To swear or not to swear..

..that is the question. For Anwar Ibrahim, at least.

Since Saiful swore on the Quran on Friday, one day before nomination Day in Permatang Pauh, the heat has been on Anwar to do the same.

Perception is as perception goes, swearing on the Quran is such a solemn act that one tends to believe that whoever is swearing on the Quran must be telling the truth.

I think I’m not too far off when I say that there have been people to second-think their loyalties and support for Anwar after Saiful swore on the Quran on Friday.

For others, me included, the timing was just to perfect.

Nevertheless, it was swearing on the Quran. No small matter, even to a non-Muslim like me.

But respected Islamic people like Nik Aziz have come out to say that swearing on the Quran is “non-Islamic”. That because during the Prophet Muhammad’s time, there was simply no Quran to swear upon, and therefore not recognised as an “Islamic” act.

I found this link somewhere in the comments section on Malaysian Insider. Written by a certain Hajj Ahmad Thomson, who is a barrister specialising in Charities, Employment, Discrimination and Islamic Law, in the UK.

8 pages long, and well worth the read.

The gist of it goes like this:

[…] when a Muslim is swearing an oath it is not necessary for him or her to hold a Qur’an, since the oath is “by Allah” and not “on the Qur’an”

“Not necessary”, he said. But still done, especially in today’s world. Why?

Strictly speaking holding a Qur’an or referring to the Qur’an when swearing an oath “by Allah” is not necessary, but it would nevertheless be fair to say that for many Muslims, holding a copy of the Qur’an when swearing an oath by Allah is an outward demonstration to those who are present that they intend by this action to emphasise that their oath is a sincere and solemn oath.

I don’t want to challenge anything here. I think swearing, whether on God’s name, or “by Allah”, or on a holy book, or merely just swearing (NOT of the vulgar type), is a solemn act, and one to be done only in the most serious of events.

What I’m curious of, is the exact same question that Lim Kit Siang asked in his blog post:

Will the criminal charge of Sodomy II against Anwar under Section 377B under the Penal Code for consensual sodomy be withdrawn if Anwar swears on the Quran?

Should it?

If we were to imagine for a moment, that Anwar does swear on the Quran, say..later this evening. What would happen then?

Because instead of having two sets of allegations, with one by Saiful claiming that Anwar sodomised him, and another by Anwar saying that there is a conspiracy against him, we would now have two sets of “swearings”, if you like, on the Quran.

What difference does it make? We’re back at square one.

This swearing on the Quran, if Anwar were to do it, would produce the same situation that we’re in at the moment. Saiful saying “He did it”. Anwar saying “It’s a lie!”

The only difference, perhaps, would be the perception war. The psywar.

But then again, it comes back to the same predicament. If I were a very VERY religious Muslim, and will only believe those who choose to do everything the Islamic way (so to speak, no disrespect for anyone), I would be believing Saiful at this point. Why? Because Saiful has sworn on the Quran, and no one in their right, spiritual mind would EVER swear on the Quran, and lie.

But if Anwar were to swear on the Quran as well, then what would I believe? Who am I to believe? Because they have both sworn on the Quran, but two totally different stories.

So in the end, I have the choice of believing either one of them. Hence why I said, square one.

I’m fast losing my point here, so what I’m going to end with is this.. I don’t know if Anwar should swear on the Quran. In my believing that he is innocent, I don’t see what he has to lose. Those who argue that swearing on the Quran is not Islamic and advised him not to do so, can equally advise him to just make an oath “by Allah”. To me, it’s the same thing. But if I’m wrong, I stand corrected.

If Anwar were to make an oath “by Allah”, and not “on the Quran”, I’m pretty sure the ulamas, ustaz, and muftis in Malaysia would find it equally valid.

So should he? It would make no difference, except clear some minds who have started to suspect him. Which could very well be an important factor to consider.

But should he? Really?

I don’t know.

Afterthought: No matter whether Anwar swears or not, the matter remains the same. He has been charged, and I think there should be a free and just trial. Evidence should be put forward. And Anwar is, to me, still innocent until proven guilty.


