MHPA lwn. Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (MAIS) [2019] SLRHU 15

 

MHPA lwn. Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (MAIS) [2019] SLRHU 15

Syariah High Court of Selangor (Shah Alam)

Renunciation of Islam

Facts of the case

1.    The Plaintiff filed for a declaration that she was no longer a Muslim under Subsection 61(3)(b)(x) of the Selangor Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2003 [Enactment No.1 2003] and named the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) as the Defendant.

2.    On 31 December 2014, the Defendant filed an Interlocutory Application seeking an order for the Plaintiff to undergo a process of counselling or discussion on religious beliefs (aqidah), and with the Plaintiff’s consent, the Court granted the Defendant’s Interlocutory Application as follows:

(i)       The Court ordered the Plaintiff, MHPA, Identification Card No: XXXXX, to undergo a process of counselling on religious beliefs and/or discussions on religious beliefs conducted by the Aqidah Counseling Unit, Department of Mufti of the State of Selangor, for a period of six (6) months with a minimum of two (2) sessions per month;

(ii)       The Court ordered the main case, Suit No: 10300-043-0502-2014, to be adjourned until the counseling process on religious beliefs is fully completed;

(iii)     The Court ordered the Plaintiff to comply with all instructions and/or procedures made by the Aqidah Counseling Unit, Department of the State Mufti of Selangor, and/or any party appointed by the Defendant throughout the counseling process on religious beliefs and/or discussions on religious beliefs.

Issue 1.    Whether the Plaintiff was declared no longer a Muslim?
Ratios 1.    Whether the Plaintiff was declared no longer a Muslim?

(a)         Before the first issue could be decided by the Court, two matters required the Court’s attention-

(i)            The method or form of the Plaintiff’s conversion to Islam; and

(ii)           The practices and way of life of the Plaintiff.

(b)   The Court in this case referred to Section 2 (Enactment No. 1 Of 2003) in explaining the definition of ‘Muslim’ as follows:

Muslim” means-

(a) a person who professes the religion of Islam;

(b) a person either or both of whose parents were at the time of the person’s birth, a Muslim;

(c)  a person whose upbringing was conducted on the basis that he was a Muslim;

(d) a person who is commonly reputed to be a Muslim;

(e)  a person who has converted to the religion of Islam in accordance with section 108; or

(f)   a person who is shown to have stated, in circumstances in which he was bound by law to state the truth, that he was a Muslim, whether the statement be oral or written;

(c)   According to the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff’s mother’s name is N@I, who is of Indian descent and practices Hinduism. The Plaintiff asserted that she was raised, educated, and cared for by parents who adhere to Hinduism and observe Hindu customs and traditions.  The Plaintiff’s schooling years were supported by these parents. She is the fourth of five siblings.  During her primary and secondary education, she never studied Islam. However, the Plaintiff acknowledges being familiar with the practices of Islam. She also knows about Islamic celebrations due to the multicultural environment in Malaysia.

(d)   The Plaintiff claimed to have recited the two declarations of faith (syahadah) when converting to Islam at the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department office in Kuala Lumpur in 2007.  The Plaintiff embraced Islam because of her friend named Syauqi.  The Plaintiff stated that Syauqi facilitated her conversion to Islam, while she never believed in Islam and did not have faith in the two declarations of faith.

(e)   In this case, the Plaintiff embraced Islam at the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) in Kuala Lumpur, and the registration of her conversion was done in the Federal Territories through Registration Number 796/2003.  Therefore, the Plaintiff’s conversion process is governed by the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 (Act 505).

(f)     During the cross-examination session on 27 December 2016, the Plaintiff admitted that she was not forced to embrace Islam.  She acknowledged converting to Islam at around the age of 24 or 25, of sound mind and consciousness.  The Plaintiff also admitted to reciting the two declarations of faith (syahadah) and being aware of the consequences of reciting these declarations, which changed her religion status from Hinduism to Islam.  Aware of her changed religious status to Islam, the Plaintiff voluntarily and without coercion made amendments to her religious status on her identity card at the National Registration Department.

