1 Fatwa Development and Management in Singapore

In the Islamic tradition, the Sharīʿa is a comprehensive law that is relevant for all times and places. This implies a need for the Sharīʿa to provide solutions for every contemporary issue, having the ultimate aim of engendering common good and preventing harm in society. This is achieved through its revealed texts (نصوص), legal principles (أصول), legal maxims (قواعد) and clear parameters (ضوابط).

The Sharīʿa is also guided by a set of higher objectives (maqāṣid al-sharīʿa), which are namely: the preservation of religion, life, intellect, wealth and lineageThese objectives encompass the most essential human necessities (ḍarūriyyāt), complementary needs (ājiyyāt) and those that complement the devotion and worship of the servant to his Lord (tasīniyyāt). To ensure that the development and application of Islamic law fosters the welfare of humankind, several factors should be considered by a faqīh. As described by the contemporary Muslim scholar, Shaikh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī:

[T]he Islamic law was revealed to realise the well-being (maṣlaḥa) of humanity and to uphold justice amongst them. This should be considered (by a faqīh) when interpreting texts and applying laws. The views of a faqīh when issuing fatwas, educating, writing and developing the law should not be rigid our outdated (jumūd), as time, context, customs and circumstances change. In fact, it is obligatory upon him to consider the comprehensive higher objectives and goals of the Islamic Sharīʿa when ruling on substantive (juzʾī) matters. These are among the enabling factors which would provide space for the human mind to exercise ijtihād and reform when navigating life’s progress and modernity. [1]

The fatwa institution plays a very important role in the growth and development of the Muslim community by offering solutions to the contemporary challenges confronting them. This can be accomplished in accordance with the uṣūl (principles) of the Sharīʿa, derived primarily from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

In this context, the process of issuing fatwas (iftāʾ) becomes a noble and honorable task. However, this task is not devoid of challenges and risks, because a mufti, as stated by Imām al-Shāṭibī, is the heir and successor of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), as well as the interpreter for the commands of Allah SWT.[2] Therefore, a mufti should not issue a ruling unless he is convinced that it is closest to the intent of the Lawgiver (i.e. Allah SWT). Fatwa also represents a process of ijtihād, a manifestation of the dynamism of Islamic jurisprudence and the Sharīʿa that seeks to remain relevant for all times.

This introduction discusses the development and management of the fatwa process in Singapore. As a cosmopolitan state, Singapore is constantly exposed to rapid and dynamic changes, and to the developments in science and technology, particularly in the field of medical science. Issues arising from these developments require guidance from the Fatwa Committee for the Muslim community. This imperative has also shaped and expanded the role of the Fatwa Committee of Muis.

At this juncture, it is only appropriate that we begin with a discussion of the classical principles and fundamentals of the Sharīʿa that continue to form the basis of the process of ijtihād, and the production of a fatwa that is cognisant of context. This includes an overview of Islamic law, its definition, and the roles of fatwas and the mufti.


Definition of Fatwa

The word fatwa comes from the root word fa-ta-ya ( فَ-تَ-يَ ) which means “to explain”. Semantically, fatwa also means “informing a point of law from a question; an answer to a question related to an unclear legal point.” [3] The verb aftā means “issuing a ruling by someone knowledgeable, concerning an issue.” [4]

As a terminology of Sharīʿa, it is, as described by a medieval scholar Ibn Hamdān:

الِإخبَارُ بِحُكمِ الله تَعَالَى عَن دَلِيلٍ شَرعِيٍّ

Informing Allah’s law from religious evidences. [5]

It is defined by another scholar al-Alūsī as “clarification of an issue concerning the Sharīʿa law.”[6]

From the definitions above, one can deduce four features that characterise a fatwa:

  1. It is an answer to a question posed by the questioner.
  2. The question is related to a religious issue.
  3. The fatwa is issued by someone with relevant expertise and knowledge.
  4. The fatwa is based on sharʿī evidences and the mufti’s knowledge of the evidences.

The features above distinguish a fatwa from other forms of religious positions and opinions such as taʿlīm, ijtihād and qaḍāʾ. Taʿlīm means teaching and imparting the rules on religious issues and its evidences. It is a general method of relaying rules, in reference to no specific issue. Therefore, taʿlīm does not consider the needs, difficulties or maṣlaḥa that might be faced by particular individuals.

