Wednesday, March 21, 2007


A Grand Mufti Of Malaysia?
We say why not?
An office somewhere along the lines of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
As a unifying head for the 14-odd muftis of Malaysia and a solution to the possible scenario of 14 differing fatwas or interpretations of a religious ruling.

The following article by
Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad Senior Fellow / Director Centre for Syariah, Law & Political Science, Institiut Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (IKIM) expands on the idea.

Growing need for Grand Mufti

THE lack of uniformity and standardisation of Islamic law in Malaysia, in addition to certain arguable legal restrictions, has led to an apparent disunity among Muslims, followed by misperception among non-Muslims, leaving both perplexed and confused.

This is partly reflected in the fact that Islamic law is only applicable to Muslims.

Currently, there are 14 muftis in charge of all matters concerning Islamic law but restricted in terms of jurisdiction to within their own states.

On many occasions, we are amazed by conflicting legal rulings (fataawa, singular fatwa) issued on matters like cigarette smoking, pageant contests, monthly income tithes, ASN, khalwat, and the like.

Some attribute the root of the problem to our Federal Constitution. If that were true, are the constitutional provisions carved in stone?

The Constitution, via the Ninth Schedule (Legislative List), List II (State List), grants exclusive jurisdiction to state governments to administer all matters pertaining to Islamic law, but only on Muslims and within their respective state boundaries.

The various state assemblies consolidated this authority by passing enactments leading to the creation and formation of, inter alia, the department of mufti and the syariah courts system.

Examples of certain state laws are the Selangor Administration of Islamic Law Enactment, 1989; and the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.

It is by virtue of the same constitutional provision that a number of national bodies, namely, the National Islamic Consultative Committee (Jawatankuasa Fatwa Kebangsaan – JFK), the Syariah Judiciary Department Malaysia (Jabatan Kehakiman Syariah Malaysia – JKSM) and the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia – Jakim), are unable to play their unifying roles more effectively.

In saying this, we do not deny their long list of notable achievements thus far.

In the case of JFK, its establishment was for the purpose of discussing and issuing fatwas to solve any major unsettled legal issue, and to standardise conflicting legal edicts, if any, at the national level.

However, in reality, these objectives oftentimes cannot materialise, as their resolutions carry no legal binding powers on any state.

Though members of the committee comprise all state muftis, the states enjoy absolute power in whether or not to accept or reject any conclusion reached by the committee.

If the Constitution is perceived as being a stumbling block towards reformation and improvement, why don’t we amend it?

After all, our Constitution had been amended several times to suit the changing needs and conditions of the population.

All these were done, ultimately, for the smooth running of the country and for the sake of the people at large.

Legally speaking, in bringing about the much-awaited standardisation of Islamic law in Malaysia, the Federal Constitution may be amended by putting Islamic law on the Federal List.

Then the whole business of standardising and upgrading the Islamic legal system will become the responsibility of the Federal Government.

This is an advantage in terms of devising mechanisms to make the two currently running different legal systems – Islamic and civil – an operational one in our pluralistic community.

Parliament may include new provisions to the Constitution creating new credible positions to put an end to all conflicting legal rulings and jurisdiction limitations.

One of these reputable positions, with executive powers, would be the “Grand Mufti.”

The idea of establishing the position of Grand Mufti in Malaysia is not new.

IKIM’s current Director-General, Dr Syed Ali Tawfik al-Attas, towards the end of 2006, once again put the proposal forth.

The issue, despite its sensitive nature, proves its relevance and, therefore, cannot be simply discounted based on pseudo arguments.

A “Mufti” refers to a Muslim expert competent in interpreting or expounding the Syariah and issuing legal rulings in all matters coming under the purview of the law. ‘Grand Mufti’ signifies the head of all muftis, i.e. the highest authority of Islamic law in a given Muslim nation.

Other alternatives may be considered, too, for instance, granting more executive powers to JFK, JKSM and Jakim.

In fact, for the very same purpose of uniformity of law, apart from further upgrading the status of Syariah courts, one may propose the position of a Syariah Attorney-General, on par in status with the present Attorney-General.

The above, I believe, are things that have been idealised for ages by and among the syariah legal fraternity or by those concerned with the status and relevance of Islam in this country.

Source: The Star

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mufti Of Perlis Stirs Up Another Hornet's Nest.

Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the Mufti of Perlis, seems to have stirred up another hornet's nest recently when the Perlis Fatwa Council which he chairs declared that non-Muslims converting to Islam must retain their father’s name or surname and need not have the bin or binti Abdullah.

As reported in The Star (Sunday March 11, 2007) , Dr. Asri said:-

The edict or fatwa is aimed to address the complaints by non-Muslims, who have stated that their right to retain the name of their father or surname when converting to Islam had been denied.

“When non-Muslims convert to Islam, their name is followed by `bin’ or ‘binti’ Abdullah," he said. "This should not be the case because they are actually being denied justice and their right besides affecting what had been upheld by Islam, that is nasab (descendants),"

Citing an example, he said if someone by the name of Sami son of Raju were to convert to Islam, he should retain his name as Sami bin Raju and not Sami bin Abdullah.

