By Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil,
Deputy CEO IAIS Malaysia
AS the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged many countries around the world, it is putting Malaysians under unprecedented strains due to the sudden economic slowdown and businesses temporarily closing. The government’s one-month Movement Control Order (MCO) which lasts from 18 March until 14 April 2020, while a vital move to curb the spread of Covid-19, saw many of the poorest Malaysians struggling to survive.
In anticipation of worsening conditions, the government has recently launched an audacious and unprecedented stimulus package totalling RM250B which takes up to 17 per cent of the nation’s GDP. The mega stimulus package has three primary goals: (1) safeguarding the people, (2) supporting the business sector, and (3) strengthen the economy. Based on the slogan “no one left behind”, the stimulus provides cash transfers not only to B40 households but also to the M40. For the rest of Malaysians, there are various universal aids such as discounts in electricity bills, telecommunication services, incentives for front liners, and fund withdrawing facilities. Aside from direct transfers, the stimulus package also includes various macroeconomic measures to assist businesses and ensure the resilience of the Malaysian economy.
In addition to official aids, the country has witnessed the setting up of various specific emergency funds for Covid-19 which has pulled Malaysians from all over to spare a few pennies for those in need. For instance, the federal government’s own Covid-19 fund launched since 11 March has now collected more than RM8 million. In the private sector, The Edge Covid-19 funds (Equipment Fund & Health Worker Support) have so far received a healthy sum of RM19.2 million, mostly from corporate donors. At a lower scale, NGOs and the civil society have also initiated various charity efforts for this cause. The charity doesn’t stop there, in a solidarity move, the Prime Minister announced that the entire cabinet members would be giving up two months of their salary to the Covid-19 fund.
Various religious institutions and organisations have also initiated Covid-19 fundraising programmes. One in particular that has sparked media attention is the Musa’adah Covid-19 Fund launched by Senator Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Al-Bakri, the new Minister of Religious Affairs. Confusion arises on whether the fund will only benefit Muslims. The minister has since cleared out the misunderstanding and asserted that the fund has always included non-Muslims.
In general, Muslim jurists have agreed that the ultimate maqasid al-shariah is to serve the public interests and to avoid harm. This main objective of Syariah is governed by the principles and concepts of mercy and guidance – (al-Anbiya’, 21:107 & Yunus, 10:57).
Thus, the Muslim scholars and jurists have identified that all aspects of human’s life must conform to the objectives of Syariah based on its priorities namely essentials (dharuriyyah), complimentary (hajiyyah) and embellishment (tahsiniyyah).
It is important to note that under the category of essentials (dharuriyyah), the implementation of basic needs of human being which covers both the mundane and religious matters must be acted upon, failing to do so will lead to hardship. Thus, preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage, dignity and property are five important priorities in a human being’s life.
From the shariah’s perspective, preservation of life is one of the essential priorities in the objectives of shariah after religion. As Islam recognises the importance of protection of life categorised under the essentials (dharuriyyat), funds collected for this purpose should be shared by all, regardless of religious background.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah has identified three main characteristics of maqasid al-shariah, namely (i) It serves the interests of all human beings (jalb al-masalih) and save them from harm (daf’ al-mafasid). This characteristic is apparently based on an inductive reading (istiqra’) of the text of Quran and the Sunnah. This can be seen in the Quran: “We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except to mankind as a whole” (34:28), “Say (O Muhammad): O mankind, verily, I am an apostle to all of you” (7:158). (ii) It is inclusive (absolute) and covers all human acts. It encompasses all human acts whether they are related to ‘ibadah or mu’malah, and lastly, (iii) Maqasid al-shariah is definitive as it is not derived from one text or item or evidence, but from a multiplicity of texts and different aspects of evidences.
According to Ibn Ashur, who subscribes to a broader angle of maqasid al-shariah, the objective of shariah invariably includes preserving the social order of the community and ensuring its healthy progress by promoting the well-being and virtue of the human being. The most important objectives of shariah is to establish justice, eliminate prejudice and alleviate hardship.
For al-Ghazali, the importance of preservation of the ends of the shariah is the fundamental meaning of maslahah. For that reason, according to al-Shatibi, maslahah is a principle which concerns the subsistence of human life, the completion of man’s livelihood, and the acquisition of what his emotional and intellectual qualities require of him, as an absolute sense. In short, maslahah is comprised of overriding objectives of the shariah, including all measures that are deemed beneficial to people, including the administration of justice and worship.
Based on the elaborations provided, it can be said with confidence that the various Covid-19 funds initiated by both government and non-government entities are in tandem with the general objectives of shariah (maqasid ‘am) and the principle of maslahah. In times of harsh conditions brought by Covid-19, such policy aids and charity funds can play a vital role, and for some a lifeline, in preserving one’s livelihood. The current situation may also invoke the shariah rules of necessity (dharurah) which have an in-built universality that does not admit of any division based on race, colour and creed. Therefore, as one of the five essentials (dharuriyyat) of shariah, the preservation of life, regardless whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, should remain one of the highest priorities of policymakers, institutions, and society as whole.
PROFESOR Madya Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil dilantik sebagai Timbalan Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif di International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia pada 1 April 2013. Bidang kepakaran beliau ialah Undang-undang Perlembagaan, Konflik Undang-undang Syariah-Sivil, Hak-Asasi Manusia, Undang-undang Jenayah Islam dan Undang-undang Transaksi Islam (Muamalah).
Memiliki Ijazah Sarjana Muda Syariah (Kepujian) dari Universiti Malaya pada tahun 1990, Sarjana Undang-undang (LLM) pada tahun 1992-1993 di School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London dan PhD dalam undang-undang di universiti yang sama pada tahun 2001-2005.