Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Bitialasa Maguindanao: The Concept of Maslaha

LAST January 11, 2016 the forumZFD (Civil Peace Service) and the Al-Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia of the Ateneo de Davao University in partnership with the Action for Advancement and Development of Mindanao (Afadmin) conducted the 3rd Round of Bitialasa Maguindanao.

The topic was the concept of Maslaha in the Context of the People of Maguindanao. We invited Professor Yusuf Roque Morales, the Coordinator for Muslim Affairs of the Ateneo de Zamboanga, to be the lead discussant.

Professor Morales defined Maslaha from different contexts and fundamental texts of Islam from the Quran and Hadith, as well as other scholarly pieces written by generations of Muslim scholars. According to him, maslaha is defined as public interest, common good and preservation of the objective of the Law on the protection of five things: religion, life, intellect, lineage and property. Whatever ensures the protection of the abovementioned things is maslaha, and whatever goes against their protection is mafsada. The term also means a cause or a goal which brings benefit and prosperity to all creation.

The Second Bitialasa Maguindanao Conversation Series focused on traditional leadership and its significant role in the early Maguindanao society vis-a-vis its relevance in the current system of governance in the country. One of the significant traits of traditional leaders in the past that helped them gain their constituents’ respect is the value of ungaya, which is giving importance on the welfare and common good of the community over their own interests.

In the context of leadership, maslaha could be seen in putting public interest as the core value in governance. In Islamic governance, Maslaha is described as taking into consideration the interest of the public without ignoring the needs and welfare of the majority and minority of any particular community.

In the context of the Bangsamoro, one of the challenges being faced by its traditional leaders is how to engage and maximize the different political spaces that are available in the society. As leaders and as divine stewards of the community, do they put more value on the social premium of modernity which is personal gratification or on the public interest or common good?

Moreover, maslaha provides a framework which says that “a leader or a person should not only do good for the community but also move towards empowering the people, providing them more space to develop their capacities enabling them to improve their lives.

The following are the summary of the points discussed in the Bitiala. Relating adat to the concept of maslaha and ungaya. Adat is described by participants as an expression of tradition passed on from generation to generation. It is an unwritten customary law practiced by the sultanates to preserve the Maguindanaon culture. Some expressions of adatis the value of hospitality and the sharing and giving during thanksgiving celebrations. In the past, adat has been consistently practiced by the datus and sultans but these traditional practices seemed to disappear nowadays.

Although adat and ungaya are two different concepts, they are somehow related. The ungaya has been an adat among the traditional leaders in the past, though in practice, not all adat manifest the value of ungaya or the common good and the concern for others.

Maslaha or ungaya and the peace process. Along with their expression of sentiments on the current state of the BBL in Congress, the participants reflected if the Mindanao peace process is really an ungaya for the Bangsamoro. Some of the participants still believe that the peace talks is not an ungaya but an anti-insurgency action of the government and may not actually aim for the common good of the Bangsamoro.

As the peace talks is highly influenced by politicians and non-Mindanaoans who have never experienced the war, the participants said that it may only serve their own interests and not of the Bangsamoro.

What ungaya means to me? The participants shared their concept and experiences of ungaya in the context of their own organizations and communities. One of the participants believed that the value of ungaya is inherent in human beings. However, the actualization of ungaya may differ from person to person based on intentions and motivations. Ungaya or maslaha should start within the self. In changing a society into a better situation, individuals should consider themselves as agents of change and peace. At the societal level, ungaya may mean recognizing the role of women and youth. In governance, it may mean being consultative, transparent, and practicing collective decision making and other collective actions.

For the MILF, their ungaya to the Bangsamoro people is expressed in pursuing political settlement through the peace negotiations with the Philippine government. The BIFF may also be doing such acts as their ungaya to their people. However, their expression of ungaya, as of now, is through armed struggle which has a bigger negative impact in the lives of the Bangsamoro people. For the traditional leaders, their ungaya could be securing the people’s welfare and giving what is due to them.

The 3rd round of Bitiala provided a lot insights to the participants coming from the youth CSOs/NGOs, traditional leaders, and members of the academe. They encouraged everyone to localize the discussions and conversations on ungaya. A bitiala specific on ungaya can also be done at the community level to provide space for people to share their thoughts on ungaya and also for leaders to learn how they can express their ungaya to their constituents.

We also learned from the Bitiala the need to demand ungaya from our leaders.

For us, constituents have the right to claim ungaya from their leaders who are the duty bearers and the ones who hold the power and resources. Demanding ungaya from leaders will be difficult and challenging but they believe they can do it together through crafting formal resolutions and petitions and organizing dialogues.