Islam in Malaysia
|Islam by country|
Islam in Malaysia is represented by the Shafi‘i version of Sunni theology and jurisprudence, while defining Malaysia constitutionally a secular state. Islam was introduced by traders arriving from Arabia, China and the Indian subcontinent. It became firmly established in the 15th century. In Malaysia Constitution, Islam is granted as the "religion of the Federation" to symbolise its importance to Malaysian society. However, other religions can be practiced freely.
The draft Constitution of Malaysia did not specify an official religion. This move was supported by the rulers of the nine Malay states, who felt that it was sufficient that Islam was the official religion of each of their individual states. However, Justice Hakim Abdul Hamid of the Reid Commission which drafted the constitution came out strongly in favour of making Islam the official religion, and as a result the final constitution named Islam as the official religion of Malaysia. All ethnic Malays are Muslim, as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia.
Religion of the Federation
Nine of the Malaysian states, namely Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, Johor and Negeri Sembilan have constitutional Malay monarchs (most of them styled as Sultans). These Malay rulers still maintain authority over religious affairs in 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 Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.
On the occasion of Malaysia's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman's 80th birthday, he stated in the edition of 9 February 1983 of the newspaper The Star that the "country has a multi-racial population with various beliefs. Malaysia must continue as a secular State with Islam as the official religion". In the same issue of The Star, Abdul Rahman was supported by the third Malaysian prime minister, Hussein Onn, who stated that the "nation can still be functional as a secular state with Islam as the official religion."
One of Malaysia's states, Kelantan, is governed by Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which is a conservative Islamic political party, with a proclaimed goal of establishing an Islamic state. Terengganu was briefly ruled by PAS from 1999 to 2004, but the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has since won back the state. To counter the falling credibility of United Malays National Organisation's (UMNO) Islamic credentials vis-à-vis PAS, the head of the Barisan Nasional, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, proposed Islam Hadhari. In the 1990s, the PAS-led state governments passed Islamic hudud laws in Terengganu, but was struck down by the secular federal government.
The newest format of the Malaysian identity card (MyKad) divides Malaysians into various religious groups, e.g., Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist. The introduction of this card caused a political uproar and remains controversial.
There is also an Islamic university in Malaysia called the International Islamic University Malaysia, and a government institution in charge of organising pilgrimages to Mecca called Tabung Haji (Pilgrim Fund Board of Malaysia). In addition, the government also funds the construction of mosques and suraus.
There is a National Fatwa Council that issues fatwas, as part of the Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia (JAKIM).
Individual Arab traders, including Sahabas, preached in the Malay Archipelago, Indo-China, and China in the early seventh century. The Islamic Cham people of Cambodia trace their origin to Jahsh (Geys), the father of Zainab and thus one of the fathers-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Islam was introduced to the Sumatran coast by Arabs in 674 CE.
Islam was also brought to Malaysia by Indian Muslim traders in the 12th century AD. It is commonly held that Islam first arrived in Malay peninsular since Sultan Mudzafar Shah I (12th century) of Kedah (Hindu name Phra Ong Mahawangsa), the first ruler to be known to convert to Islam after being introduced to it by Indian traders who themselves were recent converts. In the 13th century, the Terengganu Stone Monument was found at Kuala Berang, Terengganu, where the first Malay state to receive Islam in 1303 Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah, known as Parameswara prior to his conversion, is the first Sultan of Melaka. He converted to Islam after marrying a princess from Pasai, of present-day Indonesia.
The religion was adopted peacefully by the coastal trading ports people of Malaysia and Indonesia, absorbing rather than conquering existing beliefs. By the 15th and 16th centuries it was the majority faith of the Malay people.
Religion, specifically Shafi‘ite school Sunnism. Some Islamic terms, such as the word Allah, are forbidden to non-Muslims both orally and in government's ban on the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, reversing the 2009 ruling of a court of first instance.
Until the 1970s, many Malay Muslims lived a liberal and moderate Islam, like Indonesian Muslims. At this time, a wave of Islamisation emerged (sparked by various social and ethnic conflicts, linked to the Al-Arqam parties and Islam Se-Malaysia), so that today, Malaysia lives in a more Islamic environment compared to the latter years. Malays, who represent 50.4% of the total population, are almost all Muslims. About 70 per cent of Malay Muslims wear headscarves, while their port was marginal until the 1980s. The traditional Malay garment, of Islamic origin, is also worn by many Malays.