Ijtihād, according to scholars of uṣūl, is an effort by a qualified individual (who has fulfilled the conditions of ijtihād), to develop a legal ruling or a solution to an issue, regardless of whether a question had been posed to him. Ijtihād can be done in matters involving religious issues or otherwise.  A fatwa includes the process of ijtihād, as we will detail in the following paragraphs.

Qaḍāʾ is a ruling made by a person appointed as a judge (qādi) in a particular case. His role is to preside over a legal dispute. A qādi’s decision is final and overrules all contesting opinions (khilāf) but the ruling is applicable only to the parties involved in the case as the judgment (qaḍāʾ) pertains only to the specific circumstances of that case.

The process of issuing a fatwa is important in preserving the continuity of ijtihād and the vitality of the Islamic legal system. The term fatwa and its concomitant functions have existed since the early history of Islam, as recorded in several verses of the Qur’an.

First, al-Nisāʾ verse 127:

وَيَسْتَفْتُونَكَ فِي النِّسَآءِ ۖ  قُلِ اللَّهُ يُفْتِيكُمْ فِيهِنَّ

“They ask your legal instruction concerning women (O Prophet Muhammad), say: “Allah gives you fatwā concerning them.” ( al-Nisā’: 127)

Second, al-Nisāʾ verse 176:

يَسْتَفْتُونَكَ قُلِ اللَّهُ يُفْتِيكُمْ فِي الْكَلَالَةِ

“They ask you for a fatwā (legal verdict). Say “Allah directs (thus) about al-kalālah (those who leave neither descendants as heirs). …” (al-Nisā’:176)

Third, al-Nahl verse 44 tasks the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) to explain religion (thus issuing fatwas):

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And We have (also) sent down to you (O Prophet Muhammad) the Dhikir [reminder and the advise (i.e. the Qur’an)], so that you may clear to men what is sent down upon them, and that they may give thought.” ( al-Nahl: 44)

Role of the Mufti and the Process of Issuing a Fatwa

As noted above, a fatwa is, in essence, an explanation of God’s law and how the law applies to human actions as referred to by the texts of the Sharī’a. On this basis, the position of the mufti is of such importance that most scholars describe it as “an interpreter of the meaning of God’s intent.”[7] Others have expressed the role of a mufti as “ a signatory of Allah the All-exalted”.[8] In this matter, Imām al-Shāṭibī states in his writings that:

The Mufti in the society assumes the role of the Prophet (ﷺ). There are numerous evidences for this: one of them is the naqli (textual) evidence of a hadīth that says: “The scholars are the heirs of the prophets, and the prophets do not bequeath dinar nor dirham, but they bequeath knowledge.

This is because a mufti continues to be a point of reference and plays a key role in delivering God’s laws to the community. Imām al-Nawawī mentions a similar concern in his outline of the risks involved in being a mufti:

Know that the act of issuing fatwa is a task of very high risk and danger, a position of great honour with many merits. This is because the Mufti is an inheritor of the Prophets peace and prayers be upon them and [the Mufti] is performing a farḍ kifāyah (collective responsibility). However, he [the Mufti] may be subject to error in his views, and this is why they say that a mufti is a signatory of Allah.[9]

The fatwa institution and the mufti command an honorable and noble position in the religion. However, the task of iftāʾ itself is a weighty and challenging responsibility in God’s measure. Such a responsibility must be exercised with the utmost commitment and diligence in order to preserve the tradition of ijtihād, particularly in the following aspects: [10]

First: Performing ijtihād to ensure the authenticity (thubῡtīyyah) of an evidence, its intended meaning (dilālah), and executing istinbāṭ by deriving a ruling from the evidence and mastering qiyās.

Second: Performing ijtihād to understand the question posed by the enquirer (mustaftī) by identifying the issue to be solved, its context and background. [11]

Third: Performing ijtihād to contextualise the application of a ruling derived from religious texts, for the mustaftī’s question, so as to ensure that the fatwa is relevant to resolve the issue.[12] This requires a systematic application of the methodologies of interpreting text developed by classical ‘ulamā, beyond the key sources of jurisprudence such as the Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijmāʿ and Qiyās. This includes concepts in uṣūl fiqh such as istiḥsān, istiṣlāḥ, istiṣḥāb, mazhab ṣaḥāba, sadd al-dharīʿa and others. Ultimately, a fatwa needs to look beyond mere adherence to scriptural analysis and evidential evaluation to take into account the circumstances and needs of the questioner. Therefore, contemporary fiqh methodologies developed by the ‘ulamā should be utilised.