12 Comments on “To swear or not to swear..”

  1. Malayalee says:

    Swearing with or without the Quran or any other book of faith is serious business. It does not ‘cleanse’ a person (like taking a bath on the Ganges) but rather reaffirms a persons courage to face the consequences that may arise (be it by divine intervention or not). However, even by doing so, it will not be treated as just another lie if it was proven otherwise. In fact if a person who swears by any God and was found to be lying, … no amount of swearing can put off the fire that he has willfully ignited. As the elders used to say (nowadays even the elders refuse to say anything): When one tongue swears in God’s name but was found to be lying, then he must willfully cut of his own tongue or else others will do it for him. If by some worldly miracle (which happens quite often these days) nothing happens to him even after he has been proven in court to be lying. Then the people must take full responsibity for not defending the sanctity of an oath taken is such a manner as what was take by Saiful. Soon others will follow suit, especially the unrelenting, die-hard, no conscience liars, cheaters and con men whom we find walking among us with little or no guilt at all.
    Agreed. Swearing is in no way a small matter. That’s why I don’t know if Anwar should in fact swear at all, considering that it not only doesn’t help the issue at all, it could also potentially make a mockery of the religion.

  2. humm says:

    Regardless of what religion you are from, the ‘human’ side to swearing to ‘show’ your sincere belief that what you are saying is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is an act of desperation where no proof is avaialble and avenues left to present your sincereity. To give credence and weight to your swearing, you would then ‘bet’ your life, mother’s grave, the good book, etc etc.

    Now in Islam, one can imagine the importance of the Quran. It is accepted by muslims as an unquestionable truth, the word of god to guide the believers in this world to the hereafter.

    Like other matters, swearing by the Quran too is not exempted from differing views and opinion. We have heard from Nik Aziz and Gus Dur that suggest swearing by holding the Quran is unislamic. I believe they are refering to the manner in which the swearing is done. In particular, this act is more akin towards the christians way to swearing, and not practiced by the muslims. On the other hand, I believe we have the Mufti of Perlis, Dr Mohd Asri, who have suggested that both parties swear on the Quran and let god the all knowing show the truth in his own accords. Note that Dr Asri does not rejects the swearing by the Quran. As a matter of fact, Dr Asri in his latest comments suggested that DSAI also do the ‘mubahalah’ or swearing and leave the matter to Allah. Now, are the comments by Nik Aziz and GusDur only limited to the manner the swearing is done or even to the whole idea of swearing to the Quran itself? It would certainly be most useful to have a knowledgeable person to comment on this matter BUT i will not be surprised if there will be differing views.

    From the social aspect of things though, it is not a totaly unknown subject for muslim malay community, especially rural and older community. One can imagine (now I’m extending beyond certain fact but based on orals by older people here) in older rural community where petty village matters are jugde by the imams, there are events where swearing by the Quran was used. So, historical precedence apparent was there.

    Regardless, the academic debate on to swear or not to swear, the aim is to convince oneself, the masses, and to stand before god of one truth. The supporter or opposer must be unbiased and be interested only in the truth so that no injustice is done. The massess must not be biased either for political reason or popular opinion. For God will most certainly punish not only those who swear knowingly in the wrong, but also the masses that condemn the rightful unjustly!
    You said: It is an act of desperation where no proof is avaialble and avenues left to present your sincereity.

    I say: But the police have pressed charges, and evidence have yet to be brought before the civil courts. If going by what you said, shouldn’t the swearing only happen AFTER the trial?

    You said: Like other matters, swearing by the Quran too is not exempted from differing views and opinion.

    I say: I agree. It has been frustrating to hear so many differing views on one single issue. Has made it difficult for me to fully grasp what’s been said.

    You said: Dr Asri in his latest comments suggested that DSAI also do the ‘mubahalah’ or swearing and leave the matter to Allah.

    I say: I mean no disrespect, but if everyone accused to be guilty of anything were to swear on the Quran (assuming there are unscrupulous people like that), then when does the Rule of Law apply?

    If possible, I’d like to hear your views on what I’ve said. Open for discussion if anyone else has a word or two to add.

