Ariffin Mohammed

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Ariffin Mohamed standing in front of the large teapot and the vase in the Sky Kingdom compound prior to its demolition.

Ariffin Mohammed (born 1943) is the leader and founder of Kerajaan Langit, (English: Sky Kingdom), a sect founded by him in Malaysia. His movement had a commune based in Besut, Terengganu, that was demolished by the Malaysian government in August 2005.[1] Ariffin Mohammed, also known as Ayah Pin (Ayah is a common honorific meaning "father"), claims to have direct contact with the heavens and is believed by his followers to be the reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, and Muhammad. Devotees of Sky Kingdom believe that one day, Ayah Pin will return as the Imam Mahdi. His followers consider him the king of the sky, and the supreme object of devotion for all religions.

Biography[edit]

Ariffin was born in 1943 into a Muslim Malay family in Beris Kubor Besar, Bachok, Kelantan. In 1953, Ariffin became seriously ill and he alleged that an angel had visited him. Twenty years later the angel returned and Ariffin began his spiritual career. Whether Ariffin was the founder is unclear; during this phase he may have been a follower of Hassan Tuhan (also known as Anak Rimau), apparently another claimant to divinity.

Around the mid-1980s, the Sky Kingdom commune was formed on its present site in Besut. Some reports state that the office of Islamic Affairs declared the group to be deviant at this time. In 1995, Sky Kingdom's signature building projects began, as per divine revelation. Two years later, Local Religious Affairs council (Jawatankuasa Fatwa Majlis Agama Islam dan Adat Melayu Terengganu) issued a fatwa against the group. Around this time, four adherents were arrested for renouncing Islam, but they were later freed on grounds that as ex-Muslims Malaysia's sharia court no longer enjoys jurisdiction over them.

In 2001 Ariffin renounced Islam. The Sharia court accused him of contravening Section 25 of the Enakmen Pentadbiran Hal Ehwal Agama Islam 1986 (Administration of Islamic Religious Affairs 1986), stating that his teachings and beliefs were false, deviant, corrupting and threatening to the public peace (membawa ancaman kepada ketenteraman orang awam serta merosakkan akidah). He pleaded guilty to the charge of "belittling Islam" (menghina Islam), and was jailed for 11 months and fined RM 2,900. The Religious Affairs Office hoped that Ariffin's arrest would prevent the movement's growth, however Sky Kingdom continued to attract new followers from among university students and Orang Asli.[2]

On 18 July 2005, a group of masked vigilantes attacked the group's headquarters, smashing windows and torching buildings.[3] Two days later, 58 followers were arrested,[4] and on 31 July three of Ariffin's four wives were also arrested in Kelantan.[5] Ariffin escaped arrest and remains at large as a fugitive wanted by the Malaysian authorities. Forty-five members face charges of failing to observe the government fatwa (i.e. for continuing to be members of a sect declared as deviant), which carries a fine up to RM 3,000 or two years in prison. One of those arrested faced an additional charge of "humiliating Islam" (for claiming not to be a Muslim). Court cases promise to revolve around the issue of religious freedom, which is theoretically guaranteed by the Malaysian constitution.

On 1 August 2005, officials of the Besut Land Office destroyed Sky Kingdom's various buildings, citing Section 129 of the National Land Code (which punishes unauthorised construction with land confiscation). The titular landowner is Ariffin's first wife, who apparently failed to appear in court for a hearing on the matter. On 1 September 2005, at a hearing, a trial date for 45 followers accused of violating the government fatwa was set for three days beginning 18 December that year. All of the accused are represented by Wan Haidi Wan Jusoh of Ubaidullah Aziz and Co, who unsuccessfully petitioned the court to order his name blacked out by the media. The group had previously experienced great difficulty in attracting legal representation, presumably owing to attorneys' fear of reprisals or negative publicity.[6]

As of 2007, after wide media coverage, the original Hulu Besut commune, now down to 24 members, had reportedly chosen a new leader—a former police chief inspector in his 30s. The group is suspicious of visitors, and routinely turns out the commune's lights whenever a car approaches at night, in order not to be found.[7] As of 2009, Ariffin Mohamed is believed to be residing in exile in Narathiwat, Thailand, just over the border from the Kelantan province.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levett, Connie (20 August 2005). "Bulldozers etch boundaries of religious freedom". The Age. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  2. ^ "Pie in the sky (Feature and interview)". The Sun, Malaysia. 8 July 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  3. ^ "Masked group attacks Ayah Pin commune". The Sun, Malaysia. 18 July 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  4. ^ "58 followers of Ayah Pin arrested". The Sun, Malaysia. 21 July 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  5. ^ "Three Wives of Ayah Pin Detained". Bernama. 31 July 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  6. ^ "Lawyer to represent all 45 Sky Kingdom sect followers". New Straits Times. 1 September 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  7. ^ "Pemimpin baru 'Kerajaan Langit'" (in Malay). Harian Metro. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 

External links[edit]