This is based on the principle of moderation which underpins Islamic law itself; law should neither be burdensome nor susceptible to unbridled liberalism to the extent that its meaning and purpose is lost. It is also in line with the Sunnah imparted by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

Therefore, a mufti should be able to provide solutions to issues faced by the people, facilitating them by resorting to concessions permitted by God’s law where applicable. A most pertinent example in this regard is the permissibility of lifting a prohibition in dire circumstances. In times of severe hardship, choosing the easier option is encouraged and preferred, as seen in the following Qur’anic verses:

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

“… Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you…”(al-Baqara: 185)


وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ

“… and He [Allah] has not laid upon you in religion any hardship.” (al-Hāj: 78)

The task of interpreting God’s law is an arduous one. Hence, the individual who bears the duty must possess sufficient expertise and knowledge of the Sharīʿa, and, some assert, to the level of a mujtahid. Other scholars stipulate that he must possess expertise in the Qur’anic and hadīth sciences, such as nāsikh and mansūkh, mufaṣṣal and mujmal, ‘ām and khās, and muṭlaq and muqayyad as applied to the Qur’an. In addition, he is required to understand the opinions of the ‘ulamā among the earliest generations, including the companions, the tābiʿīn, classical jurists, as well as to comprehend issues that are agreed upon and those that are disputed (i.e. issues of khilāf) amongst them.

The diverse opinions of the ‘ulamā on the prerequisites of a mufti seek to ensure that those seeking to appoint a mufti – or those assuming the task – do not take it lightly. With the structured higher Islamic learning system today, many countries including Singapore require a recognised advanced degree (or degrees) in Islamic studies as proof of expertise before someone is appointed as mufti. This qualification is deemed adequate because the iftāʾ process in Singapore is a form of iftāʾ  jamāʿī, where the mufti does not issue personal fatwas nor religious guidance. The decision is derived together with members of the official Fatwa Committee, as explained below.

When we study the fatwas collected in this compilation, we will find that some fatwas have evolved. This evolution can be attributed to two things: changes in the context of those particular issues such as time, place, and norms; or changes in the composition of the Fatwa Committee members.

In terms of change in the context of the fatwa, this is based on a legal maxim recognised by the scholars of usūl, “taghayyur al-ahkām bi-taghayyur al-zamān wa al-makān” (rulings will change according to changes in time and localities). As the context of both the question and questioner are important in developing a fatwa, any changes in context may affect the ruling. As the context of both the question and questioner are important in developing a fatwa, any changes in context may affect the ruling. These changes could be caused by variations in the environment, practices, public acceptance, scientific and quantitative evidence, among others.

On the other hand, a shift in opinion due to the changing composition of the Fatwa Committee is an attribute of fatwa jamāʿī. The ‘ulamā in the committee may have different considerations and opinions when deducing a ruling, which is typical in the process of ijtihād. In fact, another legal maxim related to this posits “al-ijtihād la yunqaḍu bi al-ijtihād”, i.e. an opinion is not nullified by another, provided the ijtihād was performed by qualified scholars. What is meant here is that a preceding ijtihād is not wrong or inaccurate because a later ijtihād contradicts it, and those who wish to adopt it are not considered to have done wrong. However, in the context of fatwa, it is the latest fatwa that should be adopted, given that it takes into consideration the latest developments surrounding a given issue.


Appointment of the Mufti

Official appointment of a mufti in society has been the practice of Muslims for centuries. This is recorded in the book al-Mausū’ah al-Fiqhiyyah under a brief chapter entitled “The Leader and Fatwa Matters” (الِإمَامُ وَشُئُونُ الفَتْوَى). It states that it is the responsibility of the country’s leader to appoint a qualified mufti for each region so he may provide religious guidance for its people. It further explains:

It is the responsibility of a leader to appoint muftis in remote areas should there be a need for such an appointment and when none (of the ulama) are willing to issue fatwas voluntarily. The leader shall not appoint a person (as mufti) unless he is qualified, and he shall give reasonable remuneration and allocation from the provision of baitulmāl for the person carrying out this task. [13]

In Singapore, the appointment of a mufti and the establishment of the Fatwa Committee is formalised through the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) which came into effect in 1968. Officially, the AMLA forms Chapter 3 of the Statutes of the Republic of Singapore. [14] Before AMLA, Muslims in Singapore obtained fatwas from Singapore’s Chief Kadi,[15] local religious teachers, or looked to fatwas issued by the Mufti of Johor. [16]

In 1999, Muis established a new department called the Office of Mufti to assist the Mufti in religious matters, including in Muis’ public education programmes, research on fatwa matters, and to function as the Secretariat to the Fatwa Committee.

