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titleThe Malabaris- Occupation


Work and  Islam

The concept of work in Islam  is broader and has different characteristics and objectives than that understood generally.  In Islam, work ethic is defined by the Quran itself, which mentions the word ‘amal ( عمل ) in 360 verses while the concept of fi’l - فعل (also translated as work) in an additional 109 verses.  All these verses stress the need for work and action by human beings.

Work, therefore, is regarded not only as a right but a duty and an obligation.  Islam extends to the individual the right to choose the type of work he desires, but along with this freedom comes the obligation to consider the needs of the society as well as the selection of the type of work permitted by the Shariah.

Since all class distinctions are negated by Islam, no line of work permissible  is considered demeaning. This concept  encourages diversification on the basis of natural talents, skills and technology, or personal inclinations. 


The changing trend among Malabaris

The Malabar Muslims first came to Malaysia as seafarers and traders. Together with their Arab brethrens, they were also responsible to the spread of Islam in the Malays Archipelago. The later wave of Malabaris came mostly during the Mappila Revolt in Kerala in 1921.

Malabar Muslims was involved  mainly in businesses in their early days. Well known for their restaurants, foodstalls the 'Mamak Malabari stalls' has since achieved the branding of  'Malaysian's favourite food'. Early Malabaris were also involved in petty trades such as nasi kandar and 'mobile' food stalls.

Muslims from the southern Kerala were involved in construction line , building the high-rises and high tension electricity lines. They work in groups and the  leaders are known as "Srangg". Very few of Malabari still remain in this line.

Few of the Malabaris came to work in the estates. Due to their superior health and educational status, many of them played a supervisory role they as compared from they other Indian counterparts.

A number of Malabaris also came to work as professionals and office workers. Most of them settled the towns in the west coast of Malaysia and are responsible for setting up the Malabar Muslim Associations found in the region.


As generations came to pass, the Malabar Muslims  shed the blanket cover of 'business community' for which they were well known and has since diversified into various fields. There are many successful businessmen  while others hold important posts in the government and companies.


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