SUBANG JAYA, Nov 18 — Any legal system and style of governance that protect lives, property and freedom of faith are already consistent with the Islamic tenets of justice, an Arab scholar said today.
Jasser Auda, a distinguished professor at the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies in Brunei, told a forum here that views Muslims should only be governed by the Shariah were factually wrong, and defended Malaysia’s dual legal systems.
“Your Constitution, so as long as it ensures peace and your country is stable and fair, there is no requirement to change it,” Jasser said.
“What is not tolerated in Islam is mischief or injustice, which means there are crime or poverty or sorts.
“As long as the five key (tenets) of the maqasid shariah are preserved, it (civil law) is fine,” he added.
Jasser spoke as a guest speaker at the “Reclaiming The Centre: The Role of Religion in a Multiracial Society”.
Maqasid means “purpose” or “objective” in Arabic. Maqasid shariah refers to the higher objective or goals of the shariah or laws which are there to protect five elements considered crucial to a Muslim’s life.
They are: the right to faith, life, lineage, property, and the mind or intellect.
Jasser, expert on Islamic jurisprudence and the maqasid shariah, said any legal system that preserves the five elements can be considered Islamic.
He dismissed the idea that only an “Islamic state” practised the true shariah, citing historical studies that included revelations from the Muslims’ Holy scripture, the Quran, to show that the religion had never espoused the idea of an Islamic nation state.
“If you look at the Quran… there was a revelation that referred to the Prophet Joseph (Yusuf in Arabic) who was the prime minister in the Egyptian government during the times of the pharaohs.
“But the Quran did not say anything about the style of governance. What it did mention was the cruelty of the pharaoh (at the time) in the sense that he (the pharaoh) fragmented his people to rise in power,” Jasser explained.
The scholar also cited historical studies to show that Prophet Muhammad did not try to establish an Islamic state.
Jasser said evidence like documents and scriptures found during the Muhammad’s time showed the Prophet’s political leadership focused mostly on administering justice, not ideology.
The scholar also pointed to covenants between Muslims and the Jews of Madinah as well as between Muslims and pagans of Mecca that showed Muhammad had only wanted the freedom to practise his faith and preach, and not the establishment of an “Islamic government”.
“Muhammad never sought to create an Islamic state or take over (the leadership or government) of the time… what he did set up at the time was the Alliance (or League) of Virtuous,” Jasser said.
The alliance, called the Hilf al-Fudul in Arabic, was a pact created by Meccans in the 7th century for fair trade. Muhammad was a key figure behind its formation and went on to honour the pact even after founding Islam.
Jasser said the fact Muhammad continued the alliance with non-Muslim members and maintained the pact even when he had amassed a large following showed he had no political ambition beyond ensuring the freedom of his followers to practise their faith and live normally.
PAS and other conservative Islamists pushing to make Malaysia an Islamic state often paint the country’s legal system as not Islamic.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, in particular, has repeatedly called civil laws archaic and remnants of British rule. He and his party openly call for civil laws to be replaced with “shariah rule”.