Most political analysts and observers concluded
that the main factor Barisan Alternatif failed to win the non-Muslim vote was due to the
mainstream media playing up two major issues: racial riots and an Islamic state. But what
is an Islamic state? Does an Islamic state ever exist? Is there a necessity for an Islamic
state (i.e. is an Islamic state part of Islamic law)?
Firstly, let us try to define the term
"Islamic". Islam by itself is defined as worshipping, prostrating in front of
God (Allah) and being a slave or servant to Allah. Therefore, "Islamic" means
acting in a way that shows we are a servant to Allah.
God's living creations are categorised as
Islamic and non-Islamic. For example, there is such a thing as an Islamic genie (jinn)
and non-Islamic genie but there is no such a thing as Islamic and non-Islamic car. In
other words, Islam is for living beings. A state is a sovereign territory and therefore is
a physical space that is not alive. The point that I am getting at is there is no such a
thing as Islamic state unless a state is a living being. Since a state is not a living
being there is no such a thing as an Islamic state.
Secondly, there is no such teaching in the Quran or hadith (Prophet Muhammad's
sayings) that implies the concept of an Islamic state where one pan-Islamic head or khalifah
on earth governs all Muslims. One of the most popular ideologies is that a perfect Islamic
state is where all Muslims are headed by one khalifah, such as during Muhammad's
time. But this is also inaccurate since during Muhammad's time, the King of Habsyah
still governed his subjects who later included Muslims.
Muhamad did not ask the King of Habsyah
or his subjects to surrender their sovereignty to him. If a kingdom is not allowed or the
king should bow to Muhammad as the leader of the Islamic community, why did Muhammad not
ask the King of Habsyah to abdicate? The fact is that any form of government is allowed,
so long as they do not run contrary to Islamic laws.
In fact, it is written in the Quran that
all humans are sent down to earth as khalifahs (defined as a 'leaders'
and 'administrators'). The khalifahs in this context must administer
the earth as Allah ordained them to. Therefore, the conclusion I make is that there is no
such a thing as an Islamic state and an Islamic state is not part of Islamic law as
revealed strictly by the Quran or hadith. Since it is not a part of Islamic Law, an
Islamic state is not a necessity.
But if an Islamic state is not a
necessity, then what is necessary? Islamic laws are the panacea prescribed by Allah to all
Muslims as a solution to all worldly problems and to bring peace and morality to this
earth. Islamic law is the necessary (wajib) thing to govern a Muslim and includes hudud,
faraid, munakahat, etc.
Since we have established that there is no such a thing as Islamic state, we must then ask
ourselves whether it is a folly for PAS to have an Islamic state as one of its ideologies
when it is a stumbling block for PAS or BA to secure non-Muslim votes.
Let us examine our Constitution regarding the question of an Islamic state. While an
Islamic state is not a part of Islamic law per se (being neither expressed in the
Quran or hadith), there are elements in our Constitution which attempt to create an
Islamic state which, though noble, are not entirely in tune (in terms of form) with
Islamic law. What PAS members aspire most to is for Islamic laws for Muslims and not some
man-made constitution to make Malaysia an Islamic state in spirit rather than form.
The most popular concept of an Islamic state (or in the spirit of an Islamic state) is
having a pan-state head of Islam such as the khalifah or the sultanate ruling
over all Muslims. Article 3(2) of the Constitution allows the conference of rulers to
authorise the King to be head of Islam in the respective states. Even if this is
restricted to certain acts, observances and ceremonies duly authorised by the council of
rulers, it can be said that the King is the head of Islam for every state, and thus the
pan-Malaysian head of Islam.
Mohamed Suffian bin Hashim, one-time Federal judge, once wrote in his seminal An
Introduction to the Constitution of Malaysia (1972): "In providing for Islam to
be the religion of the Federation, the constitution does not at the same time provide that
the [King] should be the head of Islam throughout the Federation".
However, Parliament did not act according
to Suffian's interpretation when it amended article 3 (3) on 27 August 1976, four
years after Suffian's book, to include Sabah and Sarawak, in addition to Penang and
Malacca, in states needing to amend their state constitutions to make the King the head of
Islam in that state.
Historically, the inclusion of Islam as the official religion of the Federation of Malaya
in the Constitution was as a bargaining chip to accommodate Chinese and Indians regarding
citizenship during independence. Prior to the entry of Sabah and Sarawak into Malaysia,
the majority non-Muslim population there rejected Islam as the religion of the Federation.
Divided, the Cobbold Commission decided
that it would deal with this hurdle by requiring that further discussions be had in an
Inter-Governmental Committee made up of representatives from Malaya and Borneo. At that
time that Committee gave explicit assurances that the secular nature of the Federation
would be maintained. In this connection, the Constitution does not authorise the King to
exercise any such religious authority as provided under article 3 (2) in Borneo.
However, when article 3 (3) was amended,
even Sabah and Sarawak were bound by article 3 (2). Article 3 (3) of the Constitution
which mandates the provision for the King to be head of Islam was only amended in 1976 
to include Sabah and Sarawak.
The revised article 3 (3) of the Federal
Constitution says: "The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and
Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the [King] the position of Head of the
religion of Islam in that State". The basis that qualifies Malaysia as an Islamic
state is article 3 (1) which states that Islam is the official religion of the Federation
but only in ritualistic and ceremonial roles while article 3 (2) merely qualifies the King
as the Pan-Malaysian head of Islam.
Article 3 (2) of the Constitution reads:
"...but in any acts, observences or ceremonies with respect to which the Conference
of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the
other Rulers shall in his capacity as Head of the religion of Islam authorise the King to
To say Malaysia is a totally secular country is not entirely accurate because secularism
is the total separation of state and religion. For non-Muslims, this is so, but Muslims
still fall under some syariah (Islamic) laws.
For Muslims, enforcement of some Islamic
duties and penalties for sins under Islam is a matter of law. Some actions in their daily
lives are governed by Islamic laws, though not to the full extent of the complete set of
Islamic laws. Malaysia is a Muslim country by virtue of the majority of the population
embracing the Islamic faith. Malaysia is also a pseudo Islamic state by virtue of article
3 (1) which states that "Islam is the religion of the Federation..." but
practices secularism for non-Muslims.
I have already established the fact that presently Malaysia is a pseudo Islamic state by
virtue of the Constitution. However, are we satisfied with this status quo? The fact that
PAS is still fighting to impose Islamic law means that we are not. Therefore we must ask
ourselves whether the term "Islamic state" in the recent Terengganu PAS
manifesto or as implicit in the PAS constitution and through various PAS ceramahs
is still relevant.
What PAS is really fighting for is to
enforce Islamic laws for all Muslims. Therefore, I suggest that the party avoid any
reference to an Islamic state in its manifesto, ceramahs, etc, whether implicitly
or explicitly. The Islamic state issue is a major stumbling block for BA in securing the
votes of non-Muslims and was the main issue played up by BN to spook non-Muslims.
Once PAS makes it clear that an Islamic
state is only a man-made constitution and not necessary under Islamic law, and that the
imposition of Islamic law only applies to Muslims, BN would lose a major issue to play up
and the major stumbling block for non-Muslims voting PAS will be overcome. This will
certainly augur well for the next elections.