Freedom of worship
Article 3 (1) of the Malaysian Constitution provides:
"Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions can be practiced safely and peacefully in all parts of the Federation."
Article 11 of the constitution provides:
"Everyone has the right to profess and practice his religion and to propagate it."
Originally authorised for the country's independence in 1957, apostasy became illegal following an amendment to the country's constitution in 1988. The international scandal unleashed by the Lina Joy affair is one of the most famous representations.
While this was not a problem during the colonial era, Muslims wishing to change their religion face severe deterrence. Before 1988, the question of freedom of religion and therefore of questions relating to the desire of citizens to change their religion was exclusively within the jurisdiction of secular courts. But since the law has changed, an amendment stipulates that secular courts no longer have the right to deal with claims by Muslims and that only Islamic Shariah courts have jurisdiction to discuss issues related to human rights. Apostasy is one of them and it follows that it is constitutionally legally impossible for a Muslim to change his belief.
Many Muslims who have changed their religion whether it is conversion to Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Taoism and other beliefs are forced for their own safety to lead a double life. In some cases denunciations of apostasy have already been reported as being reported to the authorities by family members or co-workers.
In February 2014, Edry Faizal, a coordinator in charge of the Democratic Action Party, claimed that it was inconsistent from a Quranic point of view to forbid Muslims from freely changing beliefs, but from his point of view was the best alternative that the power had found to preserve its Malaysian electorate and consequently to remain in power continuously.
In May 2014, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during his speech about the future of the country that: "We will never tolerate any demand for the right to apostasy by Muslims, and we refuse that Muslims can have the right to be tried by courts other than sharia courts, and we will not allow Muslims to participate in LGBT activities". But he concluded that this was necessary because: "This is in line with our efforts to make Malaysia a modern, progressive Muslim country in order to achieve the status of a developed nation with a high income for 2020".
In recent years, more and more voices have been asked to try to determine the number of ethnic Malay people supposed to have left Islam for another belief, the government has remained silent on the question that it is much too controversial for to be debated. However, in October 2011, Harussani Zakaria, the mufti of the state of Perak, said that according to a 2008 government report that was kept secret, there would have been more than 260,000 Malayans since 1988 who secretly converted to Christianity, which would represent according to the 2010 population census, between 3 and 4% of the Malaysian majority. Nevertheless, no data estimating the number of Malay converted to another religion was provided.
Nonetheless, these remarks later triggered a polemic repeatedly repeated in the media by Islamist and nationalist circles that recognising the right of the Malayans and the entire Muslim community to be free to choose their own beliefs would risk provoking a "Massive exodus of apostates" within the nation, the same slogan has also been listed on the official website of Islam in Malaysia. On December 17, 2015, Malaysian Police Chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar (in) during a speech, alluded to this mysterious report: "I can not tell you how much this issue is and potentially explosive. "
As Islam is the religion of the Federation, converts to Islam are allowed to convert their children to Islam without having to consider the approval of his spouse.
On February 9, 2016, the Putrajaya Federal Court ruled on a similar scandal known as the "S Deepa Affair" dating back to September 4, 2013. A Hindu man N. Viran converted to Islam while his spouse decided to continue in her religion and both wanted to raise their two minor children according to their religions. Viran changed his name to Izwan Abdullah. He also changed his children's names, Nabil for the boy and Nurul Nabila for the girl. Becoming the only person judged capable of raising them, he had obtained from the Shari'a court of Seremban their sole custody and through this the dissolution of his marriage. His wife S Deepa has complained against the conversion of their offspring.
Their marriage, which had been celebrated according to the Hindu rites and subsequently registered in the civil registers, was thus dissolved by the Shari'a court on the sole ground of the conversion to Islam of Islam. Finally, the Seremban High Court ruled that the annulment of the marriage was illegal and decided to return the custody of the children to the mother on April 7, 2014.
However, two days later, the case is again in the spotlight while Izwan took his son back during a home visit by his ex-wife. Deepa quickly asks the High Court for a request for police help to get her son back. Izwan decides to appeal and seeks help from the Shari'a court to assert his rights. The Court of Appeal eventually rejected both appeals in December 2014. Child custody in February 2016 was finally divided by the Court of Appeal. The court allowed the children to choose their custodian and the son was entrusted to the Izwan and the daughter to the mother based on the children's choice.
