Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is Deputy CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Email: mazamadil@iais.org.my

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 09:16

Is unilateral conversion the best solution?

The issue of unilateral conversion of minors has once again generated widespread uproar in Malaysia after a proposed statutory amendment failed to materialise recently owing to insufficient quorum in the Selangor State Legislative Assembly.

The Selangor Religious Council (MAIS) had earlier proposed to amend the Administration of Religion of Islam (Selangor) Enactment 2003, section 117 so that conversion of minors, currently requiring the consent of both “mother and father”, require only that of either the “mother or father”.

Under the Federal Constitution, Article 12 (4), “The religion of a person under the age of eighteen years is designated by his or her parent or guardian”. Experts disagree as to whether the word “parent” in this provision means both mother and father (i.e. as “parents”) or either one.

Those who claim the former refer to Schedule Eleven of the Federal Constitution which interprets references to the singular to include the plural. Hence the word “parent” must also be understood in the plural form, i.e. as “parents”.

Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution requires the religion of a child, whether boy or girl under 18 years of age, to be determined by a mother or father who is still alive or by both parents who are still alive.

From the view of the Bar Council, the provision in Section 117 of the Administration of Religion of Islam (Selangor) Bill 2019, which considers the consent of one parent to be sufficient, is inconsistent with Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution.

In contrast, the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association and the Malaysian Syariah Lawyers Association have argued that Section 117 of the Selangor 2019 Bill is in line with the decision in the case of Susie Teoh (1990), in which the court ruled that the determination of the religion of a child under 18 years is by permission of her parent or guardian.

This was followed by the case of R. Subashini (2008) in which the Federal Court defined “parent” as one of the parents. Therefore, conversion of the child by the father who converted to Islam was valid.

The Bar Council did not approve this, because, in their view, it was contrary to the plural reading of Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution and, therefore, considered the Federal Court’s decision to be incorrect.

At present, it should be noted that in regards to converting children under the age of 18 to Islam, state laws are not standardised.

Some states require both parents’ consent, but others require the consent of only one of the parents.

In eight states the consent of one parent or guardian is sufficient: The Federal Territories, Melaka, Sabah, Sarawak, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Kedah. In contrast, in four states the consent of both parents or guardians is required to convert children under the age of 18 into Islam, namely, Penang, Selangor, Perlis and Terengganu.

Two states, Pahang and Kelantan, have not provided any requirement for consent from a parent for a minor’s conversion.

On whether the Selangor State Assembly has the power to amend the enactment, it is 
argued that it can do so to allow for unilateral conversion but it 
is subject to challenge by the court.

For example, the Syariah Criminal Law (II) 1993 Kelantan Enactment, the Syariah Criminal Law (Hudud & Qisas) 2002 Terengganu Enactment and the Syariah Criminal Law (II) 1993 (Amendment) 2015 Kelantan Enactment have been duly passed by the respective States’ Legislative Assemblies and consented by respective sultans. Yet these laws could not be enforced because they are contrary to the Federal Constitution.

However, following the decision of the Federal Court in the case of Indira Gandhi (2018), the word “parent” must be understood to be in the plural form, denoting both “parents”, as interpreted in the Eleventh Schedule of the Federal Constitution and sections 5 and 11 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961.

This decision marked a departure from the previous Federal Court judgment in Subashini (2008) which defined “parent” as one of the parents.

Moreover, the Federal Court also rejected the argument put forth by some parties that the court decision in the case of Susie Teoh (1990), who voluntarily converted at age 16, had anything to do with the interpretation of the word “parent” as singular or plural. And until the Federal Court revises the decision in the future, Indira Gandhi’s case remains binding for all.

From the Islamic point of view, the child’s welfare remains paramount and should come above all else. This should not be compromised even when it involves religious status.

It is better that the determination of a child’s religion takes into account the custodianship of the child.

Solving this predicament would require cooperation by all parties, especially parents, guardians and the authorities to prioritise the welfare of the child.

This can be done through a mediation process which involves a third party that will facilitate both parents towards reaching a compromise regarding the religious status of their child, for the sake of the child’s welfare.

The court may also accept recommendations from the mediators and issue a court decision on that basis.

Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Tuesday 27 August 2019

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/08/516228/unilateral-conversion-best-solution

One could also argue that there was ‘no pure Islamic law’ in the sense that the application of Islamic law was largely influenced by the Malay customary laws, namely the Adat Perpatih and Adat Temenggong.

Historically, Islamic law was the law of the land before the arrival of the British.

But one could also argue that there was ‘no pure Islamic law’ in the sense that the application of Islamic law was largely influenced by the Malay customary laws, namely the Adat Perpatih and Adat Temenggong. Nevertheless, the British presence in Malaya had rapidly eroded the status and influence of Islamic law.

The Malay Rulers, who previously have sovereign power, were compelled to adhere to the advice of British residents in all matters except limited aspects of Islamic law and Malay customs.

The British not only managed to control and rule Malaya but in the process, had introduced their own laws in order to maintain power. The British intervention in Malaya has left behind a great deal of influence in the way laws are administrated.

The colonial legacy laws that are still applicable include the Penal Code, the Evidence Act, the Contract Act, the Civil Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Land Code. It must be noted that except the Land Code, the other laws are similar to the Indian ones.

When the British finally left, Islamic law was only confined to family matters that involved marriage, divorce and matters related to the precept of that religion of Islam. This dual legal system was preserved even after Malaya gained its independence in 1957.

The jurisdiction of Islamic law, as given to the Syariah Court, is limited to Schedule Nine, List 2, State List of the Federal Constitution. In effect, the Syariah courts are subordinate to the Civil Courts which have a wider and more superior status.

While some have argued that both courts could run in parallel, conflict of jurisdiction remains a complicated issue especially when two different parties, one a Muslim and the other a non-Muslim, seek their rights at two separate courts.

The recent amendment to Act 164, in regard to Marriage laws, is a welcomed development. It is hoped that this amendment will provide the required remedy for both parties to seek dissolution of marriage at the Civil Court.

Beyond personal and family laws, there have been calls by several Muslim quarters to adopt a comprehensive implementation of Islamic law that would even encompass the criminal law and the penal code.

