Asri responds to Perak mufti over out-of-wedlock children

Mohd-Asri-HarussaniPETALING JAYA: Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says differences of opinions among Muslim jurists should be recognised in the controversy surrounding the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow a child born out of wedlock to use the name of the biological father.

Asri was responding to Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria who took a swipe at him for supporting the Court of Appeal’s ruling that illegitimate Muslim children could use their biological father’s name as their surname.

The current practice by the National Registration Department (NRD) is to use “bin or binti Abdullah” in registering an illegitimate child, a practice the court said would only humiliate the child.

Harussani, who disagreed with the judgment, questioned the Perlis mufti’s stand, saying it was tantamount to legitimising zina, or illicit sex.

“Something that has been decided for centuries cannot be changed as it was made based on the Quran, hadith and ijma (consensus among jurists).

“I hope these ulama are careful. We should stick to a consensus that has been there for ages.”

In his response, Asri cited views from Imam Abu Hanifah, who founded the Hanafi school of thought, which has the largest following in the Muslim world.

“Abu Hanifah once said that it was not wrong for a man, who had impregnated a woman in an extramarital affair, to marry her, cover the shame and take the child as his,” Asri quoted a view of Abu Hanifah, as cited by 13th-century Muslim jurist Ibn Qudamah in his work Al-Mughni.

Asri said similar views had been cited by ulama before and after Abu Hanifah, including by Ibn Taimiyyah, Rashid Ridha and contemporary scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

“Do we accuse them of permitting zina or are we just shallow in our reading of other people’s arguments and reasonings?”

Last week, the Court of Appeal in allowing a child born out of wedlock to use the father’s name as surname, said NRD’s current practice was a violation of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 (BDRA).

Judge Abdul Rahman Sebli in his judgment said the law made no distinction between a Muslim child and a non-Muslim child.

The ruling has not been well-received by conservative Muslim groups.

On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urged Muslims to unite and support efforts by Islamic authorities to challenge the decision so that the NRD would abide by fatwas to manage Muslim affairs.