Time for fatwa on the naming of illegitimate Muslim children to be reviewed, says Penang Mufti

Opalyn Mok
Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor says any fatwa has ‘ijtihadi’ (independent reasoning) which could be reviewed depending on changes in time, place and situation. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 14 — Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor has said it is time for a 1981 fatwa by the National Fatwa Committee that illegitimate Muslim children cannot carry the father’s name to be reviewed.

He said any fatwa has “ijtihadi” (independent reasoning) which could be reviewed depending on changes in time, place and situation.

He pointed out that there were ancient ulamas who said it was compulsory for the lineage of illegitimate Muslim children to be directly linked to their biological fathers.

“Therefore, it is not wrong for this fatwa to be reviewed or amended if the need arises,” he said when commenting on a Federal Court ruling on the “bin Abdullah” case that a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock cannot bear his father’s name.

Wan Salim added that Islamic teachings are based on justice, wisdom, honour and goodwill.

He said it was a matter of justice that children born out of wedlock should not be forced to bear the sins of their parents.

“Wisdom, honour and goodwill dictate that the children’s lives and future are protected without the stigma of not carrying their biological fathers’ names with a ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ especially in terms of the children’s psychological wellbeing,” he said.

He said a majority of Malaysian Muslims follow the Shafi’i school of thought, under Sunni Islam.

Under Shariah law, Muslim children born less than six months and two seconds from the parents’ marriage are considered illegitimate and cannot carry their father’s name.

This means that illegitimate Muslim children cannot inherit any property from their biological father or be considered a sibling of other children born after their parents’ marriage.

Yesterday, in a majority 4-3 decision, the Federal Court ruled that a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock cannot carry his father’s name.

It overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision in 2017 that allowed the child to use his father’s name instead of using “bin Abdullah”.

Court of Appeal President Datuk Rohana Yusuf also issued a consequential order for the National Registration Department director-general to remove “bin Abdullah” from the birth certificate of the child in the case.

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