The Fatwa Committee

The task of issuing fatwas and the role of the mufti are increasingly becoming important in a rapidly changing world. As the task requires expertise in addition to a broad understanding of various disciplines, many countries adopt the concept of iftāʾ  jamāʿī (collective fatwa) by forming a Fatwa Committee to assist the mufti so that rulings are deliberated upon comprehensively. Members of the Fatwa Committee and the Mufti complement one another in executing the task of issuing fatwas.[17] In Singapore, this Committee consists of:

  • Mufti as the Chairman
  • Two qualified members, appointed from among the members of the Muis Council. [18]
  • Two independent ‘ulamā, who are not from among the members of the Muis Council.

All members in the Committee are formally appointed by the President of the Republic of Singapore on the recommendation of Muis Council and the Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs. Once formalised and approved, the appointment will be notified in the Government Gazette.

Since 1990, the Fatwa Committee has expanded its membership by appointing local religious teachers and ‘ulamā as associate members to participate in the Fatwa Committee deliberations. Beyond enriching the fatwa discussions, the associate membership also serves as a platform for training, exposure, and opportunity for younger religious graduates who may serve the Fatwa Committee in the future.


The Process of Fatwa Request

The Fatwa Committee generally determines its own procedures, including the frequency of meetings based on its needs.[19] Thus, frequency of its meetings may increase should there be questions which require more in-depth and complex discussions. The quorum of the meeting is fulfilled with the attendance of the Mufti as Chairman, and two other members of the Fatwa Committee – one of whom should not be a member of the Muis Council.

Anyone may pose a question to the Fatwa Committee seeking a fatwa in any religious issue. As set out in AMLA, the Fatwa Committee has the discretion to decide on the necessity of issuing a fatwa.[20] According to the current procedure, the Mufti as Chairman, is mandated by the Fatwa Committee to make such decisions on their behalf. Questions not submitted to the Fatwa Committee will then be answered by the Office of Mufti; such responses are termed as irsyād which refers to guidance and advice and is normally issued in two main forms:

  1. Religious guidelines issued by the Office of Mufti on a particular issue that was not brought to the Fatwa Committee for discussion, because there is already adequate and appropriate guidance from existing works on the matter, or when there is an urgency to have an immediate religious position on a particular issue or;
  2. The question was answered by the Muis Council because the Fatwa Committee was unable to reach a consensus.

Fatwa Jamāʿī (Collective)[21]

Each fatwa issued by the Fatwa Committee is considered a fatwa jamā’ī (collective) and not fardī (individual). All fatwas issued have to be based on the unanimous decision of the Fatwa Committee. If no consensus is reached on a decision, a fatwa cannot be issued. Instead, the matter will be referred to the Muis Council for discussion, and an ensuring response is considered a religious guidance (irsyād) and not a fatwa.[22]

The process of fatwa-making in Singapore therefore differs from that usually found in the books of classical fiqh, in which any religious answer issued by an ‘alim or a faqīh is considered a fatwa.

Fatwa Discussion Process

The fatwa discussion process is based on the process of ijtihād, in accordance with the tradition established by scholars of uṣūl. It takes as its point of departure the primary sources of Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijmā’, and Qiyās, which is followed by other methodologies such as istiḥsān, istiṣḥāb, mazhab ṣaḥābah, sadd al-dharī’ah, urf and maṣāliḥ mursala. The Fatwa Committee has to ensure the soundness of the processes which it adopts. If there are discrepancies between the evidences, the Fatwa Committee issues a fatwa in favor of the arjaḥ (strongest) opinion while taking into account its implication in the context of Singapore at all times.

