Don’t criticise fatwas, Selangor sultan tells Muslims

-A +A

SHAH ALAM: The Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah urged Muslims yesterday not to criticise fatwas, especially those issued in Selangor, as he is personally responsible for approving the edicts.

“A fatwa that is issued in Selangor is only valid after it has obtained my approval and consent,” said the sultan in his speech at the Multaqa Selangor Sultan event in Shah Alam yesterday morning. “I urge Muslims not to be so quick in criticising the fatwas that are issued without fully comprehending them,” he said, adding that many Muslims do not understand the fundamental aspects of the laws in the Quran.

“The same goes with the historical aspect [of a fatwa] and its relation to the Federal Constitution and other laws at the federal level. A fatwa is not prepared by one mufti, but by the National Fatwa Council, which comprises clerics and professionals who are well-versed in their respective fields, including law,” said the sultan.

Muslim non-governmental organisation Sisters in Islam (SIS) filed a judicial review last Friday against a fatwa which branded the group as deviant. The fatwa, which was gazetted in Selangor in July, declared SIS and any other similar organisations that promoted religious liberalism and plurality as deviating from the teachings of Islam. In addition, any publication that promotes liberal and pluralistic religious thinking would be declared unlawful and confiscated.

SIS has named the Selangor Fatwa Committee, Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the state government as respondents.

Sultan Sharafuddin said fatwas are issued after taking into account the laws in the Quran, hadith and other relevant texts. The sultan said as a religion which is complete and all-encompassing, Islam is moderate in all aspects including faith and syariah, and fulfils all the needs of the souls of its people.

In a related development, Selangor mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid said he will not meet SIS for the time being to avoid any “prejudice” over the judicial review.

“Wait first. If they want to fight it out in court and we meet [now], it will be prejudice,” Mohd Tamyes said after a seminar on syariah law in Shah Alam. He was responding to a suggestion by Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali on Wednesday for Mais and SIS to meet and discuss the issue. SIS has welcomed the proposed dialogue.

Responding to the sultan’s statement, SIS denied that it is challenging the ruler’s authority by seeking a judicial review of the fatwa. SIS said  fatwas have been reviewed and amended in the past, and what they are doing is not unprecedented.

“Look at the fatwas on Amanah Saham Nasional and Amanah Saham Bhd in Selangor. First they said the unit trust funds were ‘haram’ (prohibited). Then it was changed to ‘tidak halal’ (not permissible). So was that a violation of the sultan’s authority?” Zainah Anwar, SIS founding member, told a press conference yesterday in Kuala Lumpur.

Two PAS lawmakers have come to the defence of SIS, saying that the fatwa is baseless.

Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Khalid Samad, who are PAS central committee members, said the religious authorities would have learned that SIS did not deal with theology, let alone liberalism and pluralism, if they had made the effort to meet with the group.

“The fatwa that was gazetted is related to thought, so there must be discussions with the people involved,” said Mujahid after attending a dialogue with SIS at Menara Manulife, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 7, 2014.