Tuesday, May 22, 2007

History of the Muslims in the Philippines
2nd Edition, By Salah Jubair

Islam Moves North

In many instances, global politics affected directly or indirectly the turn of events even in faraway places. Had not the Moors been defeated by the Spaniards in 1492. the Spaniards could not have come in 1521 and conquered the Philippines. Or had the Spaniards delayed their coming to the Philippines for just half a century there would be no such thing as the "only Christian country" in Asia. There could have been an entirely different story to tell regarding the spread of Islam in Luzon and the Visayas.

There is evidence that as early as the last years of the fifteenth century, Islam was already gaining headway in many places in the Philippines. It was carried directly from or via Sulu or Mindanao by preachers, traders or voyagers from Borneo who settled among the inhabitants of the islands. In the words of one popular writer:

... It is hard to believe that Manila was once firmly under Muslim heel, Muslims controlled the seat of government, the wealth and the trade up and down the Pasig and around Bai lake and Batangas as well as the sea lanes to Mindanao and Borneo.

The Muslims were the ruling class in Luzon, the rich traders, cultural leaders and missionaries, the ones with the knowhow and the right connections, the literacy and what's more, the right religion.

Aside from Manila, then known as Selurong, Islam had already gained ground in Batangas, Pampanga, Cagayan, Mindoro, Palawan, Catanduanes, Bonbon, Cebu, Oton, Laguna and other districts. Preachers of Islam, all reportedly coming from Borneo, came to teach the natives the rudiments of the new religion. Such Islamic practices as circumcision, reading the Qur'an, avoidance of pork, and the use of Muslim names were already noted among the natives of these districts.

What is Metropolitan Manila today was formerly the bastion of Islam. Manila was ruled by Rajah Sulaiman Mahmud, jointly or assisted by Rajah Matanda, his uncle and Tondo under the rule of Rajah Lakandula. Manila was not only the commercial center but a powerful fort (cotta) was built near the mouth of the Pasig River in defense of the realm.

It was to the islamized natives of Manila that the word Moro was first applied by the Spaniards in 1570 to denote those who professed Islam. Indio first denoted the pagan natives, but was later to include even the christianized. It was only in later years, more specifically in 1578 and after, that the name Moro was generally applied to the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu.

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