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Religious Guidance on Headscarf for Women in Uniformed Services

Guidance empowers Muslim women on their choices and without any coercion

26 October 2021

BACKGROUND

1. At the recent National Day Rally, Prime Minister announced healthcare workers will be allowed to put on the tudung (headscarf) if they wish to. Following the announcement, Muis received requests for guidance on the specifics of this religious obligation, both for nurses in situations where they might be unable to fully comply with the religious requirement due to operational reasons, as well as for other uniformed services where tudung is not allowed.

2. The Fatwa Committee has issued a guidance (fatwa) for Muslim women who wish to put on the tudung in the context of jobs that require a uniform.

FUNDAMENTALS OF THE FATWA

3. This fatwa is principles-based and is designed to empower Muslims instead of simply issuing a blanket general prescription. It aims to guide Muslim women to carefully consider their unique situation and empower them with the principles and values of Islam that will enable them to make balanced and right choices for themselves.

4. The fatwa also explicitly recognises the important role that women play in society and in the workforce. It situates the issue of the wearing of tudung in the workplace in the larger context of observing the teachings of Islam within a unique socio-religious environment, and subject to prevailing work and uniform policies.

KEY PRINCIPLES IN THE FATWA

5. Islam requires Muslims to maintain modesty and prescribes a certain dress code in public to this end. At the same time, Islam encourages Muslims to play an active part and contributing in various ways to each community’s economic and social foundations.

6. Following the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad in pursuit of the higher aims of peaceful and harmonious co-existence, the Prophet himself made measured and appropriate adjustments in ways that reinforce the values, principles and objectives of Islam.

7. The wearing of tudung is neither an obstacle for Muslim women to actively contribute towards nation building, or to be dedicated work professionals, nor a religious symbol that divides society or weakens its social fabric.

8. Muslims are encouraged to strive to the best of their abilities to follow the teachings of Islam. However, there may be extenuating circumstances that prevent one from fully complying with some teachings in certain situations.

GUIDELINES FOR WOMEN IN UNIFORMED WORK

9. In the context of the religious duty to put on tudung for Muslim women, the fatwa recognises that there could be other legitimate factors and considerations which are of (more) critical importance, and this should be considered when choosing to make adjustments to the way religious obligations are observed in the workplace.

10. For nurses, these factors include personal and patients’ safety and care, such as reducing the risk of infection by observing the bare below elbow “BBE” policy and the replacement of tudung in certain clinical contexts.

11. For other uniformed services, the need to secure a stable and meaningful livelihood for oneself and/or one’s dependants, and contributing to the well-being, stability and prosperity of the country, are legitimate considerations for Muslim women to continue with their work in those services. In Islamic jurisprudence, these constitute essential needs that contribute towards the stability of life.

12. It is also important to ensure that Muslim women who can wear the tudung if the uniform policies permit should do so on their own volition and without any form of coercion.

CLOSING

13. The recent announcement of the policy to allow the wearing of the tudung in the healthcare sector is a testament of the confidence in Muslim women healthcare professionals as important members of the profession who will discharge care for patients professionally, impartially and without bias or prejudice.

14. As Muslims make appropriate adjustments in ways that reinforce the values, principles and objectives of Islam, the fatwa also calls on Muslims to deepen relations between the different communities, so that religious appearances and symbols do not impede efforts to strengthen our social cohesion. We must remain guided by the Prophetic example as we strive to address our challenges and contribute to the betterment and well-being of our society.

15. Please refer here (ENG | MLY) for the full religious position issued by the Office of the Mufti.

MAJLIS UGAMA ISLAM SINGAPURA