Religion, Kuala Lumpur
Indonesia maybe the Largest Muslim Nation of the World, but the Government there is secular and here in Malaysia, eventhough the Government is Secular, Islam is the State Religion and it Malaysia has a dual judiciary system of British Style Court Sytem and Sharia Courts. Many local Malays are Conservative and are Deeply Religious so that it is better not to offend their religious sensibilities.
Kuala Lumpur is generally easy going, but don't forget this is a muslim country and in KL there are very proud about their religion. KL is actually a hub for Islamic Finance, there are plenty of mosques here too but understand that tourists can't access most of them.
Majid Jame Mosque--In Western societies, the church or cathedral buildings often times represent some of our most beautiful architecture, In Malaysia, it is the mosque that usually represents the most beautiful architecture and this one is a perfect example!
It was built in 1909 so, the oldest Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. Actually it is the historical site of KL. Later 1965 the National Mosque was built near the train station and until that time, Majid Jame Mosque was the most important Mosque of the city.
It is a beautiful structure, reminiscent of the Mogul architecture of India. If you plan to visit here you will not be disappointed. Just avoid it on Friday, unless you are a worshiper, because it is packed.
I enjoyed living in an Islamic society, besides the cultural differences, there were subtle 'religious' differences, such as the muted 'call to prayer' five times a day, not having a glass of wine with dinner, not shaking hands with the men I was introduced to, or not having pork in a meal, but nothing oppressive as often is represented in movies or the news.
I enjoyed conversations with men and women, exploring the philosophical and practical diffrences between Christian life and Islamic life.
It seemed that as long as I approached a subject respectfully, I could have any question answered. These questions and the answers created some of the most interesting discussions.
Neighborhood Mosques are not usually as ornate as the big Mosques built for Sultan, King or President, but they seem to be less accessible to non-Muslims than the larger Mosques.
Going to the main mosque in a major urban center in Muslim majority nation is bound to be interesting. One suddenly realizes that he is in a constant stream of walking men in one direction; men, men and only men. Gradually the road clogs up too and there is no wonder because despite the fact that the majority of vehicles are motorcycles they create traffic jams too. Eventually the spire of the huge modern mosque appears on the horizon, the howling of the mullah becomes more pronounced and the motorcycle parking overflows with vehicles parked millimetres away from each other. A whole row of stalls are lined up along one of the surrounding streets with vendors eagerly waiting for the hungry worshippers to leave the business of praying and indulge en mass into their sweet treats. For the foreigners without Muslim affiliation a snack is a welcome happy ending to the shared sweaty path to spiritual perfection of the thousands.
In all hotel rooms in Malaysia, it is a requirement to have a directional sign for the kiblat (or qibla)... Qibla is an Arabic word for the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays... The qibla is oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca and while praying, Muslims will face the direction of Mecca...
The qibla directional sign in hotel rooms is for the convenience of Muslim guests who will then have no problems in performing their daily prayers... The qibla directional sign is normally located on the ceiling or in one of the drawers of the hotel room...
Colourful statues of various gods decorate the temple. We didn't go into this temple as there were many people in there praying and we didn't want to disturb them.
Batu Caves, about 13km North of the city centre
In the National Mosque you can find examples of fine Islamic artwork such as Calligraphy.
Calligraphy is fundamental element of Islamic art. Its used to decorate and relate the words of the Quran. Arabesque patterns are also used to decorate or boarded Calligraphies. Similar use of repeated mathematical patterns are found throughout the mosque in its architecture design, the use of glass and stone work. Islamic art and design creates the feeling of space with repeated patterns and layering of designs. The use of light too can be found here with its reflective pools of water, marble floors and the blue glass roof. Islamic artists have developed the art of geometric patterns to its highest form and did so because of the Islamic belief that use of figurative paintings and sculpture can lead to idolatry.
The Batu caves are in honour of the God Lord Murugan. His image can be found throughout the temple in many different forms. A common one is to depict him with 6 heads and twelve arms. Each head having its own meaning and purpose. At the base of the large statue you can find vendors selling coconuts. Worshippers offer these to the gods by breaking them. The coconut is then eaten as it is believed it has special qualities and bring good health to the receiver.
There is beautiful Hindu temple near the market. It was Friday, so I luckily saw their religious service. A young person from Australia asked about the rite to one of temple members. But unfortunately he could not understand what he heard. The service itself was very simple.
The priest appeared with holy incense and holy water. He walked among believers. Then, believers caught smoke from incense and water by their hands and put it on their heads. They walked around the temple precincts all together. It finished before long.
Majority of the people here are Muslims and its common to find Halal food. (Halal foods are foods that are permitted for consumptions and productions by Muslims under the Islamic Law (Shari'ah) that do not consist of anything which deemed unlawful under the Law)
Women should dress modestly especially when visiting mosque.
Some Locals may eat with their hands especially in some road stalls. Food is eaten by using the right hand and not the left.
Please be respectful of the Islamic rules here. Although it is a museum, treat it as your would a mosque.
When visiting religious places such as temples and mosques, do observe the rules in terms of clothings and not to make too much noise. You may need to take off your shoes in some places.