Praying, the Malaysian way

Published: January 12, 2012

The way Malaysians follow Islam, not only brings harmony but also eases one’s life. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Baba, I want to offer prayers with you,” my daughter said to me one day.

I treated the words quite casually and told her that she could join me. Nevertheless, I was amazed when she started reciting ‘Surah Fateha’ and a few other Quranic verses on the prayer mat. I lost my concentration and started listening to her. Tears came to my eyes and I was grateful to the Almighty.

In Malaysia, my daughter had accompanied me to the masjid (mosque) a couple of times before. I used to join the jamat (congregation) as she ran around the spacious halls. As soon as she realised that I was about to finish my prayer she would come and sit beside me. The system worked perfectly. I liked that no one objected my daughter’s activity. After her routine run in the mosque, she was a calm and silent observer like many other children who came in with their parents.

The way Malaysians follow Islam not only brings harmony but also eases one’s life. After finishing salat (prayer) with the jamat, people shake hands with one another, enquire about each other’s health and try to find ways through which they can help one another. This behaviour is unique and had a positive effect on my personality. I felt quite relaxed when offering prayers in Malaysian mosques as compared to mosques in Pakistan.

A Malaysian community has only one mosque in an area but there can be lot of  ‘surau‘- which are also praying places, but are smaller in size with clean ablution areas. Anybody can be the imam (religious leader) of the surau.

During Ramazan, the mosques are full of people and the imam’s beautiful recitation of the Holy Quran echoes in the halls, touching the heart of everybody present there, engulfing them in a state of amazement. Most people usually leave after the eighth taraweeh (special prayer offered during Ramazan) but some stay and join the imam for another 12 taraweeh. The affluent ones arrange and distribute food amongst the crowd.

Children also accompany their parents and females coming to the mosque is a norm. People greet one another when they enter the mosque. There is harmony, nobody dislikes anyone and dinners are frequently arranged by Muslims to strengthen their unity. Every part of a Malaysian mosque is clean; the ablution area, the bathrooms, the carpets. Children are taught in schools how to perform ablution, offer prayers and recite duas (small prayers) on different occasions.

I have always felt like a part of the Malaysian community. Whenever there is a discussion in the mosque, someone used to translate it and share the crux of the matter with me. They always invited me, shared their beliefs, norms and social aspects with me openly. The Malaysians love to share ideas and  listen to everybody’s opinion.

In Pakistan, I have attended a few gatherings organised by the Tableeghi Jamaat in different mosques which did miracles. I strongly believe that these gatherings bring people closer; the young and the aged, the regular visitors and the occasional ones. The topic of the khutba (sermon)  should focus on the basics of Islam and should not be the reflection of any particular sect.

I have offered salat  in many mosques in Kuala Lumpur, mosques which are meant for Muslims. You will not find any Deobandi, Barailvi, Ahle Hadees, or a person belonging to any other sect – everyone is Muslim.

I hope this culture prevails in Pakistan and we can offer prayers in the masjid without any criteria set by the large number of sects we have here. The sharing of views and ideas should be allowed in a constructive manner.

Asif Mian

Asif Mian

A postgraduate student at International Islamic University Malaysia

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mard-e-Haq

    I hope this culture prevails in Pakistan and we can offer prayers in the masjid without any criteria set by the large number of sects we have here.

    Maybe, the writer does not know that Barelvi practices, Sufi shrines are not acceptable in Malaysia. Their Islam is defined by Saudi clerics. Furthermore, Shia Islam is strictly banned in Malaysia. Go check it up.

    An you are saying Malaysian Islam is better than Pakistani Islam? Recommend

  • abdul basit

    well,here the overwhelming majority of mosques don’t allow women to enter.the maulvis regard women as ”impure”, ”dirty” , not worthy enough to allow entering the masjids.this obsession with reinforcing the inferiority of women is indicative of an insecure mind scared of according women equality with men.only very few mosques allow females to pray and none allow a female maulvi to lead the prayers.this unequal and shameful treatment of women by the religious people must end.if a male maulvi can lead the prayers then there should be female imams also.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb

    Who wants to know about your private activities?
    Should I start with the pub culture of a particular country, where people freely mix, ask after each other’s welfare, even drink to each other’s long health, shout drinks and meals for friends, all friendly and relaxing in a very spiritual way. Recommend

