Earlier this week, the Penang Syariah High Court made a landmark decision allowing Muslim convert Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah to renounce Islam for her original faith after her marriage to a Muslim floundered.
Hawker Tan Ean Huang converted in 1998 to marry an Iranian, Ferdaoun Ashanian, only to be abandoned by her husband three months into matrimony (let it be on record that we are not privy to the reason why).
Ashanian has since disappeared, whereabouts unknown, while Tan was left in limbo with regards her status as a wife and her faith as a saudara baru (newcomer to the faith).
By her own admission, Tan said she converted solely for the sake of marrying. She had never practised the teachings of her new faith and had maintained her Buddhist leanings, praying to deities like Tua Pek Kong, Kuan Yin and Thi Kong.
Now, I am just an ordinary Muslim woman, neither an ustazah nor someone with a deep knowledge of Islam. I have never studied in a religious school but have received adequate Islamic instructions from childhood to continue practising my faith.
I know and have read the Quran although I don't understand Arabic. And I try my level best to fulfill all my religious obligations. I am Muslim to the core and my faith, praise be to God, is unshakeable.
Therein lies the dilemma. My religious sensibility says we should take this 'sister' under our wings and try to lead her back. Common sense tells me it is best to let her go. In this instance, common sense prevails; justifiably so.
The Syariah High Court decision is to be lauded for it will prevent yet another case of 'body tussle' between the Religious Department and Tan's kin in the eventuality of her death. Coupled with the fact that public relations has never been the Department's strong point, it is the image of Islam that is always sullied when this sort of thing happens.
My sympathies are with Tan. I can only imagine her bewilderment, disappointment and even anger, becoming a Muslim under such tenuous circumstances - for the love of a man - only to have that love betrayed.
A Muslim man is duty-bound to lead his family. His role as a khalifah (leader) should never be compromised. It is his responsibility to guide his wife and children on to the right path. It is a heavy burden to bear, no doubt, but he doesn't have any option. It is God's decree.
Ashanian has failed. Miserably. What a shame.
Sadly enough, this is nothing new. I have seen similar situations far too often. The ones I personally know concern mostly orang putih wives, who get on with their lifestyles with nary a thought about Islamic demands and norms because their Muslim husbands themselves trivialise Islam.
Becoming a Muslim is more than just mouthing the Syahadah, proclaiming "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messanger of God." Islam is a way of life, a package deal. You either embrace it totally, or leave it at your own peril. Picking and choosing God's decree to suit your own taste is not an option in Islam.