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Monday, April 28, 2008



PERGAS was concerned and had to issue a statement regarding this. We do not want any of the Asaatizah’s individual religious view be selectively used which may somewhat slant the whole issue on the rule of hijab. The questions posed to them may be crafted with a view of getting a specific response, which then may be unfairly slanted and applied generally. This would be somewhat akin to trying to manipulate by sidetracking the argument towards a one-sided perspective in one question, whereas there could also be other relevant questions to be asked which would give us another perspectives. But when only one 'chosen' perspective is entertained by those who dominates the media, whereas the general public may already know about other perspectives to the issue but which the media may have simply ignored, this would only accentuate the suspicion that the media has lost its objectivity and create further confusion. As the organization of the Asaatizah, we are concerned that the media may apply such selective reporting of views held by different individual Asaatizah by posing specific questions which, because views from this group would be persuasive, it could be seen as though it represent the unanimous views of every Asaatizah on the issue. As media reporting are prone to sensationalizing views, an opinion could be turn into something controversial. This may cause confusion amongst the general public, or worst it may lead to unnecessary conflict amongst Asaatizah. Thus we issued a statement. (For the full statement please refer to Appendix I)

In that statement PERGAS listed down firstly our concern and suggested a condition for the debate on national integration. We felt that the issue was somewhat made to be linked to the wider context on the question of national integration amongst multi-racial communities in Singapore. It was at the time when we were discussing on this aspect and questions were even raised as to what actually is meant by national integration - whether it should be integration or accommodation? Is the issue of integration only required of the minority? What about those who belongs to the majority who remain aloof from integrating with others from the minority? Is the imperative to integrate required even if it meant diluting ones own identity? etc.

Subtle reference to national integration was cited amongst the reasons or justification regarding the school uniform ruling. Under such circumstance, if the issue of “tudung” is presented in a manner, for example “why at the time when we are trying to forge commonality and integration amongst the various groups, you Muslims are harping on accentuating your difference,” it may unfairly elicit apologetical response.

Secondly PERGAS suggested that discussions relating to religious ruling should be made collectively and only amongst those qualified to do so. We had to caution, especially amongst our religious teachers, against making personal views on the subject without undergoing the process of collective discussions amongst their peers qualified to arrive at a juristic consensus.

Within the Asaatizah community, especially amongst members of PERGAS, every one shares the same concern. The media, highlighting particular comments by some Asaatizah individually, somewhat caused a general disquite and may lead to unwanted schisms and polemics. Each may justify their views from the limited perspective of the questions posed to them without the advantage of seeing the bigger issues relevant to the ‘maslahah’ (“what is beneficial” i.e. bigger welfare and concern) of the Muslim community. The general Muslims would be further confused. In our statement, PERGAS announced our plans to present a comprehensive statement on the matter later.

Internal discussions amongst Asaatizah

PERGAS facilitated several discussions amongst the Islamic scholars and religious teachers and drafted a comprehensive response to the issue. In respecting the institution of ‘Iftah’ (Office of the Mufti - authority for issuance of Islamic decree or ruling), PERGAS waited for an official statement from the Mufti of Singapore. When it came out, it was unfortunately skewed narrowly only towards advising the Muslim parents concerned. No comments were made by the Mufti as regard to how Islam views the Ministry’s ruling itself; what our attitude as a community should be regarding the present constrain faced as a result of the rule, how to overcome the obstacle placed towards our practicing a legitimate religious commandment, etc. To many Muslims, their hope was that the Mufti (and the MUIS – Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) should have also fulfilled their role to advise the government rather than limiting their advice only to individual Muslims. There was public resentment towards the Mufti’s view. His credibilty (and independence) was even called to question.

PERGAS was very concerned that this may even lead to the Muslims total disregard for the institution of ‘Iftah’ itself, and may even lead to the public disrespect for the institution of Ulama’ (Islamic Scholars). Although juristically we do not disagree with the Mufti in his particular advice, yet his advice pertains only to one aspect and therefore it answers only a partial question to the whole issue. Perhaps there may be constraints faced by the Mufti for not addressing the other aspect of concern.

PERGAS strongly feels that Islamic Scholars must strive to clarify an issue comprehensively so that all concerns raised by the public are considered and addressed. Thus, PERGAS decided to present our response in a statement addressing this issue. It was neither to challenge Mufti’s statement, nor to usurp or undermine the instituion of ‘Iftah’. Our approach was to complement Mufti’s advice and at the same time provide the juristic principles considered in the formualtion of a religious ruling. We hope that these principles (as universally accepted by Islamic jurists – Fuqaha), the ratio decidendi behind the juristic rule applied, can also serve as a general guideline, which can be relevant to many other problems faced by Muslims. Our response was not merely to serve as a public guidance but also to provide them with basic important guidelines on “Fiqh” (rules of jurisprudence) – fulfilling our organization’s aim to educate the general Muslim with Islamic principles. This was our statement presented in a press conference where the media people were also invited to seek whatever clarification required (video recording on this is available at PERGAS).

------------------------------ Extract of PERGAS' Press Statement --------------------------------



1. As a follow-up to our previous statement released to the local press on 3rd February 2002, we herewith state our stand on the “Hijab” issue (modest covering).

2. Any request and discussion earnestly seeking for the permission (from relevant authorities) for the covering of ‘aurat’ (parts of one’s body that must be covered) for students in schools stems from a sincere wish to preserve moral values and the inculcation of modesty. Moral virtues generally are taught by every religion (although each in their own way). Every nation would obviously want moral values to be inculcated and nurtured amongst its citizens. Hijab is one way for Muslims to observe modesty.


