Every race in this world, including in Malaysia have their unique cultural
practices and beliefs. Based on Marcus Foth, cultural practice is objects,
events, activities, social groupings and language that participants use,
produce and reproduce in the context of making meaning in everyday life. While
belief is a psychological and behavioral perception about any action to happen
or not happen.
To a certain extent,
cultural practices and beliefs play important roles in an individual’s life.
This includes ways of managing his/her lifestyle and healthcare. Usually, their
healthcare belief will explain what causes the illness, how to treat the
illness and who should be involved in the treatment.
Most people used to
confuse about the health cultural practices and healthcare beliefs. Actually,
health care beliefs affect health cultural practices. Normally, one’s act will accordant
to his/her beliefs. Therefore, health care beliefs are correlated with the
health cultural practices.
To date July 2016, CIA
World Factbook stated that total population in Malaysia was 30, 949, 962
million. Separating to each ethnic groups, there were 50.1% of Malay, 22.6% of
Chinese, 11.8% of indigenous, 6.7% of Indian, 0.7% of others and 8.2% of
non-citizens. The population growth rate was 1.4%. Recorded health expenditure
used in the country was 4.2 of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to Western anthropologist such as Austrian
Von Geldern, there were two waves of migrations of Malays from Yunnan (southeast
China) to Southeast Asia. The first wave known as the early or Proto Malays
arrived during the late Stone Age, 10,000BC to 8,000 BC. The later Malays or
Deutero Malays were more civilized. They settled in the valleys and river
mouths and drove the early inhabitants into the jungles.
However, this theory
has been disproved by today’s anthropologist, such as Malaysian Dr. Wan Hashim
Wan The. He claimed that the discovery of skulls in Niah Caves in Sarawak,
dating back to 35,000 BC, proved that Malays came from the island of Borneo and
spread in all directions by the sea to as far as Madagascar, Taiwan and the
Pacific isles. The Merina of Madagascar speaks a dialect of Malagasy that
contains a sprinkling of archaic Malay words.
The early Malays are
believed to be nomads. Today, they are known as Orang Asli (the natives, like
in Malaysia) or Dayaks (in Indonesia).
The Malay language
belongs to the Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian family of languages, which are
spoken by peoples from countries as far as Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines
and the Polynesian islands. In its purest form, during prehistoric times, it
had a precise, if somewhat limited, vocabulary that was able to highlight such
Malay language absorbed changes with the arrival of foreign traders from around
the second and third century AD, who, in addition to their trade goods, brought
their language, religion and arts; first Sanskrit, Hinduism and Buddhism and
later Arabic and Islam. Other cultures that they came into contact with were
also readily assimilated, Thus, in modern Malay dictionaries such as Kamus
Dewan, many Malay words have various origins, including Sanskrit, Arabic,
English, Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch. However, one may find a large
collection of ‘real’ Malay words by visiting places in Jambi or Riau where
Riau-Malay (the origin of Malay language) dialects are spoken.
practices pervade almost every aspect of Malay life. As most Malays are
Muslims, to understand the Malay culture, it is necessary to first gain a basic
understanding of Islam.
HEALTH CULTURAL PRACTICES – MALAYS
Circumcision is a process which
the foreskin of a male’s penis is partially or fully removed. It is commonly
practiced by Malays who are practicing Islam. There are many advantages that have
been listed such as protection against local infection in the penis, infections
of the urethra, protection against cancer of the penis, sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs), protection of wives against cervical cancer.
done the circumcision based on Prophet Muhammad SAW sunnah (suggestion). It is stated
in a hadith, which reported by Abu Hurairah, The Prophet said, “Five acts are a
part of natural instinct” circumcision, shaving pubic hair, removing hair from
the armpits, shortening the mustache and clipping the nails.” This shows that
circumcision is one of the practices to maintain human’s hygiene.
Malays culture, circumcision is practiced by both, males and females. The
circumcision is done at the time of their Aqiqah
–traditional celebration for the birth of a child as a symbol of gratefulness.
