SINGAPORE: The first compilation of Singaporean fatwas – the religious rulings from Islamic authorities that provide guidance – that provides both text of the fatwas and their accompanying commentaries, was launched on Saturday (11 Feb) at the inaugural Conference on Fatwa in Contemporary Societies.
The volume gathers 29 fatwas issued by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore’s (MUIS) Fatwa Committee on the subject of science, medicine and health, and is the first of a planned series that would document the development and socio-historical background of the 577 fatwas issued since October 1968 to 2015.
Speaking at the conference, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said Singapore’s Muslim community should take pride in the sustained efforts of the Fatwa Committee to find meaningful solutions to concrete and real human problems. He also spoke on the need to ensure the relevance of such rulings, in a world where the speed, scale and volume of social and technological change grows ever greater.
“The issues facing Muslim communities will only become more complex and multi-faceted. At times, novel issues may arise from which no precedents exist,” said Dr Yaacob.
(L-R) Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Mufti, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, Muis Chief Executive Abdul Razak Maricar and RSIS SRP head of studies Mohammad Alami Musa launching the book. (Photo: Loke Kok Fai)
“The Fatwa Committee has therefore taken a multi-disciplinary approach. In deliberating on issues, the Fatwa Committee invites experts and professionals from diverse fields such as biomedicine, social sciences, finance and civil law to provide inputs. This process reflects a desire to embrace knowledge and enables the Committee to have all the necessary information before issuing a fatwa.”
The Mufti, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, echoed Dr Yaacob’s view in his keynote address at the conference, saying that finding the answers to modern-day questions “is not as straightforward as conveniently saying ‘let’s go back to Qur’an and sunnah’”.
“The days of divine revelation have long been concluded. Nor can we feel contented by classical scholars, however excellent these intellectual treasures might have been,” said Dr Fatris.
“This is the era of fatwas, where answers and guidance given in response to specific issues faced by individuals and communities should constitute the major source for the consecutive development of al-fiqh (Islamic positive law). The inability to progress in this regard will only cause Muslims to repeatedly seek legal inspiration in the classical treatises that were written in a time and context totally different from theirs.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who officially launched the first fatwa compilation, acknowledged the contribution of the Fatwa Committee to the Muslim community – and by extension Singapore’s harmonious multicultural society. He added that the publication of the volume in Malay and English was “an important contribution to scholarship”, as well as “a source of public education for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
“To deepen our resilience as a society, we must deepen the multiculturalism that makes us Singaporeans. We must keep each of our cultures alive, but also develop a keener interest in each other’s cultures, and build stronger friendships and interactions” said Mr Tharman.
“The absence of ethnic conflict in Singapore, despite being one of the most religiously and culturally diverse countries in the world, is in fact an oddity. It is something precious in today’s world.”
The English version of the compilation can be downloaded on the MUIS website at www.muis.gov.sg/officeofthemufti/fatwa-book.html.
The Conference of Fatwa in Contemporary Studies saw over 300 Islamic religious teachers, scholars, academics and professionals among others in attendance.