Book: Malay Weddings Don't Cost $50 and Other Facts about Malay Culture

Hey yall,

I'm excited to share this find with you! This book is super useful for anyone clueless about Malay culture and elucidates many rituals and practices that Malays have. There book is also packed with fun trivia and facts.

The title, 'Malay Weddings Don't Cost $50', stems from a racist rant from Amy Cheong on Facebook. In 2012, she mocked Malays for low cost weddings held in void decks. Her remark - "How can society allow ppl to get married for 50 bucks?" - drew backlash and she was issued a police warning, and was later fired from her job. 

Besides wedding rituals and preparations, there are also chapters on childbirth, distinctions between Malays, folk tales, Malay films, funerals etc. You may know that Malays who have passed are buried in soil, but did you know that they don't use coffins?? Now you know.

Some of the rituals or practices are not even being practised anymore, so it's great that the author Hidayah Amin preserves these old traditions with a written record, for future generations to learn about their ancestral past and as a bridge for different cultures. 

Let me share some of the info with you!

  • Turun Tanah / Jejak tanah (tread the ground)

    The Javanese influenced ritual welcomes a seven month old baby to set his foot on the ground for the first time. One part of the process is as such. The baby is shown items like the Quran, a pen, book, comb and money. It is believed that the item chosen will give some indication of what kind of person the child will grow up to be - pious, intelligent, handsome, rich.

    I was tickled to know that Malay families do this practice of putting a few objects and letting the baby choose. I never knew! Is the Caucasian equivalent (in popular culture) to let the child pick between Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle? For the Chinese, I think similar items such as a pen, book, or abacus are shown to the baby. 
  • Stereotypes of the Malays 

    This one is a little bit like horoscope. Basically there are traits associated with different types of Malays, and the author advises you to take this information with a pinch of salt as it is a generalisation of an entire group of people. Still interesting tho! It's like how you would categorise a person from a certain area/state they come from. For example, some people from a certain province may be more brash in personality, while others are more soft-spoken. Like it or not, it is human nature to categorise, but that doesn't mean that these judgments are accurate.

    From the book:

    Javanese: hardworking, kind-hearted, gentle, soft-spoken
    Banajrese: brave, aggressive, authoritative (men)
    Bugis: seafarer, brave, warrior-like, risk-taker, entrepreneurial
    Malays: kind, gentle, laid-back, relaxed (unfortunately often mistaken as lazy)
    Acehnese: religious, more God-fearing than the rest of the ethnic groups
    Cocos Malays: ignorant about religion, very Westernised in thought and actions
    Minang: creative, entrepreneurial, adventurous, of a matriarchal society
    Baweanese: seafarer, religious, Baweanese women love gold jewellery, husbands are dedicated
  • Westernisation of Names
    This chapter on names and surnames was very interesting to me! Globalisation makes the world seem a little smaller, and trends take place, according to the prevailing language spoken.

    "Some Malays with long names often shorten their names for convenience. Nowadays, there are Malays who give their children English names. Some even adopt the English version of their names. Sharifah is now Sherrie. Surya prefers to be called Sue. Melhan is Mel for short."

  • Halal Food
    The food that Muslims cannot consume is actually very reasonable, and not as limiting as people may think. Take a look:

    -Carrion or dead animal that has been clubbed to death, gored or killed by another animal.
    -Pork and lard (considered unclean)
    -Flesh-eating animals like bears and tigers
    -Birds with talons and animals with fangs, like eagles and snakes
    -Amphibious animals like frogs and alligators
    -Domesticated animals like dogs and cats

    Right? Most of us don't eat animals like alligators or bears. The list seems more like to protect you from consuming strange, unsuitable or unclean animals (and maybe some to protect animals too). More to protect than restrict after I read it. What do you think?

    Also, the idea of a kinder way of slaughter is important. The animal is not to suffer unnecessarily. Muslims may not eat animals that were killed via boiling and electrocution. Also, the author notes that Jewish kosher laws and Muslim halal laws are almost similar*. I think that while food is important to us, we should also consider the animal lives that were sacrificed. I am in favour of kinder and thoughtful killing of animals for their meat.

    *On this note of drawing comparison to another religion, I didn't know that Malay boys had to go through circumcision. I always thought that this practice was for Jews!
  • Potong Andam
    A dying ritual to determine the virginity of the bride. I don't really get this ritual because (a) the results are only known to the Mak Andam (the woman who beautifies the woman for the wedding) and the bride herself. Usually people (heads of families, husbands etc) want to ascertain the purity of the bride before marrying, but since the outcome is secret, what is tehe point?

    Also, the bride must consent to the ritual before it is carried out. So I wonder if this practice was just to pressure brides in the past?

    (b) Furthermore, there is much controversy over this ritual because the status of the virginity is told simply from the way the bride's hair falls. The ritual (probably from pre-Islamic days) also clashes with Islam as it connotes that you believe and rely on supernatural powers, which is not allowed.
  • Malay Proverbs (Peribahasa Melayu)
    These are super interesting!

    Hangat-hangat tahi ayam
    Literal translation: Like fowl dung (initially warm but soon cools off)
    Meaning: Someone who is initially very enthusiastic in doing something, but gives up too easily halfway.

    Ketam menyuruhkan anaknya berjalan betulLiteral translation: Like the crab asking its young to walk straight
    Meaning: Someone who gives others advice, but yet does not himself practise or follow the same.

    Ringan sama dijinjing, berat sama dipikulLiteral translation: Carry light and heavy things together
    Meaning: Togetherness in joy and sorrow

    The author shares a creative modern day peribahasa too:

    Seperti tetikus tanpa wayar
    Literal translation: Like a wireless computer mouse
    Meaning: Someone who is free to roam, without restrictions imposed by his parents.
  • There's a chapter on Hantu (ghosts) and an entire glossary of different ghosts, including pontianak, kitchen ghosts and murderous ghosts. I decided to skip this because too many details will give me nightmares ðŸ˜… 
Overall you can say I definitely learned a whole lot from this book. I'm sure you will enjoy it too!

The foreword of the book is by the late President S.R. Nathan. In his words, "this is a delightfully engaging book to be read from time to time and treasured always." I completely agree!

Happy Reading!