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Honour and Dignity for All Mankind

Maszlee Malik PhD

Musa Mohd Nordin FRCPCH

Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)

 

‘If your Lord so willed, He could have made mankind one people. (al-Qur’an 11:118)

 

But, He created them in diverse forms to dwell in His kingdom. God created the different sexes and ethnic groups among mankind (30:22) that they might know and understand each other (49:13).

 

“O mankind!  We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (li ta’Arafu)”. (al-Qur’an 49:13)

 

The famous Tunisian Islamic scholar, Tahir Ibn Ashur in his commentary of this verse, mentioned that the import of piety after emphasizing the pluralistic nature of humankind was to educate mankind the true meaning of humility and mutual recognition through the practice of mutually knowing each other (Ibn Ashur, Tahir (no date), al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, Tunis: Dar Suhnun, 10/259).

 

Islam commands the believers to embrace diversity because it is part of the law of nature (Sunnatullah) that He created. It acknowledges the plurality of religions and allows the adherents of all religions the plurality of laws to govern their lives within the aegis of their religious beliefs and principles (see al-Quran: 8:72–5; 35:32; 4:95; 60:8–9).

 

The call of Islam is not towards the homogenisation of society into one culture, identity or faith but the observation and practise of good conduct and civility so as to ensure that diversity will nurture peace and the common good. The Qur’ān proclaims that differences among human beings will remain (see al-Quran: 11:118–19). Hence, it is neither possible, nor commanded, to make everyone believe in one faith (see al-Quran: 10:99).

 

Peaceful co-existence with the other and mutual respect is a fundamental teaching of Islam. This is manifested through Islam’s commands to respect other faiths, to avoid interfering in matters concerning other religions (see al-Quran: 109:1–6), prohibitions against any form of compulsion and coercion in faith (see al-Quran: 2:256, 272; 10:99) and rebuking or insulting other faiths (see al-Quran: 6:108).

Peaceful co-existence and harmonious cohesion with other religious communities has been well documented in Islamic history since the Prophet (pbuh) began his call to Islam in Makkah and unfolded one of the greatest political documents in human history, Sahifah al-Madinah or the constitution of Madinah (622 AD). This treatise embraced 20 major principles including Unity, Diversity, Conduct, Fighting Injustice, Search or Striving for Peace, Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law.

 

Another illustrious model was the La Convivencia (co-existence) in Andalusia during the Islamic rule in Spain. The spirit of mutual respect and recognition did not only flourish   the Islamic civilisation, but also enhanced the Christian and Jewish intellectual and cultural environment (Pagden, Anthony (2008). Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle between East & West. New York: Oxford University Press: 153-54).

 

Therefore, mutual respect (tasamuh) and recognition (tafahum) of other believers and their beliefs are sacred and sine qua non to ensure a harmonious and peaceful world community.

 

On the contrary, religious hegemony and intolerance in a pluralistic society will invariably result in conflict and will only frustrate the claim that Islam is a religion of compassion, peace and freedom.

 

Embracing and respecting diversity, loving and cultivating it, is a source of enrichment and beauty, an essential element of our human experience.

 

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, (pbuh) said:

 

“O humankind! Your Lord is one Lord, and you have one father. All of you are from Adam, and Adam is from dust. The noblest of you is the most God-fearing. No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, no non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab, no black person has any superiority over a white person, and no white person has any superiority over a black person – superiority is only through piety.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhî)

 

 

In the above mentioned final sermon during his farewell pilgrimage (khutbah al-wida’), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) mainstreamed and highlighted the principle of human equality and dignity.

 

Instead of directing his message exclusively to the Muslim community, the Prophet (pbuh) preceded with a universal appeal to mankind by asserting the principle of equality. This important principle and guidance implies that he is not self-centred nor concerned only about the Muslim community’s interest and affairs, but rather his deliverance as “the mercy for all mankind” as stated in the Qur’an (3: 110).

 

Toynbee (1948: 205) regarded the Islamic notion of human equality as “one of the outstanding achievements of Islam” in which according to him, “in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue”. (Toynbee, Arnold (1948). Civilization on Trial. New York: Oxford University Press: 205).

 

In the same vein, Gibb (1932: 379) notes that: “No other society has such a record of success uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavours so many and so various races of mankind.” (Gibb, Sir Hamilton A.R. (1958). Mohammedanism. Cambridge: Mentor Edition: 379).

 

Never before has our beloved nation witness such an excess of religious and racial strife since the bloody days of 13 May 1969.  The latest fatwa (religious edict) of the Mufti of Pahang is one such gross aberration to the values of equality, diversity, mutual respect and harmony espoused by the teachings of the Quran and the authentic traditions of the prophet (pbuh). And unless this malicious abuse of religious authority is checked with an effective and just political and societal governance we are surely on the slippery slope of anarchy.

 

The term harbi as defined by the fuqaha (Muslim jurists) since the early writings of Muhammad bin Hasan al-Shaibani and Imam al-Awza’ie in their treatise of ‘Fiqh al-Siyar’(International Relations in Islam), implies that the person or group can be legitimately killed by Muslims due to their infidelity and aggression towards the Islamic state or community. Hence, declaring certain individuals or groups in Malaysia kafir harbi tantamounts to legitimizing the ISIS discourse and would open the floodgates of violent acts on Malaysian soil.

