Syariah law is not divine law, says SIS


(The Star) – Syariah law is not divine law and should not be treated as such, says Sisters in Islam (SIS) executive director Rat­na Osman.

She said that there was a misunderstanding of the law and the Federal Constitution among certain quarters, who were pushing for Syariah courts to be on the same level with the Federal Court.

“(There is a) huge problem when we talk about Syariah law being on par with civil law,” said Ratna.

“The understanding of this group, who are pushing for it, is because God is supreme. So, to them, how can the Constitution become higher than God’s law?”

She said the view that Syariah law was divine law was problematic.

“Syariah law is actually human intervention of what God’s divine laws are. When there’s human intervention, it’s not 100% divine anymore,” she said.

She said that there was a need for a change in the direction of the discourse on the country’s Syariah law.

“They (the faction) are saying that their version, their interpretation of Syariah, is from God.

“That is problematic, because once you have that kind of language, then you want everything (Syariah law) to be on top of everything else,” she said.

Ratna also suggested that the discourse on whether Syariah law should be on par with civil law should take into account the Constitution.

“We should go back to the history of Malaysia and the supreme law of the land, which is the Constitution,” she said. “I think everyone should appreciate how we got to (become) Malaysia, to the legal system that has been agreed upon by lawmakers.”

Assistant professor of Islamic Law at the University of British Columbia Dr Rumee Ahmed said Islamic laws had never been set in stone.

“Islamic law has changed, is always changing, and will continue to change,” said Rumee.

He said Muslims could enter into a discourse over what kind of Islamic laws were imposed on them by the state by educating themselves on the topic.

“What I believe needs to be done is to increase the literacy of Muslims on Islamic law so that they can express in Islamic legal language the values that they hold and the concerns that they have in the way Islam is portrayed or implemented,” he said.

Ratna and Dr Rumee, along with assistant professor of Islamic Studies and Gender Studies Dr Ayesha S. Chaudhry, spoke to the media after addressing a forum on Domestic Violence and The Islamic Tradition here yesterday.