(g)   The Court held that the Plaintiff’s claim stating that she is no longer a Muslim should be rejected.  There is no evidence to suggest that the Plaintiff embraced Islam under coercion or without awareness.  Furthermore, legal presumptions have established that in public affairs, the Plaintiff is considered and consistently treated as a Muslim.  This is because, in all public dealings, the Plaintiff has been recognized as a Muslim.

(h)   The Court in the view of that It is entirely inappropriate to assert that the Plaintiff is no longer a Muslim simply because she currently does not practice Islam.  The Court referred to Sulaiman Endut in his work “Asas-Asas Fardhu Ain,” stating that someone who recites the syahadah willingly and consciously to embrace Islam is thereby considered a Muslim, and is subject to Islamic laws.  No one has the authority to label, accuse, or punish someone as a non-believer except for Allah SWT.

(i)     The Court further explained that the Plaintiff’s conversion to Islam is valid and complete following Hukum Syarak and legal principles.  The evidence presented by the Defendant is clear and irrefutable. The Court should provide judicial recognition to these facts under section 44(1)(a) and 57 of the Syariah Court Evidence (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003. (Enactment No.5 of 2003).

(j)     The Court also held that according to Hukum Syarak and legal provisions, the Plaintiff should continue to be accepted and regarded as a Muslim at all times, and the Plaintiff cannot be considered or declared as “no longer a Muslim” unless a charge of apostasy is proven against the Plaintiff.  Therefore, the Court is confident and believes that the Plaintiff’s religion is Islam.  Consequently, the Plaintiff is validly treated as a Muslim according to the interpretation of “Muslim” in Section 2 of the Selangor Administration of Islamic Law Enactment 2003, subsection (b), (c), and (d).

(k)    The Court also emphasized that the Plaintiff needs to repent to Allah by returning to the right and straight path. Islam strongly encourages its followers to repent from past mistakes, whether knowingly or unknowingly.  Indeed, Allah SWT is the Most Forgiving and Accepter of Repentance.  The Court ordered and opined that, to ensure justice for both the Plaintiff and the Defendant and to take initiative based on provisions allowed by law and Syariah, a process of istitabah should be undertaken. This is necessary to ensure that the Defendant’s responsibility towards a Muslim is fulfilled perfectly, for the sake of justice to all parties and to uphold the sanctity of Islam on earth.

Decision

(i)          The Syariah High Court of Selangor dismissed the Plaintiff’s application according to section 61(3)(b)(x) of the Administration of Islamic Law Enactment (State of Selangor) 2003 (Enactment No.1 2003).

(ii)           The Court declared that MHPA, Identity Card No: XXXXX is a Muslim.

(iii)      The Court ordered the Plaintiff to repent by presenting herself and uttering a repentance pledge before an Officer of the Selangor State Mufti Department within sixty (60) days from the date of issuance of the order, and the Selangor State Mufti Department was required to submit a report to the Court and the Defendant after the Plaintiff makes the repentance pledge.

(iv)        If the Plaintiff refused to repent within the initial sixty (60) days, the Court would have ordered the Plaintiff to undergo a process of istitabah for another sixty (60) days according to the provisions made by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council and/or the Selangor State Mufti Department, and the Defendant would have been required to submit a report to the Court after the completion of the istitabah session.

 

Key Take Away

1.        Once an individual embraces Islam, satisfies the Syahadah criteria, and garners societal acknowledgment as a Muslim, they are irrevocably recognized as such and cannot be retroactively classified as a non-Muslim.

2.        The issue of belief and devotion to Allah SWT involves subjective spiritual matters that are difficult to quantify, except when it concerns only the outward aspect.  In this instance, the Plaintiff has opted to adopt Islam, and the conversion process has been conducted in compliance with legal provisions.

 

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