The continued spread of Islam in the early modern era was due to people like Sufis or Islamic scholars who educated their community and provided a connection to Islam. For example, they offered literacy in Arabic and founded informal schools. The emergence of reform and renewal movements within the Islamic world was due to orthodox Muslims who were offended by religious syncretism in the eighteenth century. In Southeast Asia, ordinary Javanese people believed in the more tolerant traditional animistic practices of spirit worship while merchants worshipped a more orthodox version; Orthodox Muslims felt the Middle Eastern traditions from Muhammad and the Quran should be followed strictly. In Arabia, Muhammad Ibd al-Wahhab believed deviations from the pure faith of early Islam caused the problems in the Islamic world and some deeds of the Muslims were forbidden by God; as a result, idols were eliminated. In addition, women had more rights and freedom in the patriarchal hierarchy like divorce. These religious movements constantly influenced the Islamic world.
Cultural changes occurred in China and India during the early modern era as well. In China, Wang Yangming established that anyone could accomplish a virtuous life by introspection and contemplation without the proper education or improvement. Chinese Buddhists suggested that laypeople at home could also participate in practices by monks in monasteries, and Kaozhing meant using critical analysis instead of conventional Confucianism such as for ancient historic texts. The commoners played a role in plays, paintings, short stories, books, and more art. In India, the Mughal emperor Akbar combined Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism to create a synthetic religion; he was very tolerant of other religions. Bhakti, a devotional form of Hinduism, aimed to unite with the Indian deities which appealed to women in particular. Finally, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, mixed Islam and Hinduism with only God.