But for the boys, the circumcision will be done after they reach their puberty
if their parents delayed the circumcision during their neonatal stage.
circumcision is done for boys by a man called Tok Mudim while for the girls, it will be performed by a woman
called Mak Bidan. Before, sharpened
bamboo was used as the cutting implement. Nowadays, the procedure is done in a
hospital with laser surgery and local anesthesia.
the Malays, a circumcision is a big occasion. Usually, a feast is thrown during
and after the procedure.
Ramadhan is the holiest month of
Muslim calendar, a time of celebration as well as discipline and self-control.
Muslims undergo a fast during the daylight hours during the daylight hours
during this month, abstaining from foods, drink and sexual activity.
The distancing from preoccupation
with satisfying bodily appetites encourages spiritual reflection. Therefore,
Ramadhan is set aside for worship, contributing to charity, purifying one’s
behavior and performing good deeds.
One normal day, voluntary fasting
is recommended for Muslims, but during Ramadhan, it becomes obligatory. The
sick, travelers and women who are pregnant or menstruating exempted for health
reasons, but they must make up the missed days as soon as they are able.
period of fasting begins at daybreak and ends at sunset. It is customary to
have a meal before dawn (sahur) and
break the fast (iftar) at sunset with
dates, in the tradition of the Prophet.
Fasting is recommended for Muslims due to
many advantages of their spiritual and physical and health state. As for
spiritual benefits, they could teach themselves to be more patient. And
usually, Malays will do many good things during Ramadhan compared to other
things as they are promoted with big rewards that will help them in the
For physical and health, fasting
helps to rest their digestive system. As during fasting, Malays would not eat
during daytime. Therefore, at this time, the digestive system will be at ‘rest’
state where it does not need to digest food. Besides, during fasting time,
there are few changes will happen to the body such as weight loss, reducing
risk to get diabetes type 2, preventing cancer and also extending your
3) WUDU’ (ABLUTION)
performed before someone performs their prayer, recites Al-Quran or even before
they sleep. It is an act where someone washes his/her mouth, face, hands, arms,
head and feet with water. It also can be seen as a daily routine to make sure
that their hygiene is assured.
Mokhtar Salem mentioned in his book,
Prayers:A Sport for the Body and Soul, wudu’ is believed to prevent the risk of
having skin cancer. As the causes of skin cancer are frequent exposed and
interacted with chemical substances that stuck on and absorbed by the skin, the
effective ways to overcome the problem is by washing the skin regularly.
Therefore, wudu’ is the best solution as it performs 5 times per day.
Mouthwashing is one of the steps for
wudu’. By mouthwashing, the mouth will be clean from the dirt and leftover from
the food that has been eaten. If the leftover is not eliminated, it will be a
medium for bacteria to reproduce and harm the tooth which leads to mouth odor.
Next, washing the face could eliminate the
dust, bacteria and impurities that will affect the face’s skin. Massaging the
face while washing it will give good benefits to the intestine, kidney and
nervous and reproductive system.Besides, washing the face also could prevent
the wrinkles to form.
Washing the hand also important as
hands are mostly used in our daily activities. Besides to eliminate the dirt
and impurities, washing also could improve the blood circulation when we
massage while washing it. It also to cool down the extremities part which is
related to increase the level of concentration during thinking.
During performing wudu’, ears also need to be
washed. In the earlobes region, there are many nerve receptor points. With a
gentle rub, the receptors will be activated.There are also many biology points
that could be reduced the blood pressure and pain.
Last but not least, washing the legs. When
water touches the legs, it could put the nerves at the leg to the rest state as
the legs has to bear the weight of body for the whole time. When washing the
gaps between toes, it will stimulate the bioenergy to perform the homeostasis.
5 times per day, Malays are compulsory to perform their prayers (Subuh,
Zohor, Asar, Maghrib and Isya’). Prayers are obligatory as it is one of the
ways to worship Allah (God). Prayers show that someone is being grateful for
every thing that has been given by The Creator. And the times to perform the
prayers are fixed for every prayer. Surprisingly, every movement during prayers
is closely related to someone’s health. Besides worshipping The Creator,
someone also improves their health.
