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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Arabianisation of the Malaysian Muslims - A study

Assalamualaikum dear Muslims of the world.

Hope you are all in the best of health and striving to increase your wealth. Amin.

This posting is dedicated to the Malays of Nusantara. Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. Please take your time to digest what I am saying here and look at it positively.

The topic I am writing about is the Arabianisation of the Malays in Malaysia and the other Nusantara nations in South East Asia.

Some of you might think that I am bashing the Arabs here which is surely not my intention ; so wise up and read properly through the posting. The main contention is the social impact here.

I would like to address the matter of Arabianisation slowly creeping into and destroying the ancient and rich heritage of the Malays of this world where some Malays either out of religious inclinations or just plain ignorant to know how to differentiate between cultural assimilations and just copying each and every bit of the Arabian way of life.

This Arabianisation is slowly eroding the Malay culture and norms. I for one think it's not right.
I grew up in a Malay village , East of Jelutong, Penang Island, Malaysia. My childhood consisted of dressing up as a Malay, practicing the Malay culture and living life as an ordinary Malaysian Muslim.

The manner of dressing back then was the usual Malay baju kurung for the females , batik sarongs, baju kebayas, and just selendangs or shawls draped across one's head for the ladies.

Young kids wore blouses, skirts and slacks. None wore the 'tudung' back then. Only the adults or those who were a bit religious had worn the shawl over the heads.

Men wore slacks and trousers and were dressed in shirts, some short sleeved, some short sleeved. Kids like me wore short trousers, the kind you see being worn by P.Ramlee in his black and white movie @ Penarik Beca.

Being poor, saw me not having underwear to wear and sitting down wearing those flared shorts was a real hassle , in trying to keep my privates from peeping out!

Hahahahaha! Well aerated, one might say! Hehehehehe..those days!...only rich kids had their parents buy them 'spendar'... poor kids like me went 'au naturel' albeit wearing those flared shorts.

T shirts were not known then and the closest to that was the Chinese Pagoda white cotton short sleeved singlets or the singlet.

On Fridays, when it was time for prayers, we wore our Baju Melayu's or Baju Telok Belanga, complete with our 'songkoks'. Those who had gone to Makkah and performed their Hajj wore the white skull caps or wore 'serbans' and jubah's @ the long white flowing robes to the masjid.

As I got older, by the time I was in Standard Six, I had progressed to wearing long pants and grew ashamed to wearing shorts.

I came to realize that my 'aurat' needed to be covered and from then on, gave up wearing my shorts except when I went swimming in the sea or the rivers.

The 'aurat' or 'area of modesty' for a man is from his navel to the knee.

If a Male Muslim wanted to pray, he just had to keep his person covered from the navel to the knee and after taking ablution , he can pray to Allah provided he keeps his self covered and protected from other's view of him praying like that. Anyway, that is in the worst case scenario.

People living here in Malaysia are now not that poor anymore. Even a squatter living in squalid conditions can still afford to dress appropriately and has at least a sarong to wear and a shirt to clothe himself when he wants to pray.

Ladies need to cover themselves except their face, hands from the wrists below and the feet from their ankle downwards.

The usual attire for Malaysian Muslim women when in prayer is to wear their 'telekungs' or 'prayer attire for women' @ an all encompassing shroud like prayer garb that covers their whole self except the face and hands. even their feet are covered.

After prayer, both men and women can dress normally as the Malay form of dressing and based upon their culture.

The advent of the wearing of the 'tudung' here in Malaysia started with the 'Jama'ah Al Arqam' @ a movement started by Hj Ashaari Muhammad who started to dress in the signature Al- Arqam green robes and turbans , which was followed by his male followers and the all encompassing black colored or sombre looking robes by the female Al Arqam Muslimahs and their unique 'tudung labuh's', a longer form of tudung that distinguishes them from the ordinary Muslim females.
Before the advent of the Jama'ah al Arqam led by Ustaz Hj Ashaari, the general Malay populations dressed as the ordinary people of those times.