  • muhammad aamir

    there should be women prayre leaders as well as the male should learn to say their prayers behind a female imam.Recommend

  • Bakar

    Mard-e-Haq, Islam is not defined by Saudi clerics. It is based purely on the teaching of Al-Quran, Hadith, and sunnah wal jamaah.Recommend

  • alicia

    I agree with the first comment. In malaysia their is a total crackdown on Shia’s these days because shia’s are considered a deviant sect of Islam . Sufism is banned. Only Shafi sunni Islam is validated by the government. I don’t think right now in an extremely polarized and divided community like Pakistan we need that kind of a religion.Recommend

  • rabbahs

    I just want to mention the Author that religious freedom offered by our beloved country can not be observed in any part of the world. In fact, in Malaysia only shafi school of thought is official and prosperous. For ever other sects, specially SHIAism they have very stick policies. just google it

    Also, the social culture inside the mosque is also common in Pakistan, Author have to just give chance to it. I commonly observe that after every pray people normal meet in the hall way or outside the mosque talking about different subjects. and people also make good friends

    PS: The overall image one is getting from this article that role ever mosque is Pakistan is bad except one Jammat you have mentioned in social manners.

    I LOVE PAKISTAN !!Recommend

  • sars

    actually a lot of people ARE interested in how Islam is followed in other cultures.Mostly it is done in a more pleasant and civilised way than in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.So we have a lot to learn and aspire to.

    The name of the article gives away what is to follow .You are most welcome to not read further.Recommend

  • rabbahs

    IN MALAYSIA: 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 policies in university admissions, discounts on purchases of vehicles or real estate.

    IN PAKISTAN: The constitution of Pakistan establishes Islam as the state religion,[12] and provides all its citizens the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion subject to law, public order, and morality.

    so which one is better, judge your selfRecommend

  • Farid Dingle

    Very nice. Few people get to see the beauty of Islam. We have to keep for the generations to come – it is our duty.Recommend

  • Suhail

    The Qur’an asks us to call ourselves Muslims and not to be divided in different sects and groups. If we muslim divide us in matters which can be resolved by going back to the Quran and Sunnah and the authentic Hadith we all will be united. Wherever we go we worlship the same Creator it does not change. Salaah is for muslims to remember Allah during our daily activity to communicate with Allah to get His guidance & help.
    We better not differentiate between the Muslim Scholars (May Allah have mercy on them), they were great scholars, however they always said if their words or teaching clashes with the teaching of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon Him) then throw our words to the wall and follow the Prophet’s way. Thus making it clear for muslims to be strong united and peaceful.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The first time I went to Malaysia was in 1972 and have visited many times thereafter. The only observation that I would like to make is that I realised that in Malaysia religion is not worn on the sleeve or flouted in-your-face. Development and general well being of the people is very apparent and that is what matters. Recommend

  • Abhi

    Dude malaysia is not a good country to follow. On some grounds they are worst than pakistan. Only good thing is that they got money because of oil and are more prosperous.Recommend

  • Asad

    @rabbahs @Mard-e-Haq and how many Malaysians took money from USA and on the other hand wanted to by Qadri’s ‘Holy Gun’?Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    Did somebody forget to add “This post is satirical in nature..” note at the end of the article?

    Don’t get me wrong, your account of you praying next to your daughter was very touching. But Malaysia has a horrific record of sectarian violence, and discrimination against minorities. You might argue if it’s better than Pakistan, but it’s far from a role-model!Recommend

  • Asad

    Malaysia is a wonderful country and they follow Islam correctly and in the true spirit. When I was studying in the UK, I had several Malaysian and Nigerian muslim students with me and they were the best humans and muslims I have seen. Very nice people. My dua to Allah is that may Malaysia and Malaysians prosper.Recommend

  • Katarina

    Isn’t the fact that there is a state religion already a sign that the freedom of religion is not fully implemented.

