Fatwa Issued To Prohibit Muslims In Johor From Attending Rituals Of Other Faiths

The new fatwa issued by the Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ) means Muslims in Johor are now barred from observing Thaipusam processions or taking part in Pongal celebrations in the state.

Cover image via Nur Aisyah Mazalan/Harian Metro & Free Malaysia Today

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Muslims in Johor are now prohibited from attending and taking part in religious rituals of other faiths in the state, for example, Thaipusam processions or Pongal celebrations, according to a new fatwa

Bernama reported Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairperson Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid as saying that the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, has consented to the fatwa (religious order) issued by the Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ) effective 2 February.

Fared said the religious scholars from the four schools of Islamic thought — Shafie, Hanafi, Maliki, and Hanbali — agreed that Muslims were prohibited from attending and participating in non-Islamic religious rituals including those performed in houses of worship, as well as other places.

File photo of Thaipusam procession in Johor.

Image via Free Malaysia Today

Hoping the fatwa will provide a better understanding among Muslims in Johor, Fared said that guidelines have been issued on non-Muslim festivals and celebrations of other faiths that Muslims can attend

Fared said that according to a number of scholars, Muslims are allowed to fulfil invitations to a ceremony in conjunction with a celebration of other faiths without a religious ritual ceremony.

"Among other things, the ceremony is not accompanied by rituals including religious symbols or singing religious songs, which are against the Islamic faith," he was quoted as saying.

Fared said that MAINJ will meet with religious leaders and management of non-Muslim houses of worship, to explain and clarify the guidelines, reported Bernama.

According to him, the fatwa is not meant to disturb the harmony between races and offers guidance so care is taken in promoting togetherness without violating boundaries.

However, Fared added that individuals who violate the guidelines can be prosecuted under Section 9 of the Johor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1997.

File photo of Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairperson Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid.

Image via Nur Aisyah Mazalan/Harian Metro

Meanwhile, Johor mufti Yahya Ahmad explained that events such as Thaipusam processions and Pongal celebrations are defined as religious rituals under the fatwa as they are "exclusive" to Hindus

"If these rituals take place in a house of worship, then they are included in the fatwa," Free Malaysia Today quoted Yahya as saying today, 3 February.

"But for functions done outside a house of worship for non-ritual purposes such as open houses and dinner events, they are allowed as long as they follow the guidelines issued by MAINJ."

According to Yahya, the fatwa was issued to clarify to Muslims what is permissible and forbidden in Islam and that it does not touch on non-Muslim rituals that do not involve any form of idol worshipping.

"In Islam, we call rituals 'ibadah', while in religions other than Islam, rituals mean the act of worshipping gods. This fatwa does not concern rituals that do not involve worshipping," he added.

Additionally, on attending the funerals of non-Muslims, the state mufti said Islam has "zero issues" as long as Muslims do not participate in religious rituals for the dead.

File photo of Thaipusam procession outside Arulmigu Rajamariamman Devasthanam Temple.

Image via Helen Gray

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