General Information

National name: Pyidaungsu Myanmar Naingngandau

Land area: 253,954 sq mi (657,741 sq km);total area: 261,969 q mi (678,500 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 47,758,181

Capital and largest city (2003 est.):Rangoon (Yangon), 4,344,100

Naypyidaw (administrative capital)

Other large city: Mandalay, 1,147,400

Monetary unit: Kyat

Languages: Burmese, minority languages

Ethnicity/race: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Mon 2%, Indian 2%, other 5%

Religions: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Islam 4%, Animist 1%, other 2%

Literacy rate: 83% (1995 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $76.36 billion; per capita $1,600. Real growth rate: 1.5%. Inflation: 25%.

Slightly smaller than Texas, Myanmar occupies the Thailand/Cambodia portion of the Indochinese peninsula. India lies to the northwest and China to the northeast. Bangladesh, Laos, and Thailand are also neighbors. The Bay of Bengal touches the southwest coast. The fertile delta of the Irrawaddy River in the south contains a network of intercommunicating canals and nine principal river mouths.

The ethnic origins of modern Myanmar (known historically as Burma) are a mixture of Indo-Aryans, who began pushing into the area around 700 B.C., and the Mongolian invaders under Kublai Khan who penetrated the region in the 13th century. Anawrahta (1044–1077) was the first great unifier of Myanmar.

In 1612, the British East India Company sent agents to Burma, but the Burmese doggedly resisted efforts of British, Dutch, and Portuguese traders to establish posts along the Bay of Bengal. Through the Anglo-Burmese War in 1824–1826 and two subsequent wars, the British East India Company expanded to the whole of Burma. By 1886, Burma was annexed to India, then became a separate colony in 1937.

During World War II, Burma was a key battleground; the 800-mile Burma Road was the Allies' vital supply line to China. The Japanese invaded the country in Dec. 1941, and by May 1942, had occupied most of it, cutting off the Burma Road. After one of the most difficult campaigns of the war, Allied forces liberated most of Burma prior to the Japanese surrender in Aug. 1945.

Burma became independent on Jan. 4, 1948. In 1962, left-wing general Ne Win staged a coup, banned political opposition, suspended the constitution, and introduced the “Burmese way of socialism.” After 25 years of economic hardship and repression, the Burmese people held massive demonstrations in 1987 and 1988. These were brutally quashed by the State Law and Order Council (SLORC). In 1989, the military government officially changed the name of the country to Myanmar. 

Islamic History and Muslims

The first Muslims landed in Burma’s Ayeyarwady River delta, Tanintharyi coast and Rakhine as seamen in the ninth century, prior to the establishment of the first Burmese empire in 1055 AD by King Anawrahta of Bagan

The dawn of the Muslim settlements and the propagation of Islam was widely documented by Arab, Persian, European and Chinese travelers of the ninth century. The current population of Myanmar Muslims are the descendants of Arabs, Persians, Turks, Moors, Indian-Muslims, Pakistanis, Pathans, Bengalis, Chinese Muslims and Malays who settled and intermarried with the local Burmese population and other ethnic Burmese groups such as the Rakhine, Shan, Karen, and Mon.Muslims arrived in Burma as travelers, adventurers, pioneers, sailors, traders, voluntary and mercernary military personnel, and prisoners of war. Some were reported to have taken refuge from wars, monsoon storms, shipwrecks, and other circumstances. Some were victims of slavery but many early Muslims were professionals and skilled personnel such as royal advisers and administrators. Others were port authorities, mayors, and traditional medicine men.
Persian Muslims traveled over land in search of China and arrived in northern Burma at the border with the Chinese region of Yunnan. Their colonies were recorded in the Chronicles of China, 860 AD. Myanmar Muslims were sometimes called Pathi, a name believed to be derived from Persian. Bago (Pegu), Dala, Thanlyin (Syriam), Taninthayi (Tenasserim), Mottama (Martaban), Myeik (Mergui) and Pathein (Bassein) were full of Burmese Muslim settlers and Muslims often outnumbered the local Burmese by large margins. In one record, Pathein was said to be populated with Pathis. In the 13th century (Kawzar 583), Bassein was known as "Pathi town" under the three Indian Muslim Kings. Arab merchants arrived Martaban, Margue. Arab settlement in the present Meik’s mid-western quarters.

