Can restaurants sell food to Muslims during Ramadan and/or allow those exempted from fasting to dine in? Here's what lawyers say

Published date01 May 2022
Publication titleMalay Mail Online

Generally Muslims in Malaysia would be committing an offence under state laws if they do not fast during Ramadan (see below for exceptions), but what about those who sell food to them? What kind of laws are in place?

As matters relating to Islam are governed by the respective states in Malaysia, the state laws listing out Shariah offences - which include the offence of selling food to Muslims for eating during fasting hours or Muslims eating food during fasting hours --- also differ from state to state.

This is a different system from civil laws, where crimes and the penalties under the Penal Code --- which applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims - are the same throughout Malaysia, no matter which state the offender is in.

Some state Islamic laws for example go beyond just selling food, but also covers the buying, giving or offering of food; while other states have the additional condition of being a person who has reached puberty in relation to the offence of eating during fasting hours.

These offences come under the general name of 'disrespect for Ramadan' in most of the state laws in Malaysia.

Generally, for the 'disrespect for Ramadan' offence, most states in Malaysia have maximum penalties of RM1,000 fine or six months' jail for the first offence and a maximum penalty of RM2,000 fine or one-year jail for repeat offences.

The maximum penalties are relatively higher in Kelantan (RM2,000 fine or one-year jail or both for first offence; RM3,000 or two-year jail or both for repeat offences) and Pahang (RM3,000 fine or two-year jail or both for first offence; RM5,000 fine or three-year jail or both for repeat offences).

Here is a comparison of the different state laws covering Shariah criminal offences (all available publicly on the esyariah website, except for Kelantan where the latest law was not available and was only contained in a December 2020 state government gazette):

While these state Islamic laws do not mention this, you may have heard about Muslims who are exempted temporarily from fasting during Ramadan.

The Terengganu mufti department's website for example lists those exempted from fasting during Ramadan and being able to substitute with fasting on other days as including those who are ill and unable to fast, those who are musafir or travellers, pregnant or nursing mothers such as those worried about their and their babies' health and safety.

The Federal Territories' mufti department's website also carries a June 27, 2016 opinion from then Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad, who listed Muslims exempted from fasting as also including women who are menstruating and the elderly who are unable to fast.

The mufti's opinion in June 2016 had also stated that it is harus or permissible for such Muslims to be exempted from fasting and that it is afdhal or best or preferable if they eat in places away from the public eye in order to protect themselves from slander and saving others from having prejudices that would cause them to sin.

Fahri Azzat is both a civil lawyer and Shariah lawyer. ? Picture by Miera Zulyana

Fahri Azzat is both a civil lawyer and Shariah lawyer. ? Picture by Miera Zulyana

Companies cannot be charged for this offence

Malay Mail also spoke to lawyers about how these laws would apply in real life and what companies which operate restaurants should know or can do. While the Muslims' annual fasting month ends tomorrow, this could serve as a useful guide for the future.

Recently, a fast food chain employee posted a video on TikTok to shame three Muslim women who dined in during the fasting month. At the same time, some Twitter users shared their own experiences such as being turned away from dining in even when they were in the exempted category or being quizzed by outlets about whether they were buying food for themselves.

Here's what the lawyers said, based on examples of the disrespect for Ramadan offence in the Selangor state law and the law for the federal territories:

Fahri Azzat, who is both a civil lawyer and Shariah lawyer...

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