Saturday, May 28, 2016



By: Kassim Ahmad
17 March, 2015

            Some Muslims pride themselves for upholding what is called the hudud punishments. Do they really know what they are talking about? They think it is God-ordained law. Are they right? They should remember the lessons of history. Did the Jewish Prophet Moses bring the religion of  what is now known as Judaism? The answer is: No. Did Prophet Jesus, also a Jew,  bring the religion of what is now known as Christianity? Again the answer is: No. Did Prophet Muhammad, an Arab, bring the religion of Sunnism and Shi’ism? Again the answer is: No.
            Human history is littered with errors that came to be accepted later as "facts". We are not talking of small errors. We are talking of big ones. That explains the rise and fall of nations. One author has described this historical evolution as "recurring, multilinear, yet ascending." That means on the whole, we are progressing, but the line of progress is not ascending linear, but multilinear, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending.  
            Let me cite just one authority, Prof. Mohammad Hashim Kamali. This paragraph is taken from his book, Punishment in Islamic Law: An Inquiry into the Hudud Bill in Kelantan (Kuala Lumpur: 2000) is very telling: “When we compare the Quranic usage of hadd (in the sense of limit) with the use of this term in fiqh, we notice that a basic development has taken place, which is that the term hadd has been reserved to signify a fixed and unchallengeable punishment that is laid down in the Quran or Sunnah. The concept of the ‘separating or preventing limit’ of the Quran is thereby replaced by the idea of fixed punishment.” (p. 46)
            There you have another example of a major error made by great scholars. That is precisely why the Quran warns us of idolizing leaders or scholars. We could be kind if we choose to pardon them by saying that it was their understanding, or their ijtihad, which must be reviewed by the next generation.
            The term hududu’l-Lah (God’s boundaries) occurs in the Quran 14 times, none of which refer to fixed punishments, as understood by some Muslim jurists. One scholar opioned that, “The unchangeability of the hadd punishement is supported by the interpretation of the Quranic verse: ‘These are the limits of Allah. Do not transgress them.’” (2: 229) The verse does not  mean what he says it means.
            Let us take some of the so-called hudud punishments. Cutting of the head for apostasy, when the Quran advocates complete freedom of belief, some 1,400 years ahead of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; stoning for adultery, cutting of the hand for theft are three of the six or seven of the so-called fixed punishments propounded by Muslim jurists.  Take note these run counter to the fundamental teachings of the Quran.
            Take note also that the divine order to our courts is to judge among people with justice. (See Quran, 4: 58) Surely God Who decrees upon Himself mercy (Quran, 6: 12) cannot enact such archaic and barbarous laws.
            The term ‘hudud’ul-Lah’, meaning the boundaries of God, simply means in every action there is a boundary that one should not overpass. Take the case of eating: one must eat to survive, but he must not overeat. In between there is a boundary set by God that he should not cross. As in the case of eating, so in all cases of human activities. It is sometime called ‘The Golden Mean’, the middle path.
            See how even great scholars have made mistakes! That is precisely the reason why God warns us of idolizing leaders. It is incumbent upon succeeding generations to re-evaluate the legacies they inherit from the older generations.  
            It is to be remembered that Muslim jurists of the four schools differ much in their views. We need not go into them. We should take note that these punishments are taken from the Torah.  They crept into the so-called sunnah/hadith, or Prophetic traditions, i.e. traditions ascribed to Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad’s name is so great among Muslims that anything said to originate from him is sacrosanct.
We should also note that the Quran has two dimensions, the historically-bound, and the universal. The historically-bound will be surpassed when the historical context no longer  prevails. They will pass over into the universal. The two universal principles are: equal punishment, and merciful punishment. The first means punishment equalling the crime, and the second means lightening the punishment, up to and including pardon. We can see that the two universal principles have been imbibed into all modern civilized societies. 
Take not that Brunei has last year declared that it would implement Hudud punishments, with the exception, according to reports, that Brunei royalty is exempt from them. 
            The final and unchallengeable proof that there is no such thing as the hudud fixed punishments is that they are nowhere mentioned in the Medina Charter promulgated by Prophet Muhammad himself when he migrated to Medina.
KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian freelance writer. His website is

