BACKGROUND AND PRIMARY SCHOOL
Tun Abdul Hamid was born on April 18, 1942, at Permatang Tinggi Bakar Bata, Kepala Batas, Penang. The village is surrounded by paddy fields. All its inhabitants are farmers.
His father studied at a pondok (traditional Islamic religious school) in Kedah, at the pondok of Tok Kenali in Kelantan and at the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. His brothers too studied at a pondok or Arab School after completing Malay school. They work as farmers. His sister did not go to school because, at that time, girls in the area did not go to school.
At about seven years old he started learning to read the Qur’an from his father, twice a day, together with other children in the village.
An important event in his life was, one morning, about a week before the school reopened at the beginning of the year, he told his father he wanted to go to school. His father agreed.
When the day came, wearing his elder brother’s shirt and barefooted, he followed the older boys and walked across three villages and a paddy field to Paya Keladi Malay School. School money was 10 cents a day. 5 cents could buy noodles, nasi lemak, kuih, sotong katok, a glass of ice water or an ice ball.
When in Standard 3, while making a top (gasing), Tun Abdul Hamid accidently severed his right forefinger. His father took him on a bicycle to the clinic at Kepala Batas. The dresser tried to sew the severed part back, without anesthetic. For several months he went back to the clinic, enduring pain until finally the severed part dried up and the attempt failed.
He did not go to school for two weeks. When he went back to school, he learned to write with his left hand and took his examination writing and painting with his left hand.
Later, his class teacher, Cikgu Muhammad Bin Awang, registered him for English school. The Special Malay One class was supposed to be at St. Mark’s School in Butterworth. However, on the first day at school, the class was moved to St. Mark’s Branch School in Prai, To go to school, every day, he had to cycle for three kilometers, take a bus for 17 kilometers, walk 1½ kilometers, cross the Prai river with a rowing boat (sampan) and walk another ½ a kilometer.
Why the class was moved to Prai is understandable. The school was a missionary school. They could not Christianize Malay students. They had to have the class because it was directed by the Government. So it was not a choice class.
SECONDARY SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY
He entered Form One at St. Mark’s School, Butterworth. In 1960, when he was in Form Three, the government held the National Language Week. Although he had never delivered a public speech before, he registered himself, wrote his own speech and, on that day, went on stage wearing his brother’s long pants and delivered his speech. He became the champion at the district, state and the northern region comprising Penang, Perak, Kedah and Perlis and finished third at the National level.
When he was in form five, he became the first Malay student to be made the head prefect in the school. In the same year he became the national champion of the national language month speech contest in the Malay male students’ section.
The champion for the non-Malay female students section was a Baba Nyonya girl from Melaka named Choong Giok Hee, now Toh Puan Hamidah Choong Abdulah, his wife and mother of their four children.
Tun Abdul Hamid obtained Grade 1 in the Senior Cambridge Examination and the Malaysian Certificate of Education.
He went to Form Six at St. Xavier’s Institution, Penang. In his class, there were only three Malay/Muslim students. Most of the teachers were “brother teachers” who came from England, Germany, Canada and other countries. At first, he had trouble understanding their dialects. He lamented how he would compete with those students who lived in George Town and were sent to school in cars when he himself had to wake up as early 5.00 am, take a bath at a well or irrigation canal, rode a motor bike to Butterworth, took a ferry and then school. (Subsequently, with a few friends, he rented a room at an elderly Chinese man’s house in a gangster-infested area, a fact not known to him then.)
However, in the first week, his class was required to write an essay. In the following week the brother teacher, a German, entered the class with the essay papers he had examined and called his name. He stood up. Then the brother teacher began to read his essay to the class. His classmates who came mostly from George Town and, among them, had scored “straight As” in the Senior Cambridge Examination (which was very rare those days) were surprised. He was very excited. Even though he had won essay writing competitions several times and his essays had been read in other classes, but those essays were in Malay. This is in English! That gave him confidence to strive on.
That school was a Roman Catholic missionary school. Every morning the non-Roman Catholic students were placed in a “moral instruction” class. One day the brother teacher who taught that class gave a lecture on Islam. In his lecture, he said that the fifth pillar of Islam was holy war (jihad). Tun Abdul Hamid stood up and objected. At the end of the class, the brother teacher said that for the next two days he handed the class to Tun Abdul Hamid.