The ladies used to go about bareheaded or with hairdo's like beehives. Perms and coiffures were the fashions of the day and they used to compete with each other as to who had the latest hairdo's etcetera.

This is a reality that the Malays must accept. That the Arqam folks have caused a revolution in their life.
Soon, Malays in general started to wear these Jubah's and wear the tudungs to signify that they are Muslims who are following the commandment by Allah the Almighty God as per the Verses 30 and 31 in Surah An Nur commanding Believing Men and Women to dress appropriately when in public and certain limits when being in your own privacy.

Now, that's fine by me and I ascribe to the commandments of God for it elevates the stature of us Believers in Allah and raises our image in society by dressing well to cover our modesty and all that.

It is nice to see our Malay ladies wear the tudung nowadays. They look so sweet and pleasant to look at.
Here is a fine example of one of my Uptrend business builder friend who doesn't mind me placing her photo here for you to see.

She looks so demure and clean, doesn't she?

A great business team leader - single and available :P

She is a fine example of how a good Muslim lady should be and she is a 100% aware of how she needs to dress in public and maintain her purity as a Mukminah! Alhamdulillah.

Back to the topic. The one thing that I find a bit discomforting is to see the culture of the Malays fast being eroded by the creeping in of the Arabian way of dressing into the mainstream way of life that we have enjoyed all these years here in Malaysia.

I have nothing against my Arab brethren and I respect their culture tremendously. Wallahi!

Only thing I am starting to get uncomfortable with is the way some parents here sort of lose their sense of tradition and start suffocating their young babies with tudungs and press on the skull caps on kids who are too young to know what is aurat and what it is not?

I am all for the raising of our kids properly and teaching them to cover their modesty well and all that but why do we have to dress them as Arabs?
We are Malays and no matter if we dress ourselves with Arabian garb, we will always still be Malays!
I am an Indian Muslim by birth but my culture is a 100% Malay!
I do not know any Indian Muslim culture for as much as I know there simply is none!
Indian Muslims either follow the thin line between the Indian subcontinent culture or they follow the Malays in their ways. Those of us here in Malaysia opt for the latter.

I am appalled to see my fellow Malaysians here start to forget and fail to preserve the traditional heritage and culture of the Malays !
I am further saddened to see many, many Malays foolishly ape the fashions of either the decadent West or go extremely overboard with trying to out Arab the Arabs!

Malays must be proud of their cultures and wear their traditional clothes with confidence.
The Malay dress is both of high standards and well fashioned. Most suitable for the Malaysian climate and surroundings.
It doesn't have to mean that by not dressing as the Arabs, you are any less a Muslim! No sirree!

This erosion of the Malay culture is further expounded by the manner of speech and behaviorism of those who call themselves as Ustaz and Ustazah's !

They go around speaking 'Ana' ; 'Anta ; and so on to 'show' that they are more Arabic than the average Malay!
Who are they trying to fool? A Malay will always be a Malay! There is no need to try and be somebody else! We are all equal before Allah! No more no less! Don't you think so?

I hope that the Malays of this ancient land will realize what they have inherited is far too precious and priceless to just let it all go to oblivion in the folds of Time.
They must preserve and keep alive their forefathers traditions and social cultures that do not go against the faith of Al Islam.

We can all be good Muslims and yet live proudly by practicing our time tested and much honored Malay traditional customs and mannerism of dressing and behaviors.

As it is , nowadays, the Malays are divided into two extremes. One tries to be as Western as they can whilst the other tries to out Arab the Arabs!
These kids are all dressed in their Baju Melayu's and Baju Kurung's. Don't they look nice and presentable?

Why do they need to copy any other cultures when their own traditions and social history is so very rich and precious?

Let all Malays who get to read this know for sure that amongst the major cultures of the whole world, the traditional way of life of the Malays is considered to be the best where values of the East and fitting the religious principles of Islam , Ad Deen ul Haqq are best suited like a jigsaw puzzle.
Be yourselves and not Arab wannabes! You're perfect as you are!
May Allah SWT guide the Malays accordingly. Amin. Wassalamualaikum!