KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — A Muslim man from Perak is now regretting having sought answers on Islam from religious teachers after it resulted in him being charged with blasphemy for allegedly deriding the hadith (sayings and deeds attributed to Prophet Muhammad).
In a letter addressed to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sighted by Malay Mail Online, Wan Sulaiman Wan Ismail asked whether it was wrong for him to ask religious authorities about the origins of the shahadah, or the Islamic declaration of faith.
“I soon realised that the religious authorities were not very happy. When I finally realised that they did not like the discussions, I stopped engaging with them a year after that,” the 53-year-old said in the letter dated May 15 this year.
“But to my dismay, they just couldn’t let me go. I know I should have stopped earlier. You see, I always regard them as my teachers but now [they are] my worst nightmare,” he added.
Wan Sulaiman said he had raised that question in 2014 to several religious teachers, including scholars in the Ipoh mufti office, the Perak religious authorities and even state mosque imams, but could not get answers. Many of these clerics, he said, were familiar with him as he had met with them regularly for the past 15 years.
However, the Perak Islamic Religious Department later summoned him and tried to dissuade him from asking such questions, said Wan Sulaiman.
Then, on January 21 this year, the state religious enforcers raided his home in Ipoh and confiscated his handwritten personal notes, besides 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”.
His case was set to be heard on May 21, but it was postponed to July 2. If found guilty, Wan Sulaiman can be fined not more than RM5,000, jailed not more than three years, or both.
Wan Sulaiman lamented that the religious authorities could not understand “simple logic and common sense” by refusing to have intellectual discussions with him.
“Is it an offence to ask questions, to present our findings and understanding, and to have an intellectual discussion?” Wan Sulaiman asked.
“I have been doing all of this on my own personal capacity and my studies are mine.”
Wan Sulaiman said in the letter that a student has four choices when he is faced with a conundrum: to ignore it, to ask his friends, to go straight to the teacher, or try to solve it first before seeking the teacher to get better understanding.
“Which do you think is the best thing to do and which does a good teacher prefer his student to do? I would choose to do my own study and research, and try solving the problem by myself first before going to see my teacher.
“And I think that is exactly what I have been doing,” he said.