Sumatra and the Malay peninsula, 15th century


Parameswara, the founder of Melaka, apparently converted to Islam towards the end of his life. Whether or not he did so out of conviction, his action made commercial sense. Islam was the dominant religion amongst merchants in the Indian Ocean. As travellers and traders, the merchants found much appeal in the fact that Islam's God was everywhere, not tied to a single place like many traditional deities, as well as in Islam's insistence on the equality of believers.

As the first great state in Southeast Asia to convert to Islam, Melaka became the model for newer Muslim states, its cultural influence spreading far beyond its area of political control.

Further reading

Hall, D.G.E., A History of South-East Asia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 4th ed., 1981.

Munoz, Paul Michel, Early kingdoms of the Indonesian archipelago and the Malay Peninsula  Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.

Reid, Anthony, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680, volume two: expansion and crisis New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Wheatley, Paul, The Golden Khersonese: studies in the historical geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1961.

Wolters, O.W., Early Indonesian commerce: a study of the origins of Srivijaya. Ithaca. N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974.

Map number from Cribb, Historical Atlas of Indonesia (2000)


Year span

1400 - 1500