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Conference Reports

Title: Memahami Malaysia sebagai sebuah negara Islam
Date: 17-Sep-2002

Memahami Malaysia sebagai sebuah negara Islam
September 17, 18 2002
Dewan Jubli, Shah Alam
Organized by Kerajaan Negeri Selangor Darul Ehsan
Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (IKIM)
Institut Perkembangan Minda (INMIND)


The two-day seminar was intended to:

  1. know Malaysia as an Islamic State/Country (negara Islam);
  2. discuss the establishment and development of Islam in Malaysia;
  3. identify and explain emerging issues in the discussion on Islamic State/Country; and
  4. clarify the position of the non-Muslim community in an Islamic State/Country, notably in the Malaysian context.

In his keynote address, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the question of "Negara Islam" did not surface until the establishment of European concept of nation-state after the fall of the Caliphate system in the Muslim world. Constitution or governing system was then not a condition for these countries to be accepted as "negara Islam." The recognition that Malaysia is a "negara Islam" by the world at large - whether Islamic or non-Islamic - as well as by the majority of the Muslim community in Malaysia is sufficient for Malaysians to accept Malaysia as "negara Islam." No other reason is necessary.

In Malaysia, Muslim life is complete, free from all pressure, injustice or inadequacies. Everything is related to the Islamic way of life even though there are other religious groups. The evidence is clear in the government administration: Muslims and Islamic teachings are protected by the governing authority, Islamic laws and Syariah punishments are implemented with due consideration given to multi-religious groups in the nation.

In regards to the question of Islamic law as a qualifying factor to be an Islamic State, Dr Mahathir claimed Islam is not merely focusing on punishment. Islamic criminal law could only be fully implemented when the 100% of the population are Muslims. Nevertheless, Islam in Malaysia is fundamental and accurate. If "negara Islam" must implement its own interpretation of Islamic law and punishment, there will be no Islamic State/Country because not one country can fully and accurately implement the law.

In responding to a question posed by a DAP representative, PM said that the understanding of Islamic State and Secular State in the social contract of Cobolt & Reid Commission was accommodating the then social context in order to establish the existing constitution. He depicted England as an example, which is recognized as Christian state simply because Anglican is the official religion. Non-Muslims holding a ministerial position should not affect Malaysia as an Islamic state, just as the deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Tariq Mikhail Aziz who is a Christian. Therefore, with or without his pronouncement, Malaysia is still an Islamic state/country.

Highlights:

  1. Malaysia is an Islamic State because it meets the criteria & characteristics of an Islamic State and its administration is in accordance with basic Islamic principles (Quranic concept of 'trust'/amana & 'vicegerency of man'/khilafa; individuals enjoy considerable moral autonomy, and a civilian state elected by the people). The common ground between Islamic State and western democratic state justifies that fact that an Islamic State is a qualified democracy.1

  2. Malaysia is not a secular state because the constitution does not contain the word "secular," neither does it separate the state from religious obligations nor leave religion to the hand of religious institution. Therefore, Malaysia is an Islamic State:

    1. The declaration made by the Prime Minister, the highest-ranking authority in Malaysia, is decisive.2
    2. The ulama & fuquha said so in the early 90s (the only thing that stopped Malaysia from becoming an Islamic State was the lack of declaration).
    3. The constitution of Malaysia is Islamic because
      i. it reflects pluralism
      ii. it has shari'a provisions3
      iii. 9th schedule list recognizes Islamic law
      iv. ruler of the state is a Muslim
      v. it does not conflict Islamic teaching
    4. Parliamentary system is closer to Mushawarah (consultative) system approved by Islam. Shura is practised in the conference of Rulers, in the Cabinet and in the Parliament.
    5. All the religious needs of Muslims are provided by the Government, while at the same time, non-Muslims are free to practise their respective religions which are permitted by Islam.
    6. Shari'a institutions have been introduced into the public domain, e.g. Islamic Banking Scheme, etc.
      g. Reasonably fair electoral system.
      h. 86% of Malaysian respondents felt that Malaysia is a moderate Islamic state (ASLI, Nov. 2001)
  3. The Prime Minister's declaration was actually a response to public call, an underlying societal demand for stronger Islamic commitments from the governing elite in Malaysia. It was also a response to the opposition parties who considered Malaysia as a secular state, as well as to the world who constantly misinterpreted Islam fundamentalism as bad.

  4. Consciously or unconsciously, Malaysia is built upon the contemporary concept of Islamic civilization after 600 years of embracing Islam. Islam as a religion, civilization and foundation for policy-making has achieved its success and effect in Malaysia. Therefore, Malaysia as an Islamic State is not a new argument. It is neither a question as the world, the non-Muslim superpowers and even the enemies of Islam regard Malaysia as "negara Islam".4 In the provisions of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia:
    a. Islam is the only religion mentioned
    b. Islam is the only official religion of the Federal
    c. Only Muslims have their own religious court which is the Syariah court
    d. There is provision for the head of religion for Islam only.
    e. There is provision for Islamic laws to be imposed on Muslims.

  5. Even since independence, Islam has not ceased to influence the national system and politics of Malaysia. In the present atmosphere of Islamic resurgence, Malaysia belongs to the fourth polar of national system in the Muslim world, which consists of countries that have provisions for Islam in their constitution and use development proximity as foundation of Islamic sovereignty.5

The seminar also touched on:

  1. The achievement and challenges of education in Islam. The emergence of dualism in the present education system was a result of misperception of the meaning of "secular" and knowledge of Islam. In order to challenge such dualism, Islamization effort through non-Islamic subject must be done wisely with moderation without offending others and causing misunderstanding. Western secular theories such as evolution, anthropology and astronomy are to be taught not as absolute factors but as popular theories which adhere to consequences, while the foundation of Islam and views of other religions should be revealed accordingly as comparison.6

  2. Islam and Economic development: Islamic-based economic concept advocates equality, just distribution, and consensus in policy-making and involvement. Islamic State aims to establish a just, peaceful and prosperous society where the life of its people fulfills the will of God(Allah).7

  3. The Islamic dimension of Malaysia's foreign policy: Islam has been an important component of Malaysia's foreign policy since independence. The focus on Islam in external relations has been consistent and continuous. Against the backdrop of the Sept 11 tragedy and its adverse effects on Islamic nations and Muslims elsewhere Malaysia's efforts to project the more moderate, democratic and progressive side of Islam internationally can be expected to be more pronounced in the future.8


  1. Prof Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali
  2. Prof. Dr. Abdul Rashid Moten
  3. Though the administration of Islamic law and Shariah Court in this country needs widespread reformation and harmony, the direction taken today in the effort of upgrading the shariah court and Islamic law is both clear and in the right track.
  4. YA Dato' Abdul Hamid bin Hj. Mohamad
  5. Dato' Dr. Abdul Monir bin Yaacob
  6. Prof. Dr Wan Mohd. Nor Wan Daud
  7. Tn Hj Nik Mustapha Hj Nik Hassan
  8. Dato'Dr Mohd Yusof Ahmad


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