By Zaid Ibrahim
5 August 2016
Malaysia is an Islamic country – an extraordinary one at that. All the top leaders proclaim their commitment to discharge their duties and responsibilities in accordance with tenets of the religion.
The new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission head, on his first day in office, quoted verses from the Quran by which he will be guided. The outgoing deputy Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull also reminded us that Allah knows all.
Elsewhere, not a single decision can be made without religious departments or citizens’ groups releasing a slew of reminders and warnings if they feel that some Islamic tenet is being contravened.
It seems that everything – whether in the public or private sphere – must be Halal or Shariah-compliant.
In my hometown of Kota Baru, the Kota Baru Municipal Council (MPKB) has taken action against women whose attire was deemed to have failed to cover their Aurat.
Lately, MPKB officers have also gone after shops that promote products by displaying pictures that were thought to be too titillating.
Among the latest victims is the owner of a watch shop who was fined for having posters of female models or film stars promoting watch brands.
Women, even on posters, must be covered up at all times; otherwise they will be deemed to be promoting immorality.
Female pop singers also need to comply with the proper dress code when performing in this country.
The entire Muslim community was asked to Sembahyang Hajat or perform special prayers when singer Selena Gomez came to town recently as part of her world tour, to protect us all from the evils of her sexy wardrobe.
To counter all this decadence, there are a multitude of posters and slogans exhorting Quranic injunctions or Hadith about good conduct and behaviour.
In the 1990s, these slogans were found mainly in the PAS-ruled states like Kelantan and Terengganu, but today they are a national phenomenon.
Government departments, hospitals and schools are awash with slogans warning Muslims about things that are sinful, about the need to be truthful and about living a life of dignity.
There are slogans everywhere about the need to be righteous and to be fearful of God’s punishment in our everyday lives.
I understand that even in the Attorney-General’s Chambers today, one can see verses and slogans reminding the lawyers there to carry out their work diligently or face the wrath of God.
Our leaders are religious too; their public image is steeped in moral uprightness.
By “leaders”, I would include the Malay royalty as well. They exemplify the qualities of true Islamic leaders, being very concerned with the welfare of the people.
They would not approve of conduct that’s unbecoming of Islamic leaders, such as being corrupt and abusive of their powers.
Our leaders frequently perform the Haj, both big and small, although the Prophet himself did it only once in his lifetime.
When they perform the rituals in Mecca, the people are also able to witness their presence before God and the Holy Ka’abah, thanks to wide media coverage of these religious visits.
Businesses selling Halal products, religious books, holy water, headscarves and even other “Islamic” products such as medical care, insurance and banking are flourishing.
They are already a multi-billion-ringgit industry and are still growing. This is the trend of the future.
Since we have a Shariah-compliant index in place, devised at the behest of our own Prime Minister, it’s only to be expected that more and more of our policies will require compliance with the index.
This should mean we can measure the Shariah-compliance of almost every product or service, not to mention the actions or words uttered either by individuals or ministers.
Meanwhile, political parties and non-governmental organisations promote Islam with great gusto and earnestness.
Some of them specialise in lodging police reports against the enemies of Islam for insulting or ridiculing the religion. Everyone wants to be involved in defending the faith.
A branch chief of an Islamist party in Perak even posted a statement on Facebook that said on Judgment Day, the only way he will be able to prove to Allah that he served Islam during his lifetime will be to show his party membership card.
His own party president confirmed that their primary struggle is to serve Islam.
Participating in an election is therefore just incidental, which means winning the contest is not that important to them.
It appears that the priority of this party is not to solve the people’s problems, so long as they believe they are serving God.
I am delighted that our leaders are righteous, and all these newfound religiosity will ensure these Islamic leaders or defenders of the faith are on the right path. One small cautionary note may not be out of place however. Allah views unkindly those who are hypocrites or pretenders. There are 12 verses in the Quran about hypocrites.
The fundamental rule in Islam is that when we are in the service of Allah, we must not do it for rewards, be it money, fame or position.
We serve Allah quietly and truthfully, and we care not if others know of what we do in His name.
We must not lie and hypocrites habitually lie (verse 9.77) and not think Allah knows not what we do in private. When we pray it’s not because we want others to see (verse 4.142).
That’s the crux of Islam. In Surah Al An’aam, there are verses that clearly say service to God is not about material wages or rewards, as rewards come from Allah.
In fact, one verse tell us to “follow only those who do not ask for wages” as they strive for the truth. God forbids us to follow those who profit from religion.
There are clear references in the Quran about the dangers of following the hypocrites (Munafiqun). These are Muslims who pretend to follow God’s teachings but they are not truthful to the religion.
The Quran describes them as those who prayed but expected men to see them, or speak in private conversations as if Allah could not hear them.
If you sell or promote Islam for selfish reasons, on the other hand, whether as politicians, businessmen or senior civil servants, then you are Munafiqun or hypocrites.
In Chapter 63 of the Quran (Al-Munafiqun), Allah reminds us about these hypocrites who, blinded by their possessions and power, would not help the poor and pretended to follow the ways of Allah.
In these perplexing times, when recognising the truth and the right path has become especially difficult for Muslims, I suggest that they learn to trust themselves more than ever, and look to the Quran’s plain meaning as their guide.
It’s a lot safer than trusting others who pretend to be what they are not.
Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim is now a legal consultant.