Nobody likes to lose. Last Sunday my team lost. Arsenal lost to Manchester City, 3–0, during the League Cup Final of the 2018 English Premier League. I suspect not many Arsenal fans shed many tears. We are used to the inconsistency of our team. A more significant loss happened on Tuesday, 27 February. The Federal Court in Kuching, capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, ruled that four people who were no longer Muslims had to have their decision to leave Islam verified by the Shariah (Muslim) court and not by the Federal Court.
The Federal Court, in a unanimous decision today, dismissed the appeals
of three Muslim converts and a Muslim by birth to have their applications to
apostate be heard in the civil high court.
The apex court ruled that the Sarawak shariah court had jurisdiction to hear
their apostasy applications. (The Malaysian Insight, 27 Feb 2018)
Those unfamiliar with the complex legal system in Malaysia may be wondering why it is so difficult for individuals to have the state recognise something as fundamental as their choice of religion, a basic human right. The difficulty applies to those who are Muslim and who choose to leave Islam. The four individuals in question had been Muslims who had chosen to leave Islam and had exhausted all avenues to have that fact recognised. Finally, they had to bring their case to the highest court in the land. (For more details see this article.) And they “lost”.
This has been a frustrating journey for these four and their families and friends. We can’t even to begin to appreciate their pain and disappointment at this loss. I know many, including myself, were deeply disappointed at this decision. It seems ridiculous and a horrible travesty of human rights that makes it so difficult for people to choose their religion. How do we deal with “losses” like these, especially with some Muslims rejoicing and shouting victory cries?
First, I remember that the Lord is on His throne. I remember that nothing happens outside His will and therefore He has allowed this judgement to take place. God has not lost. He is still Lord over history. Therefore I am not shaken. If God is in control, He has His reasons for this turn of events. This realisation protects me from despair and/or hatred.
Next, I remember that the Lord is a specialist in bringing good out of bad. This is especially clear during Lent. We are reminded that God’s greatest “loss”, the death of Jesus on the cross, became the basis for His greatest victory. The wheel is still in spin. History has yet to run its course. Everything is a comma until Christ returns and puts a period on everything. It ain’t over till the risen Lord returns.
Meanwhile, I am to trust in the Lord and do good.
Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:1–4 NIV)
It is precisely because I trust in the Lord that I can continue to bless others. Of course there are disappointments to process, but my life is built on neither circumstances nor my feelings; it is built on the Lord Himself.
I will always be grateful to a Malay neighbour for reminding me that I need to take a long view of history. A Muslim, he shared with me once that there may be times when Allah appears to be losing but good Muslims will not be shaken. They know that Allah will win in the end even if it takes generations. May I have the same faith in Jesus. May I have the same long-term view.