Lawyer claims ‘bin Abdullah’ name not to punish illegitimate Muslim children, says parents should have considered before pre-marital sex

Lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah is pictured at the Federal Court in Putrajaya November 14, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah is pictured at the Federal Court in Putrajaya November 14, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 14 — The National Registration Department’s (NRD) imposing of the “bin Abdullah” or “binti Abdullah” into illegitimate Muslim children’s names are not to punish these children, but are merely in line with Islamic law, a lawyer for the Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAIJ) claimed today.

Lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah was representing MAIJ in objecting to the removal of the word “bin Abdullah” from a Johor Muslim child’s name in his birth certificate, arguing that concerns about “people making fun” of the child due to the indicator of his illegitimacy is something that the Muslim parents should have thought of.

“These are things the parents must consider when they enter into sexual relations out of marriage.

“We are not punishing the child per se, we are reflecting the position in law,” he told the Federal Court today.

Sulaiman claimed that the position in Islamic law was clear that any Muslim child born less than six months from the parents’ marriage are illegitimate and would not be able to take their father’s name.

“The injustice are brought about not by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, not the Majlis Agama,” he later said.

The use of “bin Abdullah” or “binti Abdullah” for Muslim children in official records such as birth certificates has been known to often be a giveaway of their illegitimate status, as their names would, in such a situation, not carry their father’s name.

Lawyer K. Shanmuga is pictured at the Federal Court in Putrajaya November 14, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Lawyer K. Shanmuga is pictured at the Federal Court in Putrajaya November 14, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Earlier, the Johor Muslim child’s lawyer K. Shanmuga said the Court of Appeal had considered the “best interests” of the Johor Muslim child when deciding that the National Registration Department had unlawfully imposed “bin Abdullah” in his name.

Sulaiman, however, argued that it was in the best interests of the Muslim child and his parents for there to be “due compliance with Islamic law”, and that any departure from Islamic law would be a departure of their best interests.

“The position then is that no matter what my learned friend says with regards to the best interests of the child, the best interests of the nation requires Islamic law to be upheld,” Sulaiman argued.

The MAIJ represented by Sulaiman was acting as an intervener in the lawsuit brought by the Johor Muslim couple given the initials of M.E.M.K and N.A.W and their child on September 3, 2015 against the NRD, the NRD director-general and the government of Malaysia.

Shanmuga said the NRD should remove all indications of illegitimacy including the “bin Abdullah” from the Johor Muslim child’s birth certificate, arguing that there was no need for the illegitimate status of Muslim children to be made public.

“Does the world at large need to know the child is illegitimate? Our argument is the world at large doesn’t need to know,” Shanmuga said when alluding to the stigma that illegitimate Muslim children would face.

“Nobody is disputing this child is treated as illegitimate in Islamic law. That’s not in dispute,” he said, arguing that what his clients were seeking was instead for the illegitimacy status to not be publicised.

Shanmuga highlighted that the Islamic opinion on the naming of illegitimate Muslim children was not consistent, pointing out that a Perlis fatwa would actually allow them to take on their mother’s husband’s name while a fatwa by a national-level committee of state muftis insists on “bin Abdullah” for the name.

Shanmuga argued that there was no concern that allowing an illegitimate Muslim child to use his father’s name would hide the illegitimacy status when it comes to situations involving the use of Islamic family laws, including in matters of inheritance and marriage.

Shanmuga said that the Islamic authorities and Shariah courts could easily determine whether someone was legitimate or illegitimate by checking their birth dates against their parents’ date of marriage in their marriage certificate.

Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) lawyer Halimatunsa’diah Abu Ahmad earlier today said there were four situations in Malaysia where a person may have “bin Abdullah” or “binti Abdullah” attached to their names, namely when one’s father’s name was Abdullah, or when someone converts to become a Muslim, or when adopted by a Muslim family, or as an illegitimate child.

Arguing that the birth certificate is only produced or asked for in very selective situations and is only “purely administrative”, the MAIS lawyer argued that there was “no stigma attached to it” if bin Abdullah or binti Abdullah was used.

The appeal at the Federal Court today was heard by a seven-member panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed.

The other judges on the panel are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong, Federal Court judges Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Tan Sri Idrus Harun, Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan.

The panel will be delivering its decision on a date yet to be fixed.

Lawyers holding a watching brief in this case are Seira Sacha for Voice of Children, Goh Siu Lin for the Bar Council, Hafeez Zalkapli, Noor Adzrie Mohd Noor and Mohd Akmal Abu Bakar for the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPIM).

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