Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Does Malaysia want a Grand Mufti?

Ikim's Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas says we need one. According to mSTAR Online, here, Islam in Malaysia is in dire need of a single authority/voice as the religion - and its authorities, including the muftis - are under siege.
Egypt, Jordan and Australia have adopted the grand mufti system to handle contentious issues regarding Islam in those countries.
Ikim is pushing for the appointment of Malaysia's first Mufti Besar, or grand mufti, next year.
All of which makes Greg Sheridan's thought-provoking piece, here, seems so timely.


  1. Anonymous9:57 am

    I don't want a grand mufti. The more we marginalize theocrats, the better off everyone will be. It's better that religious authority are under constant criticism so they make the attempt to think before they open their collective blowholes. Religious zealots make my fists itch.

  2. Anonymous10:58 am

    "Khairy Jamaluddin is the deputy president of the UMNO, a much more powerful position than it sounds."

    Hmm.. did he get a promotion or something?

  3. Anonymous4:57 pm

    And i quote Greg Sheridan;

    'A well conducted survey of Malay attitudes recently found that a majority of Malays think of themselves first as Muslims, rather than as Malays or Malaysians, the one civic identity that embraces all of Malaysia's races and religions.'

    They consider themselves Muslims, pray 5 times a day and 'force' their kids to attend Islamic classes at a very young age. Yet, they fail to adhere to the pure teachings of Islam.

    'Thou shall not taketh materials which causes intoxication or is harmful to the body'. Smoking and drugs is ok but drinking is a no-no...hmmm.

    At religious classes, young kids are taught there is no other god than Allah and the non-believers of Allah are kafirs....isn't Allah another word for God?..hmm.

    There's is nothing said in the Quran to be cruel to dogs. In fact the blessed Nabi SAW believed all of 'Allah's creations ought to be treated equally'. Yet, in some areas dogs are just non-existant due to the cruel society...hmmm.

    I always thought there was only one Islam, an Islam which believes in moderation. But then you get Islam Hadari and a whole lot of other organisations claiming to educate its followers the true teachings of Islam. hmmm

    Islam is pure, but the extreme people practising it are making it into a mockery. Maybe there is a need of a Grand Mufti after all, someone who will put the records straight. But then again, if we get an extremist joker planted as the Mufti Besar, Allah save us all!

  4. Somehow Sheridan's use of Khairy as an "authoritative voice" to conclude his article doesn't go down well with me.

    Should have asked him about illegal racing and use of racist card to beef up his political career.

  5. Anonymous6:45 pm

    Grand Mufti? Islam teach us that everybody is equal. What we have to learn is the ability to communicate to each other with our heads straight.

    Why does God give each of us a brain if all we need is a Grand Mufti?

  6. Anonymous8:14 pm


    Allow me to digress.

    I think you owe an apology to the PM and your blog readers and commentators for highlighting "false" report by the Turkish paper on the PM's alleged visit and purchase of RM30-million yatch.

    You owe this to other bloggers as well.

  7. Difficult for Syed Ali to be championing this actually.

    Firstly, he is far from respsected in religious circles - he is not even an ulama as he is not a Hafiz, a sadly secular manager of IKIM. To make matters worse, he has further corrupted his reputation by backing the blasphemy that is Islam Hadhari.

    Secondly, the Muftis themselves will not agree, and I doubt they're really under siege. In the end, the Kedah ulama council, being typically the most independent and the Perak mufti who has shown great independence himself will probably be major stumbling block.

    Thirdly, I doubt the religious establishment as a whole would be falling over themselves to back a 'Mufti Hadhari'. More likely Syed Ali is being sent as a tester of this concept by the Pak Lah administration, with Pak Lah himself well aware of the pitfalls of being the bearer of this idea!

  8. Anonymous11:16 pm


    Did we not have one Mufti Besar already?

    Who, you asked?

    Well, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi no less!

  9. Anonymous12:23 am

    what is so thought provoking about it?

    I sure don't see any!

    you want thought provoking?

    try this one out:

    In Israel there is no difference between the Jewish race and the Jewish religion...i.e. all Jews are Jews!

    In Malaysia there is no difference between a Malay and a Muslim...i.e. all Malays are Muslims!

    for 2 countries with no diplomatic ties...we sure share one basic constitutional trait!

    funny thing is...not all Arabs are Muslims! (by Constitution or otherwise!)

    go chew on this one fellow Malaysians!

