KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” is the shahadah, a declaration of faith for Muslims considered as one of the key pillars of Islam.
But how did this practice come about?
This was among the questions on the mind of Wan Sulaiman Wan Ismail, 53, when he sought clarification in 2013 from religious teachers.
Wan Sulaiman wanted to know why are there differences between some of the rituals Muslims currently practice — like the shahadah — and what was mentioned in the Quran.
The former businessman from Perak said he raised that question to several religious teachers, including scholars in the Ipoh mufti office, the Perak religious authorities and even state mosque imams. Many of these clerics, he said, were familiar with him as he met with them regularly for the past 15 years.
None, however, were able to answer him, so Wan Sulaiman stopped asking a year later.
But for seeking answers, Wan Sulaiman earned the attention of the Perak Islamic Religious Department (JAIP). He was summoned several times in 2014 by the authority, whose officers he claimed tried to dissuade him from posing his questions and to convince him to abandon several Quranic practices he has adopted.
The matter came to a head on January 21 this year when state religious enforcers raided his home in Ipoh and confiscated his handwritten personal notes, in addition to screening his personal computer and mobile phone.
On the same day, Wan Sulaiman was charged in the Ipoh Shariah High Court under Section 15 of the Perak Shariah Criminal Enactment 1992, with “mocking, ridiculing or insulting Quranic or hadith texts”.
According to a copy of his charge sheet sighted by Malay Mail Online, the Perak religious enforcers claimed that Wan Sulaiman possessed notes, some of which were hung on his wall, that allegedly “ridicule” the hadith — the collections of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and deeds.
Wan Sulaiman, however, insisted that the notes were meant only for his personal use.
The prosecution also accused him of disputing authentic hadith for failing to interpret the Quran, and of rejecting the shahadah as taught by Muhammad by allegedly only accepting the first part.
He was also accused of translating the terms “fajar prayers” and “wusto prayers” by “using his own intellect without referring to the Prophet’s hadith”.
His case was set to be heard on May 21, but it was postponed to July 2. If guilty, Wan Sulaiman can be fined not more than RM5,000, jailed not more than three years, or both.
Wan Sulaiman’s family and friends are expected to hold a press conference today to raise funds for his case.
The shahadah is recited to reaffirm a Muslim’s belief and it is also recited to induct a convert into the faith.
In another ongoing blasphemy case, Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad was charged in March last year with allegedly insulting Islam and defying religious authorities by questioning the use of hadith to interpret the Quran.
The 82-year-old Kassim has since lodged a judicial review currently set to be heard in the Court of Appeal, but the Putrajaya Shariah High Court has refused an indefinite adjournment despite a stay order by the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
*A previous version of the story contained some points which have since been edited at the request of Wan Sulaiman Wan Ismail.