Reflections on the recent events : Of Kartika Sari and the Cow-head Protest


1. On the Morality of the punishment of Shariah flogging imposed on Kartika Sari.

There is consensus amongst the main and established Mazhabs (schools) of Islamic Law, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`I and Hanbali Mazhabs that consumption of liquor is a Hudud offence which comes with a mandatory punishment. The form of punishment for this particular offence has been agreed upon by scholars as being a uniquely Islamic form of flogging (much less severe than conventional flogging), although they differ as to the actual number to be imposed with the some holding the number at 40 and others 80 strokes. It is trite in Islamic law that once an offence is prescribed with definite punishments as with the Hudud offences, there is no more any room for discretionary considerations. The punishments are mandatory. No issue of the gender of the offender or whether it is a first time offence and of course, never an issue of whether this position is contrary to other value systems whether they are termed as human rights, universal values, humanity, decency, etc.

As with many other issues of Islamic criminal law, even those which are more definite and subject to stronger consensus compared to the one currently at issue, if one is to look hard enough and in the ‘right’ places , one will be able to find some  minority or even obscure views that can be posed as seemingly valid alternative views against the established views of the schools. In such a situation, it is always more Islamic, safer for a Muslim’s faith and more professional to follow the established views of the Mazhabs. Unless the issue is one which is so tied up with time and space factors that a new consensus appears to emerge amongst mainstream, qualified contemporary scholars of Islamic law on the issue due to changes in circumstances surrounding it in the time we live in. That is not the case with consumption of liquor. No Islamic scholar worth his or her salt would argue that it is any lesser an offence as it was before. And as to corporal punishment or any other form of punishments which may be frowned upon by some but has been prescribed by clear and definitive texts in Islam, save for intermittent and sporadic voices, there is no clear sign yet of an emerging counter consensus regarding them amongst the mainstream community of Islamic law experts. This is not a surprise, nor something to be lamented, amongst those of us whose mind and heart-set is more tuned to ‘submission to the will of Allah SWT’ (the meaning of the word ‘Islam’), especially when it comes in clear and unequivocal terms. As for those more tuned and colored by values from outside, the tendency appears to be to constantly question, challenge and defy even established positions of the religion. Where then, may one ask, is the submission that is root of the word ‘Islam’!?

2. The flogging in Kartika’s case is still not fully in line with Islam.

The number prescribed against Kartika is clearly far below the actual one in Islam. That is our failing which should be grouped together with all our other failings in all the other departments of life which we have yet to fully Islamise. Good Muslims openly admit where they fall short of the required standard and earnestly work to remedy the shortcomings within a time-frame that is acceptable to Allah SWT. And Allah SWT is All Merciful and Forgiving but He is also All-knowing and knows well whether we are up to speed or unreasonably slow in our pace to Islamise ourselves and our society. Kartika cannot be blamed and faulted if the laws and procedures are not at the level they should be. Kartika and her family deserves nothing but praise for her extraordinary willingness to submit herself to the punishments in order to atone for her wrongs. If the punishments are indeed carried through, we pray that Allah SWT in His infinite mercy accepts it as adequate manifestation of Kartika’s and Malaysia’s submission to His command, albeit a deficient and imperfect one, and guide us to higher fulfillment of His standards in the times to come.

On the contrary, for us to fall back now, under pressure from voices and forces clearly reeking of ignorance, obstinacy and disbelief is an act of defiance which may well invite the wrath of Allah SWT upon all of us! May we be forever spared and distanced from it as individuals and as a nation.

3. Of the Star’s Gunasegaram, et al.

As for all the noise and fuss from the certain groups questioning the reasonableness of the punishment coupled with cries of discrimination and victimization of women, they are but party to a circus of ignorance, obstinacy and disbelief surrounding the Kartika issue, of which Gunasegaram’s piece in the Star would qualify as one of the centre-ring acts. We should see them clearly as a sign of the times. It is the season to go on the offensive against Islam in Malaysia. The fact that a non-Muslim managing editor of a major establishment daily is allowed to openly declare his ignorance and prejudice in such a manner should convince all Muslims in this country that Islam and the Muslims are indeed under siege. Siege is not a mere mentality but a reality. If the Muslims in Malaysia are not vigilant and order their priorities right, the position of Islam and the Muslims in Malaysia may well see a turn for the worse. May Allah forbid.

4. React but not overreact.

Barring any hidden twists unknown to us, the recent ‘Cow-head’ demonstration in Shah Alam is a classic case of suicidal overreaction.  Possibly fueled by an increasing feeling of desperation for not getting the rights signals from their own Muslim political leaders across the divide (who all seem dead focused on winning the hearts and minds of non-Muslim voters!), the demonstrators appear to have suffered temporary insanity and in the process shot themselves in the foot by their clearly distasteful act. Now the sympathy to their legitimate plight is somewhat marred by their blunder in approach. They have done a disservice to their own apparently legitimate cause. One lesson to be learned, as Muslims we should always be moral and spiritual in all that we do, never personal or emotional.

And Allah knows best.

Yusri Mohamad

9.13 am., 2nd September 2009

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