  3. humm says:

    There are two things at hand; 1) to swear or not to swear, and 2) shoud swearing be done before or after the court case. My earlier comment is to address only the earlier point and I have tried to clarified the ‘human’ desperation of it. Now, to discuss the second point brings along a whole bunch of other issues. Obviously there will be legal implications, contempt of court, trial by media, and the whole thing can spin out of control. Personally, I think it is best to do it one at a time. BUT as you can appreciate the case, real world tends to hijack processes beyond what is norms. In this particular case, both party reacts and contributes to where they are now. To DSAI, he is reacting to defend his innocence of the report, and SA to justify his claims that it actually did happened and not because of political pressures as ‘others’ wants the mass to believe. One cannot dismiss the ‘masses’ reactions that contributes in pushing to the state they are now. Asking about which should come first, is a little more like wondering about the after the fact.

    As for the ‘rule of law’ i believe that applies regardless whether one swears to the Quran or not. Swearing to the Quran does not mean that the court order is null and void. In my mind, he who swears on the Quran is bringing it a notch higher on the idealism point of view. He is now standing before god, and his punishment transcend the world to the hearafter. Now humans ‘rule of law’ surely does not go to the beyond! God and only god decides his punishment, and when it shall be borne. Or course, there will also be ‘human’ perceptions that come with it. Can’t blame god for that.

    Court case will still be brought to serve the real world. Be however good we may think of ourselves, court ruling is not about absolute fairness. Justice is debated and at the end, the bad guy may still get away scott free. We can never know for sure. There will be acquital due to technical resons, whatever that means!

    So, I say the rule of law will still be served, and may the evidence showed in this worldly manner what is most probably without any shadow of doubt the right deserving judgement. Ultimately to muslims, who may be the unfortunate ‘wrongly’ accused in this world, their claim is fairness from the creator in the life hereafter!

  4. donplaypuks says:

    If we believe in our Constitution, Statutes and the Rule of Law, swearing on Holy Books outside the Courts must be regarded as a gimmick and a desperate act of one who knows he cannot prove his case in Court.

    Let us not set a dangerous precedent for thieves, robbers, rapists and murderers to misuse Religion to escape the clutches of Civil Laws.

    And the act of the PM is publicly voicing his support for Saiful is ill-judged & simply means he has provided sufficient grounds for DSAI to apply to the Court to dismiss the case. This is so because such comments are in contempt of Court and have irretrievably compromised the DSAI’s rights to a fair trial since the police were also there to support Saiful at the Koran swearing affair.

    There is no principle in either Syariah or Civil Law where mere accusations confers greater rights on the accuser than the acuused. Under any law, an accused is 100% INNOCENT until and unless convicted in a properly and legally constituted Court of Law!!

  5. bow says:

    He sworn on the Koran before trial and timed to the accused election campaign has political significance on his sponsor. As you know when there are no conclusive evidences to bring forth in civil court, this desperate attempt will lend some credence to him and many muslims especially those hardliners in Malaysia, regardless it makes any senses to the rest of Malaysians who are abide by civil n criminal court system.

  6. mazura says:

    For a muslim to swear in the name of Allah, in a mosque, holding the Quran is a firm commitment and should be taken seriously. I think Saiful has been advise by his family and the Ulamas cocern on the repercussion of his action. Again, nobody wants to put his name in history and be remembered the way Saiful did and it takes alot of guts and desperation. Anwars reluctance to swear he never touches Saiful intimately is strange. What happens between Anwar and Saiful only Allah knows. To keep challenging what allah knows is really inviting his wrath. Be not too arrogant becouse Allah always pay in cash. He KNOWS.

  7. humm says:

    Let the court decides within what is humanly possible to pass a most deserving verdict. Let us not over react and pass our own jugdement on who is right and who is wrong, mind you even before the court rules or God decides! Let us not behave like the Pharisees who condemned the prostitute. Have all the centuries past and we haven’t learnt anything from what Jesus said? “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Are we all that righteous to be passing judgement onto others? Did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) not stopped the muslims in the mosque from harming a non-believers even after the non-believer did unacceptable act in the mosque? Are we still acting like the same crowd in those times? If so, then we certainly have not improved our station despite our civilised outlook!

  8. humm says:

    another perspective!
    Thanks for the link. Checking it out now.