He prepared himself and took over the class for two days, 45 minutes a day. He emphasized the oneness of God and that a person is not a Muslim unless he believes in all the prophets from Adam to Muhammad, including Jesus, son of Mary. On the second day, he read the English translation of the Quran on the issue. At the end of the second day, a Chinese girl in the class said him “Hamid, I want to be a Muslim”. That was his first presentation!
About a week later, Brother Principal (Head Master) came to the corridor of Tun Abdul Hamid’s class and signaled him to go out. The principal said to him, “You have a bright future. I would like you to concentrate on your studies. From now on, you do not have to attend the moral instruction class. You can go to the library and study.”
He was very happy until 15 years later. He was then the Deputy Registrar, High Court at Kuala Lumpur. When he went out of his room, he saw the Brother Principal queuing at the corridor for the services of the Commissioner for Oaths. Tun Abdul Hamid introduced himself and invited the Brother Principal to his room. He called for the Commissioner for Oaths to attend to the Brother Principal’s needs. It was when he left the room that Tun Abdul Hamid began to wonder what was the real reason why he was excused from attending the moral instruction class fifteen years earlier: was it because the Brother Principal cared so much about his future or because of his lecture to his class on Islam?
After passing the Higher School Certificate, he applied and was accepted into the Faculty of Law at the University of Singapore. There, he learned that at the end of the first year only about 1/3 (33%) of the first year students would pass and go up to the second year. Again, he lamented how he would compete with 180 other students from Singapore and Malaysia, including the son of a Chief Justice, Judge and who came from families of lawyers when he had not even met a lawyer in his life.
However, again it was an English test in which the students were asked to write an essay on a given topic that gave him a bit of confidence. He was one of the 54 out 180 (30%) students to pass the test. He was so determined to pull through as he had no other choice, so much so that he did not even go back home during the two term holidays. He arrived home only to find that his father was in the hospital because of a road accident. His family did not inform him for fear of disturbing his mind. At the end of the first year, 56 (31%) students passed and moved to the second year. He was among the 38 (15%) students to graduate within four years.
JUDICIAL AND LEGAL OFFICER
In May 1969, he joined the Judicial and Legal Service. About a week later, he was trapped in the May 13 incident at Kampung Baharu, Kuala Lumpur where he was visiting a friend.
He served in the Judicial and Legal Service for 21 years. During that period he served as a Magistrate, President of the Sessions Court, Assistant Director of the Legal Aid Bureau, Deputy Registrar of the High Court, State Legal Advisor, Senior Federal Counsel at the Inland Department and Head of the Prosecution Division before being appointed Judicial Commissioner.
JUDGE OF THE HIGH COURT, COURT OF APPEAL AND FEDERAL COURT, PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL AND CHIEF JUSTICE OF MALAYSIA
In 1990, Tun Abdul Hamid was appointed Judicial Commissioner and was stationed in Penang. In 1992 he was appointed a High Court Judge. In 2002 he was appointed Judge of the Court of Appeal. In 2003, he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Court. On 5 September 2007 he was appointed President of the Court of Appeal. On December 11 he was appointed Chief Justice of Malaysia. He retired on 18 October 2008.
JUDGMENTS ON SYARIAH ISSUES AND COURT
During the period of nearly ten years as High Court Judge, he wrote important judgments on waqf, apostasy and conflict of jurisdiction between the civil court and the syariah court. which became the basis of his papers and his speeches until after his retirement. and compiled in a volume titled Konflik dan Pengharmonian covering 508 pages. The Judgments are:
- Dalip Kaur w/o Gurbux Singh v Ketua Polis Daerah (OCPD) Balai Polis Daerah Bukit Mertajam Pulau Pinang Mahkamah Tinggi Pulau Pinang, Saman Pemula N0 24-796-91.
- Ng Siew Pian v. Sbdul Wahid Bin Abu Hasan Kadi Daerah Bukit mertajam (1993) 11 CLJ 391.
