of Ummah

Ummah refers to a Muslim community that does not distinguish between the color of the skin or sex of a person. This promotes the concept of equality and unity among Muslim communities.

In the southern part of the Philippines, the ummah is composed of the Tausug from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, southern Palawan, Zamboanga del Sur, and Davao; of the Maranao from Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte; the Maguindanaoan from Cotabato; of the Yakan from Basilan; and of the Sama from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Characteristics of Islam in the Philippines

The kind of Islam that spread in Southeast Asia had variations from the kind of Islam that originated from Arabia. In Arabia, observance of some traditions is stricter such as the manner of imposing penalties. Moreover, in Arab societies, women have to cover their face and body with veil and garment. This tradition is called purdah. It is aimed at protecting the women. It should be noted that Muslim women are not inferior nor discriminated in Islamic societies. They are respected and protected. Unlike in Arabia, Muslim women in Southeast Asia do not have to cover their whole body. Only the hair needs to be covered with veil.

In Southeast Asia, Sunni Islam became dominant. Sunni is a major Islamic sect that believes in the legitimacy of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman as caliphs or the successors of Prophet Muhammad. A type of Islam that developed in India also became dominant in the Philippines. This was the Sufi Islam or Sufism, a type of Islam that has elements of Indian mysticism. The desire Of Sufi Muslims is to become closer to Allah until one is united with Allah.

References

  • Abdullah, Taufik and Sharon Siddique, eds. Islam and Society in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1986.
  • Jocano, Felipe Landa, ed. Filipino Muslims: Their Social Institutions and Cultural Achievements. Quezon City: Asian Center, University of the Philippines, 1983.
  • Majul, Cesar Adib. Muslims in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press., 1999.
  • Mateo, Grace Estela, Celestina Boncan, Mary Dorothy Jose, Jerome Ong, and John Ponsaran. Philippine Civilization: History and Government. Quezon City: Vibal Publishing House Inc., 2006.
  • Tan, Samuel. Internalization of the Bangsamoro Struggle. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1993.

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