In this installment of our “Islam around the World” series, we focus on the Philippines, a Southeast Asian country comprising 7,100 islands and home to approximately 100 different ethnic groups. Now, let’s turn our attention to the Muslim community within this diverse culture and seek answers to our curious questions about their population, Islamization process, famous mosques, notable figures, and the challenges they encounter.
How large is the Muslim population in the Philippines?
According to the 2018 census, the Philippines has a population of 105,466,000, representing about 1.39% of the world’s population. Among the population, approximately 80% are Catholic, 15% are Muslim, and the remaining 5% consist of Protestants, Buddhists, some indigenous believers, and pagans.
When and how did Islam reach the Philippines?
The first contact between the Philippines and Islam occurred during the 9th and 10th centuries when they engaged in maritime trade across the Red Sea to the South China Sea, which was primarily under Muslim control. An Arab Muslim merchant arrived on Jolo Island and married into a ruling-class family, influencing the locals to embrace Islam. The rapid spread of Islam started with the establishment of Islamic principles by the first Sulu Sultan, Sharif Abu Bakr Al-Hashim, shaping Jolo and surrounding islands.
What are the most famous mosques in the Philippines?
One of the largest mosques in the Philippines is the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, built in Cotabato City in 2011. This grand mosque features gilded domes and minarets and can accommodate up to 15,000 worshippers at once. Another notable mosque is the Dimaukom Mosque in Maguindanao, which stands out with its pink color symbolizing peace and love. This mosque was constructed by Christian workers to emphasize unity and solidarity.
Who are the prominent individuals working for Islam in the Philippines?
One of the significant figures engaged in Islamic work in the Philippines is Selamet Hashim, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Born on July 7, 1942, in Pikit City, Hashim cut short his high school education to perform Hajj. Afterward, he pursued Islamic studies under Sheikh Zawawi. Upon returning to Bangsamoro, he dedicated himself to addressing the educational shortcomings within the Moro community. Following the Jabidah massacre, he emerged as one of the prominent leaders in the Muslim struggle for freedom. After Hashim’s passing in 2003, Murad Ebrahim became the new leader of MILF, continuing the Muslim’s quest for liberation to this day.
What are the main challenges for Muslims in the Philippines?
One of the significant challenges faced by Filipino Muslims is the occupation of their regions by their own government. The seizure of natural resources has led to economic struggles in the area, resulting in a decline in population growth. Moreover, ongoing pressures on the Muslim community pose a significant obstacle to practicing their faith freely.