Hudud is a deeply complex legal subject, and of late has become a divisive issue. Both PAS and DAP at different ends of the political spectrum have often and will continue to lock horns over this. Indeed, it remains one of the major stumbling blocks for the Pakatan coalition not to mention, the nation as a whole.
The Barisan Nasional also suffers from the same tensions. Only recently, an Umno State assemblyman from Johor, mooted the idea of implementing hudud enforceable on all, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Needless to say, this provoked a dramatic response from the MCA.
The proposal elicited a shock wave across the entire nation. This emotive subject promptly attracted disparate groups from all political persuasions and religious divides to unsheathe swords in an endless bickering to outwit one another.
I now submit that the hudud issue should no longer be used nor abused as a ‘political capital’ in political contestation.
Hudud should be heralded as a bi-partisan agenda to be responsibly and judiciously debated at all levels of society and finally be addressed by a democratic legislative process, including but not limited to a national referendum, if agreeable to the various ‘stakeholders’ of democracy.
Coming from a PAS Research Director this surely must be uncharacteristically bizarre. I would be perceived as being politically naïve but I want to reiterate that hudud should no longer be an agenda for partisan political interest.
It is perhaps toughest for PAS to swallow this proposition. All the more because hudud arguably has been the central thrust of PAS’s political messaging from time immemorial. Until quite recently, hudud was the ‘be all and end all’ of virtually all Islamic political parties from the Jamaati Islami in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent to the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and Masyumi et al and PAS in the Far-East.
In tandem with the current ‘changing approach’ or ‘a generational shift’, to paraphrase professor Tariq Ramadan, of their counterparts – the Muslim Brotherhood post-Arab Spring experience, the Turkish Tayyib Erdogan AK Party’s experiment on political Islam and Indonesia’s Party Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) – PAS has similarly registered its coming of age.
In a rare exercise of intellectual renewal or Ijtihad, PAS committed and shifted itself – prior to the 12th General Election 2008 – to a political trajectory and a manifesto of ‘Negara Berkebajikan’ (A Nation of Compassion and Opportunity) rather than the overworked concept of Islamic State.
Playing down on its historical demands on specific ‘legal aspects’ of the syariah (the Islamic Penal Code namely hudud), PAS now embraces a political Islam that advocates for the cardinal message of Islamic justice as embodied in the “maqasid al Syariah” (true compass and purpose of the Syariah) towards forging “A Trustworthy, Transparent and Competent Government” in coalition politics with her Pakatan partners.
But why are Islamists insistent on the law or the penal code?
As a complete way of life, that aspect of corpus of legal prescription, amongst other pertinent aspects of the Syariah, is meant to achieve justice and mercy for all mankind. Justice is the supreme purpose and overriding objective or the ‘maqasid of Syariah’.
The imperative of implementing Allah’s dictates and particularly the Islamic Penal Code is made to be one of the defining criterion of Faith or Belief (Aqidah) in Islam.
God Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
“But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad SAW) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission…” An-Nisaa’ : 65.
“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allâh and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error…” Al-Ahzab:36.
In other words, Muslims are given no option but to work for its successful implementation although always needing to contextualise to the socio-political backdrop and economic realities of the society.
Notwithstanding good intention, it would thus be an abuse of God’s laws if hudud is implemented in an environment of income and wealth inequality, compounded by a malignant corruption of critical state institutions and leakages its delivery system.
When the rich can get away from stealing millions, chopping off the hands of petty thieves would be mocking the true maqasid of hudud. Discussions of hudud beyond the context of Negara Berkebajikan and rule of law are both unrealistic much as it is counter-productive.
Is hudud an exclusively Muslim agenda, you might ask? Without any intention of being provocative, I dare say that the process must also engage Malaysians of other faiths during the course of putting it together through discourse or dialogue.
That said, it must be emphasised unequivocally that the Islamic Penal Code is only enforceable on Muslims and Muslims alone – period. The devil is surely in the details and we will cross the bridge when debating the actual details, as a national dialogue.
With hudud no longer on board PAS’ political agenda this coming general election, PAS could now focus her election machinery to embrace an inclusive Islamic agenda affecting the rakyat. More specifically PAS will take to task UMNO’s gross fiscal mismanagement and dismantle the unending corrupt practices and crony capitalism, easily visible by the epitome of the NFC’s scandal, which contradicts the pristine values of Islam and in direct contravention of the principles of Syariah and Good Governance in Islam.
PAS shall endeavour to further convince the entire electorate, the Malay-Muslims constituencies and her newly-found support of non-Malays and non-Muslims; working with its Pakatan counterparts on the manifesto of Negara Berkebajikan (Nation of Compassion and Opportunity) as advocated by the Quran and the Prophetic Traditions.
In this respect PAS must out rightly de-ethnicises and distance Islam from Malay supremacy and racial bigotry and proclaiming Islam’s ‘justice for all’. The nation can in fact play a unique role in the global resurgence of Islam by engaging multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia with the universal values of Islam – freedom, justice and equality before the eyes of God.
As a matter of faith and conviction we are either Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs or others. Islam celebrates religious plurality and acknowledges the ‘claim of exclusivity to its belief and teachings’ and accords a respect to the ‘absolutist doctrine’ of all transcendental religions.
And the bottom-line is, we are all Malaysians by way of belonging to one nation called Malaysia. Yes that is the identity we all share and cherish together, to have a nation worthy of our love, respect and sacrifice.
For Islam to be at the centre of national cohesion and solidarity, the promotion of Islam must be inclusive, voluntary and just.
I look forward to seeing a contestation moving away from the polemical issue of hudud and Islamic state and would cherish that the democratic and electoral process maturing further into an advocacy based on policy debates, performance on delivery and leadership acumen.
That will surely augur well for the dawn of ‘A New Malaysia’.
Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Executive Director PAS Research Centre.
This piece appears in “The Edge’ (August 11) and the MalaysianInsiders.