 

The classification of non-Muslim residents in the Islamic state into harbi and dhimmi is a historical issue that emerged during the classical period due to the global socio-political conditions then. States were not built on political identity as presently, but were kingdoms and empires that resort to religious and tribalistic identity as their legitimacy.

 

The new reality of nation-state framework and socio-politics has long been addressed by Muslim rulers and scholars alike.

 

In 1839, the Ottoman ruler, Sultan Abdul Majid, issued the Khatti-Sherif of Gulhane, proclaiming the principle of equality between the Muslims and the Christians. This virtually erased the classical legal status of the dhimmis (Al-Ghunaimi, Mohammad Talaat, 1968: 213)

 

The Muslims scholar Fathi Osman wrote;

 

“I do not think Muslims have any legal problem with regards to full equality with non-Muslims in rights and obligations. What emerged as the status of “dhimmis”; (non-Muslims within the Muslim state) was historically developed rather than built in the permanent laws of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Many scholars, including the Westerners, admit that the status of non-Muslims in the Muslim world during the Middle Ages, was better than what the Jews or other religious minorities received in the Christian countries in those ages.” (Human Rights in the Contemporary World . Problems for Muslims and Others. http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/private/cmje/issues/Human_Rights_in_the_Contemporary.pdf)

 

Many contemporary Muslim scholars, the likes of Syaikh Muhamamd Abu Zahrah, Syaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, Syaikh Dr Yusuf Qaradawi, Syeikh Wahbah al-Zuhayli, Dr Fahmi Huwaidi and Dr Muhammad Emarah Syakh has opined that the categories of kafir harbi and kafir dhimmi are no longer relevant and applicable within the socio-political structure of the modern world today. Instead, under the framework of constitutional modern state that has been acknowledged by most Muslim prominent scholars, it should be replaced by the termMuwatin which denotes citizens, who are granted equal rights, similar to the majority Muslim population of the contemporary Islamic state.

 

Allah has created all human beings with honour and dignity, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and has elevated their status above His other creations. Allah says in the Quran (17:70)

 

We gave honour and dignity (Karamat) to the children of Adam

 

As much as we would like to be honored and shown dignity, we have to recognize the dignity and honour of others.

 

Unfortunately, the actions of the few in our country, which among others has inadvertently equated Islam with religious intolerance and racism, their failure to recognize the equality of man before his creator, their parochial understanding of the brotherhood of man and their blatant impingement on other religions has tarnished the image of the messenger of Allah (pbuh) as rahmatan lil alamin, mercy upon mankind.

 

We hope this inclusive approach helps to reassure our fellow Malaysians from other belief systems of the Islamic position on human relations in our multi religious community. Together, hand in hand in religious harmony we can build a “Better Malaysia” founded on the eternal values of justice, equality, mutual benefit (masalih mushtarakah) and the brotherhood and dignity of mankind.

MPF Ramadhan Workshop 2016

mpf-ramadan-workshop-2016

BDS Malaysia Press Release: Boycott Apartheid Israel

27 December 2015
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Malaysia (BDS Malaysia) PRESS RELEASE
BOYCOTT APARTHEID ISRAEL

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Malaysia (BDS Malaysia) is very concerned with the recent statement by Perak DAP leader, Chong Zhemin regarding the decision by the Malaysian government to refuse  visas to two Israeli windsurfers due to participate in the Youth Sailing World Championships in Langkawi.
Notwithstanding his retraction, we are nonetheless bewildered as to why he issued it in the first place.

There is a growing global movement that is protesting the ethnic cleansing, racial apartheid and military occupation of Palestine by Israel. Sports have not been spared by the Israeli authorities. Palestinian footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches.

Following a campaign by Palestinian sports team and activists across Europe, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) rejected an Israeli bid to host games during the 2020 European Championships.

World soccer superstars, the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Brazilian Ronaldo and Eric Cantona are active campaigners for boycotting Israel, calling it a racist state, which violates human rights.

BDS campaign “ADIDAS: Don’t run with Israeli Apartheid” finally ended ADIDAS sponsorship of the Jerusalem marathon.

BDS has evolved into a truly global human rights based movement against Israel until it complies with international law.
And BDS Malaysia calls upon all Malaysians to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian popular resistance and boycott Israel until it:

1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Apartheid Wall;

2. Recognise the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Prof Mohd Nazari Ismail
Chairman, BDS MALAYSIA

MPF Press Release on “HALAL TROLLEYS”

The recent media report where the minister for Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan (KPDNKK) was quoted as saying that his ministry is mulling a new legislation that requires supermarkets nationwide provide separate trolleys for halal and non-halal products naturally drew many negative comments.

Whilst the ministry’s worry about the viability of the proposed new legislation is the significant cost it would incur on businesses concerned, for many it is the further segregation of Muslims and non-Muslims that is uppermost. The last thing we need is a new law that will likely exacerbate polarization along religious and racial lines.