It is argued that as long as the implementation of Islamic law does not infringe the Federal Constitution provisions and other federal laws, Islamic law can be implemented among the Muslims within its scope of jurisdiction. However, certain matters that involve aspects of Islamic law, like Islamic banking, finance, Islamic capital market and takaful are placed under the Civil Courts.

Problems often arise, for instance, when there is a dispute concerning a contract made under the Islamic banking system, which calls for knowledge, skills and expertise in shariah law. Likewise, in the case of Islamic inheritance, the Syariah Court holds the jurisdiction in determining its distribution but probate matters remain under the Civil Court. Hence, Muslims seeking their inheritance would have to go to the Civil Court instead of the Syariah Courts.

Addressing the issue of overlapping or conflicting jurisdictions between the Syariah Court and the Civil Court would certainly require a framework that can link the rich Islamic tradition with contemporary realities.

In this regard, the Islamic discipline of establishing priority, or fiqh al-awlawiyyat (fiqh of priorities), is seen as a highly potential framework towards harmonising the two laws. The more pragmatic and contemporary approach governed by fiqh al-awlawiyyat promises a more nuanced and balanced decision in the pursuit of implementing Islamic law in Malaysia.

Focusing on Malaysia, this book deals with contemporary issues, developments and challenges concerning Islamic laws covering hudud, apostasy, hijab, polygamy, child maintenance, custodial rights and the complexities arising from interfaith marriages. It also covers takaful, hibah, inheritance and Islamic banking and finance. Other matters touched upon are the Malaysian Syariah Courts as an institution, general discourse on Islamic criminal law, and the perspectives of Islam and human rights.

We must thank all 14 contributors for making this important book a reality. Likewise, a big thank to CLJ for its kindness to co-publish this book with IAIS Malaysia.


Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: Bebas News, Friday 9 August 2019

Undang-undang di Malaysia telah mewujudkan peruntukan undang-undang bagi pertukaran agama seseorang kepada Islam. Peruntukan sedemikian didapati pada enakmen di peringkat negeri iaitu di dalam pentadbiran undang-undang Islam negeri.  Undang-undang tersebut pada mulanya merupakan sebuah peruntukan yang ringkas. Enakmen Undang-Undang Pentadbiran Agama Islam Selangor 1952 merupakan enakmen paling awal menyatakan bahawa Majlis Agama Islam hendaklah mendaftarkan setiap individu yang menukar agamanya (seksyen 145-148). Ini bermakna seseorang tidak boleh menukar agamanya melainkan ianya dilakukan selaras dengan peruntukan enakmen terbabit, iaitu seseorang individu yang yang belum mencapai usia akil baligh tidak dibenarkan sama sekali untuk menukar agamanya, dan setiap pertukaran agama perlu didaftarkan di bawah Majlis Agama Islam.

Meskipun begitu, penentuan agama kanak-kanak bagi salah satu pihak yang memeluk agama Islam juga masih menjadi persoalan besar dan tidak berkesudahan kerana ia melibatkan satu pihak yang memeluk agama Islam dan satu lagi bukan Islam. Ia menjadi polemik sekali lagi apabila terdapat cadangan pindaan terhadap Seksyen 117 Enakmen Undang-undang Pentadbiran Agama Islam Selangor 2003 di Dewan Undang Negeri (DUN) Selangor baru-baru ini iaitu meminda keizinan ibu dan bapa atau penjaganya kepada keizinan ibu atau bapa atau penjaganya bagi kanak-kanak  bawah 18 tahun.  Ini kerana dalam konteks di Malaysia, Perkara 12 (4) Perlembagaan Persekutuan memperuntukkan “Bagi maksud Fasal (3), agama bagi seseorang yang berumur kurang daripada lapan belas tahun adalah ditetapkan oleh ibu bapa atau penjaganya”. Melihat kepada versi dalam Bahasa Inggeris, ia menyebut perkataan ‘parent’ yang membawa maksud ibu atau bapa. Sekiranya perkataan ‘parents’ ditulis dengan jelas, ia membawa maksud ibu dan bapa.

Para ahli perundangan dan akademik membuat tafsiran yang berbeza mengenai perkataan ‘parent’ dalam Perkara 12(4) Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Bagi yang menyokong ia membawa maksud kedua ibu bapa, mereka merujuk kepada Perkara 160 Perlembagaan Persekutuan dalam tafsiran ‘his’ (dia lelaki) meliputi ‘her’ (dia perempuan). Begitu juga perkataan ‘parent’ hendaklah juga difahami secara jamak iaitu ‘parents’. Interpretasi ini didokong oleh Shad Saleem Faruqi, Majlis Peguam Malaysia, pertubuhan-pertubuhan NGO, parti-parti politik komponen Barisan Nasional seperti MCA dan MIC serta parti-parti politik dalam Pakatan Harapan terutama DAP dan PKR.

Persatuan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (PPMM) dan Persatuan Peguam Syarie Malaysia (PGSM) berhujah bahawa penentuan agama kanak-kanak secara unilateral adalah selaras dengan keputusan dalam kes Susie Teoh (1990) dan Subashini (2008) di mana Mahkamah Persekutuan memutuskan bahawa penentuan agama seorang kanak-kanak bawah 18 tahun adalah dengan kebenaran ibu atau bapa atau penjaganya. Walau bagaimanapun, keputusan ini tidak dipersetujui oleh Majlis Peguam kerana pada kacamata mereka hujah yang mengatakan hanya cukup salah seorang ibu atau bapa dalam memberi keizinan agama seseorang kanak-kanak berlawanan dengan Perkara 12 (4) Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan keputusan Mahkamah Persekutuan dalam kes Subashini adalah terkhilaf. Ini kerana pada pandangan mereka, Mahkamah Persekutuan tidak mengambil kira takrifan dalam Perkara 160 (1) Jadual Kesebelas Perlembagaan Persekutuan bahawa setiap perkataan mufrad (parent) membawa maksud jamak (parents).

Perlu dijelaskan bahawa buat masa sekarang terdapat negeri yang memperuntukkan keperluan keizinan ibu dan bapa, dan terdapat juga negeri yang hanya memperuntukkan keperluan keizinan ibu atau bapa dalam pengislaman kanak-kanak bawah 18 tahun.