Influences of Zheng He's voyages
Zheng He is credited to have settled Chinese Muslim communities in Palembang and along the shores of Java, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines. These Muslims allegedly followed the Hanafi school in the Chinese language. This Chinese Muslim community was led by Hajji Yan Ying Yu, who urged his followers to assimilate and take local names.
The Sunni Islam of the Shafi'i school of thought is the official, legal form in Malaysia, although syncretist Islam with elements of Shamanism is still common in rural areas. Mosques are an ordinary scene throughout the country and adhan (call to prayer) from minarets are heard five times a day. Government bodies and banking institutions are closed for two hours every Friday so Muslim workers can conduct Friday prayer in mosques. However, in certain states such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Johor, the weekends fall on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. It has been introduced to several states, notably Kelantan and Terengganu, all businesses close for 2 hours on every Friday for prayers. Failure to comply would result in fines.
Since it is compulsory for Muslims to perform a prayer 5 times a day no matter where they are, almost all public places, including shopping malls, hotels, condominiums, usually have allocated spaces called "Surau", for performing the Muslim prayers.
In 2017, it was reported that Wahhabism is spreading among Malaysia's elite, and that the traditional Islamic theology currently taught in Government schools is gradually being shifted to a view of theology derived from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.
The Malaysian government has strict policies against other Islamic sects, including a complete ban on Shia Islam, allegedly to "avoid violence between the two faiths that has sometimes broken out in other parts of the world by promoting only the Sunni faith". Due to decades of the Saudi funding, Shia Islam is openly and freely demonised and Shia Muslims are oppressed in the country, their prayers and gatherings are broken up, state's secret service also engages in Shia forced disappearances. Anti-Shi'ism reaches such an extent that the mainstream media always present Iran in bad light while blindly glorying Saudi Arabia. For example, in 2019 Malay police raided multiple private functions commemorating martyrdom of Prophet's grandson at the battle of Karbala, arresting scores of foreign and local Shia Muslims.
Muslims who believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the fulfilment of the Islamic prophecies concerning the return of Jesus, the Ahmadiyya, are also present. There are approximately 2,000 Ahmadis in the country. Though small in number, they face state sanctioned persecution in Malaysia.
Islam is central to and dominant in Malay culture. A significant number of words in the Malay vocabulary can trace their origins to Arabic which is the common language of Islamic prayer and rituals. This is, however, not exclusive and words from other cultures such as Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, Sanskrit, Tamil, English, and French can also be found in the Malay language. Islam is so ingrained in Malay life that Islamic rituals are practised as Malay culture. Muslim and Malays are interchangeable in many daily contexts.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid ul-Fitr) is an important festival celebrated by Malaysian Muslims.
Muslim women generally wear the tudung (hijab or headscarf) over their heads. However, Malay women not wearing any headgear are not reprimanded or penalised. Prominent Malaysian female examples are Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, International Trade and Industry Minister and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, wife of the current Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad. However, with the influx of Arabic travellers, foreign Muslim women (Arabs) wearing hijab that leave only their eyes exposed are often spotted in tourist attractions, not the least at the shopping malls. At certain Malaysian institutions such as the International Islamic University, wearing of the tudung is mandatory; however, for non-Muslim students this usually amounts to a loosely worn piece of cloth draped over the back of the head.
Some regard the tudung to be an indication of Arabic influence in Malay Muslim culture, and point to incidents such as the banning of the traditional Malay wayang kulit in the state of Kelantan (which was ruled by the Islamist PAS) to be "un-Islamic".
Malaysia's top Islamic body, the National Fatwa Council, ruled against Muslims practising yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims. The same body has ruled against ghosts and other supernatural beings.
UMNO's committee in mosque
Tan Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, the 14th chief minister of the state of Selangor said, "We want mosques to carry out more activities for the Muslims. Unfortunately, the UMNO (political party) only want to put their men in the administration of mosques. This is absurd." He said he wants to replace mosque committees to reduce political interference. "We must remember, the Sultan of Selangor in his every speech has stressed against using mosques for political purposes and His Highness has been consistent in stating his views".
