Ramadan Greetings to All!
Amid tall skyscrapers, malls and concrete jungles, Malaysia also houses some exquisite mosques, temples and churches. Known for its secular outlook, Malaysia is a country that is tolerant towards all religions. Be it Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism and the Baha’i faith, you are bound to find a dash of all major religions in the culture of Malaysia.
A multicultural and a multi-confessional country, there are a host of Malaysian beliefs that you will get to see in Malaysia. If you are a history buff and loves to read comparative religion, Malaysia is the just the place for you. The rich heritage and its diverse religious legacy have a key role in forming a culturally diverse Malaysia today. Just look around your neighborhood and you will get to see people practicing different faiths in peace and harmony.
Malaysia – Religion and Culture
As per data given by livepopulation.com, 61.3 per cent of the population in Malaysia adheres to Islam making it the largest religion followed in the country. Islam is also the official religion of Malaysia and most Malays are the followers of the Sunni denomination. What is unique about Islam in Malaysia is that the government promotes a different version of Sunni Islam called Islam Hadari – which encourages tolerance towards other faiths, balanced approach to life, and inclusivity.
Almost every lane in Malaysia is dotted with mosques and minarets that echo the legacy of Islam in the state. It is not new if you land in Malaysia and hear the breath-taking Adhan – call to prayer – melodiously bellowing from tall minarets in the country. The Adhan in Malaysia is a melodious stream of notes, unfurling like a satin ribbon. You will surely love this musical experience.
Since Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, all Islamic holidays are considered national holidays. Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-ul-Fitr are the most celebrated festivals in the country. The country also celebrates the beloved Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) birthday and other events commemorated in the Noble Quran and Islamic calendar.
Many Malaysian educational institutions also have an inbuilt prayer niche or room for international Muslim students to offer prayers or salats five times a day. This is a rather good facility offered by many colleges and educational institutions especially for students who cannot make it mosques outside the campus during exams and important projects.
Ramadan in Malaysia
Ramadan, the ninth and holy month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims in the country fast from dawn to dusk – abstaining from food, water, alcohol and other addictive habits. What makes Ramadan really special is it is the most precious month in the Islamic calendar, called Hijri. And that is because the Holy Quran was first revealed in the month of Ramadan. One of the most prominent countries where Ramadan is celebrated with a lot of grandeur is Malaysia. The way Malaysians celebrate Ramadan is what makes experiencing these festivals so special here and pleasantly different from the other countries. During Ramadan, it is advised to people of other faiths to eat indoors or in private. In the evenings of Ramadan during Iftaar, the streets fill with families breaking the fast at market stalls and restaurants with oversized platters of meat rendang, aromatic mutton delicacies and rice items.
On Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Puasa – Festival of the breaking of the fast – is the main festival in Malaysia. During this festival you will get to witness Malay ladies donning the traditional Baju Kurung and offering their neighbors, families, and loved ones pineapple tarts and kek lapis.
Some of the famous mosques that you must visit in Malaysia are the National Mosque of Malaysia, Putra Mosque, Jamek Mosque, and Penang State Mosque. The National Mosque of Malaysia is a landmark monument that was built in 1965 to celebrate its independence from colonial British rule. Kampung Luat Mosque is the oldest surviving mosque in Malaysia.
The second largest religion in Malaysia is Buddhism and is one of the oldest faiths to be followed in the country. Approximately 19.2 per cent of Malaysia’s population follows Buddhism. Johor state prides itself for having the largest Buddhist community accounting for 30 per cent of the state’s demographics.
Buddhism in Malaysia is practiced in two forms — Mahayana and Theravada. Malaysian Chinese follow Mahayana and Malaysian Indians and Sri Lankans follow Theravada Buddhism. According to historians, Indian traders approximately 2,000 years ago are believed to have introduced Buddhism in Malaysia. The religion was once followed by ancient rulers of Malaysia and had specifically flourished under the Sri Vijaya Empire.