The AMLA stipulates that any fatwa issued should first be based upon the Shāfiʿī school of law. [23] However, if the preferred opinion of this school does not address the needs or does not fulfil the welfare and interest (maṣlaḥa) of the community, the opinions of other schools can be considered and adopted. [24] This is in line with the opinion of the scholars of uṣūl on the principles and processes of a fatwa, because the main objective is to achieve well-being and avoid harm for the community.

This approach emphasises the inter-connectedness of the mustaftī, his question, and the fatwa to be issued. It is important for those who issue fatwas to understand its effects on the questioner and other related parties.

The two approaches of ijtihād, namely tarjīī intiqāʾī and ibdā’ī inshāʾī, are observed in the discussions. Tarjīī intiqāʾī is used to examine the expansive scholarly heritage of the past and present in order to select the arjaḥ (strongest) view as fatwa. This comes after careful deliberation by examining and comparing the strength of each evidence, its positive effect, as well as the uṣūl and maqāṣid of the Sharīʿa. Ibdā’ī inshāʾī is observed in considering issues that have not been addressed in the fiqh tradition, especially for contemporary problems.

In observing ijtihād, the relevant legal maxims of fiqh(qawā’id al-fiqh) is invoked as a reference and guide. For example, Shaikh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī listed in his book Fiqh al-Aqalliyyāt al-Muslimah the basic legal maxims that are critical in the context of a rapidly changing modern world.

These include the review of the definition of ḍarūra in the application of the legal maxim al-ḥājah tunazzal manzilah al-ḍarūra; even as the principles of maqāṣid al-sharīʿa are considered, the scope of ḍarūra is no longer limited to life and death situations alone. For example, in discussing the fatwa on cornea transplant (see chapter 3), quality of life is seriously considered in the definition of ḥāja. Other legal maxims such as al-mashaqqa tajlib al-taisīr (difficulty begets ease) and al-ḍarar yuzāl (harm is eliminated) further strengthen such an argument.

Proactive approach in fatwa discussions

The fatwa institution cannot detach itself from issues which are of concern to Muslims even if some of these issues have yet to occur. In today’s world, rapid developments are the norm in many spheres of life, even more so in science and technology. The fatwa institution is thus required to be proactive in its observations and views, lest it risks being irrelevant because of its inability to provide necessary guidance in a timely manner. Accordingly, the Fatwa Committee gives serious attention to a whole spectrum of emerging issues, such as on biomedical issues and ethics as seen in its submissions to the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC). [25]

Facilitativeness of Fatwas

The approach taken by the Fatwa Committee in determining a ruling is to facilitate the questioner and find a workable solution to the issue at hand, but only after considering the strength of its argument and evidences and reaching a consensus. This is to ensure that fatwa solves issues instead of complicating them, and that society will not be burdened with unnecessarily difficult or impractical rulings.

Interview with the Mustaftī

In order to obtain a fuller picture of the question raised, the Fatwa Committee may interview the mustaftī, either as individuals or, if an organisation or a group brings up the issue at hand, representatives of the said organisation or group.

Inclusion of experts in Fatwa discussions

Depending on the case at hand, the Fatwa Committee may invite experts in a particular field such as the life sciences, medicine, and finance, to provide expert information to enable the Fatwa Committee to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the respective issues. Here, the exchange of knowledge among the members of the Fatwa Committee and these experts is vital to clarify doubts and ascertain facts so that the ensuing fatwa is based upon a robust understanding. Such exchanges may take the form of discussions, presentations, and/or detailed briefings by the experts.

Fatwa and its role in contemporary times

Fatwa becomes more crucial today due to our rapidly changing environment. In an interconnected world, each community is exposed to a variety of new issues that require rigorous religious scrutiny before the most appropriate religious position can be determined. Fatwas, in this case, play an important and significant role in the life of every Muslim, especially for a minority Muslim community in a secular, cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. The fatwa-making process is able to provide solutions to these challenges in line with the dynamic and flexible spirit of the Islamic Sharī’a. The fatwa-making process is able to provide solutions to these challenges in line with the dynamic and flexible spirit of the Islamic Sharī’a.

Accordingly, the fatwa institution needs to continuously improve and strengthen. The scholarship and expertise of its members need to be reinforced, and its understanding of current challenges bolstered further through discussions and debates. This includes developing familiarity with various new fields and industries in the traditional domains of the economy, science, medicine, politics, ethics and others. These efforts should go hand in hand with an ongoing training in fiqh and its fundamentals, and contemporary theories on the maqāṣid.

