Perlis Announces Landmark Fatwa, A Turning Point For Child Custody Battles

The Perlis Fatwa Committee has issued an edict which states that the custody of a child be given to the more suitable parent, regardless of religion.

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The Perlis Religious Council has issued a landmark edict that the custody of a child will be given to the parent who is more suitable, even if he or she is non-Muslim

Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin

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Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin was reported as saying that the state Fatwa Committee found it unfair for child custody to be determined only by the religion of the parents without looking into other aspects of the child's welfare and interests.

“The common case these days is that both parents are non-Muslims, and then one of them converts to Islam. If going by the Shariah court, then custody is unquestionably given to the Muslim parent. This is actually not right, as there is no basis for that sort of ruling, whether in the Quran or hadith."

We released this fatwa to let them know that it is not a sin to offer custody to a non-Muslim parent, especially if that person is better equipped to care for the child,” he added.

The new fatwa is also a general guide for Muslim parents, who often feel guilty for giving up custody to a non-Muslim spouse

Dr Azri said the courts needed to judge which parent was more suitable by studying their background and lifestyle, as well as taking into consideration the choice of the child

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“The overall welfare of the child includes his or her physical, moral and emotional needs. The parent who is more able to provide these needs should get custody, whether they are Muslim or not,” the mufti was quoted as saying.

If both parents are equally suitable to care for the child, then the child has the right to choose which parent he or she wants to live with. This is provided the child is old enough to decide,” he said.

According to the report, it will still be compulsory for the Muslim parent to introduce Islam to the child, whether they have custody or not

However, he said religion should not be forced upon the children.

The fatwa committee has also ruled that custody should automatically be granted to the mother if she is still breastfeeding the child.

“If the child is no longer breastfeeding and hasn’t reached maturity, then custody should be given to the more suitable parent or the one the child is closer to,” he said.

Social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir who is often critical of the actions carried out by the nation's islamic councils, took to Twitter today showing her support on the landmark decision

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir

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This landmark decision comes following the messy custody dispute between a non-Muslim parent and their converted spouse in the case of S Deepa and Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah

Deepa won custody of both her son and ten-year-old daughter Shamila at the Seremban High Court in April 7, but Izwan ― formerly Viran Nagapan ― snatched the boy from Deepa two days later.

Izwan has justified the snatching with a 2013 Shariah Court order that granted him custody of the two children after he had converted them to Islam unilaterally, but the civil courts had overturned the Shariah court’s custody order.

The case has ended at the Federal Court, although a decision has yet to be announced.

Dr Asri also expressed his hope that the latest edict will change current practice in the Syariah court, where religion was a dominant factor in deciding a custody dispute

In 2014, Indira Gandhi was faced with the same challenge as S Deepa when she, a non-Muslim, sought custody for her two kids. Read about her journey here:

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