Why are illegitimate children held accountable for being illegitimate?
By Zan Azlee
One thing that I feel very unhappy about when it comes to religious fervour in Malaysia is how judgmental and stigmatising it can all be.
Take for example the perception that people have about individuals who are born out of wedlock. I’m sure everyone knows how the religious authorities in the country treat these individuals.
Individuals who are born out of wedlock seem to not have any rights of a normal human being in the country at all.
When it comes to inheritance, those who are born out of wedlock are entitled to anything from the parents. When it comes to marriage, a woman who is born out of wedlock cannot have her father as her wali.
And then there is the name.
Recently, a case in Johor where a couple who gave birth to an illegitimate child had sought to change part of the child’s name from “bin Abdullah” to “bin MEMK” (the father’s name).
Their reason for the change is because they did not want the child to have the stigma of being born out of wedlock. I can totally understand the parents’ concern.
Of course, the court denied the change to “bin MEMK”. However, they were allowed to remove “bin Abdullah”.
The authorities clarified that an illegitimate child does not have to be “bin Abdullah” and instead, can take on any of Allah’s 99 names. So the parents should not be concerned about the stigma their child may face because of the wide options.
I shall call out this bullshit. From the get-go, wouldn’t it already raise questions if the child has a name that is any other than “bin MEMK”?
That alone is a big flag that something isn’t right. But then again, there are so many things that are flags and can cause the stigma. As I mentioned earlier, an illegitimate child is just not a normal human being in Malaysia.
The issue isn’t if someone can identify an individual as being born illegitimate or not. It doesn’t matter if he is “bin Abdullah” or “bin Mahathir”.
It should not matter. It should not matter that a person is born illegitimate or legitimate. It is never the fault of the person who is being born (if it is a fault at all).
If the religion is so adamant about the sinfulness of illegitimate births, then the sin should lie on the parents who bore the child and not on the innocent child.
That is only logical because how on earth can someone who has not even been born can decide on insemination and birth for themselves? Explain that to me and then maybe I will consider putting the blame on the child.
Unfortunately, every single negative perception and connotation falls on the innocent child. The child is the one that will have a name that brands them as illegitimate. The child is the one that will have no inheritance rights.
The child is the one that will continue to suffer all the disadvantages of being born illegitimate, of which he had no part in the decision.
We need to correct this unfairness. Laws need to be changed and fatwas need to be removed. Oh, and that is another thing that peeves me.
The authorities are so headstrong about upholding the National Fatwa Council’s fatwa that states the names of illegitimate Muslim children are to carry “bin Abdullah” or “binti Abdullah” regardless of whether their parents marry.
Why do they uphold certain fatwas and disregard others? For example, why has there never been any action taken on smokers when the National Fatwa Council had made a decree that smoking is haram in 1996? They even updated it in 2015 to include electronic cigarettes and vaping. So what is up with that?
Whatever it is, the issue remains that an innocent child should not be held accountable for something that was done by the parents.
If there should be any societal shunning, it needs to happen to the people who actually had a role to play in what happened. And an unborn child definitely had no capacity to play a role in anything.
[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]
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Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father’s (names, call them) your Brothers in faith, or your maulas. But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.