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Malaysia has a thriving marketplace for the sale and purchase of Islamic calligraphic works but irresponsible entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the situation by retailing substandard products that are tarnishing the sanctity of Islam. This second of a two-part article on this issue examines the monitoring and enforcement aspects.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – As an Islamic country, Malaysia takes seriously the use of al-Quran verses in any form, including for the purpose of calligraphy or khat (as it is known in Arabic).
Its commitment to upholding the sanctity of Islam is reflected by the Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN) whose role, among others, is to maintain public order in regard to issues pertaining to religious sensitivities.
Billed as a high-value industry by experts, Islamic calligraphic works enjoy lucrative sales in Malaysia but in the pursuit of profits over quality, irresponsible entrepreneurs are flooding the marketplace with inferior quality products.
In view of this, KDN is focused on curbing the exploitation of the market and the sale of calligraphic products that can cause confusion among Muslims.
Between 2019 and April 2022, KDN’s al-Quran Printing Control and Licensing Board (LPPPQ) seized 111,163 units of texts and products, valued at about RM5 million, featuring al-Quran verses.
During the same period, a total of 575 investigation papers, involving various offences committed under the Printing of Quranic Text Act 1986, were opened.
Mohd Farid Hadi Sharif, assistant secretary at the al-Quran and Hadith Regulatory Section at KDN’s Enforcement and Control Division, told Bernama failure to comply with established guidelines or making any error in the writing of al-Quran verses is considered an offence under the Printing of Quranic Text Act 1986.
“KDN through LPPPQ has an al-Quran Text Review and Evaluation Committee (Lajnah Tashih al-Quran) that’s responsible for addressing such issues.
“Among the functions of this committee is to review all al-Quran texts and materials as well as products that use verses from the al-Quran, especially matters listed under APTQ (Printing of Quranic Text Act) 1986,” he said.
Mohd Farid Hadi said following KDN’s raids on buildings and business premises, various mistakes were detected in many of the al-Quran calligraphic works seized by the enforcement teams, despite the guidelines issued by LPPPQ on the making of al-Quran calligraphic products.
Among the major errors frequently encountered were incomplete presentations of the kalimah and verses from the al-Quran as well as illegible writing that can confuse the readers.
“There were also other mistakes such as using the wrong letter or numeral. Some calligraphers were also found to execute calligraphy in the form of living beings or in other forms that can tarnish the sanctity of the al-Quran.
“During our operations, we also seized al-Quran calligraphic works that are linked to or mixed with other verses or writings such as Hadiths, sayings of (religious) scholars and so on,” he added.
Mohd Farid Hadi said anyone caught printing al-Quran texts or materials containing spelling errors can be charged under Section 14 (1) of the Printing of Quranic Text Act 1986 and if found guilty, they face a fine of up to RM20,000 or a jail term of up to five years, or both.
He said all activities related to the making of calligraphic works must adhere to the established guidelines which, among others, require all individuals involved in the writing, carving, designing and printing of al-Quran calligraphic works to be Muslims.
Apart from that, any activity involving al-Quran calligraphy must be carried out on clean and undefiled premises, with the production process entailing the use of materials and tools deemed as clean and pure under Islamic laws.
Mohd Farid Hadi also pointed out that skins of animals, except pigs and dogs, can be used in the production of al-Quran calligraphic products.
“But drawing or writing of al-Quran calligraphy on the bodies of humans or animals is prohibited,” he said, adding that materials used for calligraphic works must be of good quality and not easily damaged to ensure the durability of the calligraphy and letters, lines or dots don’t go missing.
As for al-Quran calligraphy meant for display on the walls of buildings, billboards, banners and other places, such works must first be submitted to the local council or state religious authority concerned for approval.
According to Mohd Farid Hadi, KDN has also issued a special guideline on the disposal of al-Quran printed texts or materials to all operators, manufacturers, workers and government agencies responsible for approving as well as controlling the disposal of printed materials and decorative items featuring the holy verses of the al-Quran.
The special guideline stipulates, among others, the disposal procedures, characteristics of the incinerator used, storage room, and the etiquette and ethics of handling Quranic text disposal activities.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Enforcement Division at the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) said his division is empowered under the Consumer Protection (Electronic Trade Transactions) Regulations 2012 to investigate violations, including those related to the sale of al-Quran calligraphic products.
The regulations concerned are subsidiary legislation under the Consumer Protection Act 1999 to govern online transactions.
“The regulations compel traders to disclose the following information when carrying out online transactions with their customers: name of the trader, business registration number, e-mail address, telephone number, description of the main characteristics of the goods or services offered, full price of the goods or services including delivery charges, method of payment, terms and conditions of the sale and estimated time of delivery.
“The traders must disclose the information concerned to make it easier for their customers to select what they want, get additional information and communicate with them so that they don’t feel they are being deceived,” he explained.
KPDNHEP also regularly inspects and monitors online companies, platforms and marketplace providers to ensure high compliance with the regulations concerned. In addition, the disclosure of key information also facilitates KPDNHEP’s Enforcement Division to take action against any trader should a complaint be lodged against them.
Any trader charged and convicted under the Consumer Protection Act 1999 can be fined up to RM50,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both. Corporate bodies convicted under the Act can be fined up to RM100,000.
Urging consumers to be careful when making online transactions, the spokesman said customers who have been deceived by online traders can make a claim through the Tribunal for Consumer Claims operated by KPDNHEP.
“They can file their claim at any state KPDNHEP office or online at ttpm.kpdnhep.gov.my/login,” he said.
Consumers can also lodge their report to KPDNHEP via WhatsApp at 019-279 4317 / 019-848 8000, complaints portal at e-aduan: kpdnhep.gov.my, call centre at 1-800-886-800, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and ez Adu KPDNHEP mobile application.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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