Muslims, non-Muslims in M'sia barred from praying together under new directive

PUTRAJAYA — Joint prayers at unity events involving both Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia have been barred under a directive issued by an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department.

The directive from the committee to promote understanding and harmony between religions, which is under national unity and integration department, was issued on Tuesday (Sept 3).


The letter, sighted by The Malaysian Insight, touched on two types of prayer sessions:

where Muslims recite their doa (prayer of supplication) simultaneously with members of other faiths who recite their own prayers before a function begins when Muslim and non-Muslim groups each prays before the start of a function.

The letter states that on the advice of the Federal Islamic Affairs Department (Jakim) both types of prayers should not be held in the same programme.

Such prayers should instead be “replaced with an activity where a message of unity is shared”, it stated.

The letter referred to arguments made by Jakim in a letter dated August 7 to the committee.

Sources in non-Muslim religious organisations told TMI they were aware of the committee’s and Jakim’s directives.

Two sources told TMI that they were made aware of the directive as the committee included representatives of the country’s major religious groups.  

One source confirmed their group received both the committee’s and Jakim’s letters.

Non-Muslim organisations are unhappy with the directive as it destroys the intent of interfaith events where Malaysians of different backgrounds learn about different faiths and to respect freedom of religion.

In the August 7 letter from Jakim, it said Muslims are barred from reciting a prayer with those of other faiths at the same event.

The restriction covers instances where all participants, Muslim and non-Muslims, either recite their respective prayers silently together or where each faith recites its prayers.

The ban is based on conclusions reached at two meetings — a 2006 national-level meeting between all state fatwa councils (MKI 74) and the Federal Territories Islamic regulations committee meeting.

Jakim also based its decision on an opinion by the Negri Sembilan mufti Mohd Yusof Ahmad published on August 7 in Malay daily Berita Harian.      

The MKI 74 meeting states that prayers should be performed in events not against the spirit or belief in Allah because Muslims are supposed to address their prayers only to Allah.

“Therefore, MKI has decided that Muslims should not instruct non-Muslims to recite doa according to their respective faiths. But if they do recite the doa according to their own religion and on their own accord without being instructed to do so, this act is not to be forbidden.”

Meanwhile, the 113rd Federal Territories-level meeting concluded that Muslims could not attend mass prayer events organised by non-Muslims or in functions where the meanings of such prayers can’t be understood.

The Federal Territory body said these conclusions are based on the principle of sadd al-zara’i (to close off the paths of destruction) to stop the spread of religious pluralism, a belief that “conflicts with many religions”.

The ban against Muslims is to also prevent the spread of other religions among Muslims according to the Article 11 of the federal constitution.

According to Mr Yusof, Negri Sembilan’s mufti, the act of Muslims reciting the doa in a joint-prayer setting with non-Muslims lowers the status of Islam. THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

Desi Hanara