VIDEO | 7.21 min

The mother or father who has embraced Islam is not supposed to make their young children follow suit.

Former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin said what should be done is that the children should undergo Islamic education until they are mature enough to decide on the religion of their choice. 

NONEAsri (left) said a Muslim teaching his children about Islam is a right which should be committed to even if they under the care of their non-Muslim spouse.

"It is alright if the custody of the children is given to the mother as Islam is the official religion in the country and the religion of the federation and what is needed is for the father's right to teach Islam to the children," he said.

This proposition, Asri said is not a decree but a ijtihad (opinion) by religious scholars after taking into consideration the country's laws and kemaslahatan (the benefit) to the children.
He was speaking to Malaysiakini during an exclusive interview last week.
According to the former mufti, the maturity of the children to choose their own religion can be discussed based on the provisions of the law.

"The maturity of the children or their age (of maturity) could be discussed as we are not dealing with a decree but a constitutional issue," he said.

Asri said he knew according to the fekah decree the religion of the children should follow that of the mother or father who is Muslim.

No compulsion in Islam

However, he emphasised the need to take the Quran into consideration which had stated there is no compulsion in Islam.
He believes that Islam should be accepted through freewill and self realisation of the person concerned and not by force. 

"The verse as argued by religious scholar Ibnu Kathir is because the Ansar (people in old Medina) before embracing Islam had in the past given their children to the Jews.

"After they entered Islam, they realised they had to take back their children for them to become Muslims. 

"Then Allah brought down this verse that there is no compulsion in religion. This means the children themselves cannot be forced to embrace Islam," he said. 

Asri said this is so as Islam is accepted out of self-realisation and not compulsion. 

The well-respected religious scholar was interviewed over the plight of S Deepa, 29, who had claimed her husband who had embraced Islam after being released from prison had taken their children and convert them to Islam.

Deepa had asked that her children be returned to her and that they not be converted but instead the authorities tried to convince her into converting as well.

The parliament itself is snared in the controversy of the tabling of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 2013 which allows either the father or mother, who is a Muslim to convert their children.

However, detractors including the Bar Council and BN component parties like MCA, MIC and Gerakan are opposed to the move as it is against the spirit of the constitution where the meaning of parent in the Federal Constitution should refer to both parents if still alive.

~ Malaysiakini