Muftis have expressed regret over Dr Mahathir Mohamad's accusation that they are attempting to please to the government by defending the 1MDB haj sponsorship programme.
The former premier, however, has refused to back down.
Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman said it was unbecoming for Mahathir to attack religious scholars.
"I don't care if anyone, including Mahathir, wants to attack me personally, but don't touch on religion as defaming ulama is like defaming religion," Abdul Rahman told Utusan Malaysia yesterday.
He added that his comments on Mahathir's accusation were based on fact, and were not politically motivated.
Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria and Kelantan mufti Mohamad Shukri Mohamad have also expressed regret over the former premier's remarks but refused to comment further.
Mahathir had said that haj pilgrimages sponsored by 1MDB would not be "mabrur" (good and accepted by God), as the funds were "stolen" by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
He later said those who attacked him over this were apple polishers, and that government-appointed muftis had to side with the government.
Abdul Rahman and others had said that what matters when it comes to the haj, were the pilgrims' sincerity and performing the haj in proper fashion.
Meanwhile in a blog post today, Mahathir repeated his remarks that it is only permissable to take "haram" (forbidden) goods if one is unaware that it was "haram".
"Stolen money is still 'haram' money. It can't be made 'halal' (permissible) by using it for religious purposes.
"Is it the case that when it is declared 'halal' by someone who is a mufti, then what is 'haram' becomes 'halal'?" he added.
He said those who chose to use stolen funds for the haj can continue to do so, but that he would reject it regardless of the accusations made against him.
The government has been sponsoring pilgrimages for imams and village leaders through the 1MDB Foundation since 2011.
The state investment firm is the subject of multiple international probes, including a US Department of Justice (DOJ) civil forfeiture suit which claimed that more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.
The DOJ also said that an unnamed Malaysian Official 1 allegedly received US$731 million allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
Najib has denied misappropriating public funds, dismissing such allegations as part of a plot to topple him.- Mkini