Thursday, May 12, 2016


By: Kassim Ahmad
10th May, 2016

            The great victory in recent Sarawak state polls raises the question of the 2018 14th General Election. We have followed the Westminster parliamentary type of democracy since independence. We have survived many crises, but still many are the weaknesses in our system. One of them is the clause in our Constitution stating “Islam is the religion of the Federation.”
            Now a country or state obviously has no religion. Its citizens have; ours consisting of the religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and even animism. Although freedom of religion is guaranteed in our Constitution, the clause on Islam forever poses a danger of narrow and rigid interpretation of Islam  by officialdom. It has happened several times in Malaysia. This is a potential  threat to peace and harmony in our multi-national and  multi-religious country.
I remember Prophet Muhammad’s famous  Medinah Constitution which stipulates religion to be autonomously administered by its adherence. This is the right way to solve the matter.
            Taking cue from there, we might as well go the whole way. Why do not we re-examine our Federal Constitution and amend it to conform to the Prophet’s Charter. After all, Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Abraham have been mentioned in the Quran as our examples. Prophet Abraham was a progenitor of all humankind; he was a strict monotheist and he set the example of complete freedom for all mankind by destroying all false powers, even against his own father’s polytheism.
            Now Prophet Muhammad’s  Medinah Constitution was the first written constitution in the world. [1]  It gives its plural citizenry security, freedom and justice.  Dato’ Din has kindly published this constitution with my detailed comments in his blog. This important constitutional document can be excessed in my blog (
            Although our Constitution was promulgated by great jurists, including two  Muslim ones from India and Pakistan, they seemed unaware of the Medinah Charter. It is time we bring it up, as it is a seminal legal-political document of early Islam at the time of its republican-democratic period of the Prophet and the four  rightly-guided caliphates of Abu Bakr, Omar Ibni Khattab, Uthman Ibn Affan and Ali Abi Talib.   
            Of course, many will object because we are a constitutional monarchy and the Medinah Charter is medieval, medieval by European time-scale. Europeans consider the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) as the beginning of the modern world.
            According to Pakistani philosopher, Muhammad  Iqbal, Prophet Muhammad’s  advent ( prophethood 622-632) begins the true modern world.[2]  I agree with him. Muhammad was the only prophet who was not given any miracles by God. All previous prophets had their miracles to convince the peoples of their times of the authenticity of their prophethood. Muhammad’s miracle is the Quran. [3]
            The Arab armies of liberation took only sixty years to conquer the then two superpowers, most of the hegemonic Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire, to become the Number One power in the world of the 8th through to the 15th centuries. It created a brilliant scientific civilization and culture never before seen in the world. This is attested by several objective Western writers, such as Robert Briffault  [4]and G. Satron. [5]
 Islam had its Golden Age when its Dar’ul-Hikmah (Academy of Science) took over and transmitted, with their own incomparable contributions, to the then world’s  knowledge and wisdom to. Without this important intervening Islamic  centuries, European Renaissance would not have occurred and the modern world would not have emerged.
Such is the magnitude of the contribution of  Islam to the modern world. Unfortunately, most Western historians have conspired to erase this phase of world history. It is rightly condemned by Briffault and G. Sarton.

KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author. His website is     


[1] M. Hamidullah, The Fist Written Constitution in the World (Mohammad Ashraf: Lahore: 1975).
[2] The first revelation to Muhammad was,”Read, in the name or your Lord, who created. … Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted, eaches by means of the pen. He teaches man what he never knew.” These five verses caused a revolution in man’s thinking. It started the modern scientific age. (Quran, 96: 1-5) See Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (Lahore: 1958); h. 126-127.    
[3] See Quran, 29: 50-51.
[4]  See his book, The Making of Humanity (Lahore: 1919)
[5] See his Introduction to the History of Science Vol I-III (1927-48: Baltimoe: Willims & Wilkins). 

Thursday, May 05, 2016


By: Kassim Ahmad
5th May, 2016

            A teacher in my college in Alor Setar, when he posed a problem, used to say, “Come on boys, put on your thinking caps!”, as if thinking was outside the mind.
            Now thinking is a function of the brain that God placed at the top of you and covered it with a hard protective cover. Surely, the brain must be special, and special it is. It is a tool given olny to Man, the Homo sapiens, and not to other created orders, neither to the mineral, nor to the vegetable, nor to the members of the animal kingdoms. Only to man, the vicegerent of God, tasked to rule and change the world. What a wonderous being a man is!
            Yet how many people use their brains? Most would follow their ancestors, even if doing this would lead them to certain doom. That is why many civilizations have come and gone. Britisah historian, Arnorld  J. Toynbee, in his 12- volume A Study of History  counted 19 major civilizations that have come and gone.
            Why is thinking hard?  I presume because you have to stand outside yourself and think. Nowadays we say: thinking outside the box, the box meaning following the crowd, i.e. your ancestors. That is easy, and most people do that.
            Remember, Man’s God-given task is to rule and change the world to his liking. Remember, the angles protested against the creation of Man, saying that he is a corruptor and shedder of blood. Of this destructive side of him we have seen enough. The two World Wars stand as witness. But there is another side of him that the angels did not know. That was why, to their protestations, God answered simply: “I know what you do not know.” (Quran, 2: 30)      
            It was as if God had gambled. What if Man misbehaves and acts as the corruptor and shedder of blood, as the angels have predicted? Where will God put His face? Who will worship Him after this? As the Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s psychological-realist novel Brothers Karamazov  stated, “If there is no god, everything is permissible.” That includes murder! What a horrible place the world would be then!
            In another location in the Quran, when the whole created order refused the task of God’s vicegerency and only Man excepted it, God’s response was to lightly rebuke him and said he was unjust and ignorant. (Quran, 33: 72). Here we can see that God knows his bad side but at the same time acknowledges his capability. This capability is to create civilizations and thereby improve his life. This improvement needed courage and sacrife, courage to go against the status quo and sacrifice to challenge current orthodocxy. The history of man tells the story of courageous individuals, the like of Socrates of ancient Athens down to the present day.  Fortunately in moden Europe and America, such brave individuals, working good for the sake good, are no longer killed, but honoured.
            Thus thinking in the best part of our world is now rewarded. Not yet in Malaysa where orthodoxy reigns supreme. Sadly Muslim nations are at the bottom of the ladder. Are our leaders thinking? Why should we be at the bottom when our divinely-protected scripture, the Quran, defines us as the best nation ever produced (Quran, 3: 110) and that our religion the one approved by God (3: 19)? That means our leaders and our scholars are not thinking. How sad!      
             Being sad, though natural enough, is not sufficient. We have to get out of the rut.  The wonder is that the book of guidance has been with us for more than fourteen centuries. Although it has catapulted us into the Number One community for eight centuries, since our fall in the 13th century, we have  remained a fallen community up to now.
            What should we do to regain our rightful place in the world? We possess the best book of guidance. Surely, our scholars and leaders read this book. What is their answer?  Think!  Although thinking is hard, our great ancestors have done it before.  We can do it again now.

KASSIM AHMAD   is a Malaysian author. His website is