AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Located in Southeast Asia and Oceania, between the Indian and Pacific oceans, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago consisting of 17,508 islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited, and with a population of 270 million people, it is the fourth most populous country in the world.
86% of Indonesians are Muslim, and the rest are Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist. The people of this country were converted to Islam by Muslim seafaring merchants. The history of Shia in Indonesia dates back to the beginning of the Islamic call, and the arrival of Muslims in this archipelago. A group of Shiites in Indonesia today are the descendants of Muhammad bin Ali and Hassan bin Ali bin Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s.), who fled from other countries and settled in this land to save their lives.
After the victory of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Shia was revived in Indonesia, and in terms of intellectual and political development, it thrived. Indonesian Shiites can be divided into two groups, old Shiites and new Shiites. The first group is mainly from the Sadats, who despite the passage of time and change of religion, most of them still consider themselves Shiites, and they consider their attribution to AhlulBayt (a.s.) as a great honor. The second group is the Shiites who mostly converted to the Shiite school after the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.
On the sidelines of the 7th General Assembly of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly, ABNA International News Agency conduct a brief interview with Hojat al-Islam Suharbel, a religious activist from Indonesia who is currently studying for a doctorate at Al-Mustafa (p.b.u.h) International University in Qom.
At the beginning of the interview, about the population and situation of Shiites in Indonesia, Hojat al-Islam Suharbel stated, “Most Indonesians are Sunnis. Of course, Shiites also live in the country. But due to the fact that Indonesia is an archipelago, Shiites are scattered in the country. Therefore, it is not possible to provide accurate statistics on the population of Shiites in Indonesia. However, the Shiite population of Indonesia is estimated to reach two million people. Most of the Shiites of the country are Mustabsir (those who have converted to Shiism from another religion) and have accepted the AhlulBayt (a.s.) school by their own choice. Indonesian Shiites need to improve their religious awareness about the AhlulBayt (a.s.) school. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that the country’s Sunnis have no enmity with AhlulBayt (a.s.).”
Regarding the main factors in the spread of Shia in Indonesia and the best ways to propagate the AhlulBayt (a.s.) school in the country, he explained, “After the victory of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Indonesians became curious to learn about this revolution and Shia. Indonesian people’s familiarity with Iran’s Islamic Revolution had a significant impact on their desire to become Shiites. The people of Indonesia have a kind and gentle spirit, and to increase the success of propagating the Shiite school in the country, it is necessary to proximate the culture of the people of the country closer to the Shiite culture.
“To spread Shia school in Indonesia we should increase the knowledge of the country’s people in a slow and gradual way. The people of Indonesia accept the statements of the Infallible (a.s.) and verses of the Quran on ethical issues. Because these words are compatible with their culture. In order to promote the Shiite school in Indonesia, activities through cyberspace should be considered. We should try to introduce AhlulBayt (a.s.) correctly to others. Currently, I have weekly and monthly programs for Indonesian audiences online and teach them,” he added.
Regarding the interaction of the Indonesian government with the country’s Shiites, Hojat al-Islam Suharbel, the Indonesian member of the General Assembly of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly stated, “The Indonesian government does not prevent Shiites from religious activities in any way. Indonesian Shiites are free in the country, but they must also respect the sacred things of other religions.”