3. The (Islamic religious ruling) regarding aurat for Muslims who have reached the age of puberty and discernment (baligh), both for male and female, is Wajib (compulsory). This ruling, which is based on the teachings from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Dictates of the Prophet), affirmed through the consensus of Islamic scholars, is clear and cannot be refuted.

4. In the cases of the four families of four school-going children involved in this issue, their action stems from their sincere desire to practice and inculcate moral values in their children while at the same time fulfilling the obligation to provide them with their education (in the school). Although their children have not yet attained to the age of puberty and discernment (baligh), they [the parents] view the inculcation of modesty (in dressing) to be an [intrinsic and] important element of their children’s education that should be instilled while still young.


5. Although (we have stressed that) the religious ruling (on the matter which) is based upon clear principles, it is equally important to also stress on the manner of how this ruling is to be applied, which requires taking into considerations the context such as timing, place and situation. Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) places equal emphasis for such consideration in the application of religious rulings. For the aim of Islamic jurisprudence ultimately is to provide solutions to every problem faced by man in his life. Thus we find in the Islamic tradition on jurisprudence, juristic principles (Qawa ‘id Fiqhiyyah) formulated by scholars, which serve to guide us under exceptional circumstance; such as:

a. “When situation constrains, it permits the opening of wider choice.” (Iza dhaq al- ‘amr ittasa’)
b. “Difficulty directs one (to the path of) ease.” (Al-masyaqqah tajlib al-taysir)
c. “(When faced with two evils) to choose the lesser one.” (Al-akhz bi akhafal-dhararayn.)
d. “Needs which are necessary, are placed in the same category as necessity.” (Al-Hajahtunazzal manzilah al-dharurah).

6. With these guiding principles, Islamic jurisprudence provides for exceptional circumstances, relevant to every place, time and situation. Under such exceptional situation where there exist real factors that hinder the fulfillment for the carrying out of religious obligations according to its original stipulations, religious leaders are obligated to guide the community in seeking for a way out of the problem by applying these principles, which have been collectively agreed by Islamic scholars of jurisprudence. These are to be applied only to relevant cases uniquely according to each situation bearing in mind the degrees of practices (Maratib al A’mal). The scholars of Usul (Principles of Jurisprudence) have laid down these principles as guidelines for allowing concession under exceptional circumstances and only to be applied for genuine cases and with extreme limitation (al-Dharurat tuqaddar


7. We have to emphasize that this (exceptional) situation where one is forced or hindered, cannot be allowed to remain so indefinitely. No Muslim is allowed to remain complacent and feel satisfied with such hindrance towards fulfilling the religious obligation for the modest covering of aurat. This is based on another principle “Every harm (hindrance) must be removed” (al-dharar yuzal). It is the responsibility of every individual Muslim to strive as best as he/she can to remove whatever causes which obstruct the fulfilment of our religious duties, but this must be through proper planning and approaches tempered with prudence (wisdom) and displaying etiquette and in well-mannered ways in accordance with the principles which is also stipulated in Islamic jurisprudence.


8. From the foregoing, it is regretted that several people including those regarded as community leaders, have made statements, which clamour for the closure of further discussions just because the Mufti had made a statement. They opine that this issue should not be further discussed. We hope and appeal to everyone in the Muslim community to do their part and carry out our common responsibility to find (the best) ways such that our children can be permitted to don modest attire (as required by Islam) while they are in school. Our appeal for greater understanding of our (religious) needs must be sought from the government as well as every citizen in this multi-racial/multi-religious Singapore. The responsibility to remove whatever hinders us is especially greater to those who are in authority and those conferred with power.

9. At this present moment, the many feedback received coming from the general community indicate that many do not see hijab as an obstacle towards national integration. PERGAS likewise affirms the view that hijab is not an obstacle to national integration. Therefore, the door for further discussions should continue to remain open. Every Singaporean who is concerned for the future cohesion of our society and nation within the framework of the vision Singapore 21 must be actively involved in giving his/her views. We have to be clear and sincere when stating our views, to discuss, to refine and ultimately to arrive at a consensus regarding the structure for national integration, which we hope for. We propose that we still continue this dialogue henceforth, as there are yet many issues to be considered and addressed, as this process (of nation building) is long and continuous.

10. At the same time, we appeal to every one involved in this Hijab issue to exercise prudence and calm. To arrive at the desired objective, we must continue to engage in discussions, dialogue and map out strategies with patience and perseverance (sabr) displaying civility and manners. PERGAS is very concerned that there are those in our community who are quick to cast aspersion and make vile remarks towards others.

11. Apart from this, PERGAS would like to stress that whatever statements related to religious rulings concerning the Muslim community should only be made by those qualified in this field, and must only be through collective discussions and consensus. This will avoid conflicts and confusion among the

12. PERGAS call upon all Muslims to remain steadfast and united in our strive to attain our common objective regarding this Hijab issue. With this, PERGAS proposes that dialogue process to be intensified and hastened.

Ustaz Muhammad Muhamad Ishak
Honorary Secretary
Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious
Teachers Association

(8 FEBRUARI 2002 / 25 ZULQAEDAH 1422H)
This statement is still available at our website
------------------------------------------ End extract ----------------------------------------

In spite of the thorough clarifications given, we were quite disappointed that our main message “Every harm (hindrance) must be removed” (al-dharar yuzal) appealing for the removal of constrains towards putting on the tudung in schools were not given the fair reporting as our not diasagreeing with the Mufti’s advice. In fact, this was the distinction or distinguishing difference between PERGAS’ statement with the Mufti’s view. Some could not help being suspicious of the media’s objectivity in reporting on this issue. Perhaps the call to ‘close’ the debate was being subtly enforced.


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