Shafi`i Sunnis dominate the Malay-Indonesian world, including Singapore, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines. Shafi`is also constitute the majority of southern India’s Muslim population, a fact that is of historical relevance to the Islamization of Southeast Asia. Persia, too, was one of the centers of Shafi`i Sunni scholarship prior to the establishment there of Twelver Shi`ism as the “religion of state” in 1501 under the Safavid dynasty.
Yet there is also a Shi`i presence in Southeast Asia, and it is not simply a result of post-1979 events in Iran. It is rooted in a historical trajectory, especially of Islamic mysticism, or Sufism.