Islamic Law in Malaya




Ibrahim, Ahmad
Gordon, Shirle (Ed.)

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Malaysian Sociological Research Institute


Much has been written on Islamic Law, as law per se, and as it is varied and applied in particular countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia, but nothing has been written on Islamic Law in Malaya. Yet, one could not assume that the Malay would exclusively apply Shafi‘i Islamic doctrine when, organic to his life reality, a totality of Customary Law or ‘Adat had evolved. The essence of this folk-law does not always concur with Islamic Law, be it matrilineal ‘Adat Perpateh areas or in the domain of the patrilineal ‘Adat Temenggong. There are living, applied, ‘Adat concepts at variance with Islamic law yet not-antagonistically coexistent. For instance, the ‘Adat would contend that joint work creates joint ownership (harta sapencharian). Thus the wife who plants the padi creates through her work a right of ownership in the land equal to that of her husband’s. It is only after the Malay’s sense of justice is fulfilled in this way that. As a Muslim, he would apply the patrilineally weighted Islamic Law of inheritance. This work is a major contribution, not only to our knowledge of the Malays as Muslims but to our knowledge of how a society can contain and assimilate apparently contradictory systems. Lawyers will welcome this publication as a guide through the maze of contrary rulings pronounced by one or another colonial judge attempting a “just decision” according to their partial or more full understanding of an alien conceptual world.




Ibrahim, A. (1975). Islamic Law in Malaya. S. Gordon (Ed.). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: MSRI.