Terdapat 8 negeri iaitu Wilayah Persekutuan, Melaka, Sabah, Sarawak, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak dan Kedah yang memperuntukkan dalam Akta/Enakmen Pentadbiran Undang-undang Islam masing-masing bahawa penentuan agama kanak-kanak bawah 18 tahun adalah dengan persetujuan ibu atau bapa. Manakala bagi 4 negeri iaitu Pulau Pinang, Selangor, Perlis dan Terengganu menetapkan keperluan persetujuan ibu dan bapa. Dua negeri iaitu Pahang dan Kedah tidak mempunyai peruntukan mengenai keperluan persetujuan ibu bapa dalam pemelukan agama Islam bawah lapan belas tahun.

Persoalannya apakah DUN Negeri Selangor mempunyai kuasa meminda peruntukan Seksyen 117 Enakmen Undang-undang Pentadbiran Agama Islam Selangor 2003? Jawapannya, secara undang-undang, DUN Selangor mempunyai kuasa untuk memindanya tetapi secara moral, DUN Selangor tidak boleh berbuat demikian kerana “terikat” dengan keputusan Indira Ghandi (2018) yang mengkehendaki persetujuan dan keizinan kedua-dua ibu dan bapa. Mengambil contoh Enakmen Jenayah Syariah (II) Kelantan 1993 dan Enakmen Jenayah Syariah (II) Kelantan (Pindaan 2015) dan Enakmen Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah (Hudud dan Qisas) Terengganu 2002 yang diluluskan oleh DUN masing-masing serta diwartakan. Kedua-dua DUN Kelantan dan Terengganu mempunyai kuasa membuat undang-undang tersebut tetapi ianyanya tidak boleh dikuatkuasakan kerana bercanggah dengan Perlembagaan Persekutuan kerana mengambil bidang kuasa persekutuan.

Buat masa sekarang keputusan oleh Mahkamah Persekutuan dalam kes Indira Ghandi (2018) mengikat kerana hakim-hakim telah mentafsirkan perkataan ‘parent’ dengan maksud jamak ‘parents’. Ini kerana persetujuan kedua-dua ibu dan bapa diperlukan sebelum sijil pemelukan Islam dikeluarkan untuk dua anak bawah umur mengikut Perkara 12(4) dengan merujuk kepada takrifan di bawah Jadual Kesebelas dan seksyen 5 dan 11 Akta Penjagaan Kanak-kanak 1961.

Sehingga ada keputusan yang berbeza oleh Mahkamah Persekutuan di masa hadapan, takrifan keperluan kepada keizinan ibu dan bapa dalam penentuan agama kanak-kanak di bawah umur 18 tahun adalah terpakai.

Bebas News : Sabtu, 10.08.2019


The call by some groups to incorporate the Rukun Negara as the preamble to the Federal Constitution is timely. The Rukun Negara was first introduced as the national philosophy by the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the late Sultan of Terengganu, during Merdeka Day in 1970.

Among the primary goals of the Rukun Negara are to realise Malaysia’s ambitions towards enhancing unity among the people; safeguarding the spirit of democracy; establishing a just society; maintaining a liberal approach in addressing diversity; and creating a progressive and technologically advanced society.

In fulfilling the above ideals, the Rukun Negara underlines five core principles: Belief in God; Loyalty to the King and Country; Supremacy of the Constitution; Rule of Law; and Good Behaviour and Morality. Today, the Rukun Negara has become more relevant than ever in three ways:

FIRST, the philosophy of unity embedded within the Rukun Negara is essential to cultivate ethnic harmony which has been continually tested throughout the country’s history. Many pointed toward the Malayan Union controversy in 1946 as the turning point that marked the heightening of ethnic consciousness and nationalism among the various ethnic groups in the Malay peninsula.

The Malays, across all strata of society, opposed the Malayan Union while the non-Malays were more ambivalent. This was likely due to the Malayan Union’s direct implication on Malay interests such as restriction on the powers of the sultans, reduction of Malay special privileges and loosening of citizenship requirements. The Malayan Union was then superseded by the Federation of Malaya in 1948.

Voices demanding independence grew stronger and the British were compelled to concede but not before imposing several prerequisites. Among the conditions for independence was that all ethnic groups could demonstrate their ability to cooperate and live together. The success of the Perikatan coalition which consisted of multi-ethnic parties had proven the close ties and tolerance among the races under the spirit of “give and take”. Consequently, Malaya gained independence on Aug 31, 1957.

Ethnic unity was again tested during the formation of Malaysia in 1963. The entry of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak provided a significant demographic shift. Singapore introduced a bigger share of Chinese populace while Sabah and Sarawak introduced a wide variety of ethnic groups and tribes. For Sabah and Sarawak, the 20-point agreement has been laid down and added to the Federal Constitution to preserve ethnic identities and state rights. The inclusion of the Rukun Negara as the preamble would be a great addition to our multicultural Constitution.

SECOND, in terms of economic disparity, the Rukun Negara’s philosophy of a just society is an essential guiding principle. The far-reaching economic gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations continues to be a significant concern. Prolonged economic inequality is known to breed prejudice and disunity within the society. The Rukun Negara itself was drafted in response to the infamous May 13, 1969 racial riots. The incident witnessed the suspension of the Constitution and the formation of the National Operations Council (MAGERAN) as the caretaker government to restore order and peace. In addition to the Rukun Negara, the New Economic Policy was also introduced to reduce the economic disparity and ensure a fairer and more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth.

THIRD , the Rukun Negara as a preamble would significantly assist in interpreting the Federal Constitution. In this matter, the Rukun Negara can serve in three dimensions: providing the overarching ideals of unity, serving as the guiding principle in interpreting constitutional provisions and providing a substantive confirmation to the law.

In this regard, the author wishes to emphasise the first dimension based on the crucial need to cultivate national unity especially considering the current social reality and the many voices raised against it.

However, some parties question the need to incorporate the Rukun Negara as the preamble after 61 years of independence, and how it might impact the Constitution. In response, the author argues that inserting the Rukun Negara into the Federal Constitution will not diminish or limit any provision in the Constitution itself. This is because all the provisions contained in the Constitution are inter-related and mutually binding. The provisions cannot be read in isolation and without comprehensively viewing the document.