During the reign of the Bagan King, Narathihapate (1255-1286), in the first Sino-Burman war, Kublai Khan’s Muslim Tatars invaded the Pagan Kingdom and occupied the area up to Nga Saung Chan. In 1283, Colonel Nasruddin’s Turks occupied the area up to Bamaw (Kaungsin). Turk people (Tarek) were called, Mongol, Manchuria, Mahamaden or Panthays.

Muslims in Bagan (Pagan) Period

Byat Wi and Byat Ta

The first evidence of Muslim landing in Burma’s chronicle was recorded in the era of the first Burmese Empire of Pagan (Bagan) 1044 AD. Two Arab Muslim sailors of the Byat family, Byat Wi and Byat Ta, arrived at Burmese shores, near Thaton.(There are people in Iraq, Arabia and some Surthi Northern Indian Muslims with the same surname even at present. See Byat and Bayt) After their ship was wrecked, they managed to use a plank to swim to the shores. They took refuge and stayed at the monastery of the monk in Thaton. The Thaton king became afraid of them and killed the elder brother. The younger brother managed to escape to Bagan and took refuge to King Anawratha.
King Anawratha (1044-1077 AD) also had Myanmar Muslim army units and body guards. When King Anawrahta attacked Martaban, capital of Mon (Talaing) King, Mingyi Swa Saw Kae’, two Muslim officers’ army unit fiercely defended against his attack.

Muslim sailors and traders
In the chronicles of Malaysia, during the first Melacca Empire of Parameswara in the early fifteenth century, it was recorded that the Burmese (Muslims) sailors and traders were regularly arriving there.  Those Bago (Pegu) seamen, likely to be Muslims, were also recorded by the Arab historians of the Tenth Century. During the Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries, there were a lot of records of Burmese Muslim traders, sailors and settlers on the whole coast of Burma. That was from the Arakan coast, (Rakhine), Ayeyarwady delta and Tanintharyi coast (Including all the islands along the whole coast)
During the reign of Peik Thaung Min of the early Bagan Dynasty (652-660 AD), Arab travelers from Madagascar to China through the East Indian Islands, visited Thaton and Martaban ports. It was recorded in Arab chronicles in 800 AD.

In the Seventeenth Century, those Muslims controlled the business and became so powerful because of their wealth. They were even appointed as Governors of Mergui, the Viceroys of the Province of Tenasserim, Port Authorities, Port Governors and Shah-bandars (senior port officials).

Muslim sailors built many mosques, but those should be more appropriately called Temples as they were equally holy to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Chinese. They were called Buddermokan, The so called Buddermokan on Sittway island is claimed by believers of different faiths. ‘Buddermokan’ in memory to Badral-Din Awliya, a saint. They are found in Akyab, Sandoway and on a small island off Mergyi.

Sa Nay Min Gyi King (King Sane) had two flotillas of Steam-ships, named Alarhee and Selamat, both are Arabic Islamic names. In 1711, Myanmar Missionary was sent to Mogul King Shah Alam. They used the Alarhee Ship and the captain was an Arab.