Before the ministry comes up with the idea of legislation, we wonder to what extent, such a measure is demanded by Muslims apart from that espoused by the spokesperson of Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM), Datuk Nadzim Johan, “Ia satu cadangan yang baik kerana akan mendidik masyarakat untuk memahami batasan dan keperluan rakyat pelbagai kaum dan agama.”

Or from the deputy president of  FOMCA, Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman who agreed with the idea, “terutamanya bagi mencegah pencampuran produk halal dan tidak halal, yang boleh membawa kepada pencemaran silang (cross-contamination).”

And if a significant proportion of Muslims sees it as a necessity or a priority in the present climate of religious over-zealousness, has it been thoroughly studied and explained by the religious authorities?

There is likely a spectrum of scholarly opinions on this matter if we include independent but well respected scholars outside of the official religious establishment.

We would like to humbly pitch our understanding of the higher objectives of the Islamic jurisprudence (Maqasid Shari’ah) on this matter. This issue is neither new nor problematic elsewhere in the Muslim world but somehow hits a raw nerve with some Muslims in Malaysia.

The religious scholars agree unequivocally that porcine meat is not allowed, haram, for consumption by Muslims based on the injunctions in the Quranic verse 145, Surah al-An’Am;

“Say, I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure – or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], then indeed, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”

However, the Muslim scholars differed on three major aspects related to the flesh of swine, namely:

1.    Is it categorised as najis (impure) mughallazah or mutawassitah?

2.    How should it be cleansed? This would depend on its category.

3.    They also differed if body parts of the swine (skin, hair, bones) can be utilized after it has been cleansed

The majority of Muslims scholars opined that it is categorized as najis mutawassitah, and only requires cleansing with one wash only upon touch. It is similar to cleansing of impurities like blood, pus, faeces, urine and wounds.

Imam Shafie, the “official mazhab” in Malaysia, categorized it as najis mughallazah which has similar najis properties as a dog and must be cleansed 7 times, one wash with soil water. This is the accepted opinion in mazhab Shafie with the notable exception of Imam Nawawi.

However, further interrogation into the basis for this najis mughallazah  opinion shows that it is neither a sound nor correct inference of verse 5 of Surah al-Maidah or the authentic hadith from Abu Hurarirah on cleansing as compiled by Imam Muslim in his Al-Jami’ al-Sahih.

This “minority” Shafie opinion is obviously burdening the Muslims in Malaysia and has been illustrated in the proposed legislation, is very provocative and unnecessarily creating a further hostile divide along religious and racial lines.

And besides, the Quran clearly stipulates;

“And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty”
(Al-Hajj 22:78)

And it was narrated from Aisha (RA) that, given a choice, the Prophet (SAW) will opt for “the less burdensome, provided it was permissible”
(Bukhari & Muslim).

Clearly, this calls for more in-depth study, dialogue and communication between ALL stakeholders (not just KPDNKK, FOMCA or PPIM), all religious communities and religious experts before we even think about a new law.

In the final analysis, it is hoped that authentic religious mutual respect and common sense will prevail over religious bigotry and insensitivity.

Often times, one wonders whether these parochial and trivial issues are mainstreamed by design to derail us from the acute and  critical issues plaguing our nation.

In a national ambience of ambiguity, lack of accountability, transparency and failure of political governance, we should not be easily distracted by petty and shallow issues like “halal trolleys” but instead focus our attention and energies on “fiqh awlawiyat” (jurisprudence of priorities),  to uplift this country from the  abyss of religious and racial strife, economic meltdown and a failed nation state.

Board of Directors
Muslim Professional Forum

Press Release: "Kesetiaan Kepada Raja Dan Negara"

7 October 2015
Press Release:”Kesetiaan Kepada Raja Dan Negara”

The Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) applaud the statement issued by the Conference of Malay Rulers on the 1MDB debacle.

The sentiments expressed shows that our Rulers are cognizant and sensitive towards the impasse and doldrums faced by their subjects in the quest for resolution of this highly charged national dilemma.

The MPF fully concur with the Rulers’ decree for an immediate and urgent probe into 1MDB to mitigate the economic hardship that is currently being suffered by the rakyat, corporations, businesses and the Malaysian economy at large.

A comprehensive and transparent investigation needs to be undertaken and without any interference from anyone, to diagnose the economic malady and bring to justice the guilty individuals or parties.

This SOS economic plea has been echoed by the lay public, key opinion leaders, civil society and professional economic institutions to address the “elephant in the room” which would otherwise threaten our economic stability and national security.

Anything less than this would erode the trust of the rakyat and the confidence of international markets and junk us as a perilously failed nation. It is imperative that the political governance heed the call of the Malay Rulers’ Conference and act NOW.

As enshrined in the Rukunegara, “Kesetiaan kepada Raja dan Negara”, our loyalty to the King and country is paramount.