- G Rethinasamy v Majlis Ugama Islam Pulau Pinang  2 MLJ 166
- Tan Kim Luan v Sabariah Binti Md Noor  1 CLJ 323.
- Isa Abdul Rahman v Majlis Agama Islam Pulau Pinang 1996) 1 CLJ 283
- Lim Chan Seng v Pengarah Jaabatan Agama Islam Pulau Pinang (1996) 3 CLJ 231
- Abdul Shaik Bin Md Ibrahim v Hussien Bin Ibrahim (1999) 3 CLJ 539
As a Court of Appeal Judge, he wrote two important judgments regarding conflict of jurisdictions between the two courts. The judgments are:
- Daud Bin Mamat lwn. Majlis Agama Islam Dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan (2002) 3 CLJ 761
- Kamariah Bt Ali v. Kerajaan Negeri Kelantan, Malaysia (2002) 3 AMR 3512
As Chief Justice, he wrote three important judgments on the jurisdiction of the syariah and the civils and laws made by the State Legislative Assembly. The judgments are in the following cases:
- Latifah Bte Mat Zin v. Rosmawati Bte Sharibun (2007) 5 MLJ 101
- Abdul Kahar Bin Ahmad v. Kerajaan Negeri Selangor DE  4 CLJ 309
- Sulaiman Bin Takrib v Kerajaan Negeri Trengganu (2009) 6 MLJ 354
All these judgments became the basis of his papers and his speeches until after his retirement. They have been compiled in a volume titled Konflik dan Pengharmonian covering 508 pages.
In 2004, as a Federal Court Judge, he chaired the Federal Court hearing the first sodomy case involving Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister. On the first day, his lawyer suggested that Tun Abdul Hamid withdraw from hearing the case on the ground that he was likely to be biased. When he turned down the request, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim got up and in a loud voice lambasted him, the court and the Judiciary as unjust.
However, on the day of the judgment, when Tun Abdul Hamid finished reading his judgment which acquitted and discharged him, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim stood up and said, “My Lord, Thank you. May God bless you. That is all I want to say. ”
During his tenure as Chief Justice, he also chaired the Special Court which tried a civil claim against the former Yang Di Pertuan Agong (King) and reigning ruler of a state. Tun Abdul Hamid wrote the unanimous judgment of the court which required him to pay US $1 million to the plaintiff bank. The former King complied with the order. The case shows that the principle of rule of law is highly respected in Malaysia.
Throughout his career, Tun Abdul Hamid had written 567 judgments on various branches of law, most of which have been published in the law journals and also on his websites.
KEYNOTE ADDRESSES, WORKING PAPERS, LECTURES AND ARTICLES
As early as 1993, he was invited to become a commentator of Professor Tan Sri Ahmad Ibrahim and Dato’ Dr. Abdul Monir Yaakob’s paper on Common Law at the Malaysian Legal and Judicial Seminar in Langkawi. The invitation marked the beginning of his involvement in seminars and conferences on the relationship between civil law and syariah which continued until after his retirement.
In 2002, he wrote a paper suggesting that syariah issues arising in the civil courts and before the arbitrators be referred to the Bank Negara Syariah Advisory Council for a ruling to avoid syariah issues from being decided by civil court judges and arbitrators who are neither qualified nor experts in syariah, including non-Muslim judges. Besides, it would ensure consistency of the rulings on the same issues in order to promote the development of Islamic banking.
The proposal was accepted by the Government and is now legislated as sections 51 to 58 of the Central Bank of Malaysia Act 2009 (Act 701). It is praised by international writers including Yahia Abdul Rahman in his book “The Art of Islamic Banking and Finance”.
Tuan Abdul Hamid was frequently invited to deliver keynote addresses, lectures and present papers, especially on the jurisdiction of civil and syariah courts, civil and syariah, Islamic banking and finance, the implementation of hudud in Brunei and Malaysia, at local and international conferences, including at Harvard University.
Health problems caused him to be inactive for a year from October 2010 to September 2011. Even though he did not recover fully and always in pain, he continued to deliver keynote addresses and lectures and present papers at conferences and write numerous articles. He also wrote a major part of two of his books and edited all his five books during that period. Since 2015, he is unable to stand up anymore. However, he continued to write and attend conferences and seminars by ambulance and delivered his speeches sitting on a wheelchair. He lost his voice twice as a result of cervical surgeries but regained it and even though only one side of his vocal cord was functioning, his voice remained influential.