 Muslim prisoners of war
When Tabinshwehti, TaungooKing (1530-50 AD) attacked Hanthawaddy, Muslim soldiers were helping Mons with artillery. Ava king Anaukpetlun captured Thanlyin or Syriam in 1613 and crucified the rebel Nat Shin Naung, and Portuguese mercenary Philip de Brito. The Indian Muslim mercenaries and five battle ships were captured. Muslim prisoners of wars were settled at the north of Shwebo in Myedu, Sagaing, Yamethin and Kyaukse.
King Thalun (1629-1648), the successor of Anaukpetlun, settled those Muslims at Shwebo, Sagaing and Kyaukse. Muslim prisoners of war were settled in upper Myanmar by successive Burmese kings. Myae Du near Shwebo was one of the sites. Muslim prisoners from Bago during 1539-1599 AD were the first settlers. Tabinshwehti brought back the Muslim prisoners, after attacking Arakan in 1546 and 1549 AD.
King Alaungpaya attacked Assam and Manipur of India and brought back more Muslims to settle in Burma. These Muslims later assimilated to form the core of Burmese Muslims.
King Sane (Sa Nay Min Gyi) brought back several thousand Muslim prisoners of war from Sandoway and settled in Myedu in 1707 AD. Next year few thousands more were settled in those places and Taungoo. 3000 Muslims from Arakan took refuge under King Sane in 1698-1714. They were divided and settled in Taungoo, Yamethin , Nyaung Yan, Yin Taw, Meiktila, Pin Tale, Tabet Swe, Bawdi, Syi Tha, Syi Puttra, Myae du and Depayin. This Royal decree was copied from the Amarapura Royal Library in 1801 by Kyauk Ta Lone Bo.
During the rule of King Bagyidaw (1819-37), Maha Bandula conquered Assam and brought back 40,000 prisoners of war. About half of them were likely to be Muslims.Maha Bandula and Burmese Army’s war at Ramu and Pan War were famous. Burmese captured one big cannon, 200 firearms, mixed Sepoy Indians. 200 Muslims amongst them were relocated at the south of Amarapura, that is Myittha River’s south.

 Royal Muslim-soldiers

When the famous Raza Dirit attacked and conquered Dagon (Yangon), Muslim soldiers defended from the Burmese side and Raza Dirit also had to use the help of Muslim sailors.

The army of King Anawratha (eleven century) already boasted Indian units and bodyguards, Muslims apparently among them. When Tabinshwehti attacked Martaban in 1541 AD, many Muslims resisted strongly. When Bayinnaung successfully conquered Ayuthaya (Thailand) in 1568-1569 AD, he used the help of Muslim artillerymen. King Alaungpaya 1752-1760 AD conquered Syrim. Muslim prisoners of war were forced to serve in his army.

Pagan Min (1846-1853 AD) appointed U Shwe Oh, a Burmese Muslim, as the Governor of the Capital city, Amarapura. His personal secretary U Paing (also a Burmese Muslim) donated a two mile long bridge, made of teakwood across the Taung Tha Man Lake. In 1850, the Governor of Bagan was also said to be a Muslim. Burmese kings employed a lot of Muslims in his inner circle: Royal bodyguards, eunuchs, couriers, interpreters and advisers.

Muslims in Konbaung Dynasty

Muslims in Amarapura

Muslims in Amarapura were about 20,000 families, at the time of Innwa (Ava) kingdom (1855 AD). Most of them were Sunni Muslims.
During the Konbaung dynasty Alaungpaya’s attack of Mons near Pyay, the Mon warrior Talapan was assisted by Muslim soldiers. Because of their artillery fire, a lot of Burmese soldiers were wounded and died.
In 1755 Alaungpaya conquered Dagon and renamed it Yangon (meaning 'The End of Strife'). The Mon soldiers surrendered and four Muslim rich men also surrendered with the expensive presents, ammunitions and four warships. Although Yangon was conquered, there were more battles to fight with the Mons. So Alaungpaya rearranged the army. Pyre Mamet was one of the “Thwe Thauk Gyi” assigned to serve as the Royal Bodyguard. Alaungpaya attacked Thanlyin or Syriam, and many Muslim artillery men were captured. Alaungpaya captured four warships and Muslim soldiers. They were later allowed to serve him.On the page 203 of the Twin Thin Teik Win’s Chronicles of Alaungpaya’s battles, it was recorded as only three warships.

After Alaungpaya captured Pegu, and at the parade, those Pathi Muslim soldiers were allowed to march with their traditional uniforms.Four hundred Pathi Indian soldiers participated in the Royal Salute March.
King Bodawpaya Bodaw U Wine (Padon Mayor, Padon Min) (1781-1819) of the Konbaung Dynasty founded Amarapura as his new capital in 1783. He was the first Burmese King who recognized his Muslim subjects officially by the following Royal decree. He appointed Abid Shah Hussaini and assistants, Nga Shwe Lu and Nga Shwe Aye to decide and give judgment regarding the conflicts and problems amongst his Burmese Muslim subjects. Abid Shah Hussaini burial place was well known as a shrine in Amarapura Lin Zin Gone Darga.