Board of Directors
Muslim Professionals Forum

Dr. Mads Gilbert - Call for BDS (3/11/2015, KGPA, KL)

MadsGilbertKL-INSTAGRAM

Press Release: Islam Abhors Racism

17 September 2015

PRESS RELEASE: ISLAM ABHORS RACISM

At the recent red shirt rally, a speaker was reportedly quoted as saying that he is a racist and that Islam allowed racism.

We are surprised and taken aback by this statement and would like to reiterate and remind everyone that Islam abhors and rejects racism.

The Quran states emphatically,

“O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you” (Quran 49:13).

The prophet too reminded us in his last sermon,

“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor a white has any superiority over black, except by piety and good action (Taqwa)…” (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ahmad)

It is evident that the most righteous in Islam is determined by God consciousness and good deeds. And clearly not lineage, colour or ethnicity.

The speaker is reported to have used tribalism as a justification for his racism.

Tribalism or asabiyah is explicitly forbidden in Islam and cannot be a justification for one race claiming superiority over another.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “He is not one of us who calls for asabiyyah, (tribalism) or who fights for asabiyyah or who dies for asabiyyah.” (Abu Dawud)

There are numerous other Quranic and Hadith injunctions forbidding racism. Islam is a religion for all mankind and no one group or individual can lay claim to its exclusivity or superiority over another. To do so would be going against the very basic tenets of Islam.

Board of Directors
Muslim Professionals Forum

Political Accountability: An Islamic Viewpoint

Dr Maszlee Malik, Advisor, Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Director, MPF

Accountability of the ruler is often used synonymously with  concepts such as answerability, enforcement, responsibility, blameworthiness, liability and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving. The concept of accountability is a condicio, crux of the ideals and the hallmark of good governance. The concept originated from the ethics discourse which had several meanings but its application and expansion has distanced it from its original meaning. In the modern usage, the term accountability is synonymous with ‘responsibility’ and ‘answerability’. Upon electing the executive into office with the mandate to rule, tax, spend, legislate and enforce policies and laws; the citizens demand of them accountability. It is thus a double edge sword to keep in check the political executive from abusing their power and to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of government operations.

Types of accountability
Accordingly, accountability functions as ‘the mechanism to control power, domesticating it and preventing its abuse under certain procedure by the governed upon the government which governs them’. The literature outlines eight types of accountability, namely: political accountability, administrative or bureaucratic accountability, judicial accountability, market accountability, managerial accountability, constituency accountability and professional accountability. Our focus is on political accountability, considering its relevance to our current political situation.

Political Accountability
Political accountability has been crucial in defining the rights of the citizen towards preventing injustice and tyranny by those in power. Its realisation will enshrine the very idea of good governance. It combines two major elements: enforcement and answerability. These two elements are often described as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ accountability respectively.

Enforcement
Enforcement ensures free and fair elections which are institutional prerequisites for democracy. The “freeness” is manifested in the freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom to participate for every citizen; voter and party.

Free elections alone are not sufficient to guarantee the effective role of the accountability process. They must also be fair, whereby the rules and procedures are equally fair and protected from fraud and manipulation by those in power. For example, the elections should be held at regular intervals so that those currently in office cannot delay them indefinitely according to their political benefit.

Likewise, election as an agent of accountability empowers the voters to assess the policies and performances of their political leaders. Elected political leaders acquire their legitimacy through the voter’s voice. The result of elections might be understood simply as a declaration of who most deserve the honour of political authority.

Answerability
Answerability can be considered as the core function of accountability. Enforcement which is the foundation of parliamentary democracies, aims partly to make all parties involved to be answerable of their actions and deliverables before the people. To safeguard the answerability process, there must be ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ in the governance process. These can only be achieved when two other major elements in an authentic ambience of accountability are present: a free mass media and  legislative scrutiny of the executive.

Freedom of the press is crucial  in any democratic country. It closely monitors the performance of the judicial, legislative and executive bodies. Thus, any abuse of office, corruption, malfunction of the system and its apparatus are reported to inform the public. An informed public would utilise its voting power to punish or reward politicians for their handling of the nation’s affair. A free press also creates an open space for the public and citizen groups to communicate with each other. Such communication undoubtedly plays a major role in a healthy democratic practice. It helps to raise political consciousness, enhances the free expression of ideas, stimulate proposals for reform, expose flawed thinking, reveal problems before they reach crisis point, mitigate errors, and articulate multiple facets of pressing national issues.

However, freedom of the media alone is inadequate without a proper mechanism to make the members of the executive answerable to the public. Answerability requires a legislative institution, which has the power to force the executive to explain its acts of omissions or commissions.  This requires the legislative to be constituted on the basis of three principles. First, the recognition of the legitimate right and role of the opposition in  all legislative matters. Second, the unrestricted parliamentary scrutiny of all policy matters, its formation, evolution and implementation. Third, the supportive role of parliamentary committees and government agencies. The active role of Anti Corruption Agency (ACA), Ombudsman or the Public Complaints Bureau in certain countries, Auditor General Office (AG), Public Accounts Committee, and other institutions must be allowed to undertake their task without any interference from the executive. Any regulation, act or law that restricts the freedom of these agencies is undemocratic and would jeopardise the accountability process.

