By Latheef Farook –
About five years ago in an article I emphasized the need to reorganize the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema, ACJU, to suit the need of the time. As expected the clueless community remained indifferent.
However following the Colombo Telegraph article last month on ACJU’s statement that women are not equal to men and defending marriage before puberty has triggered a campaign calling for complete overhauling of ACJU with genuine scholars.
Response was swift from Muslim intellectuals and the civil society. Women’s Action Network, WAN, said religious leaders invoking tradition to block fundamental rights cannot be trusted to reform MMDA .Wan called on the State to step in to ensure that Muslim women and children are not second-class rights holders in Sri Lanka. However WAN’s grouse is that the MMDA is not in accordance with Fundamental rights but they do not point out the flaws in the MMDA which are against Islam itself.
The statement coupled with ACJU’s inaction towards reforms are a clear indicator that ACJU cannot claim to represent the interests of the entire Muslim community. The ACJU’s extreme and rigid position on legal reform shows the regressive nature of their perspectives. WAN is of the firm belief that actors who are unable to win the trust and confidence of its own community should be disqualified from serving on a Committee meant to usher in positive changes.
Chairman of the Muslim Personal Law reform committee former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Saleem Marsoof said the ACJU have acted in contravention of the good faith reposed in them, and instead have extended all their resources to stunt the work of the committee.
He said “the actions by the ACJU have had an intimidating effect on the members of the committee. ACJU’s Rizvi Mufti and Mubarak Moulavi are members of the Committee on Muslim Personal Law Reforms headed by me which was established by the then Minister of Justice in 2009.
A delegation of ACJU have gone around meeting Muslim members of Parliament and handed over various documents including working drafts prepared by me for consideration of the Committee under confidentiality,” he said in a Facebook post in which he called for opinions on the reforms.
The legal luminary, who also acted as Chief Justice further, said that the ACJU have commenced a campaign expending all resources to curtail the work of the committee.
“Already jumma sermons and signature campaigns have been conducted to object to any amendments to the MM&D Act on the purported basis that it is of divine origin, and some members of my committee feel intimidated and may tow the ACJU line” he said.
In a comprehensive article columnist Ameena Hussein has given a clear picture of the entire issue stating that ACJU appears to have appointed itself as the sole authority to declare, the yea or nay decision with regard to this and other reforms pertaining to the MMDA.
In a statement signed by Prof. M A Nuhman, Prof. S H Hezbollah, Prof. M A M Sitheeque, M M. Niyas,, Prof. M S M Anees, J Mubarak, Dr. M Z M Nafeel, Dr. A S M Nawfhal, Dr. A L M Mahroof, J M Niwas and U M Fazil, Kandy Forum said these changes are vital to enhance the social status of Muslim women and the development of Muslim community.
Commenting on the ongoing discussion Attorney at Law Dr Reeza Hameed said “The ACJU is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Rizvi Mufti has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Regrettably, the views expressed by the ACJU chief and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist.
Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues such as Minimum age for marriage, Polygamy, Gender equality and public interest in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform.
Insisting on the need to reorganize ACJU on Islamic basis Farweez Imamudeen said ACJU’s statement“ does not mention anything about altering their previous position. In other words they are still right. How can they not be? They are the Jammiyathul Ulama – The union of scholars. The statement has changed nothing except to defend their infallible president. Apparently according to the ACJU, Rizvi Mufti’s statement, “is perfect in its present state”, and has been misinterpreted to mean that the MMDA is perfect in its present state.
What he really meant ‘according to the ACJU’ was, in their own words, “that our predecessors who were involved in formulating the MMDA had taken great efforts to make it near perfect. Of course, given the circumstances of that period. This does not imply that there need not be any reforms today to the Act, mainly in the administration of Quazi court system.”
So there you go. It was our fault. We were silly to assume that he meant what he said. The next time ACJU makes a public statement read between the lines.