Before the Ramu and Pan War battles, Captain Nay Myo Gone Narrat Khan Sab Bo’s 70 Cavalry (horse) Regiment's marching among the Burmese army, was watched by Maha Bandula.Burmese Muslim Horsemen were famous in that Khan Sab Bo’s 70 Cavalry (horse) Regiment. Khan Sab Bo’s name was Abdul Karim Khan and was the father of the Captain Wali Khan, who lead the famous Wali Khan Cavalry Regiment during King Mindon and King Thibaw.

Khan Sab Bo was sent as an Ambassador to Indo China by Bagyidaw. During Bagyidaw’s reign, in 1824, Gaw Taut Pallin battle was famous. British used 10,000 soldiers but were defeated. During that battle Khan Sab Bo’s 100 horsemen fought vigorously and bravely.More than 1300 loyal brave Kala Pyo Muslims (means young Indian soldiers) were awarded with colourful velvety uniforms.

When the Konbaung Dynasty’s 8th Tharrawaddy Min (King) marched on Okkalapa, more than 100 Pathi Muslim Indian cannoneers took part. There are also a lot of Muslim soldiers in other parts of the Tharrawaddy Min’s army.

But during the Konbaung Dynasty’s 9th Pagan Min (1846-52), there was a blemish in the Muslims’ history. The Royal Capital Amarapura’s Mayor Bai Sab and his clerk U Pain were arrested and sentenced to death.

King Mindon
During the Pagan Min reign, the Mindon Prince and brother Prince Ka Naung ran away with their servants to Shwebo and started a rebellion. U Bo and U Yuet were the two Muslims who accompanied the princes. Some Kala Pyo Burmese Muslim artillery soldiers followed them.U Boe later built and donated the June Mosque, which is still maintained in 27th Street, Mandalay. U Yuet became the Royal Chief Chef. Regent Prince Ka Naung sent scholars to study abroad. Malar Mon U Pwint was a Burmese Muslim sent to study explosives. He became the Yan Chet won or Minister of explosives.In the Royal Defence Army, many cannoneers were Kindar Kala Pyos and Myedu Muslims.

In 1853 King Mindon held a donation ceremony. He ordered to prepare halal food for his Muslim soldiers from Akbart Horse Cavalry, Wali Khan Horse Cavalry, Manipur Horse Cavalry and Sar Tho Horse Cavalry, altogether about 700 of them.U Soe was the Royal tailor of King Mindon.Kabul Maulavi was appointed an Islamic Judge by King Mindon to decide according to the Islamic rules and customs on Muslim affairs.Captain Min Htin Min Yazar’s 400 Muslims participated to clear the land for building a new Mandalay city.Burmese Muslims were given specific quarters to settle in the new city of Mandalay.

West Kone Yoe Central Mosque in MandalayIn those quarters, lands for 20 Mosques were allocated outside the Palace wall.

Sigaing dan Mosque
Kone Yoe Mosque
Taung Balu Mosque
June Mosque
Koyandaw Mosque
Wali Khan Mosque
Kala Pyo Mosque
Seven lots of lands for Setkyer Ngwezin
King Mindon donated his palace teak pillars to build a mosque at North Obo in central Mandalay. (The pillars which failed to place properly at the exact time given by astrologers.)
The broadminded King Mindon also permitted a mosque to be built on the granted site for the Panthays (Burmese Chinese Muslims) Photos of Mandalay Panthay mosque.
Inside the Palace wall, for the Royal Body Guards, King Mindon himself donated and started the building of the Mosque by laying the Gold foundation at the South-eastern part of the Palace located near the present Independent Monument. This Mosque was called the Shwe Pannet Mosque. That mosque was destroyed by the British to build the Polo playground.

