Malay Belief – Keramat

The Islamic tradition, inter ali, maintains a strong tradition of faith in saints, or wali, where the term wali deriving from wala, ( “to be near”) indicates the nearness of the saints to God. At the same time, wali are regarded as possessors of mystical knowledge, and, among other qualities associated with them is the gift of being able to perform miracles (keramat), including the ability to change form or appearance, the ability to transport themselves to great distances, speak diverse tongues, heal the sick or revive the dead as well as bring numerous other blessings to mankind. Saints are furthermore credited with the ability to produce various psychic phenomena.

Among the Malays, due to various native influences as well as those deriving from the Middle East and India, some of the local saints, dead or living, have been described as keramat rather than wali. A keramat would possess a sacredness and sanctity of a lower level than a wali.

In its broader sense the term keramat is also applied to non-human creatures, such as sacred animals, particularly were-tigers or crocodiles, to certain places including ancient graves, and to inanimate objects, such as items of the royal regalia. In this latter sense the meaning of keramat corresponds approximately to the Sanskrit term shakti, which also occurs in Malay with the same meaning as it does in Sanskrit.