Definition of Malay
As defined by the Constitution of Malaysia, Malays must be Muslim, regardless of their ethnic heritage; otherwise, legally, they are not Malay. Consequently, apostate Malays would have to forfeit all their constitutional privileges, including their Bumiputra status, which entitles them to affirmative action in university admissions and discounts on purchases of vehicles or real estate. It is legally possible to become a Malay if a non-Malay citizen with a Malaysian parent converts to Islam and thus claims all the Bumiputra privileges granted by Article 153 of the Constitution and the New Economic Policy (NEP). However, the convert must "habitually speak the Malay language" and adhere to Malay culture. A tertiary textbook for Malaysian studies following the government-approved syllabus states: "This explains the fact that when a non-Malay embraces Islam, he is said to masuk Melayu ("become a Malay"). That person is automatically assumed to be fluent in the Malay language and to be living like a Malay as a result of his close association with the Malays".
Islam in Malaysia is thus closely associated with the Malay people, something an Islamic scholar has criticised, saying that Malaysian Islam is "still clothed in communal garb; that Muslims in Malaysia have yet to understand what the universal spirit of Islam means in reality".
Sharia legal system
Parallel to the civil courts, there are Sharia courts which conduct legal matters related to Muslim family sphere. Legal issues like Muslim divorce and Muslim apostasy are conducted in the Syariah Courts. However, there are cases whereby apostasy cases are tried in the Federal Courts. Non-Muslims are not bound by Sharia.
Most of Malay Muslims were very distrustful of political parties who tried to insult Islam especially Democratic Action Party. It was claimed DAP was dominated by non-Muslims and tried to rule the country and make Christianity as new official religion - even some Malays like Zaid Ibrahim joined this party.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2015)
As of 2013 most Muslim Malaysian women wear the tudung, a type of hijab. This use of the tudung was uncommon prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the places that had women in tudung tended to be rural areas. The usage of the tudung sharply increased after the 1970s, as religious conservatism among Malay people in both Malaysia and Singapore increased.
By 2015 Malaysia had a fashion industry related to the tudung.
Norhayati Kaprawi directed a 2011 documentary about the use of tudung in Malaysia, Siapa Aku? ("Who am I?"). It is in Malay, with English subtitles available.
Although wearing the hijab, or tudung, is not mandatory for women in Malaysia, some government buildings enforce within their premises a dresscode which bans women, Muslim and non-Muslim, from entering while wearing "revealing clothes".
Distribution of Muslims
According to the 2010 census, 61.3% of its population (17,375,794 people) were Muslim. All person who self-identifying as ethnic Malay is categorised as Muslims (see also ethnoreligious group). The data shows the non-Malay who self-identifies as Muslim does not "menjadi Melayu" and still counted separately from Malay ethnic group. Information collected in the census based on respondent's answer and did not refer to any official document.
By ethnic group
By gender and ethnic group
|Gender||Total Muslim Population
|Malaysian Muslim Citizens||Non-Malaysian Muslim Citizens|
|Bumiputera Muslim||Non-Bumiputera Muslim|
|Malay Muslim||Other Bumiputera Muslim||Chinese Muslim||Indian Muslim||Others Muslim|
By state/federal territory and ethnic group
|State||Total Muslim Population
|Malaysian Muslim Citizens||Non-Malaysian Muslim Citizens|
|Bumiputera Muslim||Non-Bumiputera Muslim|
|Malay Muslim||Other Bumiputera Muslim||Chinese Muslim||Indian Muslim||Others Muslim|
- Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
- Islamic Heritage Museum
- Kelantan Islamic Museum
- Malacca Al-Quran Museum
- Malacca Islamic Museum
- Malay and Islamic World Museum
- Penang Islamic Museum
- Outline of Islam
- Glossary of Islam
- Index of Islam-related articles
- Freedom of religion in Malaysia
- Islam by country
- Religion in Malaysia
- Tabung Haji
- "The Future of the Global Muslim Population – Malaysia", Pew Forum. 2013.
- malaysianbar.org:PRESS STATEMENT: Malaysia a secular State, July 18, 2007
- Wu & Hickling, p. 35.
- Wu & Hickling, pp. 19, 75.
- Article 160 (2). Constitution of Malaysia.