King Mindon (1853-78) donated the rest house in Mecca for his Muslim subjects performing Hajj. Nay Myo Gonna Khalifa U Pho Mya and Haji U Swe Baw were ordered to supervise the building. The Kind donated the balance needed to complete the building which was started with the donations from the Burmese Muslims. This was recorded in the Myaedu Mosque Imam U Shwe Taung’s poems.

Muslim Mogul Emperor of India
The last Muslim Mogul Emperor of India, Abu Za’far Saraj al-Din Bahadur Shah and his family members and some followers were exiled to Yangon, Myanmar. He died in Yangon and was buried on 11 July 1862.
After the British took over the whole of Burma, all sub groups of Burmese-Muslims formed numerous organizations, active in social welfare and religious affairs. The population of Muslims in Myanmar increased during the British rule of Burma as a result of new waves of Indian Muslim immigration. This sharply declined in the years following 1941 as a result of the Indo-Burman Immigration agreement,and was officially stopped following Burma's (Myanmar) independence on 4 January 1948.

Mosques in Yangon
1.Bengali Sunne Jameh Mosque

The Bengali Sunne Jameh Mosque in Yangon (Rangoon) is located on Sule Pagoda Road. This mosque showcases distinct features of Islamic architecture like the dome and minarets. It was built by the largely Muslim Indian population that came to Burma during the British colonial era.

2.Surtee Mosque

Surtee mosque is situated in Shwe Bontha Street (previously called Mogul Street) and is one of the oldest mosques in Yangon. It was established in 1871. The mosque displays architecture that is similar to the style of Moghul mosques in India. Most people who pray in this mosque are Surtees, who descended from traders and merchants from villages and towns in and around the Surat district of India (those towns being, Rander, Surat, Variao, Barbodhan). Most weddings that take place in this mosque are those of people with Surtee heritage. The people who attend the mosque share a common culture and practice the Sunni Hanfia form of Islam. The mosque is undergoing renovations to preserve its historic character, the basic architecture has never changed. The charity and donations office is located on 28th Yangon. Donations are always welcome.

3.Rakine Jamae Mosque(Arakan Mosque)

Rakine Jame Mosque is situated in Yangon. It is located in 130th Street in Mingalar Townyunt Township. It is one of the biggest mosques in Yangon. The mosque was built at the time of Burmese King Dynasty. The exact time is still unknown. Rakine Mosque was established by the people(Arakans) who came from Rakhine state (a state of Myanmar). These people gave the name of the mosque as Arakan Mosque. However this name was changed into Rakhine Mosque.

4.Arkati Mosque

This mosque is situated on Bo Aung Kyaw Street (previously Spark Street). Located in Botataung township, the mosque is a new mosque, constructed in the last 50 years. People from all Islamic denominations attend this mosque for prayers. This mosque is fully air conditioned.

5.Cholia Mosque

This mosque was built after the Surtee Mosque, it is located on Maha Bandoola Street (previously called Dalhousie Street), Yangon. It has similar architecture to mosques in India. Many worshippers of this mosque originated from Madras in the south of India.

Islam, mainly of the Sunni sect, is practiced by 4% of the population according to the government census. However, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2006 international religious freedom report, the country's non-Buddhist populations were underestimated in the census. Muslim leaders estimate that as much as 20% of the population may be Muslim.

Various groups of Myanmar Muslims

Muslims are spread across the country in small communities. The Indian-descended Muslims live mainly in Rangoon. See Burmese Indian Muslims.
The Rohingya are a minority Muslim ethnic group in Northern Rakhine State, Western Burma. The Rohingya population is mostly concentrated in five northern townships of Rakhine State (formerly known as Arakan): Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Akyab, Sandway, Tongo, Shokepro, Rashong Island and Kyauktaw.
Panthay (Burmese Chinese Muslims).
Muslims of Malay ancestry in Kawthaung. People of Malay ancestry are locally called Pashu regardless of religion.