Key provisions in the Constitution remain intact and safeguarded. These include Article 3 (1) which establishes Islam as the religion of the Federation, Article 153 on the special position of the Malays and the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak, Article 152 on the Malay language, and Article 38 on the rights and privileges of the Malay Rulers and Council of Rulers.

Constitutional preambles generally emphasise general values and will not interfere with the essence and indigenous elements of the Constitution itself. Further discussion on the incorporation of Rukun Negara as the preamble to the Constitution is essential so that all parties understand its purpose and benefits. Meantime, one should not dismiss this proposal merely on the ground that the Reid Commission that drafted the Federal Constitution did not include the preamble.

Likewise, provisions in the Federal Constitution are always flexible and may be amended in accordance with the will of the people. They may be amended by members of parliament taking into consideration the benefits for a multiracial and multireligious nation.

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Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: New Straits Times, Thursday 4 April 2019

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/04/475875/essential-addition-federal-constitution

Friday, 28 December 2018 09:28

Is Malaysia a secular state?

The question whether Malaysia is an Islamic or secular state has come in for continuous debate in Malaysia. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad argues that in an Islamic state like Malaysia, justice applies to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

For some, this position remains simply because Islam is the only religion stated in the Federal Constitution. Unlike Turkey and India where the word “secular” is clearly provided in their respective constitutions, such a provision is not found in the Federal Constitution.

Notwithstanding the above, the relevant White Paper signifies that the country was meant to be a secular state. In the early stage of the drafting of the Federal Constitution, the Reid Commission had proposed inserting a provision stating the country is a secular state. However, in the final stage, they agreed to accept a provision that made Islam the official religion of the federation, but it shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing their own religions and shall not imply that the state is not a secular state.

Furthermore, historians have suggested that Malaya was an Islamic state. Islamic laws were in practice, which included criminal and civil laws. The most common Islamic laws notably are Hukum Kanun Melaka, Undang-undang Pahang, Undang-undang Johor, Undang-undang Perak and others. However, when the British colonised Malaya, all these laws were gradually changed to English laws through courts’ judgements where English judges preferred to refer to English laws. English law also made its presence here through codified laws, such as the Contract Act, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code etc.

Ironically, when Malaya gained independence on Aug 31, 1957, the words “Islamic state” were not incorporated into the Constitution. Nor is the word “secular” found in the Federal Constitution. It was only on Sept 29, 2001, after 44 years of independence, during his tenure as the fourth prime minister, Dr Mahathir made a declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state.

This announcement was not followed by any amendment to the Federal Constitution until today.

Article 3(1) reiterates the rights protected under Article 11(1) and also reaffirms the supremacy of Islam under the Federal Constitution. Furthermore, Islam is placed above other religions in the federation, yet in Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor [1988] 2 MLJ 55, the Supreme Court (now the Federal Court) held that “although there can be no doubt that Islam is not just a mere collection of dogmas and rituals, but a complete way of life covering all fields of human activities, may they be private or public, legal, political, economic, social, cultural, moral or judicial”, the provision of Article 3(1) merely provided for a ritualistic and ceremonial role of Islam.

Sheridan (a constitutional text writer) also seems to agree with the Che Omar decision. He posits that Article 3(1) does not mean anything except that it imposes an obligation on the participants in any federal ceremony to regulate any religious parts of the event according to Muslim rites.

However, according to another constitutional text writer, Abdul Aziz Bari, this case does not elaborate clearly the position of Islam as stated in the Reid’s Commission Report and the White Paper.

Thus, he argues that the Che Omar decision merely ruled that Article 3(1) should not become the basis to challenge the legality of statutes. In other words, it merely limits the operation of Islam as stated in the provision. It must also be noted that the extent and implementation of Islam in the Federal Constitution should not be assessed or interpreted solely from the context or point of view of Article 3(1).

It is also contended that the Che Omar decision merely differentiated the position of Islamic law as prescribed by Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution. It was argued by the appellant that since Islam is the religion of the federation, and since the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the imposition of the death penalty upon drug traffickers, not being an Islamic law per se and not in accordance with hudud or qisas laws, is contrary to Islamic injunctions and is therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court (now the Federal Court) rejected this argument, saying that the provision in Article 3(1) does not actually give the meaning that Malaysia is an Islamic state, where in reality Islamic law only applies to Muslims merely in matters of personal laws. And since the Constitution makes a clear distinction between private law and public law, offences like drug trafficking are under the Federal List, and therefore constitutional.

Perhaps the position taken by Shad Faruqi and Aziz Bari that categorises Malaysia somewhere between the secular state and the Islamic state could be the answer to the ambiguity of the position of Islam in Malaysia. Thus, according to Shad Faruqi, “Malaysia is neither a full-fledged Islamic state nor wholly secular”, but that “in view of the fact that Muslims constitute the majority population, and Islamisation is being vigorously enforced, Malaysia can indeed be described as an Islamic or Muslim state”.

In addition, Shad Faruqi adds that “in a secular constitution, there is no prescribed official religion and no state aid is given to any religion or for any religious activities, but the word religion does occur at least 24 times in the Federal Constitution”.

Despite the fact that the Federal Constitution does not provide a clear provision to advocate that Malaysia is an Islamic state, there are significant provisions such as Articles 3(1) and 12(2) in the Constitution that signify the religion of Islam is given a special position in the Federation. One may conclude that Malaysia is not a secular state, nor is it a truly theocratic state.

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Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 28 December 2018

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/12/444567/malaysia-secular-state

Friday, 02 November 2018 12:10

The right to life and death in syariah

The right to life is one of the fundamental aspects of human rights.

Without this right, people risk losing other rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and opinion, freedom of movement, property ownership rights, and many more.

Protecting the right to life is foundational to the building of a civilisation, without it, it is impossible to sustain a civilised culture and achieve technological advancement.

Hence, jurists and philosophers are unanimous in considering this right to be inalienable and non-negotiable.

While the Syariah recognises the right to life of each and every human, it also posits that humankind is the prize of God’s creation.

Because humans were created by God, a human’s right to life ultimately belongs to God. For God gives life, and He is the one who takes it back. Therefore, human lives are sacred according to the Syariah, and it is a crime to take another human’s life without just cause. In this regard, Syariah has prescribed retaliation (qisas) that prescribes the death penalty for intentional murder.