The first step to
perform prayer is raising your hand up to your ears. This movement will improve
the blood circulation and train hand muscles. At the moment you raise both of
your hand, muscles of your shoulder will be stretched and this will lead to
efficient blood circulation in the body.
Next, clasping hands on
your abdomen region which right hand is placed on the left hand. This act will
prevent disruption to your joints especially on the upper part. According to
Dr. A. Saboe, placing the palm of the right hand on the wrist of the left hand
is the perfect rest state of rest for both hands. This is due to both hands are
fully at rest state.
Rokoo’ is when you bowing
your body down where your upper body is 90 degrees to lower part of the body.
This movement is good to preserve the placement and function of your backbone.
The position of heart that is parallel to the brain will cause the maximum
circulation of blood at the middle part of the body. Besides, rokoo’ is good to
strengthen your leg muscles which could lessen the strain at the knee region.
Last but not least, the
act of reaching the ground with palms, nose, forehead and knees touching on the
floor while the belly is away from the thighs is known as sujood (prostration).
Basically, sujood gives a lot of benefits to people. This includes
strengthening the hand and neck muscles, increase the blood circulation toward
the head region and also a good treatment for retroversion of uterus.
5) EATING SUNNAH FOOD
Malays who are practicing Islam lifestyle are obligated to eat halal and
healthy food. Besides, they are suggested to eat sunnah food; food that Prophet
Muhammad liked. Examples of sunnah foods are barley, dates, figs, raisin,
honey, milk, pomegranate and olive oil. As the other practices, eating sunnah
food also gives someone benefit to himself.
Dates are usually eaten
during Ramadhan as it will give energy to the people who are fasting. According
to a research, 100 gram of dates is equal to 284 calories. It is also easy to
be digested. Therefore, it is suitable for people who are fasting.
Dates also help to
overcome the anemia as it consists high amount of iron. It can act as a medicine
for constipation because it contains high cellulose fiber that could help the
peristalsis of the intestine.
Next, honey. Honey is a
unique food where it is secured from any growth of bacteria or viruses even it
is store uncovered. It is also believed that it can decrease the acidity in the
stomach. It also contains antibodies that could act on the thin mucous layer in
the digestive tract. And the stability of the digestive system can be help by
honey as it a high amount of sodium,
potassium, calcium, magnesium and various type of vitamins.
MALAYS HEALTH CARE BELIEF
There are many healthcare beliefs that have been practiced by Malays
since years ago. Their beliefs commonly have a huge impact on their daily life.
And the most interesting about Malays belief are it covers all phase of life;
childhood to end of life.
One of the phases of life for
women is a postpartum phase. During this phase, women need an intensive care to
make sure they could keep up with their normal life in a short time. This could
take about weeks or month as there are a lot of changes happened to the body
after giving birth process. Things that need to be taken care during postpartum
recovery are abdominal pain, baby blues, constipation, hemorrhoid, perineum soreness
and sore nipples and breasts.
On average, confinement
lasts for roughly about a month or so, depending on different practices. A
Malays woman’s confinement period may last right up to 44 days. Traditionally,
the mother or mother-in-law will assist in caring for new moms during their
To avoid any
complication, there are many abstentions (pantang) that have been listed to be
complied by new mothers during confinement period. For attire, Malays are
advisable to wear batik and sweater at all times. This is to keep them warm.
They are strictly not allowed to wear trousers during first few weeks to
prevent the perineal tear getting worse.
Talking about eating part,
according to Malay’s abstention, new mothers are not allowed to eat white bread
or white flour product, jam, pastries, heavy, greasy and fried food. Strong tea,
pickles and vinegar should be strictly avoided. It is highly recommended for
them to eat steamed fish, vegetables soup, high fiber food and fruits such as
potatoes, bananas, papayas, apricot, oatmeal and avocados.
