In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin

  • Introduction
  • Overview
  • Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin’s Authentic Books (Authored by Asri Himself)
  • Journals
  • Islamic Values and Modesty
  • Politics and Doctrine in Islam
  • Promoting Islam as the Way of Life

Islamic Studies Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0283


Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has been a mufti for the Malaysian northern state Perlis since 2015. He had previously served as Mufti of Perlis from 1 November 2006 until 30 November 2008. Born in 1971 in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, he was educated at the religious secondary school Al-Irsyad in Seberang Perai, Penang, and furthered his study at the Islamic College Klang. He received his bachelor’s degree in Arabic and Sharia, with honors from the University of Jordan; master’s in Islamic studies from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and PhD in Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage (Qurʾan and Sunnah studies) from International Islamic University Malaysia. He also received five degrees in Hadith from India. Mohd Asri is an active writer and commentator on Islam and religious issues. He was a columnist for two local Malay newspapers called Mingguan Malaysia and Sinar Harian. He is also a prolific writer who has published many books since 2003. He remains a permanent associate professor with Universiti Sains Malaysia while serving with the Office of Perlis Mufti. Known by the public as Maza (an acronym for his own name, Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin), he is popular among the young who follow his blog, Minda Tajdid and in columns on Malay newspapers. Asri’s books reflect his concerns about what he considers to be fanaticism in madhhabs (schools of jurisprudence), criticism of Hadith fabrications, and condemnation of Shiism and some Sufi practices. He considers these phenomena not to be in line with “pure” Islam, and he has urged Muslims to return to what he believes are Islam’s true teachings. He frequently cites sources often referred to by those conforming to the Salafi school of thought, such as Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), particularly in the issues of human life and human rights, and accepts moderate ideas from the Salafi school. Unlike the perception that associates Salafism with rigidity, conservatism, and extremism in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Asri believes in the Salafi brand of “Sunnah Perlis,” emphasizing the freedom from madhhab rigidity that calls upon Muslims to return directly to the two major sources of Islam in dealing with religious issues, namely, the Qurʾan and Sunnah. Although some have accused him of subscribing to Wahhabism, he does not accept Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1793) as a great scholar or consider him a moderate and progressive scholar. Asri can be characterized as a moderate scholar who urges Muslims to practice more than one madhhab simultaneously within Sunni Islamic doctrine, namely the Hanbali, Shafiʿi, Maliki, and Hanafi schools. He is known to be very vocal in expressing his views, particularly in Malaysia’s political and religious contexts, and in criticizing the labeling of certain non-Muslim parties, especially the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) as kafir harbi (infidels against whom war can be waged) and efforts to amend the Syariah (the term used in Malaysia for Sharia) Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to allow certain Hudud punishments to be implemented in certain states in Malaysia. On issues such as the environment, he is clearly against pollution. He advocates modesty in fashion, particularly the proper attires for Muslim women, and Muslims can wear non-Muslim traditional dresses.


While Mohd Asri may be conservative on many aspects of religious rituals, some of his views on women’s rights, religious freedom, and religious worship are largely recognized as progressive. This debunks the view some scholars have of a direct correlation between Wahhabism, violence, and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). He also urges Malaysian Muslims not to accept the Shafiʿi school as the only source of law, but to be more receptive of other schools of jurisprudence. This position departs from that advocated by the ulama in the Nusantara region, which largely adopts the Shafiʿi school. Although he maintains an intentionally apolitical stance, political parties like United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and People Justice Party (PKR) are interested in him. As Mufti of Perlis, he is propagating the “Sunnah Perlis” teachings, the Salafi version of a revival and reform agenda (islah and tajdid), and its call for the “pure” version of Islam by referring directly to the Qurʾan and Sunnah and by superseding madhhabic interpretation.

  • Abdul Hamid, Ahmad Fauzi. The Extensive Salafization of Malaysian Islam. Singapore: Yusof Ishak Institute, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1355/9789814762526

    Powered by Saudi Arabian largesse and buoyed by the advent of the Internet, this new wave of Salafization has eclipsed an earlier Salafi trend that spawned the Kaum Muda reformist movement. It affects practically all levels of Malay-Muslim society, cutting across political parties, government institutions, and nonstate actors. This article studies the influence of Salafism through figures like Fathul Bari and Asri in Malaysia, and the reactions by leaders, former Islamic scholars, and the Malaysian community.

  • Hunter, Murray. “Dr. Maza’s Salafi-Styled Theocracy—Analysis.” Eurasian Review: News and Analysis, 7 March 2020.