In summary, accountability is the hallmark of good governance which embraces the enforcement of free and fair elections and answerability of the executive to the public in a political space of openness and transparency. The malfunction of any of these critical operating systems will retard national development and progress. However, the accountability system can only be highly efficient with the existence and support of other related concepts of governance such as rule of law, people participation and a higher degree of civil liberty. If political accountability is unheeded, neglected or dysfunctional, the citizen may inevitably resort to civil disobedience, street protests, rebellions or violent revolutions.

Islam and Political Accountability
Accountability in Islam derives from the concept of Amanah. Amanah as a political concept suggests that God has given the trust to human beings to deliver and promote His guidance through justice and fairness in their lives. Everyone becomes a recipient of such a trust and consequently has to stand in awe-filled reverence before his people towards whom and for whose sake he will be called upon to exercise his duty.  This concept is enshrined  in the Qur’an:
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.” (Qur’an, 3:104).

This verse and the similar illustrates that Islam promotes active citizenship through participation in governance. The spirit of al-amr bi al-ma’ruf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar (enjoinment of good and forbidding of evil) must be expanded from the exclusivity of spiritual-ritual dimension towards a broader and holistic horizon of moral, ethical, social and political responsibilities.

In harmony with the Quranic spirit, the Prophet was reported as saying:
Whoever amongst you sees anything objectionable, let him change it with his hand, if he is not able, then with his tongue, and if he is not even able to do so, then with his heart, and the latter is the weakest form of faith” (Narrated by Muslim).

Similarly, there are other analogous records which denote the Prophet’s position on the political life of the believers, amongst others his praise and recognition of anyone who stood against tyranny with the words of justice:
The master of the martyrs is Hamza, and whoever is killed speaking truth in the court of a tyrant ruler” (Narrated by al-Hakim).

Equally, on another occasion he justifies an act of accountability performed by an individual by associating it with Jihad:
The best Jihad is the word of truth to an unjust ruler” (Narrated by al-Tarmidhi, Abu Daud, and Ibn Majah).

These evidences from the authentic texts demonstrate  that ‘accountability’ is pivotal in articulating the purity of the spirit of amanah in political life. The high sense of accountability  empowers individuals, hence crystallising the true meaning of equality and allowing individuals to act as a benchmark for the community of believers. These inter-dependent and inter-relating concepts reveal a clear picture of how amanah works within a tawhidic worldview based society. Furthermore, in preserving and instilling the concept of accountability, the Prophet allowed himself to be accountable and criticised by his companions on many occasions. The Prophet was criticised by the companions on his decision regarding the positioning of the army during the battle of Badr. He was also urged to accept the companions’ proposal to fight the Makkan army outside Madinah when the Makkan troops were approaching Madinah during the battle of Uhud.

The practice of accountability in early Islamic political life could also be found during the period of Abu Bakr. He stressed the importance of accountability and the nature of individuals with authority in the community in his very first speech to the Muslim community after being elected as the Caliph by saying:
Cooperate with me when I am right, but correct me when I commit error; obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet; but turn away from me when I deviate” (Narrated by al-Hindi).

In fact, other companions often held him to account for his decisions and state administration. Furthermore, this was also the position of Omar when he was elected as the successor of Abu Bakr: in his very first speech after being appointed as caliph, he stressed the need for accountability in his administration, and the rights of every empowered citizen.

Omar’s policy on accountability did not end with the primitive style of verbal complaints and condemnations from the public. He established a specific office to deal with the public administrators’ accountability. The office was designed for the investigation of complaints that reached the Caliph against the officers of the State.

Another example of accountability practiced during the period of the rightly-guided Caliphs can be found in the famous letter written by the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib to his governor of Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar. In his advice to the governor, he asserts that:
Out of your hours of work, fix a time for the complainants and for those who want to approach you with their grievances. During this time, you should do no other work but hear them and pay attention to their complaints and grievances. For this purpose you must arrange public audience for them; during this audience, for the sake of Allah, treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. Do not let your army and police be in the audience hall at such times so that those who have grievances against your regime may speak to you freely, unreservedly and without fear”.

Conclusion
The virtually total breakdown of  accountability in the the Malaysian political process is now evidently glaring for all too see. Officially formed in November 2006, the Coalition for Clean & Fair Elections (Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil) or BERSIH (meaning CLEAN in the national language, Malay), a coalition of NGOs, sought to reform the current electoral system in Malaysia to ensure free clean and fair elections. Her first public rally in the vicinity of the historic Dataran Merdeka in November 2007 was often credited for the shift in the political landscape in the 2008 general elections which denied the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) its two thirds palriamentary majority since 1969.

The most recent 2015 BERSIH 4 rally from 2pm, August 29th until midnight, August 30th attracted  massive peaceful public demonstrations in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and concurrent Global BERSIH rallies in many capital cities. The demands were for free and fair elections, a transparent government, the right to demonstrate, strengthening the parliamentary democracy system, as well as saving the national economy. The fifth “economic demand” was in response to the alleged deposit of  RM 2.6 billion in the Prime Minister’s personal bank accounts, which his supporters claim is not corruption but a “political donation”.

