Religion and social change amongst the indigenous peoples of the Malay Peninsula
Animism, Hinduism/Buddhism preceded the coming of Islam in the Malay Peninsula. Today, although nearly all Malays of the Malay Peninsula have become Muslim, the influence of their former beliefs still remains imbued in their character, mixed with the Islamic way of life. One of the theories of the expansion of Hinduism/Buddhism among the Malays could possibly be applied to the spread of Islam, i.e, the subjects followed their kings. In practice, the conversion to a particular belief without fully knowing its philosophy and teaching means that several types of customs, taboos and superstitions, which have occupied peoples lives from earliest times, continue to exist, although some of them are incompatible with the Islamic teaching. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D there was an influx of Buddhist/Brahmanist missionaries who obtained high positions in the palace. They carried out complex rituals and ceremonies at the court and thus, made the king more supreme and sovereign. Today, although the concepts of supremacy and sovereignty do not dominate, several ceremonies and rites are still observed for particular functions. Hence, the palace constitutes one of the places where several Malay classical customs are rigidly preserved. In places where modern facilities, including the health service, are obtained only with difficulty, and the role of traditional medicinemen (including midwives) dominates, certain adat kaAut maAut (confused customs) are still observed. However, in some parts of the country where most modern facilities are provided, and there are many educated people, including people learned in Islamic religion, these types of complicated customs and taboos are still being observed. Malays are very loyal to their elders. Loyalty is a part of respect. Opposition to any of the traditional customs is to destroy a part of that respect. This is the way that they have been brought up by their society. A Malay proverb says, "Biast mati anak jangan mati adat" (Our children may die, but a custom must never die). The previous historical background created this attitude, and this attitude has shaped the customs and way of life of the present Malays. In preparing this study, use has been made of primary sources in Malay and English and of secondary sources in Malay, Arabic and English. Fieldwork was carried out in Orang Asli-inhabited areas of the Malay Peninsula, both in the interior and along the coast.