PETALING JAYA: Vocal Muslim women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS) today hailed the Court of Appeal’s judgment against the National Registration Department (NRD) in allowing a child born out of wedlock to take up the father’s name, saying it was a just decision conforming to the Quranic spirit.
SIS quoted a verse from the Quran, “Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is more just in the eyes of God” (33:5), adding that the judgment by Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli and two other members of the bench was fulfilling one of the shariah’s goals, the protection of life.
“While this (verse) is understood to refer to adopted children, it is not impossible to extend the spirit of the verse to recognise the biological fathers of children conceived or born out of wedlock,” the group said in a statement.
The judgment, in explaining the court’s finding last May that the NRD overstepped its powers when it added the surname “Abdullah” to register a Muslim child born out of wedlock, questioned the practice, saying it amounted to humiliating the child.
Abdul Rahman said the NRD’s action was a violation of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 (BDRA), which makes no distinction between a Muslim child and a non-Muslim child.
“Section 13A(2) does not say that an illegitimate Muslim child must be treated differently from a non-Muslim child when it comes to the registration of a surname,” he wrote in the 28-page judgment.
The child, who was born on April 17, 2010, three days short of the six-month period to legitimise the birth to the couple, was given the surname “Abdullah”.
Based on fatwas issued by the National Fatwa Committee in 1981, the NRD refused the parents’ request to use the father’s name in the birth certificate.
Another fatwa in 2003, meanwhile, ruled that an illegitimate child shall not be given the surname of the father of the child or the person who claimed to be the father of the child.
Abdul Rahman said the fatwa was in conflict with the BDRA, which allows the father of the illegitimate child to make his name the child’s surname.
SIS said the practice of registering Muslim children’s surnames as “binti/bin Abdullah” when they were born out of wedlock led to serious and unjust repercussions on their overall upbringing and well-being.
This included their right to receive maintenance from paternal family members, inheritance, and the emotional trauma of having to face social stigma in their formative years.
SIS added that the best interest of the child must be the primary concern in the formation of all laws, policies and decisions that affected them, and that this was in line with both Islamic teachings and universal human rights.