  10. Anonymous12:55 am

    under the erm constitution, as a non-muslim, i can't comment


  11. Anonymous1:44 am

    dear Rocky...

    the answer to your question is a big, fat NO.


    Judaism has it's clerical hierarchy and so does Christianity...that should be enough...Islam does not need one...and that is that!

    know of the 4 Imams...Maliki, Hambali, Shafi'e and Ghazali?

    one of them was "forced" by a Sultan to be the Grand "Mufti" but he refused...and for that he was imprisoned and tortured.

    when asked why he refused and having to suffer for this refusal...his reply made a lot of sense.

    go read about it...and learn!

    the oddest thing is that all the Prophets have had to suffer when they brought God's laws...but the humans that carried on their teachings...well, they all seem to live in "luxury!"

    I wonder who paid the Prophets their salaries...with that I leave you with another thought provoking thought.


  12. Anonymous10:04 am

    Dear rocky,

    Truth be told i am not familiar with Syed ali's writing,having read one book and a number of articles,but superficialy these writing's bears the influence of his dad, the great Syed naquib -al Attas.Though, i wont dare to say that i understand everything Syed Naquib wrote- his english is extremely dense, i am much more familiar with his father's writings.

    Somebody else wrote here, i think the commentor went by the nick of tertullion( funny because thats the name of one of the early fathers of the church), and he wrote that even a Tunship woudnt be out of place for Syed Naquib. I agree wholeheartedly because his contribution both in terms of hard concrete policies and in the field of acadamia has been immense.

    Now, i think one area that Syed Naquib wrote on that has relevence to your post is on the misunderstanding of Islam by both muslims and non- muslims on Islam and the position of secularism in its tradition.He also wrote that the great threat to muslim's is corrupt knowlegde, which i take to mean the ignorance of one own's ignorance.

    To syed naquib in Islam their exist no dichotomy between religious and non- religious activities, in other words there exist no such thing as secular activities per se.

    Secualrism doesnt exist in Islam.

    In islam every activity or endeavour is religious in nature, with the requirement that one is guided with the right intention and understanding. The only distinction between activities is whether it falls under the catogaries of farthu ain, which is obligotary for every sane muslim, like the 5prayers or puasa,& farthu kifayyah which is obligatory to only some individuals who have the proper knowledge & understanding.Medicine, the inticate indepth understanding of the quran, enginerring, science, would usually fall under farthu kifayyah.

    A blog like Rocky's Bru, if the intention was to report and inform the public on issues of collective importance, or instances of abuse of public trust by individuals, can also be regarded as farthu kifayyah.The same goes for some of the comments of individuals on this blog.

    Now,to syed naguib one of the most important areas that Islam stresses is the importance of striving for knowledge, whether farthu ain or kifayyah because it is intrumental in ensuring the wellfare of the ummah and in fighting injustice. Justice is a complex issue, going beyond simple platitudes of fighting right and wrong and any student of ethics or jurispudence will attest to that.

    For example, in AAB's anti- corruption drive because his understanding is too simplified, what he has achieve will be the opposite of his objective, assuming of course that he was sincere in the first place.The instances of overt corruption may go down but the instances of legalized corruption, like the ECM-Libra issues will go up. The same can be said of the insider trading that took place because of the rumours of the propose merger of Utusan & Nst.

    Without sufficent knowledge, one cannot fight injustice because one cannot recorgnize it, even if it kicked you the head.Ths same goes for the opposite, that without knowleged one canot understand the more complex aspects of justice, which is what is happening under AAB.

    So, to a great many muslims one area which causes a lot of injustice is because they dont realize that there is no such thing as seculirism in Islam. They think as religious officers their task is limited to fighting khalwat or beer drinking. They dont realize that fighting corruption or ignorance is just as important if not more so because they feel that it doesnt constitute a religious activity per se.

    They will say "itu hal duniawi or itu pekara sekular".

    They dont realized that the demarcation between secularism nad religious activites is a recent development which was imported from Western Christiondom where there exist a historical struggle between religious and temporal athourities & activiteis.

