Politics, as they say, is the art of the possible. Friends and enemies can change by dint of their interest. Indeed, the opening line of the ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ averred famously that “anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide”. It was Lord Palmerston who declaimed, “There are no permanent friends in politics, only permanent interests.”
This is understandable. In a world of systemic anarchy, where there is no over-riding power to defend one’s rights and interest, it is really up to oneself to defend his or her interests. But this is international relations. In international relations, sheer reliance on values and principles can get you exposed to the vicissitudes of life and politics. One needs hard power to stay protected, too; just as one tries to enhance its soft ones.
The above are all international politics, indeed, politics as created by the contestation of two or more great powers. One slight error and the future and sovereignty of one’s country is forever bartered. Crimea, Georgia and Eastern Ukraine over the last few years alone have seen their territories being forcibly taken by Russia - perhaps arguably and perhaps permanently.
But does PAS need to engage in this form of permissive and promiscuous politics of self-interest, too? By currently working with Umno, implicitly or explicitly, a party that has seemingly turned commercially carnivorous, where the elites allegedly get the first chunk of any big deals coming into Malaysia, is that what PAS stands for?
It was Dr Farish Noor, in ‘Islam Embedded’, (two volumes) who made the pertinent point that PAS was the oldest Islamic political party to compete in a democracy. Older even than the existence of Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas, or, Darul Islam in Indonesia. In the ‘Islamic State document’ of 2005, under the then-leadership of the late Ustaz Fadzil Noor, PAS also explained a vision of Islam that is progressive, inclusive and non-invasive.
The fact that the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat had insisted on PAS collaborating with Pakatan Rakyat can only account for its powerful electoral performance in 2008 and 2013. In 1999, when more than 300,000 Umno members swung to PAS in reaction to the Anwar Ibrahim fiasco, PAS won a total of 27 seats - its best performance ever. In 2013, it won 21 seats, before nine of them left to join and form Amanah.
In spite of these electoral gains, why does PAS want to be a part of Umno? After all, the current strategic tie-up with Umno is not syariah-compliant in five ways. And these are the five ways as defined by Imam Al Ghazali.
In terms of syariah, there are five foundational or greater goals (Maqasid al-Shariah). These are the preservation of: Din (faith), Life (nafs), Lineage (nasl), Intellect (aql) and Property (mal).
In all the five categories above, the current Umno has veered from all five of the Maqasid, not in their literal form, as in sins of commissions, but based on sheer omissions.
To begin with, the current Umno allegedly has become corrupt and blind to injustice, which makes it hurtful to the further expansion of Islam as a “mercy to all”. Can anyone go to the street, take someone to the headquarters of Umno, and show him or her some aspects of Islam that are still practical and beautiful? No. One can't. The current Umno is all about power, money and preserving their vested interests. Yes, power, relevance and money.
On matters pertaining to life, the current Umno is presiding over consistent periods of economic deterioration. Invariably, cost of living is going up without fail, while wages remain stagnant since the tenure of the current prime minister. How can the life of a Muslim or non-Muslim be protected with all his or her rights while the economic forces keep pummeling his or her family on a daily basis?
On lineage, the current Umno has not made it easy for people to procreate, marry and pass on their progenies given the unabated rise in costs of living with no mitigation efforts in place. In fact, the cost of living, and marriage, are so forbidding that Muslims and non-Muslims have to have second thoughts of starting a family, what more building a family.
This alone shows the non-syariah-compliant nature of the current Umno’s economic policies that have adverse effects on people. Yes, some would argue that population growth is still there, but I would counter-argue that it is at a lower level natural growth rate. It is not surprising therefore that an avalanche of released reports spoke about the increasingly ageing population of Malaysia.
On intellect, Umno allegedly resorts to the use of propaganda and scare-mongering to prevent people from asking the right questions. Yet, there are multiple cases in Islam, with direct references to Hadith and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAAS that encourage all to speak back at the “powers that be”, - so that they may remain on the path of righteousness. Can one advise Umno’ supreme council or president without the risk of arbitrary arrest?
