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Hunger strike — Is it haram?

PETALING JAYA, 25 May 2009: The Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s plan to stage a three-day hunger strike calling for the dissolution of the state assembly, has come under fire from certain quarters who say it might be haram.

An Utusan Malaysia article today quoted two state muftis as terming the practice as “haram” for Muslims.

Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Juanda Jaya, in the article Orang Islam dilarang sertai mogok lapar. stressed that Muslims were forbidden to go on hunger strikes, as this resembled Buddhist and Hindu practices.


(© Steve Wood / sxc.hu)

“I remind Muslims not to make hunger strikes a culture, because it is clearly different from the fasting rites of our religion,” Juanda said in the article.

He also had the same opinion of candlelight vigils, which he deemed was a Christian practice.

Similarly, Johor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tahrir Samsudin issued a stern warning against Muslims participating in the hunger strike, even if they just intended to “show support”.

“This is because Muslims are required to take care of their own lives,” Mohd Tahrir said.

No conflict

But former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, who is the PAS state deputy commissioner, disputes this interpretation.

He said the planned “Mogok Lapar Bubar DUN”, which starts tomorrow at Wisma DAP in Ipoh, had nothing to do with religion.

Photo of Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin
Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin

“Muslims will fast according to Islamic practices, Buddhists will fast according to Buddhist practices, and Hindus will fast according to Hindu practices,” Nizar told The Nut Graph.

“What’s the problem? There’s no conflict here,” he added.

According to Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) chairperson Prof Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali, if the hunger strike were intended to end in suicide, then it would fall into the category of a prohibited act.

“In the Quran it is very clear that we are not allowed to take our own lives,” Hashim told The Nut Graph in a phone interview.

“But that is difficult to determine [for this hunger strike]. We cannot read people’s minds,” he stressed.

It has been reported that the 28 PR assemblypersons in Perak, participating in the hunger strike, will be taking turns to fast. Hashim suggested that medical expertise would be required to decide whether such a hunger strike would result in death.

“I would be hesitant to call it haram, as such a prohibition needs to be established on facts, and decisive evidence in the Quran or authentic hadith. The facts are not certain,” Hashim added.

When asked about comparisons of the hunger strike to Buddhist or Hindu practices, Hashim said these should be considered analogies — analogies are legitimate arguments in Islamic jurisprudence, but they are not water-tight.

“Analogies can be used for speculative judgements. However, they are not definitive proofs. They are a weak basis for a decision,” he said.

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8 Responses to “Hunger strike — Is it haram?”

  1. Hang Tuah says:

    Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Juanda Jaya…had the same opinion of candlelight vigils, which he deemed was a Christian practice.

    Dr Juanda Jaya should not talk about other religious rites because he is a Muslim and he is not a Buddhist, a Hindu or Christian.

    He does not know what he is talking about and is not considerate about other people’s feelings. He should withdraw his statement.

    I wish Muslim scholars would stop criticising other religions. They can talk about how Islam should be practised but don’t equate something haram with other religions.

  2. raguel says:

    Not pragmatic. What if weaker PR representatives get sick or worse … in which case PR will have fewer elected representatives, while BN would be celebrating.

  3. mike says:

    Hunger strike is actually a peaceful way of making a stand on something you feel strongly about …. it is to make sure that what you do for principals does not in anyway have a negative effect on anybody else … not even your enemies ….it’s all about non-violence.

  4. If by hunger strike, Nizar is meaning that Muslims should fast in accordance to religion, then by all means, go ahead.

  5. Eric says:

    Such an amazing heap of statements:

    “Muslims were forbidden to go on hunger strikes, as this resembled Buddhist and Hindu practices.”

    Fasting is solely Buddhist and Hindu now?

    “He also had the same opinion of candlelight vigils, which he deemed was a Christian practice.”

    Last time I went to Canterbury, Vatican and Lourdes, I saw no candlelight vigil. Perhaps Juanda should fly there and explain to these people how to practise real Christianity as it appears he knows other religions so well.

    “This is because Muslims are required to take care of their own lives.”

    Non-Muslims aren’t?

    “If the hunger strike were intended to end in suicide, then it would fall into the category of a prohibited act. In the Quran it is very clear that we are not allowed to take our own lives.”

    Pray tell, how many hunger strikes have ended up in actual deaths?

    What never stops to amaze me is while there is no dearth of religious people keenest to explain why hunger strikes may or may not be halal, definitely haram stuff like corruption (no need for illustration), lying (at random, Zambry denying BN hired a QC as counsel), committing treason (Perak SUK head, Perak state legal adviser among others) etc seem to draw no interest from these zealots. Is there haram and not so haram? Or is it just good old double-standard?

    1BLACKMalaysia. Democracy First. Elections Now.

  6. myop101 says:

    Look, it is only three days of fasting. I don’t even know what the big fuss is about.

  7. Liew says:

    Somebody should ask Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Juanda Jaya and Johor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tahrir Samsudin:

    “Is detention without trial haram?”
    “Is setting privilege base on somebody’s race haram?”

    Again, religion is used for political reasons.

  8. ayermatahari says:

    If candle light is a Christian practice, than if Christians fast, why Muslims also practise fasting?

    Hunger strike is a symbolic act to protest a certain matter. That’s all.

    You do not see this [type of arguments against hunger strikes] in other Muslim countries like Indonesia. Maybe this is Islam Al-Umno.


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