KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri’s humbleness came to the fore on Monday evening.Just minutes after Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Federal Territories mufti’s appointment as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic Affairs, Zulkifli quietly left for the mosque in Slim River, Perak, where he was scheduled to deliver his monthly lecture later that evening. Even wild horses would not have kept this dedicated mufti away from discharging his duties.
Later on his way back to Kuala Lumpur, he stopped awhile at the Sungai Buloh rest area where he chatted with members of the public who greeted and congratulated him.After the announcement of the new Cabinet, one of the first few tweets posted by the social media-savvy Zulkifli was fittingly titled Babak Pertama, Episod Baharu (New Chapter, New Episode) in an obvious reference to the new phase in his life he was about to enter.Also posting on his Facebook and Instagram accounts, Zulkifli asked the people to “pray for me, help me and give me your views”.
“Let’s continue the legacy of our former leaders in building a multiracial and multi-religious Malaysia,” read his post. His status was brief but it spoke volumes of this eminent religious scholar’s moderate stance and positive attitude towards interfaith and interreligious engagement
Zulkifli, 51, was among the six new ministers who were sworn in as senators at Dewan Negara yesterday morning. The swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers took place before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at Istana Melawati in Putrajaya yesterday afternoon.
Zulkifli, who was born in Kampung Gong Pauh, Terengganu, is the first mufti to be appointed a Cabinet minister. Having a non-partisan Islamic expert who does not have to bow down to political pressure as minister is seen by many as the best approach to governing Islamic affairs in this country.
The ever-friendly religious scholar walks the talk when it comes to fostering good ties among the various races. He has shared on social media that during Chinese New Year, he would make it a point to present cakes to his Chinese neighbours, including one Choong Kooy Choon who he fondly addressed as Pakcik Choong. Even though the latter has passed on, Zulkifli maintains the yearly tradition, with the late pakcik’s family being the recipients of his gesture of goodwill.
Universiti Utara Malaysia head of Governance and Integrity Cluster Prof Dr Ahmad Martadha Mohamed said Zulkifli may have an Islamic image but it does not stop him from associating himself with people from other religious backgrounds.“As a mufti, his views are mostly related to issues faced by society and more importantly, his views take into consideration the interests and position of all people in the country,” he told Bernama.He said although the eminent religious leader’s views are based on references to the Al-Quran and Hadiths, the approach he takes, however, is in line with Malaysia’s plural society.“This is why his views are widely accepted by the public. He is unlike certain religious people whose views are at times too conservative and who speak without considering the composition of our society,” Ahmad Martadha added.
Netizens, meanwhile, applauded the appointment of Zulkifli as a minister. By noon yesterday, his Facebook and Instagram status attracted 6,000 and 4,817 congratulatory comments respectively. His Facebook status had 13,000 shares while his Instagram post garnered107,531 ‘likes’.A comment posted by Facebook user Faiza Yusni read as follows: “Alhamdulillah… In all honesty, I feel very proud as the person who was selected to take care of religion is seen as the most qualified person to be appointed as the minister.”“Congratulations Datuk Seri on your appointment as Minister in charge of religious affairs. Datuk Seri, can you please pay special attention to the activities of the LGBT community who are getting bolder by the day in insulting our religion and using social media to promote their activities,” commented Facebook user protubemalaysia.
Malaysian Islamic preacher Ustaz Ebit Lew also turned to Facebook to sing the praises of Zulkifli.“He is a very humble and good person. (I) still remember the ceramah (talks) we participated together. And the times we met in the office. So humble and always thinking about the situation society is in and developing Malaysia with Islam and goodness.“His face reflects sadness, worrying about (today’s) society as we discuss efforts to preach to the youngsters who go to clubs, streets, LGBT... to help those who wish to learn about Islam… Congratulations Dr Zulkifli…,” read Ustaz Ebit Lew’s status.
Zulkifli, who became Federal Territories mufti in 2014, has a substantial number of followers on social media as he is a well-known preacher and an expert on various matters related to Islam.A fan of the Liverpool football team, Zulkifli’s affable and approachable personality draws many people seeking his advice on religious matters to him. They include couples who bring their new-born babies to him to be blessed.As mufti, Zulkifli also made it a point to deliver lectures at various mosques in the Klang Valley as well as in other states. Always dressed in a simple jubah (long robe) and kopiah (skullcap), Zulkifli is no ordinary preacher. He has a degree in Islamic Studies (Syariah) from Madinah Islamic University in Saudi Arabia; Master’s degree in Islamic Studies (Syariah) from Islamic Sciences & Arabic University, Jami’ Al-Sadat, Damascus, Syria; and a doctorate in Syariah (Fatwa) from Universiti Sains Malaysia.He is married to Datin Seri Dr Shereen Mohd Yunos and they have five children.He has authored over 300 religious books and was picked as Integrity and Anti-Corruption Icon 2019 by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.Translated by Rema Nambiar-- BERNAMA