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Hudud in Malaysia: Time for Our Lawmakers to Take a Stand


By Mushamir Mustafa

23 March 2015

Hudud is a set of laws and punishments set out in the Quran and Hadiths that defines ‘crimes against God’. It was originally conceived to regulate all aspects of life in Muslim societies, from the behaviour and habits of individuals to the workings of the criminal justice system and financial institutions.

Malaysia has progressed for a long time without Hudud. The question is - is this the right time, and do we even need one?

Zain HD, as he is known, is the co-founder of Peace Meal, which is a platform that facilitates the cultural, intellectual and spiritual understanding of Islam through interactive programs. Zain believes that the reason a lot of Malaysians might resort to Hudud law is because "it’s an alternative to what they either believe or suspect is better than what they have been having all along.

He had previously studied law and then Islamic law and is now currently studying Islamic sciences including law. He pointed out that “just like how some youth consider socialism because the democracy that they have been sold to and have faith in, have in many ways failed them".

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the maverick politician who has often publicly voiced his reservation about Hudud’s implementation also added that humans might not be the best to interpret and implement God’s laws.

“Hudud as law of the land applicable to Muslims only is gross violation of the very idea of nationhood. Every Malaysian must reject it. The impact of Hudud on Malaysia is far greater than 250 years of colonisation; yet no Malay leader has enough courage to oppose it." he had posted on Twitter recently.

Malaysians politicians, especially Malay-Muslim policymakers and ministers have avoided taking a definitive stance on the issue for as long as possible. But with the amendments for the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Enactment 1993 set to be tabled in Dewan Rakyat possibly by middle of this year, it is time for our nation’s lawmakers to clearly take a stand on this issue.

The longer they procrastinate, they will leave a vacuum in much needed leadership on this issue and allow for opportunists to capitalize on it for their own political agendas, whether it is to topple political opponents, stir racial sentiments or provoke religious tension.

While it was announced in the media that the Prime Minister’s Department will make a public announcement on Hudud sometime early this week, Malaysian Digest set out to gauge the sentiment of politicians from how best to negotiate this watershed moment for Malaysia’s Federal Constitution.

PKR Focus Is On Principles of Priority

Malaysian Digest contacted Fahmi Fadzil, PKR’s Communications Chief. We asked him what is the party’s stand, and as a Muslim, for Hudud being implemented in Malaysia.

“We do not, as Muslims, reject Hudud as a concept, but we subscribe to the Principles of Priority, principles of Fiqh Awlawiyyat, the science of priority jurisprudence, that has been articulated by Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, which means that there are three conditions in society that must be met before something like Hudud is implemented.

“PKR’s stand is for more complete reforms that have to be seen in society including the alleviation of poverty, establishment of social justice, a more equitable distribution of wealth and these must be the conditions for a society to make sure that people do not commit crimes because of the conditions of society, it’s kind of a socio-political-economic philosophy”.

“There is also the matter of Maslahat Ummah (public interest) and the Maqasid Shariah (higher objectives of Shariah)”

“It’s not a rejection of Hudud, but in time perhaps, the principal project right now is about the public’s debt, low household incomes, and the economic condition in society is not at the place where it is suitable for the implementation of Hudud”.

Whether we like it or not, it’s not a question of rejecting it, it’s about the timing of the implementation; it’s not the time right. The equivalent is if the country is in severe financial constraints, it comes down to the question if we should implement austerity measures or cut down on social services. I don’t think so, right?

“This is where it goes into the question of what is the take on the development first; we must focus first on completing these reforms and seeing these reforms through, before we can get to that question”.

Muslims Have to Defend the Country’s Constitution First – Zaid Ibrahim

Datuk Zaid IbrahimZaid Ibrahim, leader of the Malaysian People's Welfare Party or Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA) also believes that the time is not right.

He echoes the sentiments of DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, Raja Petra Kamarudin and most recently, Tun Musa Hitam who had all said that because of Malaysia’s diverse ethnic composition Hudud is an insensitive thing to do, saying even that “personally I am of the opinion that an early start hudud is not appropriate in our country Malaysia. As a former UMNO organizer, I fully believe since UMNO was established until now, Hudud is not suitable for Malaysia as a multiracial country with various races and religions” as reported by a local newspaper.

