Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang . Photo credit: The Malay Mail Online.
Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang . Photo credit: The Malay Mail Online.

On 19 March 2015, the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly passed a hudud bill amending the Syariah Criminal Code II 1993. The motion was passed unanimously. The two Private Member’s Bills will next be tabled in Parliament. If the Bills get a simple majority of votes, hudud will be implemented in Kelantan.

Hudud is a law derived from the Qur’an and the teachings of the Sunnah, which sets out punishments for crimes under Shariah law. While most of us know about the harshness of these punishments, what else does the law cover? Here’s our cheat sheet:

Who would be affected by hudud?

In the context of Kelantan, hudud is only intended for Muslims. Non-Muslims do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Shariah law. However, some academics argue that the introduction of Shariah laws in a state will affect the whole society. In countries where an Islamic state is established such as Saudi Arabia, hudud is incorporated into the law and applied to all citizens.

UPDATE: The Malay Mail Online has reported that three clauses retained in the amended Syariah Criminal Code 1993 suggest that the laws could also apply non-Muslims (19/03/2015).

Why is everyone talking about hudud again?

The debate on hudud is not new. PAS has been intent in the implementation of hudud in Kelantan since the enactment of the Syariah Criminal Code in 1993. PAS also enacted the Terengganu Syariah Criminal Offense (Hudud and Qisas) Enactment in 2003. However, hudud could not be implemented because it required an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

The debate about hudud previously revolved around two Private Member’s Bills that would allow amendment and greater enforcement power to Act 356 of the Shariah Law. On 11 May 2014, PAS announced that it would delay the tabling of the bills. PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had said they will wait for a bi-partisan committee to give suggestions. The bills were tabled by the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly on 19 March 2015.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang

What crimes are punishable under hudud?

Crimes punishable by hudud (as set out in the Kelantan and Terengganu Enactments) are consumption of alcohol, robbery, theft, adultery and apostasy. Falsely accusing a woman of adultery without reliable witness is also a crime. Both enactments prohibit sodomy, and the Kelantan enactment has further provisions banning sexual relations between women.

UPDATE: In the amended bill passed in Kelantan on 19 March, sexual relations between women are no longer criminal. Bestiality and necrophilia are also not criminal. But sodomy within marriages is criminal (19/03/2015).

The punishments are amputation of the right hand (for theft), 100 lashes of whipping and imprisonment (for sodomy or sex between unmarried people) and stoning to death (for adultery). Those who wrongly accuse a woman of adultery receive 80 lashes of whipping, and the punishment for apostasy is death.

How does hudud intersect with Shariah law?

Hudud is one of the elements of the Shariah law. The Shariah law encompasses many other elements on guidance of a Muslim’s way of life, but hudud (which means “limit”) specifies those crimes that are serious enough to warrant a physical punishment. The Private Member’s Bill that would allow greater enforcement to Act 356 of the Syariah Law includes increasing the current six strokes of the cane to a hundred.

How can someone prove their innocence if they are charged under hudud?

A reading of the Shariah law states that the process requires the testimony of two adult principled male Muslim witnesses (women are not accepted as witnesses). For adultery, four witnesses are required or proof by pregnancy or birth. In the event that these conditions can’t be met, the crime would be judged under Ta’zir, another branch of Shariah law that judges the crime according to context. The Syariah Court will decide punishments accordingly.

Are there already instances of hudud in Malaysia?

Yes. In 2009, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was sentenced to six cane strokes and RM 5,000 for drinking beer in Pahang, although the caning was later reduced. In 2010, three women were imprisoned for a month and caned up to six times for adultery. However, due to the limitations of the 1965 Act, the number of cane strokes can only go up to six.

How does hudud affect federal law?

Under the crimes stipulated under Shariah law, Muslims would continue to be charged under hudud while non-Muslims would be charged under civil law. However, a crime such as apostasy (leaving your religion), conflicts with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion for citizens. Article 8 of the constitution also provides that every citizen is equal before the law. Some legal experts argue that hudud is therefore unconstitutional.

What are the different political parties’ stance on hudud?

Within the Barisan Nasional coalition, both MCA and MIC have said that they will not support hudud. UMNO has expressed support for hudud law but not necessarily PAS’ version of it. As for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, DAP stands ground on its stance against hudud while PKR hopes to persuade PAS out of the implementation, saying that Malaysia is not yet ready, but has supported PAS’ right to its agenda.

What others countries have implemented hudud?

Most are Islamic states such as Mauritania (1983), Sudan (1991), Afghanistan (1976), Iran (1979), Pakistan (1979), Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Certain countries such as Indonesia implement hudud in specific states such as Acheh (2001) and the twelve Muslim-majority states in Nigeria (1999). Brunei (2014) has recently passed a hudud bill and has proposed that implementation will take place in stages.

Who will enforce the implementation of hudud?

The mechanics have not yet been outlined in Malaysia. In other countries already implementing Shariah law, the religious police enforce hudud. The Kelantan government has suggested doctors could carry out amputations, but faced a backlash from the Malaysia Medical Association, who have stated that it goes against the Hippocratic Oath.

Aziff Azuddin is a journalist for BFM’s 89.9’s Current Affairs. He reads Orwell and spends his leisure indulging in philosophy, travel and photography.

First published 12 May 2014, updated 19 March 2015.

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