For this purpose, programs that enrich scholarly thinking are continuously organised by the Office of Mufti. Special workshops, many involving international Islamic scholars and thinkers, provide wider perspectives in fatwa-making, and discuss developments in Islamic studies, fiqh and its fundamentals.[26]

  1. Al-Qaraḍāwī, Factors for Expansion and Flexibility in Islamic Shariah, (Dār al-Ṣaḥwah li al-Nashr, first ed., 1985). The following is the Arabic text:“فمن المعلوم أن أحكام الشريعة إنمـا جاءت لتحقيق مصالح العباد، وإقامـة القسط بينهم، وهـذا ما ينبغي مراعاتـه عـند تفسير النصوص وتطبيق الأحكام، فلا يجمد الفقيـه على موقف واحـد دائم يتخذه فـي الفتوى أو التعليم أو التأليف والتقنيـن، وإن تغيَّـر الزمان والمـكان والعـرف والحـال، بـل ينبغـي عليه مراعاة مقاصد الشريعة الكلية وأهدافها العامة عند الحكم في الأمور الجزئية الخاصة. وهكذا تركت هذه العوامل مجتمعة مجالاً واسعاً أمام العقل الإنساني كي يجتهد ويجدد لمواجهة تطور الحياة ومستجداتها.”
  2. Al-Shāṭibī, al-Muwāfaqāt fī Usūl al-Aḥkām, vol. 4 (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1922),140.
  3. Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, vol. 6 (Lahore: Islamic Book Centre, 1982) 2337. First published in English in 1877 by Williams and Norgate, London.
  4. Ibid, 2336.
  5. Ibn Ḥamdān, Ṣifa al-Fatwā wa Adab al-Muftī wa al-Mustaftī (Damascus: Al-Maktab Al-Islāmī, 1960) 4. See also Wizāra al-Awqāf wa al-Shuʾūn al-Islāmiyya, al-Mausūʿa al-Fiqhiyya, Vol. 32 (Egypt: Maṭābiʿ Dār al-Ṣafwa li al-Ṭibāʿa wa al-Nashr wa al-Tauzīʿ, 1995), 12 and ʿAbdullāh Ibn ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-Turkī, Usūl Madhhab al-Imām Aīmad Dirāsa Usūliyya Muqārana, 725.
  6. Al-Ālūsī, Shihābuddīn al-Sayyid Maḥmūd, Rūḥ al-Maʿānī fī Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm wa al-Sabʿ al-Mathānī (Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1999), 207.
  7. Quote by Imam al-Qarāfī. See al-Mausūʿa al-Fiqhiyya., Vol. 32, 23.
  8. Quote by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jauziyya. See al-Mausūʿah al-Fiqhiyyah, Vol. 32, 23.
  9. Al-Nawawī, al-Majmuʿ Sharḥ al-Muhadhdhab, Vol. 1, 40. The following is the Arabic text:“اعلم أن الإفتاء عظيم الخطر كبير الموقع كثير الفضل لأن المفتي وارث الأنبياء صلوات الله وسلامه عليهم وقائم بفرض الكفاية لكنه معرض للخطأ ولهذا قالوا المفتي موقع عن الله تعالى.”
  10. Al-Mausūʿa al-Fiqhiyya, Vol. 32, 25.
  11. This includes understanding the context and environment of the mustaftī.
  12. Meaning solving the problem in accordance with local practices and environment.
  13. Al-Mausūʿa al-Fiqhiyya, Vol. 32, 45. The following is the text in Arabic:“على الإمام نصب المفتين في المناطق المتباعدة إن ظهرت الحاجة ولم يوجد متبرّعون بالفتيا كما تقدّم ، ولا ينصب إلاّ من كان لذلك أهلاً وعليه الكفاية من بيت المال لمن يتفرّغ لذلك.”
  14. Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap 3, 2009 Rev Ed).
  15. The Singapore Chief Kadi was appointed by the Muslim and Hindu Endowment Board which was established in 1906, and later the Muslim Advisory Board set up in 1915.
  16. Syed Isa bin Muhamed bin Semait, “Perkembangan dan Peranan Institusi Fatwa di Singapura [The Development and Role of the Fatwa Institution in Singapore]”, in Mufti dan Fatwa di Negara-negara ASEAN, ed. Abdul Monir Yaacob and Wan Roslili Abd Majid (Kuala Lumpur: Institut Kemajuan Islam Malaysia, 1998) 146.
  17. The Mufti and the Fatwa Committee are supported by the Office of the Mufti as the Fatwa Secretariat. Before the establishment of the Office of the Mufti, each member of the Fatwa Committee was required to conduct individual research on the fatwa. However, after the establishment of the Office of the Mufti, the basic research for each issue is assisted and managed by officers from the Office of the Mufti. The Office of the Mufti is also responsible for helping the Mufti to issue religious guidance and irsyād that does not require a fatwa.
  18. With this condition, the government will ensure the appointment of at least two local ‘ulamā as members of the Muis Supreme Council in each term (three years).
  19. Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap 3, 2009 Rev Ed) s 31(6) & (7)
