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10 Important Books to Read on Muslims in East Asia

It’s time to celebrate, understand, and appreciate the histories and lives that make up the Muslim experience in East and Southeast Asia. Happy reading!

Seeking knowledge and reading is imperative on all Muslims – and understanding the different cultures, histories, and experiences that make up the Muslim experience is essential to understanding our world today.

In an effort to help expand our world views and understanding of what it means to be Muslim, here are just 10 of some of the best books on East Asian Muslim history, experience, and lives – from the different ethnic Muslim groups in China to the history of Islam in Malaysia to the flourishing of Islamic scholarship alongside Buddhism and Confucianism, here are 10 essential reads:

1. Islam and Asia: A History by Chiara Formichi

A perfect introduction to the history of Islam in East Asia, this is a fascinating look into how strategic and important this part of the world was (and is) in the spread of Islam. The author also looks into the influence of Asian Muslims on Islamic history, and why this part of the world is often overlooked when it comes to the study of Islam – which makes this book essential when it comes to understanding the full picture of Islam in its many different histories around the world.

You can find this book on Amazon here.

2. Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia by Johan Saravanamuttu

Southeast Asia continues to be one of the most colorful and interesting melting pot of cultures, religions, and histories in the world – and this book looks into the impact of Islam and Muslims on this region of Asia. From Indonesia to Malaysia to Thailand to the Philippines, this is a thorough read on the region’s long and intricate relationship with the religion of Islam – and will help deepen our understanding of Southeast Asia’s importance in the Muslim world today.

You can find this book here.

3. Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism by Reza Shah-Kazemi

A groundbreaking and fascinating look at both the similarities and differences between Buddhism and Islam, the author also takes a look at the history of Islam in the region and lands that were for so long dominated by the powerful influence of Buddhism. To learn more about this book, read TMV’s book review on it here.

Find this book on Amazon here.

4. The Sage Learning of Liu Zhi: Islamic Thought in Confucian Terms by Sachiko Murata

One of the most important and influential Islamic scholars the world has seen, Liu Zhi was a Hui Muslim from China in the 1700s, who explored the deep and spiritual depths of Islam while at the same time, addressing Islamic themes of scholarship through neo-Confucian thought and ideology. This text, translated into English for a wider audience, will not only expand our own understanding of Islam but present a refreshingly powerful look into Islamic theology and spirituality. To learn more about Liu Zhi, read TMV’s article on him here.

You can find this book on Amazon here.

5. The Dao of Muhammad: A Cultural History of Muslims in Late Imperial China by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

Bringing together previously unstudied or untranslated historical documents and materials, this is a groundbreaking and fascinating insight into the history of Chinese Muslims and Islamic-Confucian theology that blossomed in the Yangzi Delta of China in the 17th and 18th centuries. Proving that Islamic scholarship worked hand-in-hand alongside Confucian scholarship in medieval China to bring forth a highly intellecutal religious landscape, this book also proves that Chinese Muslims have been an integral part of Islamic history not only in East Asia but in the wider world as well.

Find this book on Amazon here.

6. China’s Muslim Hui Community: Migration, Settlement and Sects by Michael Dillon

Hui Muslims, China’s largest ethnic Muslim group in the country today, are distinct from other Turkic or Mongol groups because of their ethnicity, language, and history – they speak Mandarian and have mixed with the majority Han Chinese ethnic group throughout history, creating a unique place in modern-day China today. This book is an important part of understanding the history of migration, religion, and ethnicities in the region, and will help uncover the fascinating culture and identity of Hui Chinese Muslims.

You can find this book on Amazon here.

7. The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign Against a Muslim Minority by Sean R. Roberts

In shockingly different circumstances from the majority of Hui Muslims, Uyghur Muslims in China are today suffering under one of the modern world’s most brutal campaigns of genocide since World War II. One to two million Uyghur Muslims are in what the Chinese government is calling “re-education camps”, and what the wider world is slowly acknowledging as concentration camps – and this book dives deep into this horrifying reality of Uyghur Muslims today, and how the Chinese government continues to try and defend their genocidal campaign. With personal interviews and extensive research, this book is an essential read to truly understand what is happening to one of the largest groups of Muslims in eastern Asia.

Find this book on Amazon here.

8. China’s Muslims and Japan’s Empire: Centering Islam in World War II by Kelly A. Hammond

A transnational and groundbreaking history book into World War II, this author focuses on Imperial Japan’s specific interest and targetting of Chinese Muslims during the war, which was implemented in an attempt to help topple the Chinese Nationalists. While Japan occupied North China, this book looks into the different tactics and efforts the Japanese Empire used to try and lure Chinese Muslims towards their side during the war – and the author argues that this relationship, however flawed and short-lived, is one of the reasons why Muslims in China today continue to have such a strained relationship with the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Find this book here.

9. Indonesia’s Islamic Revolution by Kevin W. Fogg

Indonesia, today known as the country with the largest population of Muslims, has a long and deep history and relationship with Islam – and this book specifically looks into the turbulent history of the Islamic Revolution of the 1940s in Indonesia. By reexamining the struggle of Indonesian Muslims and the manipulation enforced by many of its political leaders, the author unravels some of the most bloody and impactful years of Indonesia’s era of decolonization.

You can find this book on Amazon here.

10. Islam in Malaysia: An Entwined History by Khairudin Aljunied

A fascinating look into the development and history of Islam in Malaysia starting from the 11th century onwards, this book looks at the impact Islam has had on the population, culture, language, food, and society of Malaysia. A truly globalized and important hub in the history of Islam, Malaysia is often overlooked or forgotten about when it comes to the exploration of Arab, Indian, Persian, and Chinese Muslim scholars and explorers – this book will open up a new understanding of Islam in Southeast Asia and its power in regional politics today.

Find this book on Amazon here.


Be sure to check out TMV’s other articles on 10 Important Books to Read on Latin American Muslims and 10 Important Books to Read on Black Muslims in the Americas!

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