“Changing to ‘bin Abdullah’ is awkward and did not happen in the history of Islam. During the time of the Prophet, those converting to Islam did not change their father’s name or surname and other matters pertaining to their descendants."

Dr Asri said changing the original name and using the ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ Abdullah upon converting to Islam was merely a tradition and not compelled by Islam.

The edict has drawn mixed reactions from Malaysia's religious representatives.

In Sarawak,
Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister's Office (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman said Non-Muslims converting to Islam should be given the freedom to retain their father's name or surname, or to opt for the `bin or binti Abdullah' (Bernama):-

The decision to retain or not should be the individual rights of each convert as Islam stressed more on the need to adhere to the religion as a way of life rather than in name only.

"It is their individual right. What is important in Islam is not just the name but also the daily obligations carried out according to Islamic teachings," he told Bernama here today.

Daud however said for Sarawak, the converts were encouraged to change to bin or binti Abdullah for identification purpose.

The Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) Sarawak president Mortadha Lau Abdullah echoed the same sentiment saying that it was up to the individuals to decide.

"It's up to them which name they prefer or are comfortable with," he said, adding that in the case of Sarawak, converts usually would either use the name or surname in Islam followed by an alias that stated their original name before converting to Islam.

Among other reactions to the edict, The Star (

In Ipoh, National Fatwa Committee chairman Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria said that the national body had reached a consensus in the early 1980s for non-Muslims converting to Islam to carry the bin or binti Abdullah.

By giving the example of Riduan Teh Abdullah and Maliki Ong Abdullah, he said that provisions had been made for converts to retain their Chinese family surnames.

Harussani, however, added that it was up to Perlis to decide otherwise, as religion was a state matter.

“The Perlis Fatwa Council is making its own interpretation and it is up to it to decide on the matter,” he said yesterday.

Harussani, who is the Perak mufti, said that Islam was 1,400 years old and the use of the suffixes bin or binti Abdullah was a “very small matter.”

He said that the National Fatwa Committee had decided to standardise it by taking the common name Abdullah – meaning servant of God.

Harussani noted that the convert's original name might have a different meaning.

“For example, if a Hindu were to convert to Islam, the person’s original name may be the name of a Hindu deity,” he said.

“So, it is not acceptable to retain the name of a deity if the individual converts to Islam,” he explained.

In Penang, the state Islamic Religious Council said it was comfortable with the current practice where converts adopt the name Abdullah.

Its president Shabudin Yahaya said this helped simplify matters for the state religious administration and “avoided confusion.”

“Once the convert bears a Muslim name, his or her non-Muslim family would know without doubt that the person has embraced a new religion,” he added.

Selangor deputy mufti Datuk Abdul Majid Omar said that adopting Muslim names was “a non-issue because the National Fatwa Council had decided way back in the early 1980s that converts may retain their original family names upon conversion.”

Abdul Majid also said that bin or binti Abdullah was generally meant for illegitimate children.

What ever the overall outcome of the discussions may turn out to be, it cannot be denied that ever since Dr. Mohd Asri took up office as the Mufti of Perlis in November 2006, he has not failed to regularly bring up relevent issues for the Muslim community to talk on. Which is a great thing really in the long run for the Malaysian Muslim of this country.

Monday, March 05, 2007

All Praises To Allah

And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage.
They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel;
they will come from every deep ravine.

That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed upon them.
Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate.

Then let them make an end of their unkemptness and pay their vows and go around the ancient House.

That (is the command). And whoso magnifieth the sacred things of Allah, it will be well for him in the sight of his Lord.
The cattle are lawful unto you save that which hath been told you.
So shun the filth of idols, and shun lying speech.

Turning unto Allah (only), not ascribing partners unto Him; for whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky and the birds had snatched him or the wind had blown him to a far-off place.

Al-Hajj 22 Verses 27 to 31

All Praises to Allah.

With His Blessings and Mercy I have dutifully performed the Haj and is safely back at home.

The journey that I have gone through had been both a spiritual and physical experience which no amount of words can aptly describe. I guess one has to undertake it oneself to understand the feeling that runs through the veins when I recall the moments standing before the Kaabah watching the pilgrims perform the tawaf (circumambulation) around it. Every soul there was making his presentation with the ever present hope that his offering will be met with the Lord’s approval.

From the donning of the ihram and niyyat till the farewell tawaf, every step was taken purely with the intention of pleasing the Lord of the Worlds.

The realization of one’s smallness and insignificance in the presence of the Almighty is balanced by the confidence that He listens to every little doa whispered deep within one’s heart.

Allah is the Greatest and to Him only all Praises.

To All Dear Friends and Readers who have prayed for my safe journey, thank you very much and may Allah’s rewards be upon you. I have prayed for Allah’s Blessings on all the Muslim brothers and sisters and to those who have yet to perform the Haj may Allah extend His invitation as soon as possible.