  20. Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap 3, 2009 Rev Ed) s 32(1), (2) & (3).
  21. Although in principle the Fatwa Committee is independent and not influenced by any entity, the Fatwa Committee in certain circumstances takes into account the studies and fatwas issued by other fatwa institutions if they are relevant to Singapore’s context. These institutions include Majmaʿ al-Buhūth al-Islāmīyyah, formed in 1961 under the auspices of al-Azhar, and Majmaʿ al-Fiqh al-Islāmī. which was formed in 1981 under the patronage of the OIC. These research bodies have conducted numerous studies which could be referred to and discussed in order to assist Fatwa Committee deliberations.
  22. For example, the Fatwa Committee did not agree on determining hisab and rukyah for the month of Ramadan in 1980. Eventually the Muis Supreme Council decided that the determination for Ramadan 1980 was to be done by hisab.
  23. Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap 3, 2009 Rev Ed) s 33.
  24. Please refer to Fatwa Compilation 3, The Transfer of Wakaf (Endowment): Question: Can a wakaf property be sold and the proceeds used for (i) building another wakaf property (ii) constructing a building for the benefit of the Muslim community, such as Madrasah, Islamic Center and the like? Answer: In the event that a wakaf has to be sold for unavoidable reasons, then it can be sold, but it must replaced in kind using the proceeds. If it is not feasible to be replaced in kind, then it may be used for other types of endowments. It is permitted to use the proceeds of a wakaf am (general endowment) to build welfare houses for the Muslim community, or schools, or mosques. However if the wakaf was intended for a particular purpose, then the proceeds should be used for that purpose only. (Fatwa 20 March 1997). The position taken in this fatwa is not the position of Shāfiʿī school of law.
  25. For example, the response of the Fatwa Committee to the recommendations of the Bioethics Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing was decided at a Fatwa Committee meeting on 10 June 2005: The Fatwa Committee has discussed and examined the content of the proposal paper “Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Genetic Testing and Genetics Research” by the Bioethics Advisory Committee Singapore. Following the discussion, the Fatwa Committee believes that in principle, all 24 recommendations in the paper on genetic testing medical ethics can be accepted because they are consistent with the principles of Islamic law and ʿurf. It is a technical issue that does not impose on the right of an individual, and does not contain elements of coercion. Accordingly, the Fatwa Committee views that genetic testing is permitted. The Fatwa Committee also stresses on some recommendations that might affect religious views, and that they should be further detailed and clarified. These are as follows: Recommendation 3: The Fatwa Committee welcomes this recommendation which stressed that genetic testing should be conducted voluntarily with no element of coercion. Recommendations 14 & 15: These recommendations raise the question on Prenatal Genetic Diagnostic in determining foetal deformities and identifying serious illnesses. Principally, the Fatwa Committee does not object to any individual undergoing Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis. However if the Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis uncovers deformities or serious illnesses on the foetus, the Fatwa Committee recommends Muslims to seek expert religious advice to avoid making decisions that violate the Islamic creed, the sharīʿa, and Islamic ethics.
  26. Among the programs organised were workshops on fatwa thinking with Prof. Mahmud Zuhdi, Prof. Quraish Shihab, and al-Sheikh Dr Amr al-Wirdānī (Director of Fatwa Academy, Egypt) in 2014, and  with the Mufti of Egypt, al-Shaikh Dr Shauqī ʿAllām and Prof. Dr Jasser Auda in early 2015.


Fatwas of Singapore Copyright © 2017 by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS). All Rights Reserved.

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