Students initiate inaugural forum to highlight role of Syariah in the Singapore legal framework
Students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law introduced a new guide book on Muslim Law and successfully organised a forum on the history of Syariah and its role within the Singapore legal framework.
Speaker of Parliament Madam Halimah Yacob launched the new guidebook entitled “Navigating Muslim Law in Singapore” at the student-run Syariah Law Forum 2017, which was held in partnership with I.R.B. Law LLP, NUS Muslim Society, NUS Pro Bono Group and ARLC Law Corporation. The guidebook and the Forum were the fruits of labour of a pro bono project which involved 11 months of planning and research by 16 NUS Law students.
Professor Simon Chesterman, Dean of NUS Law, said: “Syariah Law is an important but under-explored part of Singapore’s legal system. This Forum and the guidebook offer an outstanding resource to improve understanding, as well as an opportunity to widen the dialogue about Syariah Law. I’m particularly pleased that it was our students who took the lead role in this initiative, and that it received such strong support from our alumni, who funded it through the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award.”
Ms Sheiffa Safi Shirbeeni, a second-year NUS Law student who is leading the Syariah Law Forum, saw the need to raise awareness and to engage legal practitioners, academics, students and members of the public in a discussion of Muslim law in Singapore, and put together a team of like-minded students to work on the project.
Ms Sheiffa said, “I was part of the “Syariah Court Friends” project, a court volunteer scheme organised by the NUS Pro Bono Group and Syariah Court. Through this experience, I realised there was a lot that could be learnt about Syariah. 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.”
Book to guide readers on Muslim Law in Singapore
“Navigating Muslim Law in Singapore”is a guidebook compiled and designed by Ms Sheiffa and her team, with support from NUS Law staff and legal practitioners, to serve as a useful guide for readers to navigate the practice of Muslim law in Singapore. The guidebook first provides context by reviewing the history of Syariah, culminating in the Administration of Muslim Law Act today. Moving to the present-day, it then focuses on the operation of Muslim law in Singapore. Specifically, it looks at the Syariah Court’s jurisdiction, procedures in the Syariah Court, and the substantive Muslim laws which are applied in Singapore. Building on the preceding chapters, the guidebook offers a brief comparison of practising Muslim law and civil law in Singapore.
Participants at the Syariah Law Forum were given a copy of the guidebook. The team hopes that the guidebook would benefit those who are interested in learning more about Muslim law, such as law students, lawyers beginning to pick up Muslim law as one of their practice areas, aggrieved litigants-in-persons, or any individual who seeks an overview of the practice of Muslim law. The guidebook will be made available at the C J Koh Law Library at the Bukit Timah Campus and at public locations such as the National Library, mosques, and social service centres. An e-version of the book will also be made available at a later date.
Syariah Law Forum 2017
The inaugural Syariah Law Forum engaged legal practitioners, academics, students and members of the public on the history of Syariah and its modern application as Muslim Family Law within the Singapore legal framework. Insights were shared with the participants on topics such as the procedures of the Syariah Court, and the relationship between the Syariah, Family and Civil Courts.
Ms Sheiffa and her team received the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award from NUS Law in March this year to kick start this project. Each year, up to three awards of up to S$2,500 will be granted to support sustainable pro bono projects with a catalytic effect.