LETTER | Sisters in Islam (SIS) welcomes the statements made by the Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah last Friday, that the syariah courts need to be more attentive and careful in exposing case proceedings publicly to safeguard a person’s dignity and honour.
And that the matter of non-productive assets owned by Muslims in a form of money, unclaimed insurance, besides assets that have been frozen because of faraid (distribution of estate) issues following the death of the asset owners needs to be looked into.
He also urged a more efficient and customer-friendly method of collecting and distributing zakat (tithe) to eradicate poverty among Muslims.
These are issues that affect the work of our organisation in assisting persons affected by the inadvertent injustices posed by the administration of Islam in Malaysia.
From our experience, we have seen persons in positions of authority use the 'name and shame' method as a way of instilling Islamic morality, for example relating to khalwat, children out of wedlock issues, marriage of children to persons who have committed sexual crimes against them, marriage of children to cover the shame of parents’ dignity and particularly in relation to women’s dressing and public space such as in criticising a woman’s dressing and behaviour as a wife, mother, leader and so on.
A hadith of the Prophet (saw) in Sunan al-Tarmidhi states: 'Do not harm Muslims, and do not revile them, nor pursue their imperfections'. Hence, protection of one’s dignity is imperative in serving justice the Islamic way.
If we are to progress as an enlightened Muslim community, we need to adopt a more tolerant attitude towards what is considered ‘moral misdeeds’ under the religion, and state involvement must be towards forwarding the interest of the marginalised and the abused and allowing space for justice to be delivered in substance rather than just in form.
Faraid remains a significant discriminatory issue affecting Muslim women in Malaysia. The situation is much changed from the days of our Prophet.
Women in today’s Malaysia are not necessarily supported by the men in their lives. They need to have a job, pay the bills, support their children and very often their parents.
And yet their claims for assets are not recognised on par with their responsibilities. Many Muslim countries have amended or added flexibilities in their rules of distribution of assets recognising the realities on the ground.
We hope to see these reforms in Malaysia, too, so as to enable women to play an equally productive role in their family and society.
SIS wishes to point out that there is a flaw in understanding the laws on property and inheritance, compounded with bureaucratic red tape by the government-appointed endowment agencies, resulting in the assets of Muslims being frozen for long periods of time.
We need a systemic transformation to facilitate assets claims and withdrawal and to ensure that they are distributed swiftly and justly to family members.
The majority of Muslims hold the view that the only method of distributing property according to syariah is through faraid when in fact there are other methods that may be better applicable for property settlement and distribution including wakaf or amanah (trust), hibah (gift or settlement), and wasiyah (will).
Ineffective methods of distribution of zakat have disadvantaged Muslims from enjoying the abundance of wealth being collected every year.
In relation to the collection and distribution of zakat, where public monies are concerned, the Islamic authorities should be bound by their accountability to the public.
Transparency and good governance needs to be properly put in place to ensure the public’s trust and confidence in managing these funds.
SIS is in support of Sultan Nazrin’s statement and recommendations. Islam is a religion of mercy and all relevant religious authorities should be more proactive in ensuring that their policies and practices are delivered in the same spirit of mercy, compassion and justice.
The writer is communications officer, Sisters in Islam.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.