If you haven’t visited or seen any ancient temples, here is your chance to visit some of the best known Buddhist temples in Malaysia. You can visit Kuala Lumpur’s Thean Hou temple. It is dedicated to the Chinese Sea Goddess but also accommodates Buddhist and Tao practices.
Penang’s Kek Lok Si is a Buddhist shrine and an important pilgrimage centre for people from Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines. The centerpiece of attraction in the temple complex is the seven storey pagoda of King Rama VI of Thailand with 10,000 bronze and alabaster statues of Buddha. It also houses the 36.57 meters tall bronze statue if Guan Yin – Buddhist Goddess of Compassion. The Kek Lok Si Pagoda is a mix of three different architectural styles – Burmese, Thai and Chinese.
Perak’s Sam Poh Tong temple, also known as the three Buddhas cave, is a Chinese temple built within a limestone cave. It is the oldest cave temples in Malaysia and follows Mahayana Buddhism. The temple houses the reclining statue of Buddha which is worth seeing.
Hinduism and Sikhism
Indians played a significant role in weaving the historical fabric of Malaysia. Early Indian traders introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to Malaysia 2,000 years ago. Hinduism and Buddhism dropped in the 13th century A.D when Islam was introduced to Malaysia. Hinduism thrived again during the British colonial era when Migrant Tamils arrived in Malaysia to work on rubber plantations and practice other professions.
Today, Hinduism is the fourth largest religion in the country, with sizeable communities present in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.
Among Buddhist pagodas, Hindu temples like the Sri Mahamariamman temple in Kuala Lumpur never fails to meet the eye of several tourists and students. It was built in 1873 and is the oldest temple in Malaysia.
Another attractive Hindu shrine is the Batu caves in Selangor, Malaysia. It is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India dedicated to Murugan. One of the major festivals held at this shrine is the Thaipusam. Hindus from Singapore, Australia, and India come down to attend this festival.
Apart from Hinduism, another Indian religion that thrives in Malaysia is Sikhism. There are about 4,50,000 Sikhs in the country. Malaysia houses around 119 Gurudwaras or Sikh temples across different states.
Christianity is said to have arrived to the Malay archipelagos in the 7th century A.D. with the Arab, Turkish and Persian traders. In 1511, the Portuguese colonists introduced Catholicism, while the Dutch colonists brought with them Protestantism in the late 17th century. Malaysia became a British colony 200 years later and British missionaries spread Christianity in Sarawak and Sabah.
A total of 24 per cent of people on Sarawak practice Christianity and it is the only Christian state in Malaysia. Apart from Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, Christians in Malaysia also follow other denomination such as Anglican, Methodist, and Lutheran.
The churches in Malaysia are ancient, unique and resonate the country’s once colonial past. Malay churches are a must-see for every international student and tourist. You can start by visiting St. Paul’s Church located in Malacca City. It was built in 1521 and is the oldest church building in Malaysia and the whole of Southeast Asia.
Christ Church Malacca is an 18th century Anglican Church that has a distinct Dutch architecture. It is one the best examples of Christian architecture in Malaysia.
The Baha’i Faith
Baha’is are found in great number in Malaysia. This peaceful monotheistic religious community is made up of Indians, Chinese, Sri Lankans and other ethnic groups from Malaysia. A large number of Baha’is are found in Sarawak state. There are about 3,10, 000 Baha’is living in the country.
Malaysia prides itself on secularism, equality, and peace. It is one such country that houses almost all global religions including Jainism and other animistic beliefs. Although the official religion of the country is Sunni Islam, people are free to practice other faiths. With a secular framework in place and distinct ethnic groups standing united in the country, Malaysia is as diverse as it gets.
Study2malaysia.com also known as Malaysian Universities information center (MUIC) was set up with the sole intention of providing valuable information to those students and aspirants who want to pursue their higher education in Malaysia. We are one of the leading and specialized teams who have been associated with assisting students from across the world to move to Malaysia for higher education for more than a decade now. We have, till now, successfully sent around 5000 students (including medical students) to Malaysia, most of who are now successfully placed in different professional careers.