Peace Symposium 2015 : Understanding Shariah The Wrong Way


Last Tuesday a Peace Symposium KL 2015 entitled Understanding Shariah from the Religious and Rights Perspectives was held in The Royale Bintang Hotel, Jalan Bukit Bintang. The attendees consisted of approximately 200 people  from various backgrounds and religion. The organizer of the program was undisclosed in the poster. It was only made known on the day itself  that it was a collaborative effort between Projek Dialog and the International Human Rights Committee. There were books displayed and given away for free. Among them, a few that managed to catch my attention were books written by the Ahmadiyyah Jamaat successors, such as “World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace” by Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and a few others. It was a rather intriguing why such books were promoted in this symposium in Malaysia because we are clearly aware of the fatwa by JAKIM way back in 1998 issued for Ahmadiyyah Jamaat, about the deviance of its principle from Islam ( . It is rather questionable for their books to be distributed in such an event. This is a simple example of disregard for the fatwa that was issued based on scholarly consensus and deliberation from authorised religious authority.

Back to the symposium, the panelists consisted of various people from human rights field, lawyers; Aston Paiva, Dr  Aziz Bari, Syahredzan Johan, Dr Aziz Bari, Dr. Farouk Musa of the IRF, Mr Sardar Jagir Singh representing Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), and Sir Iftikhar Ahmad Ayaz which is from the Ahmadiyya Community himself. It was claimed to be an intellectual discourse on “understanding shariah”, but apparently there was no one who is an expert or qualified to represent the field of syariah or Islamic legislation lining up as speakers. Instead, a lot of the discourses were personal opinions rather than academic dissection of areas of shariah, a trend we see quite common nowadays, where opinions precede facts.

The first speaker, Dr Farouk Musa, a person of a medical background, stated that the term Daulah Islamiyyah cannot be found anywhere in the holy Quran and Hadiths. According to him, the term was not known during Prophet Muhammad SAW rulings, and that the legislation in Madinah cannot be replicated . He argued that syariah law will never be the same as implemented by the prophet in the 7th century. Dr. Farouk’s argument is that since we are not Rasulullah SAW, that we are not prophets,  it would be impossible for normal human beings like us to rule like Rasulullah SAW, and thus this means we can never achieve the kind ofjustice the Prophet had propagated.

I found this argument as rather shallow and irrelevant. Why, if we are to hold the same concept in praying for example, or to perform any forms of ibadah subjected to us as muslims, we might as well not pray at all, because we will never pray like Rasulullah SAW. The obligations to pray was also revealed in the 7th century during the Rasulullah’s journey to Isra and Mikraj.

What we do understand is that all orders and requirements that are made compulsory for muslims to follow had already been completely revealed. Even for the matter as big as an Islamic system that rules the ummah was already described in various verses (Surah Al-Maidah:44, 45, An-Nur:55), hadiths and by the actions of the prophet. Does this mean that we have to become maksum to actually conduct it? No, not at all. All that is required was already made clear.

This is one of the problems when someone who is not qualified in shariah and Islamic legislation is given the responsibility to throw his ideas, like another open discussion which allows anyone from any background to speak for anything that their hearts desire. Dr Farouk suggested that there should be a separation for matters of religion. He quoted Abdullah An-Naim (a muslim scholar’s) idea that the solution to the matter is a secular state, concluding that in order to become a muslim by conviction and free choice, one needs a secular state (that does not legislate syariah, and neutral in religious structure), because shariah cannot be coerced by a fear of state decision, and one would do an ibadah to appease the officers.

In my opinion, a guided environment provides fundamental contributions in the human development. We don’t make the system neutral so that people will not be affected by the system in making decisions. It is rather immature, to “neutralize” our surrounding just for the sake of ensuring that every choice is made solely because of your own personal wants or wishes. Ironically, no one could claim he’s purely neutral. Without guidance, human still suscribe to man-made ideologies eg capitalism, fascism, liberalism and these have not been proven any better.  Then, as a Muslim, like Dr Farouk who wishes for a secular state, where would he place the concept of “nahi mungkar”? Muslims live with collective responsibility, we simply cannot allow another muslim to live in a system that does not promote them to be better muslim, to be a true muslim. We will always need the conducive environment and people that help us be reminded of our obligations as a muslim.

The second speaker, Mr Sardar Jagir Singh representing MCCBHST shared the perception of a non –muslim in an Islamic state regarding the shariah Law in Malaysia. According to him, the fundamentals right of a non-muslim will be taken away if hudud is implemented. He did not clearly explain his claim. This really make me regret that there was no expert in syariah and hudud, who should have been amongst the panelists instead, so that a clear picture of what hudud is could be explained. Well, obviously, Mr Sardar of course could not benefit from Dr Farouk in this regard as the latter managed to confuse everybody in shariah matters.

Aston Paiva argued that the question to be asked is whether or not Malaysia is a theocracy or democracy state. He expressed his surprise that Malaysians thought that the syariah law is clear;y stated in the Quran based on a survey conducted by Merdeka Centre in 2009.

I do not blame the non-muslim who thinks, interprets and dissects Quran using personal perspectives. I wish to make it clear that the ruling and the order of Hudud does not come solely from the Quran. The muslims also refer to Rasulullah s.a.w and the sirah as well as hadiths. It is not as simple as searching the ruling and standard operating procedure in the Quran to justify whether or not there is a ruling.

Aston accused shariah of three consequences in Malaysia, which include how shariah: 1)reveals how Islamic people are, 2)discontents opponents by saying “I know more and I am more authorised than you”, and 3)shows what Malaysia is not. According to him, judges cannot make decisions based on their moral values and doctrines. Second, public authorities must make decisions on the good wellbeing of the state, not their religious beliefs (using the kalimah Allah as an example of how the minister imposed religious doctrine). Aston argued for the Syariah law prescribing the forbidding of apostasy, believing that adopting another set of religion is an intrinsic value to him.

While this is rather a popular argument, the reality is that it is the rights of the Muslim to practice their beliefs and religion the way it is required to be practised.The prohibition against aspostasy is a fundamental principle in Islam, because it is part of Akidah. Which means Islam prohibits anyone to apostate and anyone that apostate for no justifiable reasons is punishable by death. If people want to impose another law that would allow other people to apostatize in Islam, that person is imposing his doctrines which go against that religion, putting the religion in jeopardy. And this kind of doctrine not only does not contribute any good to the state, it also allows people to just decide to go against their own religion.

Syahredzan Johan argued that Islam encompasses law and obligation. He proposed that hudud should be implemented in a state where the institution of the state is aligned with the shariah, stating that in our system it is arguable that hudud could achieve its objective.

To answer Syahredzan, in arguing the inadequacy of the present system, we should come with an aim to put the state ready for hudud, with a mission on making this state aligned with shariah, AND NOT forsaking shariah and hudud on the basis of this inadequacy. According to Islamic principle, implementing Hudud and all efforts towards it is compulsory to Muslims. (Surah Al-Baqarah:229, Surah Al-Maidah:49).

In conclusion, this discourse does not explain and give an “understanding of shariah” at all that should be uphold by Muslims. It is full of personal opinions and the doctrines and discussions implied could cause more confusions to the non-muslims as well as muslims. Allowing these types of discourse to take place requires proper selection of experts as panelists, source materials, as well as respect to the religion that is put under the discourse.


Sabrina Zaifulizan
Ahli Unit Kajian PEMBINA.

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