A cogitation on the politicization of Islam in the country – what spurned its coming to being, it’s manifestation and how it is adversely affecting Malaysia and her citizens, in particular the ordinary Muslim citizen – in 4 parts.

While I understand and accept that every community must have laws to govern the conduct of its members, the question always is:

– which conduct, to what extent, who decides and what mechanism?

This question arises because there is a big difference when you legislate on matters relating to faith and non-faith matters. Let me make this point clear by an example.

If someone tells me to obey the red-yellow-green traffic light system because it facilitates traffic movement and that the Road Transport Act provides for penalties if I transgress it, then it is simply an issue of traffic regulation and the effectiveness of the law. I may evaluate its effectiveness and probably agree it is good or suggest improvements. Either way, I will obey it since I can see for myself it is good and I also want to avoid being penalized.

On the other hand, If someone tells me that the traffic light system of red-yellow-green is ordained by Allah, and if one disputes it, one will go to hell, then it is a matter of faith. If this traffic regulation is further legislated as “syariah law” and the State tells me I have to adhere to it NOT because I am a citizen but a MUSLIM citizen, then my Muslim consciousness gets triggered to verify whether it is indeed ordained by Allah or not. I simply cannot treat what people say in Allah’s name presumptuously, especially when they want to enforce it on me in His name. I have to check it with my Book of guidance, the Quran, and this is what it says,

And do not accept that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). Quran: 17:36

The entire Quran puts a duty on me to verify whatever anyone (no matter how learned they claim to be on earth) says to me in His name with His Book of Gudiance. As a secondary source, I may refer to the Sunnah of the prophet IF there is no clear injunction in the Quran. If there is, there is no onus for me to check with the Sunnah (Today, however, many Muslims seem to refer more to the recorded Sunnah rather than the Quran).

Now assuming that I cannot find anywhere, anything in the Quran or the Sunnah to say that the “syariah traffic” light system is not in the Quran and the Sunnah, I should be free to believe as such. However, when the State imposes it on me as a “divine commandment”, then it oppresses my freedom of faith to be a Muslim as I understand. The State “religious laws” become a threat to my faith and compels me to be a hypocrite.

When someone, nothing less than an “Islamic scholar” tells me that it is part of the “Islamic fiqh” (Law) that married adulterers are to be stoned, my entire skin jumps out in revulsion and I pray in my heart “Allah please guide us.” I cannot find it in the Quran at all. In fact, in the entire Quran, all the stoning incidents narrated therein are done by pagans. Never by the Muslims.

Of course, many have tried to persuade me to accept the “knowledge” of the “learned ulamaks”. This is a feeble logic of persuasion for many reasons. First, there is a big difference between being a person of information and a person of knowledge. Personally, I have known many scholars of being highly informative of the information that they have mastered without understanding or evaluating the basis of those information. Rarely, do you find the evaluative scholar in a discipline where uniformity of thought is highly encouraged for the “well being of the ummah” (sounds like a good excuse to dispense with thinking). Secondly, you only accept the views of anybody whose views are consistent with the Quran and the Sunnah. Thirdly, Allah has warned us to be wary of many unscrupulous and conmen “ulamaks” who cheat people of their wealth and lies in God’s name:

O you who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of God. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God: announce unto them a most grievous penalty. Quran: 9:34

There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from God,” but it is not from God: It is they who tell a lie against God, and (well) they know. Quran: 3: 78

To me Surah 3, verse 78 above reminds me constantly to watch for those who try to beguile me with their “knowledge” of Arabic language but what they preach is actually: “sounds like Islam, smells like Islam, looks like Islam but is not Islam!”

Fourthly, I have yet to meet a “learned scholar” who can give me the guarantee that Allah has ordained me to ask from such people when they try to compel their views upon me:

What is the matter with you? How judge you? Or have you a book through which you learn that you shall have, through it whatever you choose? Or have you Covenants with Us to oath, reaching to the Day of Judgment, (providing) that you shall have whatever you shall demand? Ask you of them, which of them will stand surety/guarantee for that!. Quran: 68: 36- 40

With the greatest of respect and with all humility, I dare say that the majority of the Assemblymen who legislate on my behalf do not know the above verses and commandments of Allah in the Quran. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong and I apologise. However, this is the impression I am left with after discussing with the bulk of them for more than 20 years! Much of the drafting and “selection” of what is “syariah law” is left to paid “religious” civil servants.

The reader must be clear that the purpose of this article is not to question the syariah laws. The evaluation of whether the existing syariah laws are consistent with the Quran and the Sunnah is another matter that should be dealt with. This article wishes to point out the problems that arise when you legislate faith, which, in essence, is a private and not a public matter.

From the above discussion, the mutation of the Government’s “Islamisation progamme” into politico-Islamisation can be further explained. Due to political expediency and the lack of true interest on behalf of the political law-makers, all drafting and selection of “syariah laws” is left to civil servants. Politics avoid controversy and hence there is a strong inclination and preference to lean towards what is popular and conservative.

Although Islam recognizes diversity of views and paths towards the God Al-Mighty, political expediency and the need for uniformity, control and administration results in one inevitable result – you believe as the State dictates. This is a threat to the Muslim who takes his faith seriously and not simply as a community culture to be adhered to.

Politico-Islamisation also places much power into the hands of politicians and opportunists who position themselves as “champions of Islam.” Not only is there “competition” between politicians but equally among “Islamic scholars” depending on which school of thought you belong to. This will give rise to immense problems for our country in the future if it is not addressed now. This will be discussed in the next posting, God willing.


LoyarBurok Editorial Note: This post originally appears on the author’s blog, Rapera.

Jabar tries to walk with God. He has been active in advancing social, national unity and human rights issues for years. He wears many hats and is ever willing to work with any group that promotes the general...