The right to life is also ranked as one of the most important objectives of the Syariah (Maqasid Syariah). While some Muslim scholars have contended that preservation of life should come after the preservation of religion, there are many who argued that preservation of life should be prioritised foremost. This is based on the argument that without life, man cannot live and preserve the religion in the first place. The prohibition of suicide and murder are clearly enshrined in the Quran: “... and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction” (Q2:195) and “…whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment” (Q4:93).

However, Syariah does allow the taking of one’s life through the appropriate legal processes in pursuit of justice, like in the case of murder. Even so, the next-of-kin of the victim is given the option to forgive the murderer by taking a diyat (blood money) for the Right of Man (haq al-adami) part, yet the authorities may still punish the offender for violation of the Right of God (haq Allah) or the community’s right. Other Syariah offences that warranted the death penalty include adultery committed by married persons (zina muhsan), and hirabah (highway robbery and terrorism).

However, over the last two decades, public opinion on the application of the death penalty has shifted. The United Nations (UN) through its Human Rights Council, for instance, has called for the abolition of the death penalty. Consequently, many countries have abolished the death penalty. Until the end of 2017, 142 countries have abolished the death penalty in their general laws, while 106 countries have abolished laws prescribing death sentences for all criminal offences.

This shows that the world trend is to eliminate the death penalty.

Even in countries that still uphold the death penalty like Iran and Malaysia, there has been a declining trend in its execution.

For example, Malaysia has taken a positive step by amending the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 in 2017 which could lower the mandatory death sentence to life imprisonment.

This abolitionist trend, however, poses a challenge to Islamic criminal law due to the latter’s prescription of death sentences for certain crimes.

For Muslims, there is a moral obligation to remain faithful to the injunctions provided by Islamic law.

A Muslim judge cannot simply replace the prescribed punishment with another without a strong justification.

However, a judge is allowed to refuse to take up a case, or under certain circumstances impose a lighter sentence by means of discretionary laws (ta’zir).

Not all death sentences in Islamic law are fixed and irreversible. Punishments in Islamic criminal law can be divided into two categories:

(i) the right of God, where the crime is committed against God, in which the punishment cannot be negotiated; and,

(ii) the right of human beings, where the crime is committed against another fellow human being.

For example, under the law of qisas, the next-of-kin can either opt for the death sentence or substitute it with diyat (blood money). Additionally, while the Islamic laws are considered divine, Syariah does allow withholding its injunctions in the case of drought or other extreme exigencies.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the death penalty in Islamic criminal law cannot be repealed except in the case of qisas where it can be replaced with diyat payment. Despite international pressure to repeal death sentences under the Syariah criminal law, it can still be practised provided that it does not violate the international law and in accordance with Article 6 of the ICCPR 1966 which excludes serious cases.

For hudud crimes involving serious offences such as hirabah (highway robbery and terrorism) the application of the death penalty can still be justified. In the case of adultery committed between married persons (zina muhsan), the Quran prescribes four eye witnesses for proof, which is almost impossible to provide.

Hence, the punishment of zina in almost all cases is reduced to ta’zir, which the sentencing judge can determine and quantify.

The only punishment that the Quran provides is 100 lashes of the whip for all proven cases of zina. The death punishment for zina is not mentioned in the Quran but only found in the tradition (Sunnah).

Abolishing death sentences as provided in the Second Optional Protocol and other international laws may be realised in the case of ta’zir (discretionary) sentences that prescribe capital punishment.

Abolishing the death penalty for ta’zir offence will not raise any question on the issue of right to life from an Islamic perspective.

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The writer is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer of International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 2 November 2018

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/11/427467/right-life-and-death-syariah

Wednesday, 05 September 2018 12:08

Preserve essential foundations

As our beloved Malaysia just celebrated its 61st independence on Aug 31, let us remember the journey we have travelled so far.

Before the British left this country 61 years ago, the journey towards independence had gone through different patches and challenges. The Malays, who were deeply loyal to the sultans, rose against the British. Datuk Maharaja Lela, Datuk Bahaman, Dol Said and Mat Kilau were among the Malay warriors who were willing to bear arms against the British.

Many of these acts of resistance ended in bloodshed. For instance, Maharaja Lela was hanged to death for killing J.W.W. Birch, a British Resident in Perak, in protest over the intervention by the British in the affairs of the state.

In an armed offensive launched by the British, together with the then Pahang authorities against Bahaman and his followers, renewed hatred against the British hindered their hostile operation and eventually caused it to fail.

Fast forward to about a decade before independence, the Malays rose against the British intervention which sought to reduce the power of the sultans by introducing the Malayan Union on April 1, 1946. Consequently, the brazen British intervention in the local political framework raised the spirit of Malay unity against the British. The Malays succeeded in convincing the Malay rulers to boycott the proclamation of Malayan Union. Eventually, the British’s plan failed, and it was replaced by the Federation of Malaya in 1948.

The struggle against the British did not end there. Looking at the success of Indonesians, who managed to “expel” the Dutch from their homeland, the Malays were inspired to end the British influence for good and free Malaya.

The quest for independence culminated when the Alliance Party (later Barisan Nasional) which consisted of Umno, MCA, and MIC— with full support from the nation — managed to negotiate with the British in London to pave the way for independence. The negotiations ended in favour of the Malayans, which saw Malaya gain her independence on Aug 31, 1957.

A commission — the Reid Commission — was set up by the British to draft a written constitution for the Merdeka Malaya. The Malay rulers were accorded a major role in assisting the commission to prepare their task.

In total, the commission held 118 meetings and received 131 memoranda from all parties, including from the Malay rulers.

On the surface, the Constitution seemed to be biased with special provisions given to the:

POSITION of Islam in (Article 3);

MALAY privileges, (and later in 1963, the natives of Sabah and Sarawak) in Article 153; and,

POSITION of the Malay rulers in Article 38.

However, many have forgotten that the Constitution we inherited today is a product achieved by stakeholders and parties from different ethnicities and religious groups, and is famous for its balanced provisions.

This agreement to give and take for the sake of unity and achieving a common goal is commonly known as the “social contract” — a contract that the three major political parties of the Alliance, representing the three major ethnicities, understood and ultimately acknowledged throughout their coalition.