Abu Bakr’s inaugural speech
In this context we must not forget what the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr Siddiq, said in his inaugural speech. It was a classical and moving speech. It touched upon several critical elements, including governance, justice, relationships between the ruler and citizens, external and domestic affairs. It was an uncomplicated speech:
“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me. Truthfulness is synonymous with fulfilling the trust, and lying is equivalent to treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, insha Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully (someone else’s), Insha Allah.
“No group of people abandons military and or armed struggle in the path of Allah, except that Allah makes them suffer humiliation. And evil and or mischief does not become widespread among a people, except that Allah inflicts them with widespread calamity. Obey me so long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. And if I disobey Allah and His Messenger, then I have no right to your obedience. Stand up now to pray, may Allah have mercy on you.” [Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah (6/305,306)]
On properties, land have been taken and usurped from indigenous people in Sarawak. Deforestation and vile exploitation of the land, all with the aim of profiting the people in power, have become the norm rather than the exception.
In spite of all the minuses above, PAS argues that it can work and consolidate its relationship with the current Umno? How?
Jurist Imam Abu Ishaq al Shatibi (d.1388) wrote that the maqasid al-syariah is “the attainment of good, welfare, advantage, benefits and warding off evil, injury, loss of the creatures”.
According to al-Shatibi, the legal ends of Islamic law “are the benefits intended by the law. Thus, one who keeps legal form while squandering its substance does not follow the laws”.
Umno, together with PAS, may try to argue that allowing the appearance on the parliamentary order paper of the private member’s bill on amendments to Act 355 of the penal code in syariah - which enhances the punitive measures of the Islamic legal system - implies that both Umno and PAS are headed in the right direction.
But Al Qaradawi, who wrote ‘The Permissible and the Prohibited in Islam’ in 1965, had warned in the Arabic version of his book then, that Islam cannot be reduced to ‘halal’ and ‘haram’. In the same vein, Islam cannot be reduced to ‘hudud’ or Islamic criminal law, as doing so would imply that Islam is revealed as a punitive religion with only a disciplinary logic, not as the Quran affirmed, a “mercy to humankind”.
PAS and Umno’s relationship - in any form - are non-syariah-compliant based on the above metrics established by Imam Ghazali, Imam Shatibi and Yusuf Qaradawi. The mere mantra of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang alone cannot upend centuries of classical and modern Islamic scholarship; just as debate on the private member’s bill on Act 355 does not make either one of them Islamic in the eye of Maqasid Syariah.
Resorting to politics?
Closure of the debate on the private member’s bill in Parliament implies the speaker of the Parliament can shelve it or stall it. Can true Islam be shelved and stalled by a speaker? This alone is a dead giveaway that Umno and PAS are resorting to politics - not fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence - to advance the objectives of Maqasid al-Syariah in all five forms. Just refreshing the brand Islam for their own narrow political aims.
In fact, Professor Hashim Kamali has warned that modern Maqasid al Syariah can and will continue to evolve. If knowledge acquisition, even industrialisation, or the importance of digital economy are the urgent priorities of the day, then Maqasid al Syariah must be expanded from five to more accordingly.
Ibn Tamiyaah, another prominent jurist from the 12th century, argued along the same veins to give Islam and syariah the flexibility of dealing with the Mongolian invasion.
Hence, the evidence that has been stacked up in Islamic history and fiqh are all there to be researched. PAS just needs to take the initiative to do it, sincerely and honestly.
But they have allegedly imbibed the ‘ethos’ of jahilliyah, where they see but cannot understand; hear but cannot listen; talk but do not know; and worst, decide when they lack the authority to do so, since they have violated the public interest and the welfare of the people. What hurts more though, is the alleged continuous merchant trading of Islam by PAS, and now by Umno.
Can such a marriage of convenience last? PAS-Umno marriages have happened many times, before ending up with bitter divorce each time, to the extent that the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz warned of such collaboration in the future by saying, never allow PAS to be bitten again by the same snake. Has that advice and wisdom been forgotten? Or conveniently forgotten? And for what?
DR RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member and head of policy and strategy of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).-Mkini