Agong is not the head of Islam, says constitutional law expert


V. Anbalagan, TMI

Malaysia has no head of Islam and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is only the head of religion in his own home state and in states without rulers, said a constitutional law expert.

Former International Islamic University Malaysia academic Dr Abdul Aziz Bari (pic) said the more appropriate platform to represent the rulers on religious issues is the Conference of Rulers.

“It appears that not all the rulers view the way of the Agong and the Sultan of Selangor,” Abdul Aziz said in a statement.

As such, he said the statement made by the Agong on the “Allah” issue last week had no effect.

“It may not even bind the Muslims as the resolution made by the National Fatwa Council in 1986, which was cited by the Agong in his address, has no legal standing,” he said.

On Sunday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah had stated that several Arabic words, including “Allah”, were exclusive to Muslims.

The Agong, who is also the Kedah Sultan, cited a 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council which prohibits non-Muslims from using the words.

In November, the Sultan of Selangor also said that non-Muslims in his state could not use the word.

The Agong is appointed on a five-year rotational basis among the nine Malay rulers and is head of the religion of his state, Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Malacca and the Federal Territories.

Abdul Aziz said the rulers, despite being the head of religion, had no power to lay down the laws of Islam.

“Only the Holy Prophet has the power to do so. Even the companions and later the caliphs had no such power. The position of the rulers is inferior to that of the caliphs.

“In any case, only the laws of Islam that is contained in the constitution and the relevant legislation can be enforced,” he said.

Abdul Aziz also said the Agong’s statement was not quite in line with the 10-point solution agreed by the Federal Government in 2011.

The 10-point solution which was endorsed by the cabinet, among others, allowed Christians nationwide to use the AlKitab in their religious practices.

“The rulers have no effect on non-Muslims as the right to religious freedom is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. No authority can tell non-Muslims how they should practise their religion.

“Even for the Muslims, it is for the religion itself to regulate how they should practise Islam,” he said.

He said the statement on the “Allah” issue may not even bind the Muslims as there was is no clear basis for it.

“In fact, some religious scholars such as Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawy had stated that it was fine for non-Muslims to use the name.”