Letter to the Editor, STAR
BY MUSLIM SCHOLARS ON THE POSITION OF SYARIAH LAW IN RESPONSE TO THE 25 TOP MALAY FIGURES
15 th December 2014
We agree with the 25 top Malay figures that a solution must be found to “the continuing unresolved disputes on the position and application of Islamic laws in this country.” [The Star 8 December 2014:Need for a consultative process]
The disputes are rooted in the tension created by the marginalisation of Islamic Law and administration in the Federal Constitution as State matters with very limited jurisdiction which goes against the wishes of Muslims, who constitute the majority here, to live under Sharia law.
The 2013 worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center found that “overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land” but applicable only to their country’s Muslim population. In Malaysia 86%, and Indonesia 72%, of Muslims participating in the survey favoured making Sharia the official law.
The top 25 Malay figures confirm the Pew survey finding when they write: “As Muslims, we want Islamic law, even more than civil law, to meet the highest standards of justice precisely because it claims to reflect divine justice.”
Muslims believe it is incumbent upon them to live according to the teachings of the Sharia; to enjoin the good and forbid evil and to promote justice. For over a thousand years, before the coming of Western colonialism, Sharia played a central role in the lives of Muslims and in state administration
The colonisation of Muslim societies by the Western powers led to the ossification of the Sharia judicial system. Its jurisdiction was confined largely to legal issues connected with family and marital matters. It had no role in public law, commerce, trade, industrial relations and other important areas of human activity. Hence, it was disabled by the colonial administration to grow and develop in order to meet the challenges of modernity.
On the impact of colonialism on the development of Islamic law in the Malay States, a British educationist R.J. Wilkinson wrote: “There can be no doubt the Muslim Law would have ended by becoming the law of Malaya had not British law stepped in to check it.”
No country can ignore the wishes of such large majorities without adverse consequences to stability and peace. We need to find ways to accommodate the Muslim need for Sharia within a democratic constitutional framework without impinging on the rights of minorities.
Therefore, the Government should set up a high-powered committee to review our Federal Constitution and to recommend amendments to incorporate the needs of the Muslims and entrench the rights of minorities. A constitution is not cast in stone as to be unchangeable. It is a living document and has to grow with the changing needs of our people.
The committee should consist of Muslim and non-Muslim experts on Constitutional law, Islamic law and other relevant fields. It should, in addition to reviewing the Federal Constitution, address the weaknesses in the current truncated Sharia judicial system and make recommendations to overcome them.
The criticisms aimed at Islamic law and administration by the 25 top Malay figures are not helpful in promoting discussion and debate on the issues as they are too general for comment. For example, they allege that Sharia Criminal Offences laws of Malaysia “are in conflict with Islamic legal principles and constitute a violation of fundamental liberties…” They have not provided any evidence to support their bare allegation. The charge is serious for it reflects on the competence of the state governments, state legal advisors and the Attorney General. How can they approve laws that are contrary to Islamic legal principles?
We are heartened by the initiative of retired senior civil servants, judge, diplomats and feminists to publicly address the alleged injustice and weakness in Islamic law and administration. We hope they will show similar concern on other issues such as the growing disparity between the rich and poor, the destruction of our environment, erosion of moral and ethical values, corruption, abuse of power and issues of governance. It will also be beneficial to the nation for them to share their knowledge, experience, expertise and time with civil society organisations to promote social-justice, environmental protection and national unity.
Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid , Presiden Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization ( MAPIM )
Sohibus Samahah Tan Sri Dr Hj Harussani bin Hj Zakaria , Mufti of Perak
Sohibus Samahah Datuk Dr Wan Salim Mohd Nor , Mufti of Penang
Dato’ Wan Mohamad Dato’ Syeikh Aziz , Former Director General , JAKIM
Datuk Syeikh Mohd Nor Mansur Al Hafiz , Former Director of Islamic Department of Perak
Datuk Dr. Hj Awang bin Sariyan , Director General , DBP
Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ir. Wan Ramli bin Wan Daud , Professor of Chemical Engineering UKM
Prof. Dr. Tengku Mohd bin Tengku Sembok , Computer Science, Former Deputy Vice Chancellor Univ. Pertahanan Malaysia
Prof Ismail Mohd, Profesor Mathematics , UniMaP
Prof. Emer. Dr. Shaharir bin Mohammad Zain , Professor of Mathematics, Former Dep. Vice Chancellor UKM
Dato Hj Sulaiman Abdullah , Former Law Lecturer UM
Datin Dr Mehrun Siraj , Former Law Professor , Former Commissioner of SUHAKAM.
Prof Dr. Wan Mokhtar Wan Yusof , Professor of Microbiology UKM
Prof Dr. Khairuddin Omar , Professor of Computer Science UKM
Prof. Dr. Mohamed Aslam bin Mohamed Haneef , Professor of Economics UIAM
Prof. Dr. Mohd Sahaid Khalil , Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, UKM
Prof. Dr. Husna Azhari, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, UKM
Prof. Dr . Mohd Nazari Ismail , Dean Faculty of Business and Accounting ,University of Malaya
Prof Dr. Khairudin Omar , Computer Science , UKM
Prof Dr. Mohamed Aslam b. Mohamed Haneef , Economist , UIAM
Prof. Madya Dr. Ahmad Shahbari @ Sobri b. Salamon , Chairman of Syariah Advisory Board , Bank Islam
Prof. Madya Dr. Aidil Abd Hamid , Microbiochemistry UKM
Prof. Madya Dr. Zaini Hamzah, Nuclear Scientist, UiTM
Prof Madya Dr. Mat Rofa Ismail , Professor in Etnomatematik , UPM.
Dr. Mohammad Alinor Abdul Kadir, Mathematician , Felo INSPEM,
Dr. Mohd Roslan Mohd Nor , Secretary Ulama Assoc. of Malaysia , Deputy Director (Research & Development), Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya,
Dr Halim Muhammady , Vice Chair of WADAH , Chairman of Bairuni Research Consultant, Former Head Of Quranic Studies Department , Faculty of Islamic Studies, UKM
Hj Ahmad Awang , Former Director of Islamic Center , Malaysia
Hj Abdul Ghani Samsudin , Chairman of Secretariate for the Assembly of Ulama Asia , Former Head Department of Basic Social Studies , Faculty of Education , Universiti Malaya.
Dinsman ( Shamsuddin Osman ) , Presiden PAKSI
Datin Aminah Zakaria , Chair of Persatuan Persaudaraan Muslimah Malaysia, Former Principal of Kolej Islam Klang
Ir Hj Asari Daud, Former Deputy Director of DID
Ir .Kassim Muhammad , Former Director DID , Perlis