Clarify reminder on use of ‘RIP’ by Muslims, former Perlis mufti urges fatwa council

Dr Asri Zainul Abidin

Hasbullah Awang Chik, TMI

The National Fatwa Council has been urged to clarify its statement discouraging Muslims from using the phrase “Rest in Peace” (RIP) when condoling a non-Muslim’s death.

Commenting on the council’s reminder that Muslims are not permitted to use the phrase, former Perlis mufti Associate Professor Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin said the clarification was important so that the matter would be clearly understood.

He said the council’s explanation should be based on two categories: whether the deceased understood but rejected Islam outright, or whether he or she has yet to receive the call to accept the religion.

“The first is whether the deceased rejected Islam as a religion. He knew about Islam but rejected it. The perception of Islam is RIP should not be said to this person.

“But if this person does not know what Islam is or if he is unclear because of his own perception about Islam, then we cannot say he has been punished by God.”

Last December, the National Fatwa Council issued a reminder discouraging Muslims from saying RIP over the death of a non-Muslim, saying the term was adopted from the Latin-speaking church.

“Expressions such as ‘I sympathise with what has happened to you’ or ‘we express our sadness at the loss in your family’ are allowed.

“However, a Muslim is definitely not encouraged to wish a non-Muslim person ‘Rest in Peace’,” the council had said.

The council said RIP was an assumption that the non-Muslim person would receive God’s blessings.

“It is similar to the Latin prayer of ‘May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace’,” it argued.

The council said this sentence was a form of prayer regularly used by Catholics, especially during the 18th century, and regularly engraved on tombstones.

“From an Islamic point of view, a person who has died as a disbeliever will not receive God’s forgiveness and blessings,” it had said.

Asri said in the hereafter, Allah would evaluate a person’s faith based on a clear and actual Islamic message.

“A person will only be declared an unbeliever or infidel if it is clear that they had rejected the true Islamic message.

“If a person does not actually know Islam, we cannot say he belongs in hell because God says ‘We do not torment until God sends an apostle’.

“This means a person will not be punished by God for his faith until he gets the clear Islamic message.

“Only after he rejects it will he get the backlash from God.”