Jun 4, 2014


In recent times the problem facing Malaysia's inter-religious relations has taken some sharp twists and turns in dealing with converts to Islam. I think the authorities should take a serious look at the conversion issue itself. Many people are using conversion as a convenient tool to betray trust and to walk away from commitment. My understanding of Islam is that it does not encourage conversion for convenience and is not looking for cheap converts to increase the number of its followers. But in the recent case of a "Muslim" bride marrying her Hindu boy friend of seven years, the real culprit is her father who has not taken his children to be nurtured as Muslims if that was what he wanted but he had let his Hindu wife to bring up the children and he might have left them to marry a Muslim wife.

When I was a first non-Malay officer at MUIS [Singapore] in the late 1990s I had to deal with a case in which a Hindu convert to Islam, who had separated from his Muslim wife, died at the void-deck below his flat and the body was taken to the crematorium. But the officials in the crematorium called MUIS to say that a Muslim body was scheduled for cremation. We [including myself and the current Mufti of Singapore Dr. Fatris] sprung into action and reclaim the body from the crematorium where the incinerator was readied for cremation. His Hindu relatives were furious and abusive. Some came drunk and hurling vulgar words and were fully charged to create unnecessary scenes. I stood the ground and told them that the document (the ID wherein it was mentioned his Muslim name) speaks louder and the record of Muslim converts did not show that he had withdrawn from Islam. This despite the many photographs adduced by the family members of the deceased pointing to the fact that he attended the services at the temple with the dates the picture was snapped printed on them. After sometime they said they wanted the body to be taken to the house for the mother to do some rituals. But I demanded that the body be buried according to Islam after bathing and shrouding it as per requirements of the religion. I gave them the required time to do the rituals in the house of the deceased where the family members have gathered and we took the body there and waited for them to complete their rituals. Then we carried the body and washed it in his house in the presence of his mother and siblings and then shrouded the body all before the full view of his Hindu relations. They were all observant of what we did. We did our janazah prayer inside the house and then took the body for burial accompanied by his relations to the Muslim cemetery and buried them. The system in Singapore is that the moment a Muslim is involved, no matter he is practicing his religion or not, the matter will be immediately referred to MUIS and it will decide the course of action to follow and the full force of the law stands behind it.

The action taken by JAIS, in this case, is justified as they were given the tip-off by the public that a "Muslim" lady is being married off to a Hindu and that too in a temple. This is highly explosive. The temple officials should have insisted on the "bride" getting her religious status cleared before proceeding with the event. By conducting the wedding ceremony, without such clearance, the temple has colluded with the defendant to create problem in the racial/religious relations between Malaysians. The situation is further compounded when ill-informed and irresponsible politicians meddle in the affairs of religious institutions thereby undermining their religious roles. It is these politicians who created all these controversies in the first place as part of their political expediencies. Religion should not be abused to wash away the dirts of politicians.

The argument that it is an embarrassment to raid the temple needs some clarification. Of course it is not nice to disturb the wedding when every arrangement is done and the guests are invited and certainly it is a wastage of money. But when a crime is committed [in this case marrying of a "Muslim" by a non-Muslim] it is important that the marriage is stopped before it is solemnized. That's what JAIS has done. They have prevented a crime before it is committed.

I find the increasing Islam-bashing activities as something disturbing and deliberately demeaning, carefully choreographed by forces that are detrimental to the well-being of the nation with the aim of creating artificial tension between the races and religions. It is these vile forces who are targeting Islam and Muslims by ridiculing its institutions and undermining its affairs through creating one poser after another by sitting on the fence of political machiavellianism and religious hypocrisy.

An important thing for JAIS and its sister organizations to take note is that in handling such sensitive issues they must engage people who are well-versed in the laws of the country and let people of the same race to handle the matter. There are many qualified Muslim converts who could be employed to address such matter. Otherwise the non-Muslims will see it as the imposition of Malay supremacy. Let these institutions rope in qualified non-Malay Muslims in dealing with such sensitive matter. I don't think such matters should be left to the politicians to settle.


Now it has become very clear that the father of the bride has not abandoned his children rather he was ejected out of the house after he tried to reprimand his children. It is becoming clear that the mother seems to flex her muscles through her contacts to outmaneuver her estranged husband. She needs to be questioned and all those who were behind her crusade against Islam must be held accountable for conspiring against it. 


