UPDATE: Researching Islamic Law; Malaysian Sources
By Shaikh Mohamed Noordin
Shaikh Mohamed Noordin has more than eighteen years of experience in law librarianship. He has been a librarian in several law firms in Kuala Lumpur and currently with Belden Advocates and Solicitors as a Library Consultant. He has contributed several articles to various law librarian journals, both locally and internationally.
Published May/June 2011
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Table of Contents
4.2 Law Reports
Prior to 1887, it was not known that Islamic law had existed in Malaysia; in that year, a rectangle shaped stone was found in Kuala Berang, Terangganu, with an inscription, which detailed a code of Islamic law. The stone was dated in the year 1303, hundreds of years earlier than the Law of Malacca Code was first introduced.
Islamic law was established in Malaysia by the fourteenth century. During the colonial period, the British did not interfere with religion in the country. Islam was adopted as the religion of the state, with the Constitution providing that the leader in each state must be a Muslim. Yet, the Constitution also guarantees full religious freedom to members of all faiths.
With the exception of Putrajaya, the new administrative capital of Malaysia, each state in Malaysia, including the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur and Labuan) has its own religious Council. The function of this Council is to advise the ruler, or the king in non-ruler states, on Muslim and Islamic matters. All of these Councils are established by state law. The Federal Constitution also provides that a State Legislature has power to enact laws relating to, inter alia, personal and family law for Muslims, Muslim Waqf, Zakat, Fitrah, Baitul Mal, Mosques, the creation and punishment of offences by Muslims against precepts of Islam, Muslim Courts, the control and propagation of doctrines and beliefs among Muslims, and the determination of matters of Islamic Law.
The Muslim courts established by State authorities have jurisdiction only over Muslims, and have no jurisdiction over criminal offences, unless specifically conferred by federal law. Most of the Islamic Law that has been enacted in the States of Malaysia has developed into an independent legal system, substantially different from the strict Islamic Law of the Syariah, except perhaps in family law.
[Post] independence (Noordin, the amendment was in 1988 – Article 121(1A)), a constitutional amendment was passed which resolved any questions of power or jurisdiction which might arise between the Shariah Court and the Civil Court. This amendment stated that no court has jurisdiction in any matter, which is under the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court; in effect, the Civil court has no influence on the jurisdiction of Syariah Court.
Problems occasionally arise in the implementation of Islamic Criminal Law. The enactment (or implementation, which?) of the Syariah Criminal Code in each State does not distinguish between the three types of crimes in Islamic law, which are Hudood, Qisas and Tazir; rather, they are all combined, which often causes confusion. In order to gain the confidence of the public, the Syariah Courts, their Judges and Officers have to show that Islamic Law is not only the best Law in theory, but also the best in practical application; hence, the aforementioned confusion is a serious concern.
In Malaysia, most of the books on Islamic law are written in the Malay language rather than the English language, and contain many Arabic terms that describe the law.
Islamic law is not a legal system, but a legal tradition, much like the common or civil law tradition. A legal tradition is a set of related beliefs, attitudes, and practices regarding the necessary components of a legal system, including the scope and purposes of the law, the manner in which law is created or discovered, the identity and function of legal actors, and the manner in which law is learned, implemented, developed and adapted.
Islam has its own personal, civil, criminal, mercantile, evidentiary, constitutional, and international law. In Malaysia, Islamic law and customary law were the law of the land long before English law became prominent, as under the current system. According to the Federal Constitution, Islamic law is a matter falling within the State List, meaning that the State Legislature is empowered to enact the law. Exceptions to this are the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, in which Islamic law is enacted by the Federal Parliament. Malaysia maintains two parallel justice systems: the Syariah Court System in each of the thirteen states, and the Civil Court System for the whole Federation. Each state in Malaysia has its own Syariah court system, which deals with matters relating to Islamic law in which the permitted litigants are all Muslim.
All matters pertaining to Islamic law shall only be heard in the Syariah court; all other cases are heard in the civil courts. The Constitution has empowered the State Legislature to promulgate Islamic law and personal and family law for all persons professing the religion of Islam (except with regard to matters included in the Federal List) such as succession, betrothal, marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, guardianship, trusts, Islamic religious revenue and mosques. Civil and Criminal law are within the Federal Government’s jurisdiction, except for criminal offences, which involve Muslims as listed in the State List. The rules of Syariah are set by various sultans, who serve as Head of the Islamic religion in their respective states. Because Islamic law is administered by the respective states, there is a lack of uniformity in the administration of Islamic law in Malaysia.
The Quran is the primary source of Islamic law, as it contains all the fundamental directives and instructions of God. The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic law. Sunnah is an Arabic word, which means "Method," and it refers to the statements, actions, and agreements of the Prophet Muhammad. Its authority is derived from the text of the Quran. The Quran and the Sunnah are complimentary – the laws described in the Quran are general in nature, and the Sunnah makes them specific and particular. The Sunnah explains the instructions of the Quran. The Quranic injunction is sometimes implicit; the Sunnah makes it explicit by providing essential ingredients and details. Ijma (consensus of opinion of scholars) and Qiyas (laws derived through analogical deduction) are the secondary or dependent sources of Islamic law. For more information, see Islamic Law and
State legislation is not widely available on the internet, so it is not easy to find Islamic legislation of the individual states. However, Islamic law that affects Federal territories is available from several sources, some of the links to which are listed below.
Since Islamic law is regulated by state legislative assemblies, the law is published within the respective state gazettes, except for the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, in which the Islamic law is enacted by the Parliament and is published in the Federal Gazettes.