New mothers also
suggested drinking herbal water that commonly homemade. The dried herbs are put
into a pot of boiling water and it will be cooked about half an hour. The
herbal boiled water will help the body to cover the internal. Most commonly
used herbs are ginger, fenugreek (halba), tamarind and Quercus infectoria
For activities, there
is no other thing should be done by new mothers except putting their full
attention on the newborn babies. They are not allowed to exert themselves in
any way. During confinement period, sexual intercourse is strictly prohibited.
To be at rest is the important element for women undergoing confinement
A warm bath is recommended for
new moms. In Malays, new moms are not allowed to take bath for many times per
day and only 10-15 minutes are allowed per bath. Commonly, they are instructed
to take bath using herbal water. Most commonly used herbs are Chromolaena
odorata (Daun Kapal Terbang), turmeric leaves, greater galangal (Daun
Lengkuas), Morinda Citrifolia (Daun Mengkudu) and Cymbopogon nardus (Serai
Wangi). Benefits of taking bath using herbal water are freshening up the body,
eliminate the body odor and to reduce the muscles and nerves strain.
New moms also
recommended having a massage after giving birth. This is to relieve the pain,
to improve the blood circulation, to stimulate the production of milk and to
prevent postnatal depression. Usually, ‘mak bidan’ is needed to perform this
massage as they have more experiences in handling this situation.
MY CHINESE FRIEND’S HEALTH CARE BELIEF
The Chinese have these saying; of the three unfilial acts, the worst is
the failure to produce children. Childbearing is a duty that has strong moral
overtones. To have many children and grandchildren is considered good fortune.
The Chinese follow a
practice called Zuoyuezi which literally means ‘sitting the month’. This
practice stems from the firm belief that women that have just given birth are
more susceptible to cold air and should be kept warm at all times.
Chinese women observe a
one-month confinement period after giving birth. This is a custom unique to the
Chinese and has been in existence for a long time and is still practiced today.
For a month after giving birth, a woman has to take special care of herself by
keeping warm, reducing air in the stomach and taking tonics.
Pui Yuet usually hired
by Chinese mothers who are afforded enough to help them during confinement
period. Or else, they will check into a confinement center in big cities or urban
areas. There, lodging, confinement meals and confinement ladies are provided
for helping mothers to be healthy as soon as possible.
Like Malays mothers,
Chinese mothers also have rules for them to follow during the confinement
period. For examples, they are not allowed to wash their hair for the entire
period of confinement. For mothers who still want to wash their hair, they
commonly use dry shampoo.
They also not allowed
to expose themselves to cool environment. Low temperature from air-conditioner
and fans is strictly prohibited. And same as Malays mothers, they only can take
bath using warm water that has been infused with herbs.
This prohibition is to
ensure their body retain as much as heat. It is believed to prevent mothers
from having health problems such as arthritis, headaches and body pain in the
Chinese mothers are recommended
to eat a variety of food that will help them to warm their bodies. For examples, ginger and a traditional tonic
that has been brewed with herbs. These are believed to improve the blood
circulation and strengthen the joints.Chinese also believed that fish soup
could increase the milk supply. ‘Cooling’ foods such as cucumber, cabbage and
pineapple should be avoided.
And same as Malays
mothers, Chinese mothers are reminded to avoid fatigue and not burden their
body from doing any heavy work. This is to ensure their body could rest well
during confinement period. Compliances to the rules will help mothers to
recover in a timely manner.
As a conclusion, there are many healthcare practices and beliefs that
have been practiced since years. In Malaysia, the unique part is everyone
practices them according to their own culture. As referred to every single
culture, they have their own special practices. Comparing between cultural
practices, there are slight differences but the differences are not too obvious
as the main goal is the same; want to be the best outcome for the one who
In short, every culture
has their own specialties. Their practices and belief should be respected. And
it is not a fault if someone from a culture wants to try the practices from
other culture as long as it does not clash with their own cultural belief.
Therefore, it is a relief that Malaysian could accept and adapt to differences
cultures besides their own culture and live in harmony.