Malay beliefs – Concept

The Malays believe in two worlds, the temporal world (dunia) and the eternal world (akhirat), a concept derived from Islam, and one that the Malays share with Muslims the world over. The names dunia and akhirat are derived from the Arabic, and are standard terms in the Islamic world. The term dunia has two applications. On the one hand it refers to the material earth and on the other to the more abstract notion of life itself, that is life in this world. For an individual this refers to the life span or time spent living here between one’s birth and one’s death. Dunia then is the present world, which in terms of the larger picture, according to Islam, is temporary. Akhirat refers to the hereafter, the world one enters upon the completion of one’s earthly existence which marks the ending of our involvement with dunia. The duration or term of one’s existence in dunia (known as ajal, a term also used to refer to the point which marks the end of that time) is determined or by Allah, Who alone has control over life, death and destiny, whether that of an individual creature or that of the entire Creation.

In the Malay mind, the graphic image of the end of one’s life is represented by the fall of one’s particular leaf, on which one’s name is distinctly written, from the Tree of Souls, or the Tree of Life in Paradise (Sidrat-ul-Muntaha). Generally the Malays, particularly those with some background in and understanding of Islam, accept death as something natural and inevitable. The Quran reiterates the simple, unadulterated truth that whatever lives must die. God alone is eternal. Upon death one is said to have left the world (meninggal dunia), or returned to the Mercy of God (kembali ke Rahmatullah). The Holy Quran and the Prophet’s traditions (Hadith) maintain that one should neither fight against the notion of death, nor, on the other hand, wish for one’s own death. The fact that one is born a human being, the noblest and greatest of all of God’s creations, is an esteemed honour, a sign of special distinction.

Contrasting with dunia, akhirat is regarded as being permanent or eternal, lasting until the hour of the Day of Judgement, and including the time beyond the Day of Judgement. (check). The terms sometimes used to refer to the temporary and permanent character of the two worlds, respectively, are fana and baqa.