    Asri believes that Malaysia is not yet Darul Islam (an Islamic state), which is an Islamic Utopia. His theology is evolving in new directions, spilling into political commentary, rather than keeping to spiritual issues. Asri has made various comments that have angered different communities. His remarks that Malaysia is for the Malays angered Sabahans and Sarawakians, his cow poem on Facebook angered ethnic Indians, his comments about vernacular schools angered the Chinese community, and his support for Zakir Naik has angered many non-Muslims.

  • Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict. Puritan Political Engagement: The Evolution of Salafism in Malaysia. IPAC Report No. 52. Jakarta, Indonesia: Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict, 2018.

    In Malaysia, the main division of political Islam is ideological, between a more literalist interpretation of Salafi teaching and the tajdid, or reformist stream. Asri seems to propagate a neo-tajdid movement or neo-reform stream of Salafism, showing little interest in formal application of Sharia like hudud punishments, preferring to work toward achieving political influence, dominating Islamic discourse and the Islamic bureaucracy, fighting the perception of a link between Salafism and terrorism, and targeting the Shia minority.

  • Kloos, David. “Experts beyond Discourse: Women, Islamic Authority, and the Performance of Professionalism in Malaysia.” American Ethnologist 46.2 (2019): 162–175.

    DOI: 10.1111/amet.12762

    In 2009, Malaysia’s national fatwa committee declared, controversially and ambiguously, that female circumcision is obligatory, but that if it is “harmful,” it must be avoided. The Perlis fatwa, issued by Asri, although punching above his weight in influence and authority, was intended to be more unequivocal, declaring that female circumcision is optional and that there is no proof it cuts libido.

  • Malik, Maszlee, and Hamidah Mat. “The Historical Development of the ‘Sunnah’ Reform Ideology in the State of Perlis, Malaysia.” SAGE Open (July–September 2017): 1–12.

    This article looks at the historical development of the “Sunnah Perlis” in the northern state of Perlis and scrutinizes the state authority’s patronage and influence. The authors also explore the golden period—the most intensive and lively period of the “Sunnah” in Perlis under Shahidan Kasim as Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) and Asri as Mufti of Perlis.

  • Mustaffa, Nurul Zubaidah, Sarah Aqilah Mazuki, Sharifah Musfirah Tuan Azmi, Wan Nor Naimah Husna Wan Mansor, Wan Nur Syahirah Wan Yusof, and Wan Mohd Yusof Wan Chik. “Kempen ‘Buy Muslim First’: Analisis Menurut Maqasid Shariah.” Paper presented at the Proceedings of the International Conference on Islamic Civilization and Technology Management, held at the Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, 23–24 November 2019. In Refueling an Islamic Government. Edited by Engku Muhammad Tajuddin Engku Ali and Aznan Hasan, 229–244. Terengganu, Malaysia: Penerbit Penerbit Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, 2020.

    English translation of title: “Buy Muslim First” campaign: Analysis according to Maqasid Shariah. Asri supports any attempt to strengthen the Muslim economy. Thus, he supports the “Buy Muslim First” campaign. However, he said that there should not be a campaign against non-Muslim products, which can lead to ethnic division and tension in Malaysia.

  • Norshahril Saat. “Exclusivist Attitudes in Malaysian Islam Have Multifarious Roots”. Paper presented at the Islamic Developments in Southeast Asia Workshop. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 16 November 2015.

    Islam in Malaysia is currently seen to be driven by two separate trends—becoming “Arabized” and the exclusivism of the religious elite, especially the mufti institutions. The nexus between Wahhabism/Salafism, puritan ideology, and exclusivism is complex. This article highlights the religious and political behavior of some muftis such as Asri, entertaining several interesting combinations of thought that demonstrate the complex nature of Islam in Malaysia.

  • Raja, Segaran A. “Malaysia’s Ulama in Contention: Case of Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.” RSIS Commentaries, No. 089. Singapore: Rajaratnam School of International Studies, 2010.

    Asri opposed many practices of the religious establishment such as religious officers conducting surprise raids to catch unmarried couples engaged in khalwat (close proximity), obsession with matters of personal hygiene before prayers, and the ban on the usage of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. Most importantly, Asri was against blind obedience to Muslim clergy and scholars as the greatest challenge to “overhaul” the “hold the conservatives have exercised over the Muslim community” (p. 2).

  • Roslan, Safiah Nur Atikah. “The Public Perception on Persuasive Power by Influential Public Figures on Surname for Muslim Child Born out of Wedlock.” Journal of Media and Information Warfare 11.2 (2018): 108–148.

    In July 2017, Malaysia’s Court of Appeal granted the appeal made by parents of a seven-year-old male child, who was born only five months and twenty-four days from the date his parents were legally married, to be given the patronymic surname of his biological father instead of “Abdullah.” In supporting the decision, Asri highlighted that religion had taught us to conceal one’s disgrace, and to secure the child’s welfare, which is more important.

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