    Malaysia is a lovely place, have friends living there. Recommend

  • mavoorian

    what religious freedom u r talking about.Do u consider ahamadi’s as muslims? And what about other religious minority?Common pls grow up! Recommend

  • Umer Daood

    I certainly agree with the article. I have lived in Kuala Lumpur for two years and find it a better Muslim country than any. Especially a mediocre, emotional and incoherent country like Pakistan can never be compared with Malaysia. I have left Malaysia for academic reasons and now reside in Singapore. I would want to return back to Malaysia after I finish my assignments. A great country, with exemplary ppl and tolerance. Recommend

  • shais

    As for Barelwi and Sufi practices.

    We are talking about Islam here.. anyone putting the label of Islam and preaching anything doesn’t become Islam. Barelvi and Sufi practices are deviation from the true Islam which calls for the worship of Allah alone unlike barelvi practices where saints can also help you and fulfill your needs.

    I’ve failed to understand the double standards. Qadianis will always be called kafirs cause they believe in another Prophet after Muhammad (SAW). But at the same time, those who ascribe equals and partners unto Allah are referred to as ‘Sunni Muslims’

    Other than that.. most part of the article is True..and its my personal experience too..The Muslims there are more soft hearted and calm compared to here. Recommend

  • adeel

    i live in dublin and im a pakistani born and brought up in pakstan and UAE. over here in my university Most of the muslims are Malaysians,,,,, i dnt know wht islam they follow in malysia ( islam is one- people divide it- however difference of opinion doesnt mean hatred) but my faith rejuvinated when i met them. Alhumdulilah. i dint know such brotherhood was possible. such love and devotion. they are so humble MashaAllah. I nvr felt different evnthough im the only pakistani. Evn in UAE there is always this feeling tht im different bt not whn u r with malaysians. The sisters start reciting Quran between lecture breaks,…. and they r so soft…. The brothers who are knowledgable dont jst say ” this is haram tht is haram if u do it dont talk to us” but in fact give the msg of Quran give u a hug n leave it to u….
    Brothers n sisters i love pakistan but if other cultures have some essence which we can learn from thn we must appreciate it…. it doesnt mean we dont have good things which the malysians can learn from. We have tremendous knowledge in Pakistan Alhumdulilah but we need to start loving our brothers and wish for thm wht we wish for us n many do bt many dont.
    one brother compares the experience in the masjid to his clubbing experience… its sad really it has come down to this . Alhumdulilah Allah guided me… Dublin has a pub at every corner n if i start tellign u the bitter reality of the society here u wud have nothing to do with this society.
    may Allah Guide us and Bless us all. Salaam to all my bros n sisRecommend

  • Jehanzeb

    Well, I can say “look who is talking” for you, can’t I? You decided to read my comment, although you don’t seem to agree with my viewpoint, and then went on to make a comment. You could have ignored it if it did not fit in the tunnel of your view. Recommend

  • Cynical

    It’s too much of religion,metod of prayer,place of prayer,who leads the prayer and so on.
    ET, give us a break, please.
    There are more important things in life than prayer, like education,health,poverty,justice etc.Recommend

  • Hasan

    @Loneliberal PK:
    Do you know what you are talking about? Please reference your comments!Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Saima

    Nice article. Travelling opens the mind and gives you a fresh perspective of things.Recommend

  • Antanu

    I love Malaysia. They follow purer Islam which is being made purer by education. Recommend

  • rabbahs

    @Asad: Point here is not about the money its about the religious freedom, as far as this article is concern, money is another topic to discuss :) . Although, I appreciate the economy and leadership of Malaysia.

    @mavoorian: Issue of Ahmedis are already solved by Supreme Court, so if they want, they have all right to appeal for it. But all the sect of Islam are free to perform any religious activity and state support them, like, providing security. Just look around, their are Ijtamaas, religious rallys, Jaloos, Majlis, Rabee awala celebrations and Mehfil e Naat.

    Don’t you think that these things are part of freedom that we can enjoy in Pakistan. And Also, they are not only religious gather but they are also a social platform where people come and meet.Recommend

  • sudhir

    Converts have changed Islam and its ways according to their convenience but real Islam and its ways are as followed by ArabsRecommend

  • Girl

    We will go ASTRAY if we follow any particular nation even the Arabs…if we follow the Arabs we are following there culture not true Islam…the only guide is the Quran, life of the Prophet (S.A.W) and the ShahabahRecommend

  • pakvestor

    @ Sudhir, Which version of Arab Islam are you referring to? The version followed in Dubai where the State has allowed the opening of night clubs, bars, and Arabic Mujraas or the Saudi version which does not even allow women to drive under the pretext of it being unislamic.

