This study covers the often-pressed subject of the role of Islam in the culture of Malaysia and within the everyday lives of its population.
Malaysia is predominantly an Islamic country where the majority, i.e. 60%, of the population are Muslims. The other main faiths include Buddhists 19%, Christians 9%, Hindus 6%, and Chinese 4.5%, with the rest having minor (or being without) religions. While Malaysia has a multi-cultural population, there is good tolerance between all major faiths, which co-exist in harmony.
It is most commonly reasoned that Islam first arrived in Malaysia with Sultan Muzaffar Shah I of Kedah (12th century), the first ruler to be known to convert to Islam after being introduced to it by Indian traders, who themselves were recent converts.
During the 12th century AD, when Indian Muslim traders stepped on Malaysian soil, people of Malaysia and Indonesia adopted and absorbed the religion peacefully. By the 15th and 16th centuries it was the majority faith of the Malay people.
Meanwhile, Malaysia developed politically into its recognized nine constituent states, namely Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, Johor and Negeri Sembilan. Initially, the draft Constitution of Malaysia did not specify any official religion for the overall State. However, the rulers of the nine individual states felt that it was appropriate that Islam should be the official religion, collectively across all states of the developing country.
The Malaysian states have constitutional monarchs or sultans. These rulers still maintain authority over religious affairs of the states. The states of Penang, Malacca, Sarawak and Sabah do not have any sultan, but the king, Yang di-Pertuan Agong, plays the role of head of Islam in each of those states, as well as in each of the current Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.
To this day the doctrinal belief and faith, ethical and moral values of the Malays are based on Islam, which is a major contributor to the colour and cultural landscape of Malaysia. Of course, other religious and cultural elements have been harmoniously integrated into the Malay way of life, to contribute to the overall philosophy of the country, which demonstrates that Malaysia is indeed Islamic but tolerant of other faiths in the modern age.
Accounting for over half the population, the Islamic Malaysian’s are the country’s largest ethnic group and national language, dating back to its oldest indigenous generation, whom are known as “Bumiputera”, which translates as "sons" or "princes of the soil."
Historically, Malaysian life was centered on the village, or “kampong”, where one would need not travel far to experience the indigenous cultural aspects of the religion. Of course nowadays this principle is equally valid in the growing cities and urbanization. Having Islam as the largest practiced religion, Malaysia still prides itself as being a multi-confessional country, with over 17 million Muslim advocates.
In comparison to the ethno-based Chinese and Hindu civilizations, and geo-based Christian civilization, Islamic civilization was the first that could be called universal, in the sense that it comprised people of many different races and cultures, on three different continents. The Islamic Civilization was European, having flourished for a long time in Spain and southern Italy, on the Russian steppes, and in the Balkan Peninsula. It was self-evidently Asian and also African, so it more than definitely unique.
All the while Islamic civilization is promoted in Malaysia, it is widely believed that the greatest success to its uprising is its inherent concept of fairness, understanding and the promotion of human and constructive relationships between religious and cultural indifferent...