GEORGE TOWN: The will of a former well-known real estate magnate from the 1800s was the subject of scrutiny by the lawyers of the Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) today in defending the wakaf land in Air Itam here.
The suit against MAINPP was mounted by the great-grandchildren of Shaik Eusoff Shaik Latiff. They claim the 6ha land, worth over RM300 million today, had been turned into wakaf (Muslim endowment) land illegally.
At the Shariah High Court today, MAINPP lawyer Shaikh Mohamed Tawfeek Badjenid questioned the translation of the will and deed poll used in a report prepared by a group of Islamic law academics supporting the family’s claim.
Tawfeek spent a few hours deliberating the report, on the true meaning of the words such as “give, devise and bequeath” — among many others — telling an expert witness who co-authored the report that it was inaccurate.
He also pointed out certain paragraphs containing ellipsis or three dots in the report when quoting the will. He said this denoted that some parts of the will had been deliberately removed.
Islamic law academic Aznan Hasan, who was cross-examined by Tawfeek, denied the assertions that the report he co-authored was flawed in terms of translation and hence inaccurate.
Aznan also said he was in no position to comment on translations as he was not the authoritative source on the matter, after being pressed by Tawfeek on several English words translated into Malay in the report.
He also said ellipsis punctuation marks were common in academic and legal writing. He said the parts of the will were omitted as it conveyed the same meaning.
“The paragraphs with the dots do not affect the substance of what we have written in the report.
“I think you are missing the point here,” Aznan told Tawfeek. “The point here is that the wakaf is illegal from the onset and should be immediately returned to the rightful heirs and divided equally through shariah principles.
“We stand by our report,” the associate professor of Islamic finance at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) and a shariah adviser to over 10 Islamic banks around the world said.
Aznan, Universiti Malaya’s Islamic law professor Ahmad Hidayat Buang and IIUM law lecturer Ismail Mohd Abu Hassan had earlier submitted a 21-page document to the court.
The suit was initiated by Shaik Eusoff’s grandchildren ex-senator Abdul Shukor PA Mohd Sultan, Syed Idross Syed Hassan Al Mashoor, and Sheik Mohd Jelani Sheik Emam.
They are seeking to reclaim two plots of land covering 6ha in Air Itam.
Shaik Eusoff had willed that the land be held in trust for his descendants, and to be used as wakaf land only for a period of 21 years from the death of his last offspring.
The last of his seven children – a daughter – had died in 1932, so the land was supposed to be returned to the family estate in 1953.
This was according to a 10-page will written in English, dated Dec 30, 1892.
In the previous trial, Shaik Eusoff’s family had sought to nullify the wakaf as no wakaf can be given for a short-term such as 21 years but must be given to the Islamic endowment in perpetuity under the Shafi’i school of thought.
The case has been in and out of the civil courts since the late 1990s over an argument that the land was held in trust and not wakaf, as claimed by Muslim authorities. Now, it has come to the Shariah High Court for a resolution.
Shaik Eusoff, who was a Jawi Peranakan with roots in Gujarat, India, was a well-known real estate magnate said to have owned large tracts of land in George Town in the early 19th century.
His descendants are also credited with bringing the boria – Penang’s traditional “parody theatre” – to the state.
The plaintiffs were represented by lawyers Akberdin Abdul Kader, Yuslinov Ahmad, Rafie Mohd Shafie, Redza Rafie, Ardy Suffian Akberdin and Hafizullah Abdullah.
Assisting Tawfeek as defence counsel were Faizal Arif Tajul Ariffin, and Ahmed Muzambir Abd Razak.
The case before judge Mohd Yunus Mohamad Zin continues tomorrow.
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