We are so blessed to be living in Malaysia. With so many races, religions and cultures, this nation is a melting pot.
by Tommy Duncan, Carrybeans
From eating lemang and ketupat during Hari Raya to nian gau during Chinese New Year and muruku around Deepavali, we enjoy the best of so many worlds.
At the same time, we live in a country where different religions co-exist. A harmonious society is something we should always strive for, and it begins with understanding the different faiths our fellow Malaysians practise every day.
Here are the major faiths practised in Malaysia, but we’ll mention the others at the end too!
Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation, and so a large population of Malaysians practise Islam. According to historical sources, Islam first came to our land in the 12th century through Indian Muslim traders.
Do you know that the word Islam means ‘surrender’ or ‘submission’? It stems from the word Salam, meaning peace, and in the context of faith Islam means the act of surrender to God’s will to achieve peace.
Muslims have five pillars of practice, and devote themselves to following these tenets to the best of their ability. The five pillars are 1) Declaration of Faith, 2) Prayer 5 times a day, 3) Contributing of zakat (poor-due tax), 4) Fasting during Ramadan, and 5) Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once, if physically and financially able.
Today, around 61.3% or a total of 19.5 million Malaysians are Muslim. By law, Malays are identified as Muslims and are not allowed to convert to other faiths. Almost all Malaysians are part of the Sunni denomination of Islam.
National Public Holidays: Hari Raya Aidilfitri (celebration marking the end of Ramadan, the fasting month), Hari Raya Haji (marking the end of the Haj pilgrimage), Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year), Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world and second largest in Malaysia, with around 19.2% followers of this way of life. It is traced back to an Indian prince named Siddharta Gautama who gave up his family, wealth and all forms of indulgence in his quest for enlightenment.
Although many non-practitioners assume followers worship the Buddha, there is in actual fact no one god in Buddhism. The doctrine of karma and the ‘Four Noble Truths’ are central points of the religion.
In Malaysia, Indian traders and priests brought Buddhism through maritime routes. They introduced Indian concepts of religion, government and even the arts. Today, the majority of Mahayana Buddhists in Malaysia are ethnic Chinese.
National Public Holiday: Wesak Day (the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha)
The third largest religion in Malaysia, around 9.2% of the population identify themselves as Christian. A large number of Christians reside in East Malaysia, where Roman Catholicism is widespread. Malaysia hosts most major denominations.
Christians are monotheists (believers of one god), and the Abrahamic religion is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth believed to be the Christ or Messiah. Since its formation, many denominations have branched out as the religion developed in both the East and West.
Traders brought the faith to the Malay archipelago as early as the the 7th century. Historians believe the traders embraced the faith through the teachings of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Thomas and further established during the colonial era.
National Public Holiday: Christmas (birth of Jesus Christ); Good Friday (death of Jesus Christ, local public holiday only in East Malaysia)
Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and is unique in that it does not have one single founder or common set of teachings. Most Hindus believe in a Supreme Being who manifests qualities through multiple deities, hence the thousands of gods in the religion.
The doctrine of karma is also a central focus, with Hindus believing in the cycle of life, death and rebirth. There are around 1.8 million Hindus in Malaysia, making it the fourth largest religion in the country. Hinduism was also brought through Indian traders who also introduced Sanskrit.
The main texts of the faith are Vedas and other supplementary texts. The word veda means ‘knowledge’.
National Public Holidays: Diwali/Deepavali (Festival of Lights)
Those are the four major religions in Malaysia, but true to our diversity we actually have many more. Malaysians also practise traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism and other faiths such as Animism, Folk Religions, Sikhism and the Baha’i Faith.
As you can see, we truly are a melting pot of different backgrounds, races and religions. Generally, Malaysians have always been respectful of other faiths and grown up alongside one another in an admirable celebration of diversity. Let’s all work to keep it that way, today and for generations to come!
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Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia.org