IMPROVING THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION by Kassim Ahmad
Recently a powerful citizens’ group led by Dr Chandra Muzaffar proposed that the Rukunegara be made a preamble to our Constitution. There followed some discussion, pro and con.
Now no man-made things are perfect, our Federal Constitution included. The Federal Constitution has been drawn up by the Reid Commission, consisting of top Commonwealth jurists (two British, Lord Willim Reid, being one, charman), one Ausralian, one from India and one from Pakistan). The Commission submitted a draft that was scrutinised by a Working Committee that consisted of reresentatives of Malay rulers and the Alliance parties.
In fact the Commission did its work thoroughly.
Yet this basic legal document of our country is not perfect. We will mention only one fundamental flaw: making Islam the religion of the Federation. Now someone may ask why I, a Muslim, say that? I say Islam, a deen, is a way of life, not just a set of rituals. Here arises a major problem of interpretation even for Muslim citizens. What does it actually mean? It can be interpreted in many ways. For non- Muslim citizens, what about their religions, non to mention sceptics and atheists among us. Therefore, there is no good putting religion into this document. Religion should be separated from statecraft.
There exists a basic document of a modern statecraft for a modern nation-state. Western statecraft began with the Treaty of Wesphalia.in 1648, ending a series of religious wars in Europe. However the first written constitution is the Madinah Charter, promulgated by Prophet Muhammad when he migrated to Madinah in 622.
It is highly noteworthy that neither in the Quran nor in the Prophet’s Madinah Charter is it mentioned a state religion. The Quranic phrase is baldatun tauyibatn wa rabbun ghafur (34: 15), meaning “a good land and a forgining Lord). How do you interpret this phrase? However you interpret it, it cannot mean a state religion.
However, the Quran’s order to governments is clear: Rule justly. (Quran, 4: 58), This is acceptable to every religious group.
Note that here we are not taking about freedom of religion. Absolute freedom of religion is stated in 2: 256.
This verse’s placing is highly significant. It comes immediately after the grandest power.of the Almighy God. (2: 255).
So we have a ready-made solution. The last prophet, Prophet Muhammad, sent to all mankind, has given us the first written constitution in the world. Use it to reform our Constitution.
KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author.. His website is <www.kassimahmad.blogspot my>