And following on the BERSIH initiative, yesterday, 10 September 2015, a civil society document endorsed by 69 NGOs, outlined specifically the reforms needed for political funding to promote transparency and accountability. It was titled “Declaration on transparent and accountable political funding as the underlying framework to eliminate corruption and promote clean governance”

These responses by civil society are  authentic grass roots initiatives articulating accountability as a manifestation of amanah, to put in place operating systems that  prioritises the enforcement of free and fair election, ensure answerability of the executive within  a political sphere of openness and transparency, empower people participation in the political process, protect jealously civil liberties and safeguard the rule of law. Thus, no party, government or the opposition, would be spared from being answerable for their ex-ante and ex-post responsibilities. An effectual macro accountability system would only prevail within the tangible and real division of powers in any state. Without a real separation of power, as can be seen  absent in many countries, Malaysia included, a culture of accountability could never prevail. In the absence of a palpable atmosphere of accountability, ideal governance will unlikely be achieved.

Press Release on "Himpunan Maruah Melayu"

7 September 2015

PRESS RELEASE “HIMPUNAN MARUAH MELAYU”

It can perhaps be said that Bersih 4 marked a historical milestone in the political maturity of Malaysians. Along with the massive turn out, the rally was peaceful, culminating with the Merdeka Eve celebrations. We are grateful that the Royal Malaysian Police Force showed restrain and stepped aside as the protestors exercised their rights to have a peaceful assembly.

Bersih 4 was a rally for all Malaysians, regardless of background. However, even before the rally, some quarters would like us to believe that Bersih 4 was an assault by the Chinese to undermine the Malay-Muslim leadership at the helm of the country’s administration and continues to be said about the under-representation of Malays among the rally participants. In this regard, we would like to record our appreciation to the Inspector General of Police for having dissuaded the anti-Bersih “Red Shirts” from holding a parallel rally. This defused what would potentially have been an explosive situation, bordering on racism and bigotry and threatening our racial harmony.

However this threat by the “Red Shirts” has not completely passed, for a rally dubbed “Himpunan Maruah Melayu” is being planned for Malaysia Day. The location chosen for the rally, the depiction of a keris-wielding warrior with an incendiary caption underneath its promotional posters dispel any doubts that the intent is one of provocation and intimidation.

As a community, we have admittedly lost a major portion of our honour and dignity. Despite all the supposed advantages, we lag behind in many areas – education, share of the nation’s wealth and economic pie and a relatively small middle class. And fare the worst in terms of social ills that blight our younger generation.

But we do not redeem our honour and dignity by blaming other races whilst helping an embattled political elite who proclaim “berjuang untuk agama dan bangsa” cling to power, but has lost the legitimacy to govern on account of being weighed down by serious allegations of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power.

One redeems one’s honour and dignity by upholding the principles of truth and justice, holding accountable those whom trust and responsibility has been placed on their shoulders.

We redeem our honour and dignity by remaining true to the moral teachings of Islam and exposing the hypocrisy of those who use religion to cling to power.

The Red Shirts do not represent the voice of the Malay Muslims. Any call towards incitement of racial strife must be dealt with swiftly. We urge the Royal Malaysian Police Force to once again act with professionalism to maintain peace and order in these uncertain times.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“Whoever fights under a banner of folly (not for the sake of Allah), supporting asabiyyah (tribalism & racism), or getting angry for the sake of asabiyyah, he dies in a state of jahiliyyah (ignorance).”

Hadith Sahih, Sunan Ibn Majah, No. 3948

Media Statement Endorsed by the following Muslim individuals & organisations:

1 Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)

2 Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia (IKRAM)

3 Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)

4 Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (IMAM)

5 Dr Amir Farid Isahak

6 JIHAD For JUSTICE

7 We are Malaysians

8 Malaysian Indian Muslim Action Council

9 Ipoh Tamil Muslim Development Association

10 Persatuan Kebajikan Muslim Kinta

11 G25

12 Persatuan Promosi Harmoni Malaysia

13 Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM)

14 Pertubuhan Pemuda GEMA Malaysia

15 Research & Information Centre on Islam (RICOI)

16 Dr Maszlee Malik, President, IIUM Academic Staff Association

Political Funding and Transparency: An Islamic Perspective

Dr Maszlee Malik, Advisor, Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Director, MPF

It is widely accepted that the practice of good governance leads to higher investment and growth, hence development. And political accountability has been highly regarded as one of the sine qua non elements in the governance equation. Transparency in party financing as well as asset disclosure are amongst the crucial characteristics of political accountability in many developed nations. A myriad of researches and reports have shown that the lack of openness in money and politics has often contributed to the corruption of political finance. Thus, policymakers aspiring for sustainable national development must seriously address the transparency of money in politics.

Many researchers in the field of money and politics claim that too much money is either hidden, goes unreported, or is acquired from illicit sources. Secret money and corruption hurts the economy and the polity of a nation as well as distorts the behavior of politicians, hence development falters and citizen confidence in democracy wanes. Civil society in the developed world has begun to play an increasingly important role in the inquiry and unraveling of the sources of political party and campaign funds. This mechanism is however wanting in the developing world.

