The Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) reads reports of Kedah’s new fatwa ruling with alarm.
According to The Star, the ruling enacted by the Kedah State Assembly on Tuesday will ensure that a fatwa decided by the mufti and fatwa committee “cannot be challenged, appealed, reviewed, denied or questioned in any civil court or syariah court.”
This ban against any challenge to all of Kedah’s fatwas practically grants the mufti and fatwa committee absolute say in matters concerning religion — a clear breach of democracy.
What took place on Tuesday, in other words, was nothing less than an exploitation of the democratic process towards authoritarian rule. It also assumes that those in the fatwa committee as infallibles.
The ruling also goes against what a fatwa is supposed to be. A fatwa is not supposed to be bound to any institution. It is not more than a juristic opinion from a mufti. It has no divinity attached to it. Even the great Imam Malik, one of the highest authorities in Sunni tradition after the Companions of the Prophet, prohibited his fatwas in al-Muwatta’ to be enacted as the rule of the land at that time.
Furthermore, that opinions and fatwas must take into account changing times and circumstances, which the new ruling — because it prohibits any review of fatwas — denies. Fatwas in matters of science and medicine, for example, require opinions of experts in such fields, also known as ulama’ al-waqi’ or context experts and not just ulama’ an-nusus or text experts.
Additionally, this ruling also goes against Adab Ikhtilaf (the ethics of disagreement) which has for long been a hallmark of the dynamism and richness of the Islamic intellectual tradition. The principle of Ijtihad which Islam safeguards necessitates that the freedom of conscience and disagreement is also secured in the process.
In leading to the next general election, PAS has repeatedly told Malaysians that they are now endorsing a welfare state. With this development it appears clear that many among the ranks of the party are still attached to the notion of an authoritarian Islamic state.
Sympathisers of Pakatan Rakyat have often viewed the coalition as a united front against the fascism of BN that had gripped Malaysian politics for so long. Should the Kedah ruling be all that it’s made to be, it only suggests that the supposedly united front still bears its own traces of fascism — in this case Islamic fascism — a clear indication that real change may take much longer than already imagined.
* This statement is written by Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, Edry Faizal Eddy Yusof and Muhammad Nazreen Jaafar of the Islamic Renaissance Front.