In return for the special Malay provisions, non-Malay minorities were given citizenship, freedom of religion, cultural rights, educational and economic rights.

Throughout the decades, the three major ethnic groups have worked side by side in political coalitions and in government. In fact, this inter-ethnic cooperation can also be observed in the new Pakatan Harapan government.

Despite the diversity of culture, language, the way of life, political ideologies, economic status, and even marriage laws, Malaysians have proven that they can live peacefully and harmoniously, side by side.

Indeed, the pluralistic society of Malaysia is a huge asset to the country, and what makes it a beautiful and unique nation. Instead of a melting pot, Malaysia is a rich cultural mosaic. The various races, religions, cultures, and regions are like a rainbow which of consists of different colours, but stay together under the same arc.

However, some parties, often among the younger generation, due to a lack of understanding of the history behind the Constitution, have arbitrarily denied the existence of the “social contract”. One of their arguments is that it does not exist in the Constitution.

As a retort, the Constitution also does not contain terms such as “democracy”, “the rules of laws”, “separation of powers” and “independence of the judiciary”.

Even if the Constitution does not expressly contain a certain term or concept, it does not necessarily render them false or unacceptable. It turns out that the Constitution has many implied provisions, including, non-textualised ideas.

The denial of the existence of a social contract, in fact, has denied the historic ethnic cooperation and consultation which were encapsulated in the memorandum by the Alliance, articulated and conveyed to the Reid Commission.

There are also some who argue that the social contract is a legacy that is no longer in line with the demands of the present society. Thus, they demand amendments to the existing Constitution to suit current needs. While it is true that amendments should be made to fulfil contemporary needs, many have been integrated in the numerous amendments made to the Constitution from time to time.

Yet, the essential foundations of the Constitution must be preserved to safeguard the current social balance and avoid any racial conflict. The wisdom behind the social contract and the compromises that have been practised by all parties since independence must also be understood and respected.

A call to amend provisions such as the position of Islam, the privilege of the Malays, the Malay language and the position of the Malay rulers is against the spirit of unity prescribed by the Constitution.

The Constitution is a document that balances between the demands of the various groups of society. Remedies include the practice of “give and take” between ethnic groups, and to be free from extremities in action and ideology.

For that matter, it was the intention of our forefathers and the Reid Commission in drafting the Merdeka Constitution for all Malaysians to enjoy a good and peaceful life.

The document is an embodiment of the unity within diversity among the multicultural society of Malaysia.

The high spirit of tolerance and acceptance propagated in the social contract by both the majorities and minorities are the fruits of a balanced approach framed in the Constitution.

Any readings on the Constitution must be done in a holistic manner. Thus, demanding equality in reference to Article 8 of the Constitution must not ignore other provisions in the Constitution which were included as part of the social contract.

Since the Constitution is the supreme law in Malaysia as per Article 4 (1), this living document is a prime source of unity for Malaysians.

As such, it is our obligation to uphold the constitutional objectives for all Malaysians to live in peace and harmony, despite their different backgrounds, ethnicity and religions.

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The writer is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer of International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: New Straits Times, Wednesday 5 September 2018

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/408408/preserve-essential-foundations

The issue of unilateral conversion of minors has once again drawn mixed reactions from non-governmental organisations, lawyers and political parties in Malaysia when the Federal Court unanimously decided in the case of M. Indira Ghandi on Jan 29 that both the parents’ consent was required when determining the faith of minors.

In Malaysia, Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution provides: “For the purposes of Clause (3), the religion of a person under the age of 18 years is designated by his or her parent or guardian”.

In this case, the Federal Court has decided that the word “parent” must be understood in the plural form, denoting both “parents”, as interpreted in Schedule Eleven of the Federal Constitution and sections 5 and 11 of the Guardianship Act 1961. This decision marked a departure from the previous Federal Court judgment in Subashini (2007) in which it defined “parent” as one of the parents. Moreover, the Federal Court in the recent Indira Ghandi case also rejected the argument put forth by some parties that the court decision in the case of Susie Teoh (1990), who voluntarily converted at age 16, had anything to do with the interpretation of the word “parent” as singular or plural.

It may be useful to refer, in this connection, to some points discussed in two policy papers of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia, entitled “Conversion in Malaysia: Issues and Reform Proposals”, led by renowned Muslim scholar, Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, in 2012 and a Malay-language version entitled “Penukaran Agama Kanak-Kanak— Isu dan Cadangan” (2016 & 2017), by the present writer and Ahmad Badri Abdullah which updated and enhanced the previous versions.

Muslim jurists have held that when both parents convert to Islam, their underage children automatically become Muslims. Problems arise if one of the parties has converted to Islam and the other remains a non-Muslim, leading to an interesting jurisprudential debate. The jurists have held different opinions. The majority views in the Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools on this is largely based on whether the convert was the mother or the father. Things are more straightforward in the Maliki school, which stipulates that the child’s religion follows his father’s, and thus, if the father converts, so will the child. The argument behind this Maliki ruling is that the identity and lineage of descent is through the father. Even so, there seems to be no final and authoritative view on this matter, especially since there are no clear-cut Quran verses addressing it.

Nor have the jurists reached any consensus on whether a child can embrace any religion, including Islam.

Many are of the view that children can embrace Islam, based on the precedents of many close companions of the Prophet Muhammad who converted to Islam during their childhood. Among them were Ali Abi Talib, Zubayr al-Awwam, Abdullah ibn Umar and Asma’ Abu Bakar.

Imam Abu Hanifah and his disciple, Muhammad ibn Hassan al-Syaibani considered that children who have attained mumayyiz (prudence) can legitimately convert to Islam— or, for that matter, to opt for apostasy. However, Abu Yusuf views that the child’s decision is legitimate only when converting to Islam, and invalid in the case of apostasy. Zufar ibn Hudhayl​​, another disciple of Imam Abu Hanifah, views that a child can neither convert to Islam nor leave Islam if he has not reached puberty.

Based on the popular hadith that “Every child is born in fitrah (natural state), his parents are the ones who will determine whether the child is a Jew or Christian until he is able to accept or reject it”, there are several important points. First, it is implied that a child cannot determine his religion. Second, a child’s disposition is clear of sin and cannot be held responsible for his religious status or other religious requirements. Additionally, this hadith also mentions “parents” in the plural.

