Sayban Samat’s letter published in The Island of July 26, 2008 is so interesting and thought-provoking that I have read it several times. He has in his letter mentioned the problems faced by the Malay communit. The reasons for the problems can be read between the lines of his letter. No doubt the Malays are a brave and innovative community.
There is historical evidence in support of this. Apart from the two outstanding intellectuals, Justice Akbar and T. B. Jayah, there have been several saint, too, in the Malay community. Two important mosques in Kandy are called ‘Malay Mosques" due to historical reasons. There are several such historical monuments in many other parts of the island as well.
I can remember at least one Malay family in my village several decades ago. The head of the family was a well disciplined religious gentleman. "Thuwan Mama’ as he was affectionately addressed by all of us, was a supervisor of a tea estate adjoining our village. He was so trustworthy, that he became the confidante of the burly European proprietor of the estate. His wife ‘Neyne’ had been teaching Quran to the girls in the village, free of charge of course. My mother and aunts had also learned the Quran and religion from ‘Neyne’. That was nearly ninety years ago. Muslims regret that all Malays have not followed the footsteps of their forefathers. Brother SS says: "More recently pious Malays like T. B. Jayah and Justice Akbar due to their saintly nature were respected and honoured by Sri Lankans".
No doubt these men were recognised as national heroes not because they were Malays, but because they had reached great heights. Brother SS has vividly traced the history of his ancestors. They were Hindus, later they embraced Islam. It is opportune to mention here that Islam was never spread at the point the sword or by offering incentives and material benefits.
The introduction of Islam to the Malayan Peninsula is a proof of how Islam came to almost all the countries. According to history, two Arab Muslims came to Malaya as traders. They liked the people and the country and they decided to settle down in that country.
For their simple living one of them started a small grocery trade and the other chose to plant vegetables and fruits as this land was a paradise to the man from the desert. The two men got married to Malay women and settled down in that country. The villagers found the new settlers honest, trustworthy and helpful, and moreover, practicing the Panchaseela that the natives were familiar through their religion - Buddhism. The newcomers advised those who came into contact with them how to avoid vices and lead a simple and happy family life.
As mentioned by Brother SS, his ancestors took to Buddhism from Hinduism as they found in the Buddhist Panchaseela a solution to all their worldly problems. The rulers found the people of the area living in peace and happy, devoid of the vices mentioned in the Panchaseela. The whole country was ordered to follow the guidance of the two Arabs.
Even to this day the words Panchaseela is embossed in the Indonesian emblem. Avoidance of the five great sins is acceptable to all religions. It should not be limited to recitals only but practised. As for culture there are Muslims belonging to almost all cultures and ethnic groups in the world. When they embraced Islam they had to adjust their beliefs customs and habits in keeping with the Islamic way of life. For example, the dress for both men and women had to be loose, non-transparent and cover the body.
Women were required to cover the whole body except their faces and hands. Mixing of males and females freely is completely prohibited. Food and beverages had to be "halal".
All types of intoxicants are completely prohibited. Unfortunately, some misguided Malays in the name of Malay culture indulge in unIslamic behaviour.
Culture should be strictly within the "Sharia."