Islam in Vietnam: From Champa Kingdom to Modern Times

By Saniya Baxi | 23, Aug, 2023
Islam in Vietnam: From Champa Kingdom to Modern Times

Dating back to the 7th century, the tale of Islam in Vietnam is a long one. It all started when Arab traders landed on the shores of the Champa Kingdom, and their influence is still present today.

So, how did Islam spread in Vietnam? And what is the situation of Muslims living in Vietnam now? Read on to learn more!

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How Did Islam Arrive in Vietnam?
Mosque of Cham community Vietnam

Al Ehsan Mosque of the Cham Community
Image Credit: Christophe95CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There was a kingdom in central and southern Vietnam called the Champa Kingdom. The Cham people were mostly Hindus and Buddist and they were good traders that could masterfully navigate the seas.

Historians date Islam back to the 7th century in Vietnam when Arab Muslim traders visited the country. They came to do business with the locals and brought their faith with them. One of the first people to meet these Arab traders was the skillful Cham traders who lived near the coast.

Cham traders started embracing Islam and slowly it started penetrating the Champa Kingdom.

Although it’s not proven, some people argue that the first Muslim to arrive in Vietnam was Said Ibn Abi Waqqas, who was a companion of Muhammad (SAW).

The people of the Champa Kingdom welcomed Islam for many reasons. It provided them with commercial benefits as they were dealing with Arab traders and trying to expand their network. So, they were exposed to the teachings and beliefs of Islam.

Moreover, they liked the Islamic message and what it offered from social justice, moral conduct, a sense of unity, and simplicity. They also felt that it was superior to their indigenous religions.

In addition, the Champa Kingdom was religiously tolerant and had diverse religions living in peace, so they didn’t try to stop Islam.

It is said that, later on, the kings of Champs adopted Islam and converted to it, and that’s when most of the Chams became Muslims as well.

As Islam started spreading, they built mosques and Islamic schools all over the kingdom, which boosted its spread even more.


What Happened to Islam After Champa?

North of the Champa Kingdom, there was the Vietnamese Kingdom which kept getting more powerful and wanted to expand its territory. So, they started to take over parts of the Champa Kingdom until they conquered the capital city.

This was a significant blow to the Champa Kingdom, which kept losing power and territories until it completely ended in the 17th century.

But what about Islam? The Vietnamese Kingdom was predominantly Buddhist and hence, there were many internal conflicts that led to violence too.

Po Phaok The, the last Muslim King of Champa, had to gather his people and flee the kingdom south to Cambodia. The people living on the coastline fled to Malaysia, specifically Terengganu.

The place where the king and his people fled is still called Kompong Cham until today and they lived in different villages scattered around. They built a network with the Malaysian Muslim traders which helped them preserve the true teachings of Islam.

Besides, they used to send their kids to Malaysia to study Islam and Quran. Once they finished their studies, they returned home to teach the people in the villages what they learned. All of these practices helped preserve the teachings of Islam regardless of the oppression and the persecution.


Islam in Vietnam Today
Musulman Mosque Ho Chi Minh City

Musulman Mosque in Ho Chi Minh City
Image Credit: AnilakeoCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can see the influence of Islam still present in the streets of Vietnam. For instance, some of the architecture is Islamic and the mosques have terracotta tiles and red brick, which is traditional to the Champa Kingdom.

Also, some of the popular Vietnamese dishes today, such as pho and banh mi, are believed to have an Islamic origin.

Today, Muslims in Vietnam are a minority, and most of them are Cham people, and one-third of them are from other ethnicities.

Despite having a troubled history facing harsh discrimination and conditions, they remain to be a peaceful community. They play an important role in the development of the country and in helping its economy. In fact, many Muslim entrepreneurs built successful businesses and they continue to thrive in the country.

Although the government is issuing new laws to promote religious tolerance and freedom of belief, the discrimination against Muslims in Vietnam is not over yet.


Final Thoughts

The history of Islam in Vietnam is rich and full of inspiring stories. Regardless of everything they’ve been through, they are resilient and strong enough to help their country and spread their message of peace.

If you want to know more about the different countries all over the world and their connection with Islam, the Halaltrip Blog offers a lot to know!


Cover Image Credit: dalbera from Paris, FranceCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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