What is important in all this is that the welfare of the child should come above all else. What is happening now is that there are cases where a father or mother embraces Islam and later converts the child to Islam even before the custody decision was made by the court.

This will undoubtedly lead to further problems. Similarly, an automatic decision to keep the child in his original religion following his non-Muslim parent will also lead to future problems. For instance, when the Muslim parent gains custody and wishes to enrol the child for Islamic religious education — it is better that the determination of a child’s religion takes into account the custodianship of the child. Solving this predicament would require cooperation by all parties, especially parents, guardians and the authority to prioritise the welfare of the child.

This can be done through a mediation process which involves a third party that will facilitate both parents towards reaching a compromise regarding the religious status of their child, for the sake of the children’s welfare.

For that reason, IAIS Malaysia, in its position papers mentioned above, proposed several policy reforms relating to conversions in interfaith marriages. Among the recommendations are:

FIRST , to ensure that the issue of conversion does not come in the way of ensuring the child’s welfare and the ensuing custodial responsibilities by the disputing parents;

SECOND , to establish a special branch of judiciary with mixed jurisdiction where both Syariah and civil law judges can sit and adjudicate cases of conversion and religious identity of the child; and,

THIRD, set up a judicial committee of the Conference of Malay Rulers with a mixed composition of Muslims and non-Muslims. The former can be in the majority and female members shall be included.

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The writer is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer of International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 16 February 2018

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/336051/prioritise-childs-welfare-should-be-priority

Setiap kali pilihan raya umum (PRU), antara isu yang menjadi tumpuan ialah berapa ramai wanita akan dipilih sebagai calon parti politik untuk bertanding.

Pada PRU-13 lima tahun lalu, ada 168 calon wanita bertanding merebut 56 kerusi Parlimen dan 112 kerusi Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN), meningkat sebanyak 40 peratus berbanding 120 calon untuk kedua-dua kerusi Parlimen dan DUN pada PRU-12 lima tahun sebelumnya.

Semakin masa beredar, nampaknya kesedaran lebih wanita diberi peluang menjadi calon PRU terus meningkat. Dijangka jumlah calon wanita untuk PRU-14 akan meningkat berbanding PRU-13.

Dari pandangan Islam, apakah kedudukan wanita dalam sistem pemilihan demokrasi dan sama ada mereka dibenar menjadi pemimpin serta wakil rakyat? Sebenarnya, suara supaya wanita diberi hak kesaksamaan dalam kepemimpinan bukan perkara baharu.

Dari segi sejarah, wanita bukan sahaja ditindas di negara Arab, malah di Barat. Contohnya pada abad ke-16 hingga ke-18 Masihi, wanita di England dinafikan hak mengundi, jauh sekali bertanding sebagai calon pilihan raya.

Pada zaman Arab Jahiliah, kanak-kanak perempuan ditanam hidup-hidup kerana kepercayaan kolot bahawa wanita membawa nasib malang kepada keluarga. Wanita juga dinafikan hak dalam pewarisan, perceraian, pekerjaan dan jauh sama sekali memegang jawatan tinggi dalam kerajaan.

Perspektif ini secara jelas bercanggah dengan ajaran dalam al-Quran dengan firman Allah SWT yang bermaksud: "Wahai umat manusia! Sesungguhnya Kami telah menciptakan kamu dari lelaki dan perempuan dan Kami telah menjadikan kamu berbagai bangsa dan bersuku puak, supaya kamu berkenal-kenalan (dan beramah mesra antara satu dengan yang lain).

Sesungguhnya semulia-mulia kamu di sisi Allah ialah orang yang lebih takwanya di antara kamu (bukan yang lebih keturunan atau bangsanya). Sesungguhnya Allah Maha Mengetahui lagi Maha Mendalam Pengetahuan-Nya (keadaan dan amalan kamu)." (al-Hujurat:13)

Malangnya, walaupun Islam mengiktiraf kedudukan dan hak wanita, sesetengah pihak tetap mendiskriminasi golongan itu dengan menggunakan tiket agama, sedangkan hakikatnya, ia sekadar adat dan amalan yang tidak berlandaskan agama.

Sejak abad ketiga Hijrah, banyak perbincangan mengenai kepemimpinan diperkatakan, namun ia berkisar mengenai kepemimpinan lelaki sahaja.

Hak asasi golongan Hawa

Kepemimpinan wanita disentuh sepintas lalu kerana ada ayat al-Quran yang bermaksud: "Kaum lelaki itu adalah pemimpin ke atas kaum wanita". (al-Nisa 4:34)

Tambahan pula terdapat hadis yang mengatakan wanita itu kurang pada akal, agama dan ketetapan syarak dan kewajipan wanita adalah berhijab.

Realitinya, kurang pada akal bukan bermaksud kecerdikan wanita itu rendah dan lemah berbanding lelaki yang akalnya lebih mantap, matang dan berdaya fikir, tetapi sebenarnya ketetapan syarak yang menentukan nisbah bilangan kesaksian dua wanita menyamai satu lelaki.

Kurang pada agama pula bukan bermaksud tiada wanita mukminah, solehah, warak dan bertakwa kepada Allah SWT, tetapi mempunyai makna di sebaliknya, iaitu wanita terpaksa meninggalkan solat dan puasa ketika haid dan nifas.

Prinsip hak asasi wanita adalah antara agenda utama yang diperuntukkan dalam 'Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979' (CEDAW). Konvensyen ini menuntut menyahkan sebarang bentuk diskriminasi ke atas wanita, terutama dalam isu penindasan hak. Malaysia tidak menerima pakai semua peruntukan CEDAW kerana tertakluk kepada hukum syarak dan norma masyarakat Timur.

Dari sudut pandangan Islam, adalah disepakati oleh seluruh ulama bahawa dalam melaksanakan solat, wanita tidak boleh menjadi imam bagi lelaki. Ini telah diterima wanita Islam kecuali dalam satu kes terpencil yang mana Aminah Wadud mengetuai solat Jumaat di Amerika Syarikat.

