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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Malays

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(properly Malayus, a Malay word, the derivation of which has not yet been satisfactorily ascertained) is the name given to a great branch of the human family dwelling in the Malay peninsula, in the islands, large and small, of the Indian Archipelago, in Madagascar, and in the numerous islands of the Pacific. In the fivefold division of mankind laid down by Blumenbach, the Malays are treated as a distinct race, while in the threefold division of Latham they are regarded as a branch of the Mongolidae. Prichard, however, subdivides the various representatives of the Malay family into three branches, viz:

(1.) the Indo-Malayan, comprehending the Malays proper of Malacca, and the inhabitants of Sumatra, Java, Celebes, the Moluccas, and the Philippines, with whom, perhaps, may be associated the natives of the Caroline Islands and the Ladrones;

(2.) the Polynesians; and

(3.) the Madecasses, or people of Madagascar. Following Latham, we shall here confine ourselves to the Malays proper, the natives of Madagascar having been already noticed under that heading, and reserving the Polynesians generally and the Maori in particular for distinct articles. In physical appearance the Malays are a brown-complexioned race, rather darker than the Chinese, but not so swarthy as the Hindus; they have long, black, shining, but coarse hair; little or no beard; a large mouth; eyes large and dark; nose generally short and flat; lips rather thicker than those of Europeans; and cheek-bones high. In stature, the Indo-Malays are for the most part below the middle height, while the Polynesians generally exceed it; the Indo-Malays have also slight, well-formed limbs, and are particularly small about the wrists and ankles. "The profile," according to Dr. Pickering, "is usually more vertical than in the white race, but this may be owing in part to the mode of carriage, for the skull does not show a superior facial angle." This people must, however, be classified, as there is a great distinction among them from a civilized stand-point. There is a class of Malays who have a written language (the spoken language is essentially the same with all the Malays), and who have made some progress in the arts of life; then there are the sea-people, orang-laut, literally "men of the sea," a kind of sea-gipsies or robbers; and there are also the orang banua or orang utan, "wild men" or "savages," dwelling in the woods or forests, and supposed to be the aborigines of the peninsula and islands.

Origin and Language. The name of Malaya seems to have been first used about the middle of the 12th century. The first settlement is by themselves stated to have been Menanglabo, in the island of Sumatra, rather than the peninsula itself. Even the Malays of Borneo claim to have come from Menangkabo. Palembang, however, also in Sumatra, has been mentioned as the original seat of Malay civilization; while others, again, point to Java as the source from which both Menangkabo and Palembang received their first settlers. " The Javanese," says Crawfurd, "would seem to have been even the founders of Malacca. Monuments have been discovered which prove the presence of this people in the country of the Malays. Thus Sir Stamford Raffles, when he visited Menangkabo, found there inscriptions on stone in the ancient character of Java, such as are frequent in that island; and he was supported in his conclusion by the learned natives of Java who accompanied him in his journey. The settlement of the Javanese in several parts of Sumatra is, indeed, sufficiently attested. In Palembang they have been immemorially the ruling people; and, although the Malay language is the popular one, the Javanese, in its peculiar written character, is still that of the court."

According to Wallace the Malays are found in Malacca, Sumatra, Borneo, Tidore, Temata, Macian, and Obi. The northern peninsula of Gilolo and the island Ceram are inhabited by Alfuri; Timor and the neighboring isles as far to the west as Flores and Sandalwood, and as far to the east as Timorlant, are inhabited by a people more akin to the Papoos than to the Malays, the Timorese being strictly distinguished from both; the inhabitants of the island Buru are partly Malays, partly Alfuri; while the Papoos inhabit New Guinea, the Kay and Aru isles, Meisol, Salwatty, and Weigim, and all the country eastward as far as the Fiji Isles. (Comp. F. Muller, Lingus-istische Ethnogqraphie, in Behm, Geograph. Jahrbuch [Gotha], 1868, vol. ii.) The Malay language is simple and easy in its construction, harmonious in its pronunciation, and easily acquired by Europeans. It is the lingua Franca of the Eastern Archipelago. Of its numerous dialects, the Javanese is the most refined, a superiority which it owes to the influence upon it of Sanscrit literature. From the Arabians (who gave the Malays Mohammedanism) their characters are borrowed, andl many Arabic words have also been incorporated with the Malay language, by means of which the Javanese are able to supply the deficiency of scientific terms in their own tongue. Religion. The civilized Malays are generally Mohammedans in religious belief; they embraced the faith of the Crescent in the 13th or 14th century.

The tribes in the interior and the "men of the sea" have either no religion at all, or only the most debased superstition. In the years 1805-38 a sect of wild fanatics, the Padris-Priests, also called Orang-Patih, white men (after their dress), sought to re-establish their superstitious creed by fire and sword. They did much mischief until the Hollanders found that their own safety as rulers was threatened, and, after a short war, subdued the Padris and broke their power most substantially. The moral character of the Indo- Malays generally is not high; they are passionate, treacherous, and revengeful. But it must be said that the cruelty and persecution which the Malays suffered at the hands of the Portuguese, who became their conquerors in the 16th century, and afterwards under the sway of the Hollanders, greatly molded the present character of this people. Little is done, even in our day, to ameliorate the forlorn condition of this unfortunate people. Polygamy is practiced only among the affluent and in the large towns. Marriage can be effected in three ways: either by purchase of the woman, who, upon the decease of her husband becomes the property of his nearest blood-relation; by entering upon a life of servitude with the proposed father-in-law, a custom reminding us of the patriarchal days of the Bible; by an equal tax borne by both contracting parties. They practice the right of circumcision upon the male child between the ages of 6 and 10. The N. Testament was translated into the Malay language as early as the middle of the 17th century (1668), by Brower; the O.T. only three fourths of a century later (1735); the whole Bible was published at Batavia in 1758 in 5 vols., and often since, e.g. by Willmet (1824, 3 vols. 8vo). Comp. Dulaurier, Memoires, lettres et rapports relatifs du cours de langues Malae et Javanaise (Par. 1843); Grey and Bleek, Handbook of African, Australian, and Polynesian Theology (Cape City, 1858 sq., 3 vols. 8vo). See Waitz, Anthropologie der Natusrvlker (Leipsic, 1869, 5 vols.); Wallace, Studies of Man and Nature (London, 1869, 2 vols. 8vo); Chambers, Cyclop. s.v. (See MALAY ARCHIPELAGO).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Malays'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/malays.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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