Islam in the Philippines

Islam is the oldest recorded monotheistic religion in the Philippines. Islam reached the Philippines in the 14th century with the arrival of Muslim traders from the Persian Gulf, Southern India, and their followers from several sultanate governments in the Malay Archipelago. The Muslim population of the Philippines has been reported as about 5% of the total population as of a census in 2000. According to a 2013 report of an estimation conducted by the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), 11% of Filipinos are Muslims. While the majority of the population are Roman Catholic, some ethnic groups are Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, Protestants, Sikhs and non-religious.

Islam was first brought over by Arab traders in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, at least 200 years before the Spanish invasion. These Muslim merchants originally came from present-day Malaysia and Indonesia to the southernmost points in the Philippines, namely the Sulu islands and Mindanao. At the time, the inhabitants there were animists who lived in small, autonomous communities. The Arab newcomers quickly converted the indigenous population to Islam, building the Philippines’ first mosque in the town of Simunul in the mid-14th century. When the Spanish first arrived in the mid-1500s, they were dismayed to encounter such a strong Muslim presence; they had, after all, only recently expelled the Moors from Spain, after nearly 800 years of conflict. The Spanish nicknamed the PhilippinesMuslim inhabitants the Moros, a corruption of the word Moors. The Spanish quickly converted much of the Philippines to Christianity, using the sword quite liberally. But the colonialists had a difficult time extending both their rule and their religion to the country’s south; the Moros fiercely resisted many Spanish attempts to establish dominance over Mindanao and Sulu. The Muslims, in turn, terrorized the Spanish by conducting frequent slave-taking raids on Luzon and in other Christianized parts of the Philippines.