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Dare to differ, Zaid tells Muslims

October 27, 2014

“If we do not want this country to be controlled by fascists, then we must be prepared to go to jail.”

zaid melayu300PETALING JAYA: Political commentator Zaid Ibrahim has made an impassioned plea to Malays to assert their right to differ with religious authorities on matters pertaining to Islam.

“To the Malays who believe and support democracy and human rights, let us be brave even when we are labeled or accused of being deviant. If we do not want this country to be controlled by fascists, then we must be prepared to go to jail,” he said in his latest blog entry.

“Let’s point out to the authorities that even Muslims have rights, and that it’s not them we have to answer to, but God.”

He told Muslims not to be intimidated by those who would brand them as infidel, hypocrite or ignorant. “Let them,” he said. “They are the ones who are misguided.”

Zaid also criticised Prime Minister Najib Razak, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and “leaders in the Istana” for staying silent when “mullahs are destroying their own people”.

“Do they want Malays to threaten and fight each other, like the IS in Iraq and Syria? Do they want Malays to be mindless robots with no views of their own?” he asked.

“These leaders must bear the responsibilities of their offices and positions. They must not condone or support the persecution of Malays and any others in the name of God.

“Najib, Anwar and the Istana must put an end to the despotic behaviour of the ulama who freely and without care issue fatwas without thinking about the effects these edicts have on the people.”

He contrasted the liberal attitude of scholars in Islam’s classical period with the rigidity of religious authorities in contemporary Malaysia.

“In the Golden Age of Islamic legal theory and jurisprudence,” he said, “scholars and mujtahid (interpreters of Shariah law) issued fatwas or opinions regularly—sometimes a dozen fatwas on a particular subject. They relished differences in opinion. They regarded this diversity as a manifestation of the wonder of the human mind in the search of the Divine will.

“Scholars and jurists of that era recognised that fatwas were only relevant for a particular time and situation and could change with new facts and circumstances. They ended their fatwas with wallahu alam (God knows best) as a reminder to themselves that they were humans and therefore fallible. Fatwas were not laws, but were used by the rulers as guidance in the administration of the state.

“Our scholars in Jakim and the religious authorities, on the other hand, are apparently dead sure of their infallibility. They can do no wrong or be wrong in their fatwas.

“In the Golden Age, jurists and scholars accepted the distinction between the tenets of Shariah (God’s way) which are immutable and beyond question, and the human search and understanding of the Shariah by way of usul al fiqh (legal theory).

“The search through fiqh is a human activity that involves reason and a healthy mind. Fiqh is not fixed and immutable. It is changing, dynamic and fallible because it is human.

“This flexibility and tolerance of ideas is the true Islam. The scholars of the Golden Age never once believed they were infallible, for that would be to ascribe to oneself an attribute of God.”


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