© Muhammad Haniff Hassan, December 2002
Apart from following the syara’, da’wah should be operationalised according to the law of the country we are in. This is because Islam places great emphasis on being orderly in every matters. Hence our ibadah such as solat and wudhu can be nulified should we fail to observe them in their correct order.
Allah taala has prohibited the Muslim ummah from being extreme in their actions.
“But do not transgress limits” (Al-Baqarah:190)
The term ‘ta`taduu’ (transgress) is further defined in the following verse:
“These are the limits ordained by Allah, so do not transgress them” (Al-Baqarah:229)
Although this verse specifically prohibits transgression of the syariah, its application in the context of the legal system is just as relevant based on these conditions;
a. if the laws do not contradict the teachings and principles of Islam such as when it comes to observing traffic regulations
b. even if the laws contradict Islamic syariah, we are still obligated to respect and uphold them. Hence while the laws with regards to theft, for example, do not fulfil the requirement of the syariah, we cannot simply neglect or refuse to uphold the laws. Otherwise we will cause lawlessness in the society which is a greater mudarat (evil) .
In the context of the nation, when a person chooses to be the citizen of a country, he has in fact signed a contract that includes his pledge to observe the law. Adhering to the law is, therefore, falls under general command of Allah taala;
“O ye who believe! Fulfill (all) obligations” (Al-Maidah:1)
“To fulfil the contracts which you have made” (Al-Baqarah:177)
We cannot deny that the legal systems in most countries often do not share the philosophy of Islam. Nevertheless, this is not a justification for us to totally reject all existing laws or to live in total disregard of the laws.
In the context of da’wah in Singapore, failure to operate according to the laws will only invite negative perceptions from non-Muslims and raise doubts as to the loyalty of the Muslims. The irony is that the ummah should be the best example for others to emulate and respect.
One of the issues in relation to this, is of the available policies and laws as objects of change. Such policies and laws need to be carefully differentiated and categorised. We should not be silent to the policies and laws that are opposed to the principles of the syariah. These are the “munkar” that we are obligated to correct either with our hands, words or at least in our hearts. Now how do we accomplish this?
We need to prioritise the issues that have to be addressed based on the degree of the maslahat, mudarat, reality, capability and the existing da’wah scenario. This should be accomplished through the process of consultation between the various official religious authorities, ulama and religious organisations. Laws that are in conflict with the syariah are of various types, and each should be addressed differently.
There are a few aspects of criminal laws in Singapore that may be inconsistent with the syariah or hudud. Nevertheless to change them now, would be beyond the capability of existing da’wah work and unrealistic. Raising them as issues would be a waste of current resources. In addition such actions may raise unnecessary oppositions that will only complicate da’wah activities and the practice of Islam. On the other hand to neglect or the failure to uphold those laws could result in social problems that will affect the Muslim community as well.
It is also important to note that in areas where there are conflicts, the solution may not necessarily be to promulgate or change the particular laws. Instead in the issue of banking, a better solution would be to offer an alternative in the current banking institutions. With such alternatives, Muslims are able to free themselves of the unIslamic practice while displaying the beauty of Islam.
But there are laws that cause Muslims to act contrary to the syariah. An example is the prohibition for wearing the tudung in national schools. There are also laws that affects the welfare of not only the Muslims but also that of the non-Muslims such as those on gambling and entertainment. While these are areas that requires our attention, we must ensure that our actions must be carried out with due regards to the process of law. Using force or violence would be totally inappropriate.
While we focus to champion our rights as normal citizens in this country and ensuring that it is done in accordance to the law, we need to understand that what is consistent with the law and endorsed by law does not mean that it is the wisest and most appropriate action to take. The wisest and most appropriate actions have to take into account various other factors.
As Muslims, we have to consciously dislike living in a situation that is far from ideal in terms of the syariah, but are currently unable to change. Without this consciousness in our hearts, what will be left from our iman?