The Malabar Muslims initially came as traders to the Malay Archipelago and played an integral part in the spread of Islam in Malaya and Indonesia. According to certain school of thought one of the ways Islam came to this part of the world is through Malabar. Sheikh Ismail, an Arab, on the direction of the Sharif of Mecca, proceeded to the Malayan Archipelago on missionary work via Malabar from where a sufi, Fakir Mohammad, joined him undertaking to propagate Islam. It is a fact that Mazhab Shafie was introduced here through Malabar. ‘Sejarah Umat Islam’ by Dr. Hamka has almost confirmed this proposition.
As traders many Malabar Muslim settled down here in earlier days. Many married and raised their families. Their assimilation was so complete that they ultimately lost their ‘Malabar Identity’ and became indisputably Malays. Certain words in any language may throw some light into aspects of human relations which might otherwise remain dark and obscure. Earlier Malabar Muslims were using 19 type of vessels in their trade and battles. Among these vessels were sampan (sampan), parao (perahu) , pathamari (petamari) , kappal (kapal), and sambuk (sambuk). Those in brackects are still existent in Malaysia and the Malay language. Since these are not new coinages, they suggest the intensity and strength of the relation between Malabar and Malayan Archipelago – a relation as old as the very words !