|Syariah Court Decides Nyonya Tahir Not A Muslim
SEREMBAN, Jan 23 (Bernama) -- The Syariah High Court, here Monday decided that an 89-year-old Malay woman, Nyonya Tahir, was a non-Muslim when she died last Thursday and allowed her family to bury her according to Buddhist rites.
Judge Mohd Shukor Sabudin made the decision after hearing the ex-parte application by the Negeri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Council (MAINS), Negeri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Department (JHEAINS) and the JHEAINS director.
He also took into consideration an affidavit submitted by Nyonya's youngest son, Chiang Ah Fatt, 40, as well as the evidence adduced by Ah Fatt and his elder sister, Chiang Kwang Ying, 43.
"The court permits the next-of-kin of the deceased to conduct her burial. The court orders the Tampin Hospital to hand over the body to her next-of-kin," he said.
MAINS and JHEAINS had applied last Friday for the court's decision on the religious status of Nyonya and the request of her family to bury her according to Buddhist rites.
The plaintiffs were represented by Syariah lawyer Siti Harlina Shahran while Syariah lawyer Koo Chin Nam, assisted by Kevin Koo S K, held a watching brief for Nyonya's family.
Syariah lawyer Muhamad Burok, who is chairman of the Syariah Lawyers Association of Malaysia, held a watching brief for the association.
Also present during Monday's proceedings were JHEAINS Director Datuk Zaharudin Mohd Shariff, Repah State Assemblyman Datuk Gan Chin Yap, Temiang State Assemblyman Datuk Lee Yuen Fong, Rahang State Assemblyman Datuk Yip Chee Keong and Chuah State Assemblyman Foo Ming Chee.
Ah Fatt's affidavit, among other things, referred to the report of an investigation by the Alor Gajah Islamic Affairs Office in Melaka on May 7, 1986 on Nyonya and her husband, Chiang Meng.
The report stated that Nyonya was born in 1918 in Alor Gajah, Melaka, and had been raised by her grandmother, who was a Malay married to a Chinese convert of Hailam descent.
The investigation had shown that Nyonya had been raised as a Buddhist and that at the age of 18 years, in 1936, she married a Chinese man, Chiang Meng, and they had 13 children. Nyonya practised Buddhism and her husband never embraced Islam. The report stated that Nyonya had declared that she wanted to remain a Buddhist and that upon her death she wanted to be buried according to Buddhist rites.
Ah Fatt, when asked by the court, said he had submitted the affidavit because he wanted to ask the court to hand over his mother's body for burial according to Buddhist rites.
He said his mother had never practised Islam and had consistently adopted the Chinese way of life and had been a loyal Buddhist.
"I lived with my mother until she died and all the while she had only practised Buddhism and never Islam," he said.
Kwai Ying said that when her mother fell ill recently, she had asked to be buried next to the grave of her husband.
"My mother's Chinese name was Wong Ah Kiu. We went to the National Registration Department in 1986 to change her name but the application was rejected," she said.
Nyonya had died of old age at her Taman Indah home in Tampin. The status of her religion became a point of contention when her children and grandchildren came to report her death at the Tampin police station.
Eight of Nyonya's 13 children were at the Syariah Court as early as 8 am to wait for its decision. Kwai Ying said the family was relieved upon hearing the decision of the court.
JHEAINS Director Datuk Zaharudin handed over the court order to Ah Fatt at the Tampin Hospital at about 5.50 pm. Tampin District Police Chief Supt Zull Aznam Haron also handed over the death certificate and burial permit.
Nyonya's body was taken by the family from the Tampin Hospital mortuary straight to the Simpang Ampat Chinese cemetery in Alor Gajah for burial.