In the state of Kedah, there was a particular Kedah law (Undang-Undanng Kedah) which was first applied during the reign of Sultan Rijaluddin Muhammad Shah (1625-52). In the 1840s, during the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah 11 (1804-43), the chief kadhi of Kedah, Tuan Sheikh Abu Bakar added Article 16 (to the Kedah laws) on marriage, and the law of harta sepencarian (property jointly acquired by a husband and wife). He had observed that women worked harder than men in all areas of work.
As chief kadhi, Sheikh Abu Bakar practiced justice and equality as enshrined in the Quran when dispensing of sentences. He instructed other kadhis in the state to be fair and just in making judgment relating to division of property, especially those shared and earned between a wife and husband. This was to ensure that there was no discrimination towards women and children in the event of divorce or death of a spouse. He said that it was sinful for a kadhi to be biased in their judgments.
Sheikh Abu Bakar also instructed all kadhis to check in detail all marital complaints made by women to ensure that they were protected in the event of divorce. He even ordered punishment of 40 strokes of the cane to those who did not observe this rule.
The current Islamic Family Law Amendments Bill 2005 did not reflect the spirit of the Kedah laws which were implemented in early 19th century. We are now in the 21st century but the laws drafted by our lawmakers do not reflect the spirit of justice and equality so insistently enjoined by the Quran. We should follow the action of Sheikh Abu Bakar in meting punishment to those who commit injustice to women and children.