Anti Muslim riot in 1938

There was another anti Muslim riot in 1938, while still under British rule. The real basic hidden agenda was aimed at the British Government, but the Burmese dared not show this openly. The growing Nationalistic sentiments fanned by the local media disguised as anti Muslim to avoid the early detection and notice was followed by the full blown force of mighty British government machinery. Throughout the Burmese struggles against British rule, all the political issues, movements, meetings, demonstrations, riots, rebellions and even the revolutions were instigated, inspired, influenced and led by newspapers.

Burma for Burmese Campaign

Burmese started the Burma for Burmese only Campaign, then marched to the Muslim (Surti) Bazaar. While the Indian Police broke the violent demonstration, three monks were hurt. Burmese newspapers used the pictures of Indian police attacking the Buddhist monks to further incite the spread of riots. Muslim properties: shops, houses and mosques were looted, destroyed and burnt to ashes. They assaulted and even massacred the Muslims. It spread to all over Burma and recorded that 113 mosques were damaged.

The BMC, Burma Muslim Congress was founded almost at the same time with the AFPFL, Anti-Fascist Peoples’ Freedom Party of General Aung San and U Nu before World War Two.

Prime Minister U Nu, just few months after independence of Burma, requested the Burma Muslim Congress to resign its membership from AFPFL. In response to that U Khin Maung Lat, the new President of BMC decided to discontinue the Islamic Religious activities of the BMC and rejoined the AFPFL. U Nu removed the Burma Muslim Congress from AFPFL on 30 September 1956. BMC was asked to dissolve since 1955. Later U Nu decreed Buddhism as the state religion of Burma against the will of the ethnic minorities and various religious organizations including Myanmar Muslims.

West Kone Yoe Central Mosque in Mandalay
Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque, Yangon Surti Mosque in Yangon   Burma - Hpa An Mosque



  Islamic Centers and Organizations

University Muslim Association, Universities and Institutes, Mandalay, Mandalay, Mandalay

Islamic Religious Affairs Council, Rangoon
Phone: 00951-252608

Moulmein University Muslim Students Assosiation, Moulmein, Mon State

Phone: 95-1-253104

Surtee Sunni Jama Masjid, Moulmein, Mon
Phone: 95-57- 25015

Al Noor Group(Asian Garment), Yangon, Yangon
Phone: 65 81351884


Ahlone Chowdry Mosque, Yangon, Yangon
Phone: 00951-220708


Plastic Pipe&Pump Supplies Trading, Mandalay, Myanmar
Phone: 95-2-36307

  Ah ul Hadith, Rangoon
  Ahlone Chowdry Mosque, Yangon
  Dalla Boyanpyay Masjid, Rangoon
  Jami mosque, Kawthaung
  Kalay Mosque, Sagaing
  Mosque, Kalay Myo
  Rakhine Jamae Mosque, Rangoon
  Soortee masjid, Rangoon
  Surtee Sunni Jama Masjid, Moulmein

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), Akyab
  Atesco, Arakan State
  Halal Certification Committee ( IRAC ), Rangoon
  IIUM Myanmar Students Association, Rangoon
  Islamic Religious Affairs Council, Rangoon
  Ittihad al-Tullab al-Muslimeen, Arakan, Akyab
  Moulmein University Muslim Students Assosiation, Moulmein
  Myanmar Muslim, Pyinmana
  Myanmar Muslim Information Centre, Rangoon
  The Banner of Islam, Rangoon
  University Muslim Association, Universities and Institutes, Mandalay, Mandalay
  مؤسسة الإيواء الخيرية, Buthedaung

  Medersa Khilliyah Hafizul Quran, Hmawbi
  مدرسة معين الإسلام, Buthedaung
  الجامعة الإسلامية معارف العلوم، علي شنغ, Buthedaung
  الجامعة الإسلامية العالية بوتهيدنغ, Buthedaung


   Muslim Owned Business

  Al Noor Group(Asian Garment), Yangon
  Kambawza Hardware Store, Taunggyi
  Plastic Pipe&Pump Supplies Trading, Mandalay

Islam in xx (  , September, 2008).
Info please ( ,  September, 2008).
Islam Finder (   , September, 2008).
World Religions Statistics ( , September, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in xx, September 2008.