This article argues for a reconceptualization of the process of religious conversion based on local perceptions rather than assuming that conversion is a matter of replacing old beliefs with new ones. In the case of seventeenth-century Makassar, Indonesia, Islam was perceived as a matter of texts. Not a set of doctrines or beliefs to be adopted, Islam inhered in its language, spoken and written. Uttering Arabic and possessing spiritually potent religious manuscripts were the dominant practices shaping Islam's spread, reception, and structure in early modern South Sulawesi.

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