Arab Indonesians

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Arab Indonesian

عرب إندونيسيا
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Portret van het hoofd van de Arabieren te Tegal Java TMnr 10005286.jpg
An Arab Indonesian family
Total population
87,227 (2005)[1]
5,000,000 Native Indonesians with Arab ancestry
Regions with significant populations
Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi & Maluku
Indonesian, Arabic, Indonesian regional languages
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Hadhramis, Arab diaspora

Arab Indonesians are citizens of Indonesia of Arab, mainly Hadrami, descent. Restricted under Dutch East Indies' law until 1919, the community elites later gained economic power through real estate investment and trading. Currently found mainly in Java and South Sumatra, they are almost all (generally orthodox) Muslims.


Indonesia has had contact with the Arab world for hundreds of years, prior to the emergence of Islam in Indonesia. Most contact was with spice traders, but the first Arab settlements in the archipelago may date from the fifth century. Some later founded dynasties, including the Sultanate of Pontianak, while others intermingled with existing kingdoms. These early communities adopted much of the local culture, and some disappeared entirely while others formed ethnically distinct communities.[2]

An Arab store in Java circa 1910-1930

Modern Arab Indonesians are generally descended from Hadramis. They were classified as "foreign orientals" along with Chinese Indonesians by the Dutch colonists, which led to them being unable to attend certain schools and restricted from travelling, and having to settle in special Arab districts, or kampung Arab. As liaison and to lead the community, the Dutch government appointed some Captain Arabs in the districts. These laws were repealed in 1919.[3] A few Arabs from other countries also came to Indonesia during Dutch colonial rule.

The community elites began to build economic power through trade and real estate acquisition, buying large amounts of real estate in Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), Singapore and other parts of the archipelago. Through charity work and "conspicuous consumption", they built and protected their social capital; eventually, some Arab Indonesians joined the Volksraad, the people's council of the Dutch East Indies.[4]

During the Indonesian National Awakening, An Indonesian nationalistic movement, Persatoean Arab Indonesia, was founded by Abdurrahman Baswedan in 1934, to be more integrated as a citizen of where they lived. To unite with the native in war againts the imperialist, To forbids self isolation, to fulfill their responsibility as a citizen. Eventually leading to a "cultural reorientation".[5]

The Ampel Mosque at the end of a shopping street in the Arab quarter of Surabaya, January 14, 1927
Women of Hadhrami descent in Palembang, circa 1950

Because of lack of information, any of Indonesian scholar mistaken The Arabs of Indonesia as Wahhabism agents, as Azyumardi Azra depicts Indonesians of Arab descent as wishing to purge Indonesian Islam of its indigenous religious elements. Indonesian critics of Arab influence in Indonesia point to the founding of the radical group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and leadership of Laskar Jihad (LJ) and Front Pembela Islam by Indonesian Arabs.[6][7] The fact is, the majority of Arab Indonesians oppose wahhabism.


First generation immigrants are referred to as wulayātī or totok. They are a small minority of the Arab Indonesian population. The majority, muwallad, were born in Indonesia and may be of mixed heritage.[8]


A large amount of the Arabs from Hadramaut were Sayyid and Sharif and had special status and privileges within the Hadrami community. They are descendant of Prophet Mohammed himself. Other Muslims or a non-Sayyid could not marry the daughter of the Sayyid, while a Sayyid could marry other women (Kafa'ah) because Arab's bloodline is based on father side (Patriarchy) this custom was required to keep the bloodline of Prophet Mohammed, which is considered sacred, and a gift from The God to be born as a Sayyid/Sayyida, Sharif/Sharifa. It's really important to a Sayyids to be good person, to be a great man as his ancestor, Some of them keep their identity in secret, which is better.[citation needed]


The majority of Arab Indonesians live in Java, primarily in West and East Java. A sizable minority live in Sumatra (primarily in Palembang, Riau and Aceh), Kalimantan, Bali, Sulawesi and Maluku Islands.[9]


Four parallel bar graphs, with the one second from right having a much larger blue bar than others
Arab Indonesians (second from right) had a higher proportion of Muslims than other ethnic groups.

Arab Indonesians are almost all Muslim; according to the 2000 census, 98.27 percent of Arab Indonesians are Muslim, compared to 88.22 percent of the general population. Historically, most have lived in Kauman, or the area around mosques, but this has changed in recent years.[10] The majority are Sunni, following the Shafi'i school of Islamic law; a growing minority are Shia.[11] Children are generally sent to madrasahs.[12]

The Islam practiced by Arab Indonesians tends to be more orthodox than the local, indigenous-influenced forms like abangan who doesn't follow some of islamic religious restriction. Most of the sayyid families follow Ba 'Alawiyya sufi order, pretty much different from wahhabism and shiism.

Notable Arab Indonesians[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Suryadinata 2008, p. 29.
  2. ^ Cribb & Kahin 2004, pp. 18–19.
  3. ^ Jacobsen 2009, p. 54.
  4. ^ Freitag 2003, pp. 237–239.
  5. ^ Jacobsen 2009, pp. 54–55.
  6. ^ Diederich 2005, p. 140.
  7. ^ Fealy 2004, pp. 109-110.
  8. ^ Jacobsen 2009, pp. 21-22.
  9. ^ Suryadinata 2008, p. 32.
  10. ^ Suryadinata 2008, pp. 29-30.
  11. ^ Jacobsen 2009, p. 19.
  12. ^ Jacobsen 2009, p. 21.
  13. ^ a b c Cribb & Kahin 2004, pp. 18-19.