Penang Islamic authority turned land into wakaf without heirs’ consent, court hears
Predeep Nambiar -November 21, 2019
GEORGE TOWN: A shariah law expert today told a court here that the takeover of late tycoon Shaik Eusoff Shaik Latiff’s estate by the Penang Islamic authorities was likely illegal as it failed to get consent from the heirs of the estate in the first place.
Islamic law academic Aznan Hasan said the sheer fact that Shaik Eusoff’s heirs had not consented to turn their ancestral land into wakaf, or Muslim endowment land was reason enough as it was considered against the Shafi’i school of law, which Malaysia practises.
“The land was placed under trust after the death of the donor (Shaik Eusoff). Since it has become the estate of the donor, it should have been given to the rightful heirs.
“Placing the property as wakaf under the Majlis Agama is not valid as there was no wakaf created after the death of the donor. There were no statements from the heirs agreeing that the estate was to be turned into a wakaf.
“Hence, the Majlis has no right or status to hold on to the property and ought to return all the properties to the donor’s heirs who are alive and the rightful trustees,” he told the Shariah High Court today.
He was testifying as the plaintiffs’ witness in a land dispute trial between the heirs of Shaik Eusoff Shaik Latiff and the Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP).
Aznan, who is also Amanah Raya’s shariah committee chairman, also supported earlier testimony by another expert over Shaik Eusoff’s will.
He said the late tycoon’s will, to have his Air Itam land be made wakaf for only 21 years, was not compatible with the Shafi’i school of Islam, where wakaf is given in perpetuity, and not for a limited term.
Aznan said that fact alone disqualifies the status of the wakaf land in the first place.
Earlier in the trial, the plaintiffs went to great lengths to establish that he was a credible authority and expert to comment on matters related to Islamic laws of succession.
Aznan is currently an associate professor of Islamic finance at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and a shariah adviser to over 10 Islamic banks around the world.
Shariah High Court judge Mohd Yunus Mohamad Zin set Nov 27 and 28 to allow MAINPP’s lawyers to prepare to question Aznan and two other experts.
The plaintiffs were represented by lawyers Akberdin Abdul Kader, Yuslinov Ahmad, Rafie Mohd Shafie, Redza Rafie, Ardy Suffian Akberdin and Hafizullah Abdullah.
MAINPP was represented by Mohd Anuar Ahmad, Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, Mohd Najib Rohim and Mohammad Shafiq Ibrahim.
The suit was initiated by Abdul Shukor PA Mohd Sultan, Syed Idross Syed Hassan Al Mashoor, and Sheik Mohd Jelani Sheik Emam.
They are seeking to reclaim two plots of land covering 6ha in Air Itam.
Shaik Eusoff had willed that the land be held in trust for his descendants, and to be used as wakaf land only for a period of 21 years from the death of his last offspring.
The last of his seven children – a daughter – had died in 1932, so the land was supposed to be returned to the family estate in 1953.
This was according to a 10-page will written in English dated Dec 30, 1892.
The case has been in and out of the civil courts since the late 1990s over an argument that the land was held in trust and not wakaf, as claimed by Muslim authorities. Now, it has come to the Shariah High Court for a resolution.
Shaik Eusoff, who was a Jawi Peranakan with roots in Gujarat, India, was a well-known real estate magnate said to have owned large tracts of land in George Town in the early 19th century.
His descendants are also credited with bringing the boria – Penang’s traditional “parody theatre” – to the state.