“Muslims have to defend the country’s Constitution first. Some PAS and UMNO leaders are not thinking straight at this moment and they are very emotional”, he spoke with Malaysian Digest.

“Malaysia needs honest and capable leaders. We are not providing basic requirements to our people like housing, good income and such, and Hudud is an attempt to hoodwink the people.

He had also referred to the implementation of Hudud in the vein as the Taliban ‘invading’ Malaysia and that it must be “resisted by all Malaysians”.

PAS Believes That Islamic Laws Focus On Prevention and Justice More Effectively

PAS Member of Parliament from Temerloh Nasrudin Tantawi also spoke with Malaysian Digest on this issue. He offers a point of view that the rest of us did not include, for example with the fact that Sharia has been in place in Malaysia for decades.

PAS Youth Chief Nasrudin Tantawi“Hudud is not a new practice in Malaysia. It has been specially implemented in Terengganu and Melaka especially with the ‘Batu Bersurat Terengganu’ (Terengganu Inscription Stone, a granite stele carrying Classical Malay inscription in Jawi) that had Syariah laws written down

While Zaid says that the impact of Hudud will be far greater than 250 years of colonialism, Nasrudin finds the opposite to be true, as Hudud allows Malaysia to set its ‘own’ Islamic laws without the interference of any foreign party. He also elaborated that Hudud goes back to its roots, in dealing with crime and why it would be a good deterrent Malaysia where it is “facing the threat of ever more severe crimes”.

“They worry about implementing the Islamic law, citing the unresolved economic and social problems.

“Yet we have been under civil law since Independence, and these people neglect to see that many of the economic and social malaise of society are also because of the man-made laws of today.

“I reiterate that given the opportunity to implement this criminal law based in Islamic law, the economic and social problems will be dealt in a positive manner, and will be in place to protect lives, property, your ancestry and (Aql).

“Uniquely, Islamic laws focus on prevention and justice rather than solely on the punishments alone.”

As a Muslim, Nasrudin also touched on what it means to be a Muslim and having Hudud.

“It is of my opinion that the decline of civilization or of a country is not because of its Islamic laws but rather because of the attitude and behaviour of those who do not abide by the rules and laws - laws specifically those that has been established by God the Creator.

“I think that the more that human’s advance, the more they need (more) law(s) - and Sharia law is there to ensure that advancements in science do not slander humanity and other human beings.

“It is when people reject Islam that they fight amongst each other with the weapon that they have created to show who is strongest, and this currently arises from the lack of laws specifically that is soulless and does not bring up the soul and mind of Man to be that of peace and righteousness.

“Pious and devout Muslims will unite to support the implementation of the law - the law of Islam. This is not an issue in the minds of the party or limited by the boundaries of political parties. This is an issue of community and country”, he said.

“It’s Natural for Muslims to Support Islamic Sources of Law but Whether It Is Necessary….That's Tricky to Say”

Zain HD also highlighted the current mood of Malaysia’s political climate which he feels is influenced by the rising conscience in Muslims nowadays.

"As more people become conscious Muslims, they would place more trust in something that is more firm and having a divine source, as opposed to man-made laws, not to mention coming from the men, politicians which have lost their trust from their track records".

Malaysia could use a number of things, and Hudud could be one of it, if done properly. I think the bigger issue is that people don't trust those who are propagating it nor those who will eventually implement it, and not of Hudud itself

"The reality is both promoters and dissenters of Hudud don't know what it is, which doesn't quite matter to begin with, as they don't trust the implementers.

"So it’s natural for Muslims to support an Islamic source of law (among other things) but whether it is necessary to have in order to function, that’s tricky to say.

In conclusion, Zain gives us a point to ponder.

"Malaysia as a land was stronger in religion and Islamic scholarship in the past. Yet the scholars then didn't emphasize Hudud as a priority over other elements from within the religion".

The question of whether we need Hudud now it is up to the rest of the Malaysian people to decide as provided by our nation’s democratic system.