    Or the version followed by various individual Arabs across the Middle East who fly off to London and Europe for some interesting (s)escapades. Maybe you ought to explain how the actions shown on

    personally I do not think that true is islam is being followed in any part of the world. At best it is being followed by a small minority of converted muslims in the West who have converted to Islam becuae of its beauty and they probably are the only ones who know what true Islam really is meant to be, becuase the rest of us have just taken the benefit of being born in Muslim families and just hopped on the train.Recommend

  • Thevoiceofreason

    You say “Dublin has a pub at every corner n if i start tellign u the bitter reality of the society here u wud have nothing to do with this society.”
    But if you want nothing to do with such a society, why are you living in it?Recommend

  • Azam

    I strongly disagree with the view that women should go in MASJIDS to offer prayers. Our Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) said that the best place for prayers for women are their homes.Recommend

  • Rizvi

    No, Mard-e-Haq is right, Shias are completely banned in Malaysia, and if any hint of Shia activity is heard the doers are arrested and fined. It is completely influenced by the Saudi Islam. Not the Mohammadi islamRecommend

  • Farrukh

    very well articulated…Recommend

  • Rizvi

    Malaysia is the worst country to have as a role model for Islam along with Saudia Arabia. In Malaysia, they don’t allow minorities to practise their activities, even Shias are considered Non-Muslims and are arrested if they take out a procession or have a majlis. So thanks but Pakistan is the best in this regard, total religious freedom from the Government.Recommend

  • sanaullah khan

    indeed we should also that kind of style in our society….Recommend

  • Nadia

    Neither Pakistan nor Malaysia have tolerance for minority sects. Malaysians treat Shias like second class citizens. Pakistan treats ahmadi’s like the ‘untouchables’, declared them constitutional kaafirs, and ‘OK’ to kill.
    God help Pakistan and Malaysia! Recommend

  • leyla mutlu

    lol you guys arguing over which country is better? Come on people, whatever these countries practise, none of you have the right to say it’s right or wrong for Allah is the only One to judge. For me, Malaysia is million times better than Pakistan. Muslims in Pakistan fights with each other but muslims in malaysia are UNITED as one. Thats how we want our Muslim ummah to be worldwide. In that way we can strengthen the brotherhood iA.Recommend

  • Hu Jintao

    @muhammad aamir:
    Dude, if you dont know basics of Islam, i suggest you keep that to yourself.
    In Islam, It is not permissible for women to lead prayers

    Why i am so surprised that dont even know basics of Islam yet talk about it.

    Wise people are those who only talk about a subject when they complete knowledge of it, not half knowledge and cetainly not suni sunaiRecommend

  • kaalchakra

    Hu Jintao

    For someone who uses such strong words, you don’t seem to grasp much of Islam yourselves. Recommend

  • Najib

    Brothers and Sisters,
    Being a muslim, the fundamental ‘Rukun Iman’ and ‘Rukun Islam’ are what we must adhere to. Ask yourself, what should you do for being a muslim. Anywhere, everywhere……. Islam promote unity. Perform solat.. Recite quran.. Islam teach us to respect the other muslims.. Not to fight among muslim. Learn from each other. Either we were born as muslim or muslim convert, we are still muslim despite differentiation in islamic teachings and cultures. But have we put Islam as the way of life? Islam is simple and not to complicate. If one found best islamic practices elsewhere, where he found peace and harmony, we should say Alhamdulillah. No matter where we stand on this earth, no matter what restrictions we have, we should continue to promote that we are a true muslim believers. Perform jamaat, teach our family and the other brothers all the good deeds when we have opportunity to do it peacefully. Learn, communicate, share ideas and we’ll find what is best for the ummah. Sad to see many muslims died and muslim countries fight among each other just because of differences in the teachings. Yet the jews and the christians smiling on their advancement. Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    I can bet 90% of commentators here did not offer their five “salats” yesterday and are giving sermons on Islam here !!! We are a nation of Phds in religion and politics !!!!Recommend

  • MK

    Islam is Islam. Like it or leave it. whats the fuss about.Recommend

  • Thevoiceofreason

    Like it or Leave it! True that. (Except of course in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia etc. where you just have to like it!) (Because if you leave it, then…) Recommend

