The Terengganu Syariah Enactment: A Reply To The Critics

We refer to the statements made by The Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) and the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) regarding the recent amendments to the Terengganu state Shariah Law.

For reference, the amendment states the following:

The principal Enactment is amended by inserting after section 29 the following section:

“Pregnant or give birth to a child out of wedlock”

29A.(1) Any woman who are pregnant or give birth to a child out of wedlock shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

(2) Any man who causes any woman to be pregnant or to give birth to a child out of wedlock shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable subjected to subsection (1).

(3) The fact that a woman is pregnant out of wedlock as a result of sexual intercourse performed with her consent shall be a prima facie evidence of the commission of an offence under subsection (1) by that woman.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (3), any woman who gives birth to a fully developed child within a period of less than six months qamariah from the date of her marriage shall be deemed to have been pregnant out of wedlock.”.

This conundrum highlights perfectly the consequences of separating law from morality which is our post-colonial reality. An effective system to regulate society cannot separate law from morality and that is the nature of the true Shariโ€™ah, a form of governance which is efficient, communally based, socially embedded and a bottom-up method of control which renders it remarkably efficient in commanding willing obedience and less coercive than any state-enforced law1.

Unfortunately, we live today in a society where the true Shariโ€™ah has been displaced by the nation-state, the entity Thomas Hobbes referred to as โ€˜The Leviathanโ€™, which now defines what is right or wrong, and enforcing it from a top-down approach. In an atmosphere where unlimited freedom is seen as some sort of virtue and must be upheld no matter what the cost, we now see in full display the consequences of disobedience to God which the State has to clumsily deal with. Why are we surprised when the rubber hits the road?

As the English Christian philosopher G.K. Chesterton once opined: โ€œIf men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they will be governed by ten thousand commandments.โ€ He articulated in a memorable way the truth, that a society made up of those who will not govern their own moral behavior will sooner or later become less free, as the government resorts to ever more coercion and regulation to minimize the consequences of unrestrained human sinfulness as what has transpired in Terengganu.


We live in an unprecedented time in the history of human sexuality. In the United States, the age when people first marry and reproduce has been pushed back dramatically, while at the same time the age of puberty has dropped, resulting in an era in which young adults are physiologically able to reproduce but not psychologically or socially ready to “settle down” and begin a family2,3 . These developmental shifts, research suggests, are some of the factors driving the increase in uncommitted sexual encounters, part of a popular cultural change that has infiltrated the lives of emerging adults throughout Western society and encroaching its way to the rest of the world. Sex outside of marriage has become more engrained in popular culture, reflecting both evolved sexual predilections and changing social and sexual scripts. Influencing this shift in sexuality is popular culture. The media have become a source of bogus sex education, filled with often inaccurate portrayals of sexuality4. In short, Hollywood has duped us all. The themes of books, plots of movies and television shows, and lyrics of numerous songs all demonstrate a permissive sexuality among consumers which does not reflect reality. Popular culture will obviously not burden itself with informing its consumers of the consequences of the immoral behaviour which it aims to normalize. Out of wedlock pregnancies, single parenthood, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, sexual assault, issues of consent, and the one often swept under the carpet: mental health consequences particularly for young women.


Whilst there is absolutely no question that rape victims and victims of abuse should not be categorized in the aforementioned Section 29, there must be room made available for punitive deterrents to immoral behavior in our legal system, in addition to ongoing educational efforts.


As medical professionals, we should really be more holistic in addressing this problem and yet from the statements issued by OGSM and MPA, we are obviously failing to see the wood for the trees. Comprehensive sexual education (CSE) which portrays sex outside of marriage as a valid lifestyle choice is obviously a form of ontological imperialism being sold to us in a Trojan horse of โ€˜universal human rightsโ€™. The West are a morally bankrupt โ€˜civilizationโ€™ as is very plain to see from the destruction of their family structure, the basic building block of a healthy society. We have no reason at all to presume that Western values of sexuality have moral high ground of any worth. Parroting their narratives is simply evidence of neocolonized mentalities.


On the other hand, we need to recognize that unfettered freedom will bring about undesirable consequences. Band-aid solutions are not the answer. Law must be equipped with morality if society is to function smoothly. Rather than offering โ€˜consent and condomsโ€™ as some sort of solution to social ills, we must address the root of the issue which is comprehensive management of sexual desires. The toxic hypersexual environment we live in must not only be remedied, but reversed.


1. Hallaq, W. (2009). Shariโ€™a: Theory, Practice, Transformations. Cambridge University Press.

2. Bogle, K. (2007). The Shift from Dating to Hooking up in College: What Scholars Have Missed. Sociology Compass, Volume 1, Issue 2, p. 775-788

3. Garcia, J.R., & Reiber, C. (2008). Hook-up behavior: A biopsychosocial perspective. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2(4), 192โ€“208.

4. Keren Eyal Ph.D. & Dale Kunkel Ph.D. (2008) The Effects of Sex in Television Drama Shows on Emerging Adults’ Sexual Attitudes and Moral Judgments, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52:2, 161-181, DOI: 10.1080/08838150801991757

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