It is heartening to know that amidst the news of Muslim bride's wedding fiasco, a Chinese mother in Penang has questioned the authorities for not claiming the body of her Muslim convert daughter for burial. This shows that as long as the documents are clear and properly done there will be no untoward incidents that may affect the relations between the various religions and races. So it is imperative that the authorities beef-up the process of documentation of converts in terms of their registration, renunciation and welfare. Such professional processing would certainly clear the air.


Now the mother of the deceased Chinese Muslim lady is seeking legal recourse to claiming the body of her deceased daughter who was living with a Muslim boyfriend, and a not a legal husband, and had children from that illegal union, all of whom are under the care of the grandmother. The situation is getting complicated as the status of these illegitimate children are disputable. From the Islamic point of view the children are Muslims as the one who fathered them is a Muslim and they shall be taken care by Muslim welfare organisations if the authorities are not comfortable with the non-Muslim grandparent taking care of Muslim grandchildren. This depends on the age-range of the children. if they are grown up or teens then there is no harm in staying with the grandparents as they are in the know of the legal-status of Muslims. However, if they are children below the age of teenager it may create unnecessary suspicion as to their upbringing. Under whatever circumstances the grandparents must be given access to these children.

From the legal point of view the grandparents are fighting a losing battle, as the document of her conversion speaks louder, even though the deceased was or may not be a practising Muslim. My only concern is that the authorities have waited this long to get to know of such breach of shari'ah where a Muslim, in this case it may be that he is not a practising one or he wanted to keep his relations with her a secret from his other Muslim wife, if he had one, or family members. 

As for the mother of the deceased she has the right to claim the amount she spent on this and the way the authorities handled the situation looks unsympathetic, since the relatives have already invested their time and money in arranging her Taoist funeral. In this respect the authorities should have exercised some wisdom in allowing the relatives to mourn the death of the deceased and thereafter take the body and give it a Muslim burial. But one concern might be the issue of washing the body after embalming. The authorities should have immediately got in touch with the family and speak to them on the procedure. They might have agreed to the shortening of their period of mourning and would have allowed the authorities to claim the body immediately after their rituals are over. 

To say that the authorities in both the Hindu wife and the Chinese lady have acted in arrogance is unjustified and thoughtless. Politicians should not add fuel to the fire for their political survival. religious matters must be left to the religious authorities to handle. They follow the procedure which the politicians have laid down after much debates in the parliament. So there is no need for the politicians to sensationalise their views via media. My question to these politicians is that would they do if their own son or daughter is involved in such a situation. I guess they won't bother for religion. After all what they want is power. They will sacrifice their religion for anything. I am reminded here of the Qur'anic verse where Allah, the Almighty has said:

ولا تشتروا بآياتي ثمنا قليلا
and buy not My Verses a small price (i.e.: getting a small gain by selling My Verses) [2(al-Baqarah): 41]

إن الله إشترى من المؤمنين أنفسهم و اموالهم بأن لهم الجنة 
Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise [9(al-Tawbah): 111]

My advise to the politicians is that do not sell the religion cheap to get some cheap, or even expensive votes. Let the authorities do their work as they are answerable to Allah. They may not be perfect, at least help them to achieve that perfection and stop the damn accusation.


The Malaysian Minister in Charge of Islamic Affairs has spoken very candidly that the decision in respect of the two controversial cases of supposed non-Muslim converts to Islam were taken on the basis of sound evidences and that the concerned authorities have exercised wisdom in handling the matters. My only concern is that the ministry should include a "disclosure clause" to be duly witnessed by another friend, preferably of own kind, of the intending convert. There is no need to create unnecessary furore on these matters. Muslims are not keen in stealing living or dead bodies, particularly a non-Muslim one. What they claimed is a Muslim body regardless of whether the person was a practicing one or not. It would be wiser for the non-Muslim friends to inform their relatives that if any of them intend to convert please inform them accordingly. Otherwise such drama will continue to waste people's time and energy.


Now that the learned Shari'ah Court has decided that the deceased Chinese lady was not a Muslim as there are discrepancies on her conversion documents coupled with the confirmation of her daughter and relatives, it is better for the body to be returned to the family respectfully. In fact I would suggest that the concerned authorities must apologise to the deceased family and the cost for the cancellation of the earlier Buddhist ceremony by taking the body away from the solemn occasion must be compensated from the bayt al-mal. The next time all documents of any convert must be properly validated and counter checked before springing into action to claim any dead body.


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