Adapun hukum bagi seseorang wanita menjadi ketua negara, terdapat dua pendapat dalam kalangan ulama. Majoriti berpendapat bahawa wanita tidak boleh menjadi pemimpin negara berdasarkan ayat 34 dalam surah al-Nisa, manakala minoriti percaya bahawa wanita boleh menjadi pemimpin sesebuah negara.

Sebabnya ialah ayat 34 surah al-Nisa tidak boleh difahami secara literal seperti ada yang berpendapat bahawa ayat berkenaan hanya bermaksud 'suami perlu menjaga isteri mereka'.

Wanita sebagai pemimpin

Justeru, wanita diharus bertanding pada pilihan raya untuk diangkat sebagai pemimpin negara.

Jika melihat peruntukan dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang menjadi undang-undang tertinggi negara, tidak ada satu pun peruntukan melarang wanita dilantik sebagai menteri dan timbalan menteri, malah untuk jawatan Perdana Menteri sekalipun.

Hak ini termaktub dalam Perkara 8(1) yang memberi kesaksamaan dari segi undang-undang dan Perkara 8(2) bahawa tiada diskriminasi ke atas seseorang itu atas nama agama, bangsa, keturunan, tempat lahir atau jantina.

Oleh kerana wanita adalah majoriti dalam masyarakat di Malaysia, kehadiran mereka hendaklah bergerak pantas mengikut arus perdana. Terdapat lebih 70 peratus pelajar di universiti dan lebih 60 peratus pekerja di negara ini dalam kalangan wanita. Perspektif Islam mengambil pendapat harus melantik wanita sebagai pemimpin negara, selain menerusi ketetapan dalam Perkara 8 (1) dan 8 (2) Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Jika ada peningkatan jumlah wanita dicalonkan bertanding pada PRU-14 pada 9 Mei ini, ia akan menambah jumlah kerusi golongan berkenaan di Dewan Rakyat dan meningkatkan jumlah wanita dalam Kabinet kerajaan.

Penambahan ini selari dengan dasar Kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN) yang mahu melihat 30 peratus wanita memegang jawatan tinggi dalam sektor penting negara.

Berita Harian : Rabu, 25 April 2018



Friday, 27 April 2018 16:51

Political lessons from Prophet Muhammad

The successful career of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a political leader, aside from his primary role as a spiritual guide, is yet to receive widespread attention from religious leaders, let alone the general public. In conjunction with the current political atmosphere and the impending 14th General Election, this article will highlight several key characteristics of the politics in Islam based on the syariah.

Politics is not just a matter of governing, but also a vital tool for education, spiritual, awareness, human understanding and the dissemination of values and principles.

Islam teaches us to achieve this through various peaceful means, including through sincere advice, providing role models, rational persuasion, exemplary leadership, and others.

Politics in Islam aims to guide people towards good and abstain from evil. Integrity, honesty, and trust are key Islamic values that also apply to politics. These values are underpinned by the firm
conviction that the ultimate reward lies not in this world, but in the hereafter and admission to paradise.

These are among the ethical principles of taught and practised by Prophet Muhammad. Another exemplary leadership trait of his, as the leader of the city state of Madinah, includes open consultation (shura), where different views and constructive criticisms are welcomed, and input from the Companions were taken into consideration, and sometimes acted upon.

The Prophet also practised delegation of power. This can be seen in the appointment of Muaz bin Jabal as a governor to Yemen.

This was done to the extent that the Prophet allowed Muaz to practise his independent reasoning (ijtihad) in matters on which no clear text was found in the Quran and Sunnah.

The Prophet’s leadership also emphasises persuasion as opposed to coercion. Winning the people’s hearts has always been the Prophet’s primary approach.

It is through his high spirit, inspiring leadership, a keen understanding of societal reality, and humanitarian values that the Prophet successfully transformed his people from the state of ignorance (jahiliyyah) and idol-worshipping, to worshipping Allah, the one and only Creator.

Aside from transforming his society, the Prophet was also known to engage with major personalities and train them into new generations of future leaders.

Notable instances included the second caliph, Umar Khattab, a once famous drunkard and a fierce opponent of Islam, who became one of the bravest companions in the history of the Khulafa al-Rashidin, and the first Muslim leader to vastly expand the Islamic territories.

Gaining power has not always been the Prophet’s goal. The ultimate objective of leadership lies in his message to invite humans to the ways of Islam. The Prophet was not hostile to non-Muslims, but invited them in a peaceful and felicitous manner. In a famous narration, the Prophet said: “The best among you are those who have the best manner and character.” (Bukhari)

If however, they refused to do accept Islam peacefully, they were will then be protected by the state under the “zimmi” agreement.

The zimmi agreement was in fact ahead of its time in the era of tribal warfare, and far from intending to treat non-Muslims as second-class citizens.

The so-called Machiavellian attitude of “the end justifies the means” is not at all compatible with Islam and must be vigorously opposed and discouraged. Islamic principles dictate that both the means and the ends conform to the teachings of Islam. Mere imbuing of Islamic-sounding names or terminology in political activities do not make them Islamic.

Such instances of abuse include cases where religious vocabulary is used to mislead innocent and uninformed folks for political gain.

Also not in line with the Prophet’s teaching is the practice of uncovering or scrutinising the personal and private shortcomings of political rivals and disclose them in public to gain support.

This contradicts the Prophetic teaching of concealing the faults of others, so that Allah do the same for us in the hereafter.

This, however, does not include matters of public interest.

Aside from the many Prophetic principles and values above, the practice of tolerance and understanding are essential to preserve peace and harmony in a multicultural society.

The single pursuit to gain votes and acquire power, at any cost, is not only against the precepts of Islam and the way of the Prophet, but would only lead to chaos and abuse in society.

In conclusion, the four most
noble characters of Prophet Muhammad SAW (pbuh) were: trustworthiness (siddiq), integrity (amanah); communicative (tabligh), and intelligence (fathonah).

These are also the prime traits that leaders of political parties can emulate. Such characters have a high potential to bring about transparency, tolerance, cooperation and unity among the people.

All leaders should exemplify the positive values of the Prophet (pbuh), and fulfil their responsibility to serve the people, and not seek power for personal gains.

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The writer, an associate professor, is Deputy CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 27 April 2018

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/04/362270/political-lessons-prophet-muhammad


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