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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hudud Hubbub

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hub·bub - noun, meaning
  1. Loud noise, din
  2. Confusion, tumult
Source: The Free Dictionary

Image originally from, modified by myAsylum and hosted by PhotobucketIn the past few weeks, as a semi-expected by-product of the pre-nomination campaigning for the vacant Kuala Terengganu seat, we've been reading and hearing loads about Hudud and Qisas. Islamic codified law, in other words.

And it's no surprise, then that what's been written about has been highly politicized, being that the discussion arose from a political scenario in the first place (duhhh...). In a nutshell (and a very small one, at that), the dichotomy of discussion falls rather neatly into very stereotypical bins.

The Islamist bloggers and spokespeople, by and large, are all for Hudud, saying that it's God's commandment to implement Islamic law in planet Malaysia. The non-Muslims and more liberal Muslims are pretty much against it. The pro-Malay political grassroot voices are pretty much in unison - they're for Hudud - end of discussion. BN the political behemoth, on the other hand, wholesale rejects it.

While still under PAS, a Darul Ikang version the Hudud and Qisas laws were actually passed by the Terengganu state legislature in 2003, but were never implemented. To date, Kelantan, PAS' stronghold, has not implemented any Islamic legislated laws either. Now, one could probably not be blamed, based on these facts, to say that PAS uses these two buzzwords - Hudud and Qisas - to their advantage whenever polls are on the horizon. Which does appear to be the case, even in this instance.

But has anyone ever wondered exactly why the 2003 gazetted state legislation was never implemented? Or, in fact, if it could have been implemented? Walski has a guess - and it's not because that the political will isn't there.

Walski's guess - from a law layperson's point of view - is that there are provisions in the Federal Constitution that did not allow for Terengganu to implement the 2003 state legislation, because the legislation went beyond the bounds of what a particular state has purview over. These areas of law are listed in a schedule something-or-other as an addendum to the Constitution. Any lawyers reading this - please feel free to jump in anytime.

In other words, the Federal Constitution would first have to be amended before any application of Hudud and Qisas can be realized. In other other words, it's all moot and nothing more than an exercise in hot air generation.

And being that we're faced with the impending possibility of disastrous global warming, generating more hot air may not be exactly the most productive thing to be doing right about now.
(hot air, hubbub, and more, in the full post)

So, since everybody is arguing, haranguing and worrying over nothing - at least, nothing immediate - Walski has a few questions of his own to ask about Hudud and Qisas.

Now, the most popular argument you hear about why Hudud and Qisas are the mantras of Islamists, is that these are God's laws and therefore MUST be implemented, and MUST be the aim of Muslims to see to it that they're implemented.

Walski's question is simple: Where does God say that?

And by that question, Walski means explicitly state that Hudud must be implemented. And where God does say what He does about the Hudud, is it refering to the same thing?

In as far as Walski knows, making things up and then attributing them to God is one of those things that really pisses of the Big Guy.

Second question Walski would like to ask: In the modern era (and by that he means post World War 2), where and when has the application of Islamic law led to the betterment of a particular nation's people, at large?

Walski won't go into the details of what exactly Islamic (aka Shariah) law is, as that may become an entire epic on its own. But here are some references that may put things into perspective: 

  • A two-part Q&A between Shannon Shah (of The Nut Graph) and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (Part 1 and Part 2)
  • A paper presented by Sisters In Islam (SIS) in 2002, critiquing the 2003 Terengganu Hudud Legislation (in PDF) - even if you don't particularly like or agree with SIS, give the paper a read, if you're truly objective
  • An opinion piece by Ikim in The Star (December 23, 2008). While it touches on governance specifically, and relies on opinions of long-dead jurists/scholars, you'll find that the underlying principles are not alien to modern society

Walski's perspective? Quite simple, actually. The spirit of any body of law or legislature must be based on natural justice, and applicable to everyone within its jurisdiction, regardless of creed or race, in the case of Malaysia. Implementing a body of law applicable to Muslims only, in a country such as Malaysia, is not something ground-breaking and has been done before. We used to know it as apartheid - one nation, separate laws.

Here in Malaysia, we already have civil laws that are, by and large, fair and just. Sure, there are tweaks needed to improve the corpus of law, but more importantly in its implementation.

Granted, some might argue that our civil laws are man-made. Then again, what's generally accepted as the body of codified Shariah Laws are equally man-made. The litmus test? Compare what's actually stated in the Quran, with the various Shariah legislations in existence, Hudud/Qisas included. They may be divinely inspired, but are still man-made laws, in practice.

And why opt for a set of man-made laws that are less than comprehensive and widely open for discretional interpretation, when we already have a set of mostly functional laws that are more comprehensive, and by-and-large equitable?

That's another question that Walski would have you, the reader, answer. Because, quite frankly, he doesn't know. Apart, of course, from the tired arguments about "God told us so".

In which case, Walski would have to say: "Please refer to the first question above".

Time and time again, we've seen many different implementations of Islamic/Shariah Laws the world over - have these provided its jurisdictional subjects a better quality of life, or have they been more tyrannical overall? 

And why are there so many different implementations, each different in approach and spirit? In fact, with more than a few incongruant applications of the same precepts. 

Walski will let God answer that one:

"... Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy"
(source: The Quran, Chapter 4, Verse 82)

If more people could realize and appreciate that one simple fact, this would probably be a happier world...

Walski's scriptural reference footnote: What's quoted above is the second part of the verse, underlining the discrepency bit - the first part of the verse asks why the Quran is not studied carefully. The gist of the matter, however, is the same: there wouldn't be so many discrepencies if the Shariah (as we know it today) were really God's Laws verbatim...