  • Mohd



  • Thevoiceofreason

    Express tribune, good work censoring my opinion even though it wasn’t offensive or rude at all. Good work being the voice of democracy and free speech and liberalism. Again @MK, I don’t think it’s an option to “leave it” in Pakistan. Again, thank you dear editors of express tribune–the almighty granters of free speech in this bastion of liberalism on the web. How shall we repay thee? Recommend

  • akuAnaKminang

    Malaysia is not 100% muslim. only half of the population are muslim. the rest are non-muslim: chinese (buddhist, christian etc..) Indians (Hindus..) and other ethnicities.
    the multiracial character of malaysia made them learn to tolerate each others. racial riots happened before – and it is painful.
    the languages and culture of other ethnicitis are not suppressed – in fact they are allowed to thrive – thats why there are chinese schools, and tamil schools (most indians in malaysia are from tamil naudu).
    there are many pakistanis living in malaysia – they came to malaysia during british times – and integrated into the muslim society. even today there are many pakistanis expat working and doing business in malaysia.
    as economy in malaysia little bit better – there are millions of ILLEGAL workers working in malaysia – from indonesia, bangla desh, myanmar, vietnam etc..
    Shi’ites are not persecuted in malaysia. there are many iranians living and working in malaysia. the autority only persecute those shi’ite who try to convert sunnis – and very harsh at this.Recommend

  • sidjeen

    if women are allowed in mosques all youngsters in pakistan will start praying so a very noble thought sir.Recommend

  • from India

    Malaysia truly Asia !! Recommend

  • G. Din

    “Islam is Islam. Like it or leave it. whats the fuss about.”
    Leave it? I don’t think Islam provides a release except by leaving this earth. Once you are in, you better settle down; there are no exit doors in Islam. Have you considered that?Recommend

  • expat brit

    @MK and G.Din.
    Yes Islam is Islam, but when you have people comparing ‘Pakistani Islam v Malaysian Islam’ – honestly are you for real??
    Islam is Islam bar any divisions i.e. shia/sufi etc!
    Its sad in our generation man made divisions play a huge role in our life. Be it Malaysian or Pakistani – we should not encourage nationalism here, we are one – muslims el homdoulilah that is the key point.
    Im a British Pakistani – but without doubt I am a muslim first, being Pakistani//British is secondary therefore it holds little weight!
    Please people learn to differentiate, after all this world is temporary.Recommend

  • rokhanghalib

    She has raised a great point. i went through her article and it was impressing. Actually people are divided here and one thing more she should have discussed is that “imam” who lead prayers doesn’t lead prayers but teach people of terrorism. The sad thing is that mosque and madrassa in Pakistan these days are used to teach people terrorism. The innocent kids who are being sent to mosque by their parents to become Hafiz are made terrorists by mullah. So mosque here has not been used for the purpose of prayer but it is used for something else… Recommend

  • Doel

    As a Malaysian, obviously, I am pleased with the writer’s positive impression of Islam as practiced in Malaysia. The views I noticed are shared by many who had visited, mingle with Malaysians overseas or live in Malaysia.

    Unfortunately many negative views about Malaysia and Islam in Malaysia originated from those who has not been to the country and also from those who has no in depth knowledge of Islam. Therefore I will refrain, as most Malaysians do, to digress on the different strain of Islam. It is ridiculous to suggest that there is a sectarian violence in Malaysia when only about 55 percent of the populations are Muslims. Officially the country has adopted the Shafii school of jurisprudence because most Malaysians traditionally are the followers of this mazhab. However where there are sizeable followers of other mazhab, or other Ahli Sunnah wal Jemaah, the state will allow the establishment of its own congregation. The state do not prosecute the Shiah, but they are not allowed to propagate their strain of Islam to Malaysians, and why would they want to rock the boat? Similarly the wahhabis are also officially prohibited from propagating their strain of Islam. This is one of the main reasons why there is greater unity among Muslims in Malaysia, and it has also contributed to its political stability and hence its prosperity.

    Malaysians greatest wish is to be left alone in peace and not be messed up by militant Islam and other strain of Islam that has plagued other Islamic countries.Recommend