In addition to mainstream world religions, other indigenous, traditional beliefs such as those practised by the Orang Asli of West Malaysia and those of the numerous indigenous groups in Sabah and Sarawak are recognized in Malaysia. Although the beliefs of the Orang Asli and the indigenous groups in Sabah and Sarawak are loosely classified as animism, and generally not recognized by the state, they are not in any way incomplete or less sophisticated. Rather, they are complex and well structured in respect to their ideas about the supernatural world and morality.
These belief systems, in effect, are non-institutionized religions, usually not regarded as world religions. Followers of these beliefs have no formal institution to administer their activities nor do they have a writing system which would allow the dissemination of information and knowledge. Instead followers transmitted their teachings, beliefs and values down the generations through a complex oral tradition.
Among these people, these religions are known as traditional or customary religions (agama adat). Since the indigenous people are divided into various ethnic groups and live scattered all over the country, the forms and structures of their traditional religions also vary. Some of these religions have their own names and concepts for the supreme being (God) and the pantheon of other deities (supernatural beings). Nevertheless, while these religions do share some common values with other world religions, they also offer a unique perspective on the world; an interpretation and understanding of the world explicitly and implicitly interwoven with their cultural knowledge and ritual practices forming a mosaic of beliefs and practices.
Although the beliefs between the various indigenous groups are varied there are commonalities. One of the most striking is the influence of the environment in shaping their world-view and religious beliefs system. The groups and their beliefs share a close relationship with nature. Environmental features and physical formations, such as rocks, mountains, hills, trees, valleys and rivers, are considered sacred. Their whole cultural milieu is centred around cosmological myths that emphasize the sacredness of time, space and place. This close relationship between humans and their environment permeates their entire existence—daily lives are concerned with hunting and food gathering in the jungles which are regarded as quasi-religious activities and are invariably surrounded by taboos. Bad harvests and environmental problems are seen as the gods seeking retribution for some wrongdoing—complex rituals and offerings are made to overcome such situations.