Rizvi Mufti is the current president of the ACJU. Thus he is considered the highest authority in Islamic knowledge. He has been acknowledged as a scholar undisputedly and unapologetically even by some of the most eminent intellectuals in the island. However, the ultimate question has never been raised; what is the credibility of the ACJU and Rizvi Mufti? What are the criteria for scholarship to legislate in Islam, and do the members of the ACJU meet those criteria? Are they really scholars? As an intellectual body that is also granted the privilege to legislate, what knowledge does the ACJU have regarding law? Can a scholarly institution that refuses to acknowledge and accommodate female intellectuals be trusted to demonstrate equality?
Power in the wrong hands is dangerous and destructive. ACJU’s media statement is nothing but a clear sign of their bigotry. It is incompetent to assume the gargantuan responsibility of guiding a society because they lack both ethics and knowledge.
My intention here is to expose the ACJU’s lack of knowledge in the basics of Islamic jurisprudence, and the understanding of the purpose of Islamic law which they have demonstrated time and time again. Here’s one of many instances where ACJU wrenched off their illusive scholarly garb, and exposed their ignorance and incompetence.
ACJU is an organization that is run by a group of individuals who claim to have attained scholarship in the sciences of Islam. However, as we have seen they fall way short of the basic qualifications that are required to legislate. Public interest or Maslaha as we have seen is an important principle in Islamic jurisprudence. How can a group of scholars who seem to be devising laws be oblivious to, and ignorant of such a basic principle? How can they be granted authority to represent a community?
However ACJU cannot be held entirely accountable for this fiasco, for the Muslim intellectual community including those who claim to be moderates have remained silent critics throughout this great tragedy. They have seen and heard how the ACJU has been misrepresenting Islam, their bigotry and ignorance, yet they have abstained from criticizing the ACJU, from making them accountable for their irresponsible behavior, and they seem to not care about a viable alternative.
It is high time that we come to terms with the fact that the ACJU is not really a ‘Jamiyyatul Ulama’ – Union of scholars. We should be appalled by the realization that the Muslims of this country are represented by a group of people who have not the basic knowledge in Islamic jurisprudence. Change does not happen until those who are hungry for it make some noise. The ignorant have an excuse to be ignorant, but the sane have none to be silent.
Rizvi Mufthi has been the Chairman of the ACJU for over 17 years- several allegations of being elected under questionable circumstances. During his period ACJU was turned into a “one man show” and no one dare question him.
There has been criticism from several sections of the community on Mufthi Rizwe dragging ACJU into politics, wide spread allegations of hob knobbing with shady businessmen, amassing wealth exploiting his position as ACJU president, lack of freedom for ulemas, inaccessibility to ordinary people, frequent unwanted travel abroad, links to foreign missions in Colombo and serving petro dollar Islam and not the Islam left to Muslims worldwide by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and many more.
The sickening state of affairs made some to suggest the establishment of a new body of respected and recognized scholars. For example columnist Bisthan Batcha said; “Radical changes need to be made and purge undesirable elements within the ACJU before the community can expect this a body to issue fatwas that are compatible with the new contextual environment. Alternatively, the Ummah has to ask itself as to whether the time is opportune to launch a new parallel body of Islamic Scholars to offer the community religious guidance in the third millennium in Sri Lanka. After all the Ummah are not obliged by law to follow the edicts of the present ACJU are they?
Muslim community in the island is facing immense problems threatening its very existence. International forces, especially Zionists, US, UK and Indian intelligence, RAW, are here with their anti-Muslim agenda. So called Yahapalanaya government, elected to power with Muslim votes, has rolled red carpet to these forces and suspected to be hand in glove with them. They are suspected to be instigating Sinhala racists who started raising their heads again while the government seems to be turning blind eye.
Muslim politicians are corrupt and sell outs. Muslim civil society is disorganized. Under such circumstance the community cannot afford to have an ACJU with a medieval mindset serving various vested interests.