The ‘professionals’ have been elected to PAS’s central working committee. PAS has trotted out a ‘welfare state’ slogan. The party’s deputy president-elect, Mat Sabu, has been hailed in Malaysiakini as a “cosmopolitan democrat”. A moderate image of PAS is being actively advertised.
Yet the question that worries many non-Muslims and moderate Muslims remains: has PAS abandoned its Islamic state ambition or hasn’t it?
For the answer, we need to go beyond slogans, media spin and the opinions of the politicians and examine the bare facts.
The bare facts are found in Clauses 3 to 8 of PAS’s constitution. They outline matters pertaining to party goals, laws and authority. Their key points, translated, are as follows:
The foundation of PAS: Islam.
The aims of PAS: To create a society and governance in which the values of Islamic life is implemented; to defend the sanctity of Islam.
The undertakings of PAS: Among others, to preach or proselytise Islam to all of mankind; to make Islam the guide to politics and statehood; to introduce Islamic values in efforts to uphold justice and bring about improvements in all fields including governance and administration, economics, society, learning and education.
The laws and powers of PAS: The supreme laws are Al-Quran and the Sunnah; the annual general assembly and all other committees in PAS such as the central working committee are subject to it.
The roles of the Syura Council (the top committee in PAS’s organisational hierarchy): Among others, to guarantee that authority in PAS does not depart from adhering to the highest laws, i.e., the Al-Quran and the Sunnah; to order that all parties and committees in PAS obey and implement the foundation and other provisions in PAS’s constitution; to monitor all activities, movements and administrative matters within PAS to ensure that these obey the foundation, provisions and requirements of the constitution.
Interpretation and comments about the constitution outlined above:
Points 1 to 4 would be a part of the framework and action plan necessary for setting up an Islamic state. Points 1 to 4 are the embodiment of PAS's Islamic state goal.
Point 5 empowers the unelected Syura Council to ensure that the actions of all committees in PAS do not deviate from Points 1 to 4. The implication is that the central working committee, whether completely filled by professionals or religious scholars, cannot avoid working towards establishing what shall eventually be an Islamic state.
The very same applies for the Islamic state of Iran (refer to the country's constitution): the supreme law of the land being the Al-Quran and Sunnah; the application of Islam to all spheres of statehood; and the position of the religious guardian council that ensures that Islam is the bedrock of the constitution.
Mahathir Mohamad and Ibrahim Ali’s allegations that PAS has abandoned its ambition to establish an Islamic state are baseless.
No PAS leader - Nik Aziz, Hadi Awang and Mat Sabu included - has ever gone on record to repudiate PAS’s goal of establishing an Islamic state.
PAS’s ‘welfare state’ policy is most likely a socio-economic policy that should not contradict or cancel out the larger goal of putting in place an Islamic state.
The ‘welfare state’ slogan and the selection of the professionals are strategies for attracting the non-Muslims and moderate Malays, an electorate that are wary of PAS's Islamic state intentions.
PAS is very aware of the fact that if it is to expand its Islamic state agenda, it must do it in a gradual and piecemeal way to thwart the opposition of Malaysians who resist the further Islamisation of Malaysia.
The political vision of PAS’s professionals are in perfect harmony with the party’s ‘ulama leadership’ ideology; the difference between the ulama and professionals factions is mainly a matter of political approach: the former is inclined to cooperate with UMNO for power whereas the latter faction prefers to defeat Umno to gain power.
Umno probably fears that PAS’s moderate image would erode Umno's voter base in favour of PAS and Pakatan Rakyat in general.
This is a translated summary based on the author's original Malay-language article entitled 'PAS Tolak Negara Islam Atau Tidak?' sent by the Centre of Policy Initiatives (CPI). The original was published on