Why Transparency?
Disclosure is one of the many ways by which nations have tried to control the?flow of money into politics. From the perspective of the electorate and civil society, disclosure enables them to see the origins of political money, how it flows and how it may influence legislative behavior. To the politician or political parties, disclosure means giving up some modicum of privacy to gain credibility through the practice of accountability. The need for more disclosure laws means that parties simply need to be more open about their honest money and allow more transparency. In a democracy, disclosure reports are to politics, what financial statements are to businesses. Both are ‘accounting systems'; one for the accuracy of profits, the other for the level of ‘accountability’ of elected leaders.

Increasing emphasis on transparency in politics engenders a lot of benefit to the people and nation. It will first and foremost increase the legitimacy and credibility of the political governance. Illegal money can too easily find its way into the governance equation and cast aspersions. A “pornography king” was found to have contributed a large sum of money to the Labor Party in the U.K. and more than just eyebrows were raised. In Latin America, many still remember the financial scandal between the president of Colombia and the drug lords. Without disclosure, money can come from anywhere in the world, and in incredible amounts too. And since money often determines the victor in a political contest, the transparency of fiscal origins and its use are fundamental!

No disclosure means no enforcement is ever possible. Without disclosure reporting requirements for contributions, there would be no way to enforce campaign contribution limits. Without disclosure about spending, there could be no way of enforcing spending limits. Without disclosure of a donor’s identity and citizenship, there is no way to enforce bans on foreign contributions. Countries that have meagre enforcement of political finance will most likely have weak or non- existent disclosure laws.

Transparency builds confidence in the democratic process.  A government that is transparent, open and accountable enhances its credibility and enjoys the trust and confidence of its citizens. The rakyat  feels comfortable and reassured with their government and political leaders who are responsible and transparent about public and political finances. In contrast, the lack of transparency makes people lose confidence in both the government and the system.

Legislation on Financial Disclosure
Political financial disclosure can never be effective without both a legal framework and enforcement. In many countries that legislated political financial disclosure, the laws and enforcement principally contain two major structural components: 1) a provision that any financial donation or aid, including other resources such as loans or equipment etc., should be accurately and promptly reported to a designated agency/commission; 2) a disclosure law stipulates that all financial reports be made available to the public for review and analysis as soon as practicable.

Furthermore, any political financial disclosure laws would only be truly effective in promoting transparency and openness if it clearly expose five major crucial elements of the process: 1) The donor(s); 2) The amount of the donation/aid; 3) Time the donation/aid was made/given; 4) The recipient(s); the name of the party or candidate receiving the money or ?”anything of value”; 5) Purpose(s) of the donation/aid, by explicitly mentioning in detail the name of the vendor or person receiving the money identified by name and category of the expenditure.

If political parties, candidates and donors could be exposed transparently and in detail through these five elements in a timely manner and accessible to the public about their political financing arrangements, only then the laws would become useful.  Otherwise, it won’t add anything new or useful to the practice of governance.

However, getting transparency codified into law is a critical step. In many instances, disclosure and transparency often occurred randomly rather than planned for. The calls for more transparency in many countries only emerged after the exposure of big scandals involving political parties or government or politicians by the media. The classical example was the Watergate and the Enron scandals that eventually led to legal regulations on campaign finance in the US.

Nevertheless, there are a few countries who chose a gradual approach to disclosure by implementing “personal asset disclosure” as a way of opening the door for later, more comprehensive reporting by candidates and parties instead of having specific laws for political financial disclosure. Every country works through this at its own pace. In the US for example, it took almost 40 years between disclosure laws being enacted and disclosure laws being enforced.

The Islamic Experience
The Qur’an instructs:
“Allah commands you to deliver the trusts to those to whom they are due; and whenever you judge between people, judge with justice…” (Qur’an, 4: 58).

In another verse:
“Follow God, follow the Prophet, and those from among you who have been entrusted with authority” (Qur’an, 4: 59).

The fundamental principles of governance based on the Qur’anic concept of trust (amanah) and its implication on society are illuminated by these verses.

On elaborating the general idea of trust upon each individual, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Behold, each one of you is a guardian, and each one of you will be asked about his subjects. A leader is a guardian over the people and he will be asked about his subjects; a man is a guardian over the members of his household and he will be asked about his subjects; a woman is a guardian over the members of the household of her husband and of his children, and she will be asked about them; a servant of a man is a guardian over the property of his master, and he will be asked about it.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Amanah within the individuals’ self will create self-accountability to guide his conduct, which will create an inner feeling of responsibility to deliver the trust given and enable him to refrain from corruption and mismanagement.

Amanah is thus the underpinning philosophy for accountability, transparency and competency in serving the society whether in the public or private sector. Such a system with effective supporting institutions will bring the governance process closer to the notion of iman (faith) as the fruit of amanah. Furthermore, self-realisation of such concepts within individuals will contribute towards the micro-discipline of society.

