Matters pertaining to Islamic law must be referred to the Syariah Court, as it is the main body entrusted with administering justice according to the confines of Islam.
ALL the hue and cry prior to and after the Federal Court’s judgment in the Lina Joy case are manifestations of ignorance, arrogance and sheer defiance of logic. It once again proves that the most unsettling problem afflicting our people is the problem of knowledge.
It’s alarming to encounter certain individuals or groups of people are ignorant of their ignorance and yet are bold enough to indulge in matters alien to their understanding. To further exacerbate the confusion, they choose to remain obstinate by discarding authority, i.e. true knowledge and erudite scholarship.
As was adjudicated in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, the case of Lina Joy is primarily administrative in nature. It essentially deals with the question of conversion procedure – whether or not a Muslim has to obtain a decree from the Syariah Court confirming one's apostasy.
A lot of people appear to consciously reject the fact that this country practices a dual legal system of parallel status – civil and syariah. This unique system is sanctioned, among others, by the Ninth Schedule and further bolstered by Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the country.
When it comes to matters pertaining to Islamic law, they must be referred to the Syariah Court, as it is the main body entrusted with administering justice according to the confines of Islam.
Conversion out of Islam is part of Islamic law, and therefore the Syariah Court is the only proper platform to resolve the issue. It is hard to believe that some people simply refuse to deal with the Syariah Court, assuming that justice will be denied.
The law is simple and straightforward. There is no need to complicate matters by manipulating the issues to the extent of threatening national unity. If one is not happy with any decision of any subordinate Syariah Court, then one may appeal. But some seem to already admit defeat without even trying.
It is amazing to learn that segments of our learned citizens throw their allegiance to a “foreign” law as compared to our readily available own internal legal provisions.
It is well and good to acknowledge the superiority of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) over our Federal Constitution, namely with regard to the freedom of religion.
But it appears to run foul if one were to make the same recognition, say, with the provisions of holy scriptures: the Bible, the Vedas, and particularly the Quran and Sunnah.
Many do not realise that in adopting any international document, we must first examine if it is binding. The UDHR is not legally binding even in countries which have agreed to adopt it.
Furthermore, in the Malaysian context, section 4(4) of the Human Rights Commission Act 1999 clearly provides that the application of any external laws must be filtered through the Federal Constitution.
Certainly, apostasy is currently the hottest issue at stake; it is an internal legal problem. Like it or not, in order to resolve the issue, we must first acknowledge and apply all rules and laws available in our own backyard. The so-called international law only plays a persuasive role that may be referred to as a guide, not the determining factor.
One must not approach apostasy strictly from its constitutional or civil legal perspective alone. Religious representation must be given, if not more, at least an equal consideration.
In the case of Muslim apostates and those who support them (especially fellow Muslims), it is inconceivable that they would willingly leave Islam or give tremendous support if they properly understood the religion of Islam.
This holds true even to the followers of other religions. One will only renounce one's own religion as a result of utter ignorance, frustration or disenchantment.
First and foremost, Muslims must understand that they have chosen Islam consciously and willingly as a result of understanding and knowledge. Even Muslims cannot take things for granted believing that they are Muslims simply by birth.
All Muslims, either by birth or by conversion, must be made to realise that they have actually entered into a primordial covenant with God in the supernatural realm long before they were born to this world.
And this divine contract, i.e. the pledge of recognition, trust and allegiance between all human souls and God, is recorded in the Quran, namely, in Surah al-A’raf (7): 172.
This recognition and trust needs to be observed accordingly. In fact, this is the very foundation where all aspects of human life originate. None can ever claim that he/she is not aware of this spiritual contract, as the Quran is the reminder.
Therefore, once a Muslim breaches this divine contract, he is subject to a certain kind of religious remedial measure or punishment. This situation is very similar to that of commercial transactions where, for instance, those who breach contracts are punished in accordance with the terms and conditions stipulated in their agreements.
In the case of the Islamic legal system, there are provisions available pertaining to apostasy. If a crime takes place, then all parties involved are required to abide by them. In fact, every aspect of life, including the issue of freedom, has to be understood and exercised within the framework of religious parameters.
Certainly, the availability of fixed rules and regulations do not negate the possible and necessary modifications in the manifestations of justice according to Islam.
One of the substantial differences between Islam and the other religions is that, the latter possibly do not speak of a divine primordial covenant. This explains why the question of leaving one's religion for another is never an issue in non-Islamic religious traditions.
Muslims must not become Muslims simply because they are born within Muslim families or societies. For the converted Muslims, the motivation must not be for personal gain, be it in the form of marriage or other socio-economic and political benefits.
It is never too late to rectify any wrong once it is discovered. Gradually he/she must make efforts to increase his/her knowledge about Islam. In this regard, other Muslims, especially the loved ones (husbands, wives, parents, etc.), or those responsible for the conversion, must assist him/her along the way.
With proper understanding of religion, one will not easily leave religion for mundane reasons. A lack of compassion on the part of the Muslims will perhaps stifle any attempt to call the other to Islam.
By Dr WAN AZHAR WAN AHMAD
Centre for Syariah, Law
and Political Science, Ikim
Tuesday June 19, 2007
A Hindu Lina Joy, subjected to Islamic “re-education”
Some civil groups in Malaysia have organised a prayer vigil Revathi: and Indian Hindu who January last was condemned to 180 days of “rehabilitation” in a centre lead by Muslim authorities.