Though in pain, he had strongly opposed the proposal to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and the inclusion of section 88A into the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) 1976. The proposals were later abandoned by the government.
At the same time, through his speeches and writings, has sought to enlighten the Malays and Muslims in Malaysia about the dangers of disunity and to seek cooperation between UMNO and PAS, beginning with an agreement on the proposed amendment of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965. His effort appears to be quite successful.
He had written about 350 keynote addresses, lectures, papers and articles. They are all available on his websites.
In 1981, while serving as Kelantan State Legal Advisor under the Barisan Nasional government, he prepared the Syari’ah Criminal Procedure Bill, the Syariah Civil Procedure Bill and the Islamic Family Law Bill to be tabled in the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly. The Enactments were passed and Kelantan became the first state in Malaysia to implement them.
When serving as a High Court Judge in Penang, he was appointed a member of the Penang Syariah Court of Appeal Panel of Judges. He played an important role in establishment of the Penang Syariah Court of Appeal, including the gazetting and the appointment of the first Chief Syariah Court Judge enabling the inaugural sitting of the court after a lapse of three years.
At the same time, he was also appointed as the chairman of the Civil and Syariah Civil Law Technical Committee, the only state with such a committee.
As a Court of Appeal Judge, he also served as Chairman of the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board. Among other things, he wrote a paper to simplify the procedure of disciplinary actions. Subsequently, the Legal Profession Act 1976 was amended to provide for it.
He was also a member of the Technical Committee on Civil and Syariah Laws at the national level.
APPOINTMENT AS MEMBER OF ADVISORY AND OTHER COMMITTEES
In 2004, when he was a Court of Appeal Judge, he was appointed a member of the Syariah Advisory Council of Bank Negara Malaysia and, subsequently, a member of the Syariah Advisory Council of the Securities Commission Malaysia. He was the first civil court judge appointed to the committee and served until 2016 when his health forced him to withdraw.
Upon his retirement, he was appointed a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission, Chairman of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Chairman of Bank Negara’s Civil and Syariah Harmonization Committee and Chairman of Bank Negara’s Monetary Penalty Review Committee. The Federal Government had also appointed him Chairman of the Special Committee for the Determination of Cash Payments Claims From Petroleum Revenue In The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
He has written five books totaling 3,604 pages. The books are: I Will Never Beg, Saya Tidak Akan Melutut, The Truth Shall Prevail, Conflik dan Pengharmonian and Buat Kerja. He emphasized that every word, every comma and full stop was written or typed by him, including those which were done by him by holding the mini Ipad with one hand and typing with his stiff finger.
HONORARY DEGREES AND PROFESSORSHIP
He was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Management by the University of Tenaga Nasional Malaysia (UNITEN), Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Syariah and Judiciary by Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and Honorary Doctorate of Law by National University of Malaysia (UKM). He was appointed as Adjunct Professor of Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Tenaga Nasional Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
He was also the winner of the Lifelong Contribution to Islamic Finance Award 2004 which was awarded by the Kuala Lumpur Islamic Finance Forum (KLIFF) 2004.
In 2015 he was awarded the National Level Maal Hijrah Award 1437H / 2015M for his contribution to Islam at national and international levels.
Tun Abdul Hamis after receiving the national level Tokoh Maal Hijrah Award 1437H / 2015M.
Tun Abdul hamid delivering his speech after receiving the Tokoh Maal Hijrah Award 1437H / 2015M.
Tun Abdul Hamid received the following awards: P.J.K. (Perlis) (1974), K.M.N. (1978), D.P.C.M. (Perak) (1989) which carries the title of “Dato”, D.M.P.N. (Penang) (1996) which carries the title of “Dato”, S.P.C.M. (Perak) (2008) which carries the title of “Dato ‘Seri”, D.U.P.N (Penang) (2008) which carries the title of “Dato’ Seri Utama” and, S.S.M (2008) which carries the title of “Tun”, the highest title awarded by the King to a non-royalty in Malaysia
MOTTO: BUAT KERJA