BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
WHEN His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, declared the full independence of Brunei on January 1, 1984, I was then working at The Jakarta Post. During that historic moment, all the editorial staff and employees, including the chief editor who five years later would become the Indonesian ambassador to Australia were standing in front of the television watching and witnessing the emergence of a new independent country, some 1,527 kilometres northeast of Jakarta.
After the proclamation of the independence of the new country, His Majesty’s father, His Royal Highness Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, continued with three shouts of Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great), followed by the people and the sound of hadrah. I was thrilled and enchanted all at once. It reminded me of Bung Tomo, an Indonesian fighter who shouted the same takbir to revive the spirit of young fighters against Dutch rule in Surabaya, 65 years ago. His Majesty, in his independence titah, confirmed that Brunei is forever to remain a Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) and is based on “the teachings of Islam according to the ahli sunnah wal jama’ah” (people of the prophetical tradition and community).
Almost a decade later, in his titah at the opening of the 8th Session of the Council of the Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) Academy, 1993, His Majesty expressed his conviction that Islamic law is compatible with modern life.
“The present world will witness a more extensive application of Islamic law as a comprehensive and complete way of life in all aspects of life. And it is precisely on this basis that Brunei Darussalam is currently actively moving towards the Islamisation of its laws,” His Majesty said.
Allahyarham Professor Dato’ Dr Haji Mahmud Saedon Othman, former Islamic Legal Specialist at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, supported and uphold the MIB concept and its laws thoroughly and extensively practised in Brunei.In his book entitled A Review On: The Implementation and Administration of Islamic Law In Brunei Darussalam (DBP, 1996 in Malay, republished by the Islamic Da’wah Centre, 2008, in English) the professor proposed that the Islamic law be made the basic law and the main supreme reference of our legal system. “This law needs to be executed in its entirety, administered competently, smoothly and wisely so that it is effective, adhered to and respected in our beloved Brunei Darussalam,” he said.
His book, which he dedicated to his country during His Majesty’s 50th birthday anniversary, consists of two parts. The first part discusses the spread of Islam throughout the Malay archipelago, the implementation of Islamic law in Brunei from the time of conversion of Awang Alak Betatar who changed his name to Sultan Muhammad Shah, the first sultan of Brunei (1363-1402) to present, the Melaka Canon Law and its influence, Islam in Brunei since its inception in the 14th century to the 19th century, the status and the execution of Islamic law before British intervention, and the British legal and judicial intervention.
He also described the efforts of the late Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, in ensuring respect for the status of Islam, the vision of His Majesty and the Brunei post-independence policy regarding the implementation of Islamic law, and the steps taken to achieve the vision outlined by His Majesty.
The second part discusses law and its division, the special characteristics of Islamic law, a comparison between Islamic law and Civil Law with the aim of further highlighting the uniqueness and the superiority of Islamic law compared with human law. In this case, Professor Dato’ Dr Haji Mahmud Saedon quoted His Majesty’s titah on the occasion of the launching of the handwritten Quran to replace the mace as the Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s identity in 1996: “There is no law or constitution that is superior to, or truer than al-Quran.”
In this book, he also discussed the administration of law and justice through the Islamic judiciary, the administration of law and justice as managed by the Brunei Court before British intervention, and British intervention in Brunei’s legislation and judiciary and its effects. He also touched on the role of Kadhi Court since the 1950s, which he calls “independent but deficient” because of its limited jurisdiction.
Before the British implemented its Civil Law, the main body of basic law in Brunei was Syariah (Islamic law). “It was well executed and administered and it was effective,” Professor Dato’ Dr Haji Mahmud Saedon said, referring to the Brunei Canon Law, a written law of custom and tradition as well as Syara’ (Islamic law).
The law was initiated by Sultan Muhammad Hassan (1582-1598) and implemented and enforced during the reign of Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar (1619-1649) and his son Sultan Abdul Jalilul Jabbar (1659-1660).
Brunei Canon Law dealt with almost all aspects of socio-economic life, including debts, bankruptcy, interest payments, trade, marriage and divorce, crime (adultery, slander, murder, theft and burglary). It also covers a wide area of Islamic law, with at least 47 clauses complying with Islamic law.
To effectively overcome problems, Professor Dato’ Dr Haji Mahmud Saedon suggested that Brunei needs to restore the judicial system to that before British intervention: that is, a Brunei Court should be Brunei’s sole legal and judicial system with no Kadhi Court and no Civil Court.
“History has proved that there once existed a court that administered Brunei laws (based on Syara’), customs and Syara’ laws. That court was the Brunei Sultanate Court,” he said.
The professor asserted that making Islamic law the basic and the supreme law is not introducing something new; it is simply an effort to restore the religion to its original status, a return to Islam in all aspects of life. “Therefore, immediate actions that are organised, wise and effective in realising this need must be taken without delay,” he recommended.
Since the book’s publication, Professor Dato’ Dr Haji Mahmud Saedon’s suggestion and his support over His Majesty’s vision of Islam and its laws implemented thoroughly in Brunei have echoed once again and remain relevant.
Last Tuesday, His Majesty in his titah proposed the introduction of the Islamic Criminal Act, specifically to deal with criminal offences under Islam in order to avoid chaos in society and Allah (SWT)’s torment for not implementing the law.
The Brunei Times
Friday, March 18, 2011