- Malay of Malaysia
- Ooi, J. 2007. "Merdeka... 50 years of Islamic State?" Archived 10 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
- Boo Su-Lyn (16 February 2016). "Keeping religious status off MyKad, birth certs may solve interfaith woes, rights groups say". The Malay Online. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Putra, Tunku Abdul Rahman (1986). Political Awakening, p. 105. Pelanduk Publications. ISBN 967-978-136-4.
- T. W. Arnold, 1913/1997, The Preaching of Islam, Delhi: L.P. Publications, p. 294, 294 nt.2; Dru C. Gladney, Hui Muslims in The South Asian Studies, California, vol.16, No.3, August 1987, page 498, p.498 nt.8.
- W.P. Groeneveldt, 1877, Notes on the Malay Archipelago and Malacca, Batavia : W. Bruining.
- Ho Kit Yen (10 February 2016). "Court gives girl to Hindu mother, son to Muslim dad". Free Malaysia Today. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
- AQSHA, DARUL (13 July 2010). "Zheng He and Islam in Southeast Asia". The Brunei Times. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "Wahabism spreading among Malaysia's elite". 14 January 2017.
- "The radicalisation of Islam in Malaysia". 28 August 2016.
- "Rights Group Says Six Malaysians Detained For Being Shia Muslims", Islam Online. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
- "Iraqi Sunnis forced to abandon homes and identity in battle for survival", "The Guardian". Retrieved 5 April 2015.
- Fernandez, Celine (15 December 2013). "Malaysian Shia Muslims Prepare for Trial". The Wall Street Journal.
- Morgan, Adrian. "Malaysia: Heretical Islamic cult returns", SperoNews. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
- "Malaysia's Ahmadis living dangerously". 8 November 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "Living with the Ahmadiyah – The Nut Graph, Malaysia". thepersecution.org. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- Aisha Y. Musa, The Qur'anists Archived 19 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 19.org. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- Kent, Jonathan (6 August 2005). "Malaysia's clash of cultures". BBC.
- "Top Islamic body: Yoga is not for Muslims", CNN, 22 November 2008
- "Malaysia issues fatwa on ghosts", Al Jazeera
- "Khalid Expects 'More Serious' Agenda in Audience With Sultan". Bernama. 5 July 2008. Archived from the original on 18 April 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
- Shuid, Mahdi & Yunus, Mohd. Fauzi (2001). Malaysian Studies, p. 55. Longman. ISBN 983-74-2024-3.
- Wu, Min Aun & Hickling, R. H. (2003). Hickling's Malaysian Public Law, p. 98. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Malaysia. ISBN 983-74-2518-0.
- Zurairi, A R (12 July 2018). "Claiming 'Christian' DAP in control of Dr M, Umno man plans Parliament protest". Malay Mail. Kuala Lumpur.
- Malaysiakini (2013). "What's wrong for a Malay to join DAP?". Retrieved 11 February 2020.
- Boo, Su-lyn. "Tudung industry in Malaysia: Cashing in on conservative Islam" (Archive). The Malay Mail. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015. See version at Yahoo! News. "Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Hassan, former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) lecturer in history and dakwah, said Muslim women in Malaysia started donning the tudung in the 1970s.[...]it's considered wrong," he added, estimating that more than 70 per cent of Muslim women in Malaysia wear the headscarf."
- Leong, Trinna. "Malaysian Women Face Rising Pressure From Muslim 'Fashion Police'" (Archive). HuffPost. 21 July 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015. "Malay women began adopting conservative styles of dress in the 1970s, reflecting a growing politicization of religion in the Islamic world. Many now wear the headscarf that in earlier decades had been worn mostly in conservative backwaters."
- Koh, Jaime and Stephanie Ho. Culture and Customs of Singapore and Malaysia (Cultures and Customs of the World). ABC-CLIO, 22 June 2009. ISBN 0313351163, 9780313351167. p. 31.
- Fernandez, Celine. "Why Some Women Wear a Hijab and Some Don’t" (Archive). The Wall Street Journal. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
- Hassim, Nurzihan (2014). "A Comparative Analysis on Hijab Wearing in Malaysian Muslimah Magazines" (PDF). SEARCH: The Journal of the South East Asia Research Center for Communications and Humanities. 6 (1): 79–96. ISSN 2229-872X. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2015. ()
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Islam in Malaysia.|