Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Secular state limits religion? Hogwash! Islamic state limits Islam? Definitely !

I have been busying myself in Malaysia Today lately. Politics interests me a lot but at present I am more inclined to be quiet on this topic. There is a lot of deals going on at the backstage at this moment so I am not going to spoil the fun.

However, the popular topic of religion, Islamic state vs Secular state interest me deeply. I have been engaging one regular commentator in MT who goes by the nick cabearth.

You can view it here: 'Syariah Court Ruling on Siti Fatimah Tan Is A Step In The Right Direction'

The issue is this. In one of his postings, he said

'What Malik Imtiaz and Haris Ibrahim is doing is to try to impose limitation normally imposed by secularism on all religion.'

Now how many of Muslims out there heard this from Ustadzs before?

Often. And in some cases, always.

These Islamists reasoning is simple. According to them, Secularism impose limitation on religion, or ad-deen which is defined as way of life, thus Secularism is, in cabearth's word, "100% contradictory to Islam." Their conclusion is this, Muslims need an "Islamic State" to 'properly' adhere to the tenets of religion.

Does it?

So I pick up the challenge and argue with him, in which till this article is written, no rebuttal came from him yet. If he did in different website, please do highlight it to me.

My argument;

1. Islam is made up out of so many sects (Mazhabs) and school of thoughts. We have Sunni, Syiah and Wahabi. And under them we have many Mazhabs, such as Syafie, Maliki, Hanafi for the Sunnis, Jafariyah, Imamiyah for Syiah. And under one Mazhabs, we have different school of thoughts.

2. Let's take Malaysia as an example. The proposed 'Islamic State' by the local Islamists is based on Syafie rulings.

3. Among the criteria of this effort is this, the Syariah Law which is going to be enforced would be based on Syafi'e rulings (Mazhab Syafi'e)

4. When this happen, it means that Syafi'e ruling would be enforced upon all Muslims regardless of their Mazhab.

5. Islam is not equal to Mazhab Syafi'e. Those who follows other Mazhabs are also Muslims.

6. When the Syafi'e rulings are enforce upon the followers of different Mazhabs, it means that the proposed 'Islamic State', which is actually a 'Syafi'e State', is in actual fact pose limitation on Islam.

Case study : The Ruling of marriage.

In Syafie's ruling, a single Muslim lady must have the permission of her father before she can enter into any marriage. The father as a 'wali' have a final say. In some school of thought in Mazhab Syafi'e, the father can even marry the daughter to anyone he pleases without the permission or knowledge of the daughter and the marriage is legally recognized and binding on the lady.

In Hanafi ruling, it is completely different. A single Muslim lady is recognized as independent and can make decision on her own completely. She can choose to marry whomsoever she pleases and she does not need to get permission from anyone. The father does not have any legal right to prevent the marriage. Even if her father protest, she could go on with the marriage without any hassle.

The Malaysian Syariah Law on marriage is based on Syafi'e ruling. The bride would need to get permission from her father to enter into marriage.

The question now is this, what if there is a Muslim lady from the Hanafi sect, who wants to get married to a man whom she chooses but unfortunately her father does not agree to her choice?

In her own Mazhab, she could carry on with the marriage without any hassle. The state will automatically marry her with the man of her choice. And the marriage would be legally recognized.

But in Malaysia, she would be forced to accept Syafi'e ruling. She would have to obtained permission from her father. All of this is against the decree of the Hanafi's.

Enforcing the ruling of one particular Mazhab on to the followers of different Mazhabs clearly imply one thing, an 'Islamic State' pose a clear 'limitation on Islam' by discriminating other sects.

Syafi'e is not equal to Islam.

Secularism 101 for dummies

The main contention among the fundamentalists is this; secularism limits religions and thus it is anti-religion.

This is as good as saying that Islam is equal to Mazhab Syafi'e.

The truth is there is no one single secular concept for all. Secularism itself varies in principles and practices and this is manifested in the different nations throughout the world.

Take secularism in France and Sweden for example. We have a clear example what constitute a hard secularism like in France or a soft secularism in Sweden.

I still remember few years ago, there were some hue and cry from the Islamists over the ruling that no French public schoolchildren should be allowed to wear anything that symbolizes religion such as hijab for Muslims, crosses for Christians and etc.

This incident is used by Islamists as evidence that secularism limits religion.

They got it all wrong.

In 2004, a court in Sweden sentenced an Iranian man to pay Mahr (Islamic dowry) to his Iranian wife in a divorce case. The man accused his wife of infidelity . In the decision, the court decided that since both the plaintiff and defendant are Iranians, the court will then adopt the Iranian law (in this case Syiah's Sharia Law) in its ruling.

Sweden is a secular state. It disestablished its state religion way back in 2000. But it is well known that Sweden is adopting a soft secularism approach. And the court case is an example of Sweden trying its best to promote multiculturalism and tried to accommodate the rulings from different traditions.

We should ask whether Malaysian Syariah Court or rather Malaysian Syafi'e Court would be as accommodating to the Syiah's as the Swedish court.

The Malaysian Syafi'e Court only cater the needs of Muslims from Syafi'e sect. It discriminates other sects by enforcing rules from Syafi'e on Muslims from other sects. With this in mind, how does a secular state limits religion more than an Islamic State?


1. Secularism limits religion is a sweeping statement. There are many types of secularism.

2. Any Islamic state, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia (and maybe Malaysia in future) limits Islam itself by enforcing ruling from certain Mazhabs only on all Muslims regardless of their mazhabs affiliation.

The claim that Syariah Law is to cater the needs of Muslims is therefore FALSE. The existing Syariah Law, or more appropriately should be call Syafi'e Law, will only cater the needs of Muslims from the Syafi'e sect while discriminating other Muslims from different Mazhabs.

In comparison between Sweden and the present Malaysia, the secular Sweden is more accommodating to Muslims compared to Malaysia.

5. Since secular Sweden is more accommodating to Muslims from different mazhabs compare to Malaysia, which is more Islamic in nature? Malaysia or Sweden?

Think about it.