Islamic Family Law
Enacts certain provisions of the Islamic Family Law regarding marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship and other matters connected with family life. Extension and modification in its application to Federal Territory Putrajaya – PU (A) 250/2002.
Islamic Procedural Law
Provides for the enforcement and administration of Islamic law, the constitution and organization of Syariah Courts and related matters in the Federal Territories.
An Act to make provision relating to Syariah criminal procedure for Syariah Courts. Extension and modification in its application to Federal Territory Putrajaya – PU (A) 248/2002.
Makes provisions relating to civil procedure for the Syariah Court. Extension and
modification in its application to Federal Territory Putrajaya – PU (A) 252/2002.
Defines the law of evidence for the Syariah Court. Extension and modification in its application to Federal Territory Putrajaya – PU (A) 259/2002.
Islamic Criminal Law
Provides for Syariah criminal offences and matters relating thereto. Extension and modification in its application to Federal Territory Putrajaya – PU (A) 251/2002.
Confers jurisdiction upon Courts constituted under any State law for the purpose of dealing with offences under Islamic law. Originally enacted as Muslim Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Enactment.
Islamic Financial Law
Provides for the licensing and regulation of the Islamic banking business.
Enables Bank Negara Malaysia to become a member of the Islamic Financial Services Board by signing and accepting the Agreement establishing the Board, and confers certain powers, immunities, and privileges upon the Board and its constituent organs for matters to which it is connected.
Gives effect to an international agreement for the establishment and operation of the Islamic Development Bank, and enables Malaysia to be a Member thereof.
Provides for the regulation of the takaful (Islamic insurance) business in Malaysia.
Published by the Malaysian Current Law Journal (CLJ), this is a compilation of selected cases from the Syariah Courts. The compilation, which reports 56 Malay language judgments of the Syariah High Courts/Appeal Courts in Malaysia, and 3 judgments in English from the Syariah Appeal Board of Singapore, is published in collaboration with the Department of Syariah Judiciary, Malaysia.
From October 2004 to present, a quarterly journal on the Syariah published
by Malaysian Law Journal (MLJ)
This is the first work of its kind ever to be published in Malaysia, and is the result of the combined efforts, knowledge, expertise and practical experience of Syariah law experts and academics. It covers a wide range of topics such as conflict of laws between Syariah and civil courts; Islamic banking and its operations; Islamic family law, including betrothal, marriage, divorce and its ancillary orders; arbitration by Hakam; legitimacy and maintenance of children, Islamic criminal law and procedure; and Islamic law of evidence and Syariah civil procedure including contempt of court and appeals. It also contains provisions of the individual State Enactments, a wealth of Syariah cases, which have been reported in the Malayan Law Journal and the Jurnal Hukum, relevant Quranic citations, as well as references to the Sunnah and Hadith. This title is the definitive and indispensable companion for all Syariah lawyers, academics, and students, as well as for the public.
Islamic Law Book Catalogues:
List of Textbook Titles and Statutes on Islamic Law in Malaysia - Published by International Law Book
Selected Islamic Law Books:
Islamic Law in Malaysia: Issues and Developments by Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Kuala Lumpur, Ilmiah Publisher (2000).
Powers and Jurisdiction of Syariah Courts in Malaysia, 2nd Ed., By Farid Sufian Shuaib, Kuala Lumpur, LexisNexis Malaysia (2008).
The Administration of Islamic Law, by Ahmad Ibrahim, Abdul Monir Yaacob – Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), 1997.
An Introduction to Islamic Law of Evidence, by Mahmud Saedon A. Othman, translated by Raden Ahmad Shauki R. Hisam – Kuala Lumpur: The Open Press, 2000.
Undang-Undang Islam di Mahkamah-Mahkamah Syariah di Malaysia, by Ahmad Hidayat Buang, Kuala Lumpur, Jabatan Syariah dan Undang-Undang, Akademi Pengajian Islam, Universiti Malaya, 1998.
Perlaksanaan Undang-Undang Islam Dalam Mahkamah Syariah dan Mahkamah Sivil di Malaysia, by A. Monir Yaacob, Kuala Lumpur: Institut Kefahaman Islam Malayisa [i.e. Malaysia], .
Collections of Articles on Islamic Law:
Selected Islamic Law Articles:
2. Internet-Based Learning in Malaysia: Islamic Law by Noor Inayah Yaakub.
By Zainal A. Zuryati, Mohamed Yusoff and Ahmad N. Azra
1. Jurnal Hukum , from 1980 to present.
2. The IIUM Law Journal, from 1989 to present.
There are currently six law schools in public universities in Malaysia –they are University of Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, International Islamic University of Malaysia, University Teknologi MARA, Islamic Science University of Malaysia and Universiti Utara Malaysia. Further information is available at the links below:
Islamic Legal Education at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM): Some suggestions for Improvement
Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) & Bachelor of Laws (Shari'ah) (LL.B_S) from International Islamic University Malaysia
Diploma Pengajian Islam Pengkhususan Syariah dan Undang-Undang – Kolej Islam Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah (KIPSAS)
Although there is no restriction for non-Muslims to study Islamic law in Malaysian universities, a non-Muslim lawyer however cannot practice in the Syariah courts. The Islamic Council of each state acts as a governing body to regulate Islamic legal practice and licence Islamic law graduates as 'Syarie' lawyers. In a landmark case recently decided by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, a non-Muslim lawyer lost in her bid to challenge the requirement of the Islamic Council that a Syariah lawyer must be a Muslim. The lawyer who holds a diploma in Syarie Law and Practice (DSLP) conferred by the International Islamic University Malaysia failed to get an order to compel the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council to accept her application to be a Syariah lawyer .
Note: All links are good as of March 30, 2011.