The Prophet (pbuh) had demonstrated the articulation of amanah in his life as he was known, even before becoming a prophet, as al-amin (the trustworthy). Furthermore, in preserving and instilling the concept of accountability, the Prophet, as a leader, allowed himself to be held accountable and criticised by his companions on several occasions.

When Ibn Lutaybiyah an Amil (tax collector) during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) returned to Madinah, he was seen loaded with tax revenues, and asserted that a substantive portion of the revenue was given to him as tokens from certain people. The Prophet (pbuh) reminded him saying:
“What is wrong with the man whom we appointed as a tax collector and he said this is for you and that was given to me? If he stayed in his parent’s house, would something be given to him?” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

On another occasion, the Prophet was quoted as constantly reminding his companions by saying:
“Whomsoever we appoint over an affair, we shall give him provision. What he takes after that is breach of trust.” (Narrated by Abu Daud )

The practise of transparency and accountability was also documented during the rule of the rightly guided caliphs. Omar, the second caliph, whilst delivering the Friday sermon was interrupted by an ordinary person who said,
“O the leader of the believers, I won’t listen to your sermon until you explain how you came up with your long dress (Arabian robe)”.

Apparently, there was some distribution of fabric to the people and given the measure of distribution and the height of Omar; he could not have made a dress out of his single share. So, a vigilant voice of egalitarianism unhesitatingly challenged Omar, the leader of a vast caliphate. Omar’s son stood up, explaining that he gave his share to his father, so that a dress could be made to fit Omar. The vigilant voice then expressed his approval and sat down, and Omar resumed his sermon (narrated by Ibn Qutaybah, 2002: 1/55).

Omar’s policy on accountability did not end with the primitive style of verbal complaints and condemnations from the public. As for the public offices, he established a specific office to deal with the public administrators’ accountability. The office was designed for the investigation of complaints that reached the Caliph against the officers of the State. When it was first established, Omar appointed Muhammad ibn Maslamah to take the responsibility of this ombudsman-like department. In important cases, Muhammad ibn Maslamah was deputed by Omar to proceed to the location, investigate the charge and take action. Sometimes an Inquiry Commission was constituted to investigate the charge. Whenever the officers raised complaints against him, they were summoned to Madinah, and the case was brought before the Caliph himself. The caliph also dismissed governors when the people complained against them; amongst them was the Prophet’s companion, Saad Ibnu Abi Waqqas (Majdalawi, 2000: 86 and 90). The same function was conducted in a later phase of Muslim history by a specially designed office known as Diwan al-Mazalim which can be understood as the classical version of the contemporary ombudsman.

Once while delivering a sermon, Omar said:
“My rights over public funds (the Baitul Mal) are similar to those of the guardians of an orphan. If well placed in life, I will not claim anything from it. In case of need, I shall draw only as much as it constitutionally allowed for providing food. You have every right to question me anything about, any improper accumulation of the revenue and bounty collections, improper utilization of the treasury money, provision of the daily bread to all, border-security arrangements and harassment caused to any citizen.” (Ibn Saad, no date: 3: 215-19)

Omar represents the authentic practice of transparency where a ruler, as well as the state officers, should have nothing to hide from the public and are open to scrutiny of their usage of public wealth.

On, the same account he was recorded by historians to have issued a certificate witnessed by the group of elders to all duly appointed governors stipulating that the governor should not ride an expensive horse, or eat white bread, or wear any fine cloth, or prevent the people’s needs (from being satisfied) (al-Tabari, 1994: XIV/ 113).

Conclusions
The scandalous undisclosed “donation” fiasco has unearthed the malignant and deep-seated corruption of political funding in Malaysia. This has inevitably led to the overwhelming trust deficit amongst the rakyat towards her political leaders. The lack of transparency, accountability and competency of the ruling political elite has angered the rakyat and civil society who are now demanding for answers and clamouring for change.

First and foremost, the highly controversial 1MDB issue must be thoroughly investigated by the civil institutions of the AG’s office, Bank Negara, MACC and the Police without any interference whatsoever from the Executive.

Next, the undisclosed “donation” must be similarly investigated by the due process of the law. Until and unless, these two “national fiscal tragedies” are resolved justly, the rakyat and civil society will not have any trust whatsoever in the sincerity or seriousness of the political leaders towards addressing the issues of political finance and funding.

These two pressing national issues once resolved, would pave the way for legislation not only on political funding disclosure but also asset declaration by all politicians and their immediate family members.

The disclosure laws would increase overall transparency and inform the public about the financial transactions of political parties, politicians and others involved in the electoral process. Among others it would disclose the public funding of election campaigns and financial information of political parties. It requires political parties and their branches, politicians, donors and others participating in the electoral process to lodge regular financial disclosure returns with a national electoral commission. These would be made readily available for public scrutiny.

The trust (amanah) needs to be guarded jealously and the disclosure laws is designed to serve just this purpose. It behoves at this juncture to narrate the admonition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said:

“Discussions are confidential (not subject to disclosure) except in three places: “Shedding unlawful blood, unlawful cohabitation and unlawful accumulation of wealth”. (Narrated by Abu Dawud)