Najib’s ‘sumpah laknat’: Five things to know

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 13, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 13, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — After Friday prayers today, Datuk Seri Najib Razak will undertake a sumpah laknat in a bid to declare his innocence after the convicted killer of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu accused the ex-prime minister of giving the “shoot to kill” order.

This show of his Islamic fealty is to take place at Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru here.

What is ‘sumpah laknat’?

Sumpah laknat literally means “curse swear”, and is an oath a Muslim makes to God, asking for divine retribution in the form of a curse against the other party if the latter is lying.

It is also not officially recognised in Malaysia’s Shariah laws, which are administered separately by each state.

Sumpah laknat differs from the oaths undertaken in Shariah courts here, usually in cases of family or inheritance dispute — where one swears by the name of God over their statement.

How does one perform ‘sumpah laknat’?

Sumpah laknat is not limited to Malaysia, and is better known elsewhere by the Arabic term “mubahalah”. There is no standard ritual as it is not codified in Islam as part of common religious practice.

Islamic religious scholars have different opinions on how the mubahalah ritual is carried out. But in several cases, Muslims here do it by swearing in the name of God and by holding the Quran.

In 2017, the Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad wrote on his website that swearing on the Quran is “allowed”, as long as it is done in the name of Allah.

Most scholars agree that mubahalah was first described in the Quranic verse 3:61, which can be translated as: “Then whoever argues with you about it after [this] knowledge has come to you — say, ‘Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then supplicate earnestly [together] and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars [among us].”

It is said the verse came to Prophet Muhammad after a Christian delegation rejected Muhammad’s teachings — among others that Jesus, who is also a prophet in Islam, is a mortal messenger rather than the Son of God.

It was then that Muhammad invoked the muhabalah to stress that he was telling the truth. It was said that convinced by Muhammad’s conviction, the Christians refused to join the ritual and made peace.

Conditions of ‘sumpah laknat’

Many scholars agree that mubahalah should only be invoked as a last resort, after both parties are at an impasse after providing concrete evidence to prove each of their positions.

Some scholars believe that mubahalah can only be invoked in matters of religious truths, and cannot be used for worldly affairs.

Some scholars also think that mubahalah, like the common oath sworn in Shariah courts, should only be done as part of legal proceedings in the Shariah courts and prescribed by a Shariah judge.

Most importantly, mubahalah must involve two parties — the accuser and the accused — with both parties swearing to God that the other party will get cursed if they are lying.

However, in common and popular cases here, the threat of sumpah laknat has been used by Muslims as a way to prove one’s conviction and bravado, and as an emphatic denial against accusations.

As such, many of the popular instances in Malaysia, where a sumpah laknat was purportedly declared, involved just one side of the dispute and not reciprocated by the other party.

Political sex scandals and ‘sumpah laknat’

In Malaysia, sumpah laknat has among others been used in Malaysia in relation to sex scandals — either to prove one’s innocence or to prove one’s accusation is true.

The most recent instance happened just seven months ago in June when both Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and his accuser Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz were urged — among others by Umno’s Datuk Lokman Noor Adam and celebrity Azwan Ali — to take the oath to prove or deny a sex scandal allegation.

In 2011, the infamous “Datuk T” trio of Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik, Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and Datuk Shuib Lazim said they were ready to take a sumpah laknat, anywhere and anytime — even in Mecca — to stand by a sex tape they screened, allegedly involving Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

In April that year, Shazryl then recited the oath at a mosque in Sentul after Friday prayers in a much publicised event, which the trio attended with bullet-proof vests under their baju Melayu.

In a heavily covered event in August 2008, Anwar’s ex-aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan took the sumpah laknat at Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan here, where he graphically described what had purportedly happened to him.

In a press conference in May 2013, Saiful said he performed the oath again in Mecca, one of the holiest sites for Muslims. He claimed that nothing happened to him, allegedly proving his innocence, but his muhabalah was similarly one-sided.

Other past cases of ‘sumpah laknat’

In September 2013, Umno Youth chief hopeful Syed Rosli Syed Harman Jamalullail made the invocation prior to contesting the post against Khairy Jamaluddin who subsequently won, if he is involved in graft.

In November 2013, Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who is now Perlis mufti, challenged then Kedah mufti Datuk Sheikh Muhamad Baderudin Ahmad to a sumpah laknat, which the latter waved aside. Mohd Asri claimed to have been slandered by Sheikh Muhamad as spreading Wahhabism.

In December 2017, singer Noorshila Amin and her daughter Nurrul Admiena Norrizan made their oath in tears at a heavily publicised event, swearing that they did not swindle eight other artistes of their money. Their alleged accuser, actress Lana Nodin, was not present at the event.

In June 2018, Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan challenged Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to invoke sumpah laknat, after the latter previously swore to God that he had “begged” to see Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad following the 14th general election.

Altantuyaa was murdered in 2006 and the mastermind behind the crime was never uncovered. Two former police commandos — Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar — were charged, convicted and acquitted, before their acquittal was reversed by the Federal Court following the prosecution’s appeal.

Another man who was also charged with abetment in Altantuya’s murder — political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of former prime minister Datuk Najib Razak — was acquitted.

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