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Prayer Profile
The Minangkabau of Malaysia

[IMAGE] The more than 400,000 Minangkabau live throughout tropical West Malaysia. They originally came from Sumatra, an island in southern Indonesia. It was there that they were heavily influenced by Hinduism from around 600 until 400 AD.

The tribal name Minangkabau may be based on a myth that tells of the tribe's victory in a fight between two water buffaloes. As victors, the tribe became known as the Minang (winning) kabau (water buffalo).

A unique aspect of Minangkabau culture is that their society is matrilineal. This means that they recognize descent through the female line. They are, in fact, the largest people group in the world to continue this practice. The strength of their culture is that they have remained matrilineal while embracing Islam.

Their native language, Minangkabau, is distinct, yet related to the language of the Malay and similar to Indonesian.

What Are Their Lives Like?
Over the years, the Minangkabau have migrated to cities and towns in pursuit of business or labor. Today, they are mainly occupied in business and trade, and are renowned among scholars and throughout Western Malaysia for their prominence in business. In fact, they are one of the few ethnic groups that can compete successfully with the Chinese.

The Minangkabau who live in villages have become highly skilled in several home industries. Their businesses include weaving, blacksmithing, and carving. Those who live scattered throughout the countryside are primarily wet rice farmers.

The Minangkabau are the world's largest matrilineal group. Properties and family names are passed down through the women. Marriages are usually arranged by a representative of the family. Young married couples usually live with the wife's mother or another of the wife's relatives. The woman is expected to manage both a career and the home. Land is owned collectively by the older women, but decisions regarding land usage are made by a consensus, with an elected male elder presiding. Many Minangkabau men leave home seeking wealth and respect. Perhaps this explains why divorce is a very common occurrence.

The Minangkabau possess a wide variety of cultural abilities. Worldwide attention has been given to their distinctive styles of art, music, architecture, poetry, and literature. They also enjoy times of celebration, such as holidays, Islamic pilgrimages, weddings, and house dedications.

What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Minangkabau are Shafite Muslims. They are among Malaysia's most devout Muslims, with many holding important positions of leadership. Religious services are well-attended, and the 'five pillars of Islam' are diligently practiced.

It is very interesting that mythology concerning Minangkabau origin includes the story of a worldwide flood and three brothers who survived on a boat!

The Minangkabau take great pride in their ancestry, claiming to have descended from Alexander the Great. These gifted people have impacted Malaysia in areas of government, the arts, and various professions. Unfortunately, their success has given them a false sense of security, and they appear to have no need for the Gospel. However, changes in familial traditions and increased migration to the cities may provide inroads for the Gospel into this tightly knit group.

What Are Their Needs?
There are currently no missions organizations targeting the Minangkabau in any part of Malaysia. The New Testament, the Jesus film, and possibly Christian radio and television programs are available in their language. Yet, there are less than 100 known believers among the Malaysian Minangkabau, and few have heard the Gospel. Since the Islamic religion is such and important part of their lives, Christian laborers who are sensitive to the Muslim culture are needed to live among them.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord to call forth laborers who are willing to go to Malaysia and share Jesus with the Minangkabau.
  • Pray that the Jesus film will be shown to the Minangkabau and that it will bring positive results.
  • Pray that anointed Christian radio broadcasts will reach the people.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Minangkabau through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will save key leaders and businessmen who will share the love of Jesus with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Minangkabau bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Minangkabau.

See also the following related group:
the Minangkabau of Indonesia

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Minangkabau
  • Country: Malaysia
  • Their language: Minangkabau
  • Population: (1990) 380,700
    (1995) 428,500
    (2000) 474,400
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 86
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 0
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 90,100 (21%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 12,900 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 77,200 (18%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 90,100 (21%)
  • Country: Malaysia
  • Population: (1990) 17,891,500
    (1995) 20,139,900
    (2000) 22,298,700
  • Major peoples in size order: Malay 33.2%
    Han Chinese (Hokkien) 8.7%
    Tamil 7.2%
    Han Chinese (Hakka) 7.1%
  • Major religions: Muslim 50.5%
    Chinese Folk-religionist 24.3%
    Christian 8.9%
  • Number of denominations: 41

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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