This writer concludes that Malays are actually only a tiny sub-component of the much larger Austronesian group. And all Austronesians are the end-product of extensive inter-breeding between the Taiwanese and Dravidic Indians.
Origins of the 'Malays'
Ironically, it was not the Arabs or Persians who brought Islam into the region. In the second century, all Arabs would have either been Christian, Judaic, Animistic Pagans or Hindu. Prophet Muhammad was only born 500 years later. And Mohenjo Daro and Harrapa were just next door.
However, it was the Gujerati traders (India) who brought Islam to southeast Asia. The very same people who brought Hinduism to Malaya at the location called Lembah Bujang in the second century.
From then, it was the local Austronesians who brought Hinduism to the Cham kingdom in the fourth century, then into Java, in the sixth century, and later to Angkor in the eight. Hinduism stayed in southeast Asia for a full 15 centuries, and is known as the Golden Hindu Era.
Prior to Hinduism, all of southeast Asia was either Animistic or Pagan. The Austronesians worshiped the sun, moon, stars, rocks, trees, seas and so on.
The southeast Asians are also known to be pragmatic. They are known to combine religions. In Vietnam, you have CaoDai-ism, which is a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, Confusianism, Catholism, and Islam.
The Balinese practice a mix of Animism and Hinduism. Most Javanese practice Kejawen, which is a mix of Animism and Islam, while the Cham practice what is known as Cham Bani, which is a combination of Hinduism and Islam.
I guess, when in doubt, these Austronesians decided to choose a cocktail of religions, just to be on the ‘safe side’. This is parallel to the Sai Baba concept, whereby "all religions lead to the same righteous path".
As mentioned earlier, Islam was first brought to Asia at Pasai (Banda Acheh region), by the Gujeratis. Most famous religious schools were centered in Pasai, and the religion spread throughout the Nusantara.
For Malaysia, it was Parameswara's son who first converted to Islam, but only because he wanted to marry this Pasai lady, who was then a Muslim. He allegedly said, "What is this strange new religion?"
He then became a Muslim, and married his Pasai wife. Were there three more wives after her? Or was she the second wife? Due to inaccurate local records, perhaps we will never know.
However, we do know that Pasai was the epicentre for the spread of Islam in southeast Asia, and with the arrival of this new religion, came the Arab traders. The Arabs had cargo that was deemed exotic to the east, and vice-versa.
MICHAEL CHICK is pursuing his Masters in history at the National University of Singapore.
Origins of the 'Malays' - Final Conclusion (Pt 1)
Origins of the 'Malays' - Final Conclusion (Pt 2)