A volunteer stint at the Syariah Court opened NUS Law Year 2 student Sheiffa Safi Shirbeeni’s eyes to the need for a platform to raise awareness about and share openly on Syariah Law, and how it governs specific matters for the Muslim community in Singapore such as marriage and inheritance. Putting thought into action, she gathered a team of 15 other like-minded NUS Law undergraduates to organise the inaugural Syariah Law Forum, held at NUS Bukit Timah Campus on 13 May.
In her opening address, Guest-of-Honour Speaker of Parliament Madam Halimah Yacob commended the students’ efforts in raising awareness and building education in this area, as well as offering a platform for open discussion. “Education and learning about each other’s customs and traditions are an important and ongoing process. This inaugural Syariah Law Forum goes a long way in fostering a culture of open sharing. Such efforts can only lead to better understanding amongst different racial-religious groups in Singapore, and can help to defuse tensions and prevent misinformation as and when they arise,” she said.
The forum featured lectures by legal practitioners and academics who shared insights on topics ranging from the history of the Law and its application within the framework of the Singapore legal system, as well as the procedures of the Syariah Court and its intersection with the Family and Civil Courts. Participants included those in the legal practice, civil servants, social workers, students as well as interested members of the public.
“We organised this forum as a platform for people to learn about Syariah — correcting misconceptions and encouraging a conversation on the law. We opened the forum to the public, and not just lawyers or law students, because we believe that everyone can benefit from an understanding of what Syariah is and how it is really applied in Singapore,” Sheiffa shared.
Accompanying the forum was a book the students — who won the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award during the 2nd NUS Law Pro Bono awards in March — personally compiled and designed over 11 months with support from NUS Law staff and legal practitioners. Launched by Madam Halimah at the forum, the book, titled Navigating Muslim Law in Singapore, traces the history of Syariah Law, from its origins to The Administration of Muslim Law Act. It also looks deeper into the jurisdiction and procedures of Syariah in Singapore and the laws and principles underpinning it, as well as compares the practices of civil law and Muslim Law.
The team hopes that the book will prove to be an easy access guide on the various elements of Syariah Law and its practice for all interested individuals, not limited to just those within the legal practice. Five hundred copies of the book have been printed, and each forum participant took home a copy. The student team plans to soon make free copies available at the C J Koh Law Library at the Bukit Timah Campus, and at mosques, libraries and social service centres.
See press release.