|Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, but
Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and other religions are practised freely.
The different religions in Malaysia reflect the variety of races living
there. There is mutual respect among the different faiths. Religious freedom
is guaranteed by the constitution for all except those born as Malays.
All Malays are Muslim by law.
dagger known as the kris, which is shaped like a snake or dragon,
is said to give its owner magical powers.
|Islam has been the religion of Malays since the
15th century, when the ruler of Melaka converted to the Muslim faith and
changed his name from Sri Maharajah to Mohammed Shah. Muslims follow the
teachings of Islam and observe its Five Pillars of Faith: the shahada,
or statement of faith; salat, daily prayers; zakat, almsgiving
to the poor; saum, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and
haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims must make once in a
lifetime if they can. The chief day of worship for Muslims is Friday.
|Most Chinese are Buddhists, a religion
in which people seek enlightenment and detachment from worldly matters.
Buddhism was established by a prince called Siddhartha Gautama who lived
in the 6th century B.C. The philosophers Confucius, Mencius and Lao Tzu
have also influenced the beliefs of many Chinese. Confucius, who also lived
in the 6th century B.C., taught the principles of justice and good conduct.
Mencius was a teacher of Confucianism who promoted social justice. Lao
Tzu wrote the Tao-te Ching, which expressed the idea that the Way
(the Tao) in life could be found in the acceptance of life's difficulties.
Chinese people also honour their ancestors as part of their religion.
|Malaysians of Indian heritage may be
Muslim or Hindu. Hinduism is a religion that stresses a code of behaviour
more than a uniform set of beliefs. Hindus perceive a clear social order
and feel that in life they have a distinct place in that order. Reincarnation
allows them to move through the social order. There are many Hindu deities,
including Shiva, Vishnu and Devi.
Many indigenous people have converted to Christianity
but others maintain traditional animist religions. Animists believe everything
contains its own spirit: rocks, trees, rivers, lakes. These spirits must
be treated with respect, since they have power over natural forces.
The snake temple
in Penang is so called because the eggs and incense offered to Lord Buddha
attract snakes from the nearby forest. The incense makes the snakes drowsy
and they can be found sleeping all over the temple.