Asri to return as Perlis mufti

Dr Asri Zainul Abidin

(The Star) – Controver­sial and influential ulama Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin will return as Perlis mufti on Monday for a second stint after six years.

He will fill the spot vacated by Dr Juanda Jaya who ended his tenure as the state mufti late last year.

Dr Asri was Perlis mufti for two years from 2006 to 2008.

This makes him the only mufti to be appointed twice to the same position.

A source at the Perlis Islamic Religious Council said Dr Asri would be officially appointed this Sunday and start work on Monday.

It is believed that the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, has consented to Dr Asri’s appointment.

The 44-year-old Islamic scholar, otherwise known as Dr Maza, is known to be approachable and outspoken on certain issues.

His critical views on Islam and other social issues, while respected by many, were sometimes at odds with other state muftis.

In 2006, Dr Asri, then 36, was seconded from Uni­versiti Sains Malaysia, where he was a lecturer, to become Perlis mufti, the youngest in Malaysia to hold the important post.

His views on Islam, which often defy the conservative religious establishments, made him an instant celebrity among many groups.

He also authored a column in Mingguan Malaysia and appeared on TV to give his views on Islamic matters.

A graduate of University of Jordan and a PhD holder from University of Wales, Dr Asri is an expert on hadith (prophetic sayings) and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).

In the past few years, he aroused much political controversy for his critical views on the Islamic religious establishment in Malaysia.

Even when he was on a sabbatical in the UK, his views were shared on his website

“My duty is to present Islam in its modern face and get it out of the clutches of ultra-conservatives, who have made the religion look obsolete,” said Dr Asri in one of his interviews.