    They dont realize that what allowed the renaisance to happen was because of the intelectuil explossion that took place in spain under muslim rule during 8th to 14th hundreds.They dont realized the influence of say Ibn Rusyd in the University of Paris during the 12hundreds and his influence on St Albert the Great or also St thomas Aquinas.They dont realize that Dante, the great poet of medeival europe reserves a special mention of Saladin in his poems or was influence by the teachings of Muhyideen ibn Arabi.Because of ignorance they dont realize that modernity, was not the creation of the West but had its roots in the contribution of muslims.

    They've never wonderd how Portugal and Spain became the first superpowers of Europeor or the fact that Columbus discoverd Amerika in 1492 the year the last muslim government was thrown out of Spain. if they did they would have realized the role of muslims in that making Sapin and Portugal the first powers of Europe. If the religious officers in our country understood that, then they would understand why samuel Huntington in his book the Clash of Civizations wrote "the West was the West long before it was modern"

    If the religious officers in our country are aware of all of the above, that there doesnt exist secularism per se in islam, or at least secularism as understood by westerners, then they would greet the suggestion of the Perlis mufti with open arms instead of lambasting it.

    I suspect that when Syed ali made his suggestions about creating a post of Grand mufti, he had in mind someone who has a proper understanding of Islam,who could represant it with justice to its ritch and modern intelecual history, and who could prioritize the role of these so-called ulamaks to fighting issues of fundermantel importance like ignorance or injustice instead of secondary issues.

    In short someone who could represant Islam as it was encapsulated by the lumineries of this religion, who did not distinguish between religious and non religious activities.

  13. Anonymous10:47 am

    Why must we always look for cosmetic solutions.

    Look at the basic problems first and that is to get to the bottom of understanding the 'broad picture' of 'life' since from young and that is from school.

    Inculcate 'critical thinking' at schools which is non-existant at the moment.

  14. Anonymous11:53 am

    To anon 1.44am,

    You have the resources, you tell us lah, haiya ! Ilmu yang disampaikan tu jariah.

  15. Anonymous10:35 am

    Isn't The Yang di-Pertuan Agung the 'head' of all matters related to Islam?

    Because of the messes, they want somebody to replace the King. Makes me wonder, is this a conspiracy to 'dethrone' the King?

  16. Anonymous2:20 am

    Its such a SAD thing to see that people put their ethnicity first. Whats happening to this country? Hello ppl, we are MALAYSIANS.Where is the pride in being a Malaysian? Since when it became fashionable to be ONLY a Malay or Chinese or Indian?

  17. A M Ubaidah S,

    You said that Syed Ali is a “secular manager of IKIM”. That is a very serious claim and you may want to reconsider your allegation. Are you saying this for a certain fact or is it your own personal view? The reason I ask is because I know him personally and he does not come across that way.

    I agree with you that his apparent support of “islam hadhari” may have damaged his reputation among the religious circles. In fact I have told him personally over the phone that “islam hadhari” is nothing more than pure political bullshit. (And you will be surprised at his response although I cannot reveal it here). I have also read his book “Revivalist of an Intellectual Tradition” (which he was requested by the PM to do) and what I detect is that he was trying to present explanations of AAB’s philosophy of the concept and yet not outrightly endorse it like all the other yes-prime-ministers. (A telling hint of his discomfort of the concept is the way he referred to ‘Islam hadhari’ in quotes and ‘hadhari’ without a capital ‘H’). Without condoning the fact that he did not condemn ‘islam hadhari’ or for not persuading AAB to drop the concept (instead of defending its philosophy with semantics), and while I would also criticise him for letting his allegiance (to AAB) compromise (but not necessarily override) islamic principles, nonetheless he is far from being a secular muslim. There are also too many statements in the book which clearly contradict the traits of a secular muslim.


  18. Anonymous3:04 am

    Najib: Constitution does not permit a grand mufti

    PUTRAJAYA: It is not possible for Malaysia to have a grand mufti because the Constitution does not permit it.

    Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said sultans had the absolute jurisdiction over Islamic matters in their respective states, as provided for in the Constitution.

    He was commenting on a recent proposal by Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) director-general Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas for a grand mufti for the country.

    Dr Syed Ali had said that a grand mufti would be able to explain issues relating to Islam to the public effectively and prevent the religion from being distorted to suit the interests of certain quarters.

    He had told mStar, The Star’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal, that with a grand mufti, religious issues would no longer be debated openly in the media, and could be discussed behind closed doors among other qualified mufti.

    Perak mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria had also rejected the proposal because he said it would destroy the power of the rulers in matters related to Islam.