  9. humm says:

    Everyone is correct, well almost everyone. This issue of ‘to swear or not to swear’ has bothered me a bit and i took sometime to look around to find more information to clarify matters.

    There are a couple of issues at hand, all wrapped up so as to appear as one thing. Lets take them one at a time. First, to swear or not to swear. As far as I can see, swearing (in islam) was practised during the time of the prophet, and even to our time there are provisions for it. Read on Dr Asri article to see where the requirement for four witness is required and when it is not. The principle it appears to be is that both parties invoke the act and let the matter settle for god to decide. This is done especially where matters are personal, cannot be proven outright, and does not benefit the public to extend the discussion at large. Note that islam look at the larger perspective where the society interest should be protected, and individual’s values (aib) is not something to make story off when we can’t determine with factual certainty. So, yes swearing is allowed.

    Second, swearing does not require holding the Quran. I believe most of the disagreement is due to this ‘manner’ of swearing. This I believe like many other social matters where it is influenced by what cultural practices at large. GusDur said “There is no such thing as swearing on the Quran in Islam. Just open the books on Islam,”. This could easily be interpreted as “there is no swearing at all in islam”, which is not true. Interestingly enough, the swearing of the president in Indonesia, the Quran is held above the president’s head is practiced. So, swearing by the Quran is not practiced BUT swearing is provided for and briging along a Quran is just cultural/tradition slant.

    Third, which is kind off unique in Malaysia is the court processes. Now this is just my opinion on matters. Having two set of courts, the Civil and the Syariah complicates things further. Certain matter falls purely in the jurisdiction of the syariah, and others to the civil court. As for the sodomy case, it was initiated as a police report, hence naturally brings it into the civil court. Should the police feels that there is a definite case, then it is up to them to pursue the matter further. That process I guess once started would take its own course. The complication arises when a report was made to JAWI on the same, and swearing in the mosque follows,..etc, all as quid pro quo. One can imagine that both parallel can exist independently BUT surely there will be impact of media, external discussion, political remarks from both sides that will have especially on the civil case. This should stop, and the rightful party to make this stop I believe is via court order, possibly AG or law minister.

    Anyway, that’s my two sens worth. For those who wants to make their own interpretation by all means see the folowings articles, among others!
    From your comments, I gather that you and I are both somewhat unsure of what is and what isn’t in the “to swear or not to swear” question. For me, I think I will let the matter rest, and allow it to take its due course.

    As for the case being “shared” between Syariah and Civil Courts, I agree that it has further complicated things. It started as a civil case, and I think it extended to become something religious when Siaful first came up with the challenge to Anwar for him to swear on the Quran. It was after that challenge that Anwar decided to bring the matter up with Jawi.

    But anyhow, I’ve decided to stop dwelling in this issue. To me, it’s not going to solve any of the problems we have.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. S. Y. Chan says:

    I think Anwar should response with “Lets not drag religion into the issue. Ultimately, God will give the punishment to the wrong doer. Dont use God’s name in vain”.

  11. dinobeano says:


    good morning from Permatang Pauh (7.15 am Malaysian time, August 21, 2008) the sodomy thing has reached an extreme and nonsensical stage.

    Who is Saiful? He is a dropout with a Mr. Fix-it father who ignored him for the most part of life but reenters his life, probably for lots of money.

    I talked to him a couple of times when he was with me in DSAI’s office while holding him at bay. He is a confused young man and can be easily manipulated due to his low self esteem and insecurity. Special Branch got to him as he is under their custody to be manipulated and used for political purposes. Yet the UMNO controlled media made him a “celebrity”. How sick can we get.

    The Koran swearing sandiwara was presided over by an “IMAM” by the name of Ramlang Porigi. He is an UMNO Cawangan Sri Machang, Bukit Mertajam (Membership Nr: 03405843)in the Permatang Pauh Parliamentary constituency. A coincidence or is it part of the Najib inspired conspiracy? Recall that a few days before the swearing ceremony, Saiful was with Najib at the Sunway Hotel, Seberang Jaya. Yet another coincidence? People here in Permatang Puah think the whole sodomy matter is one big joke.

    Take care, Din Merican
    Thanks for the update. And you take care too.

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