Religious Advice to the Community - Characteristics of Deviant Teachings

8 December 2021

1. The Singapore Fatwa Committee has issued a religious guidance to the Singapore Muslim Community on some common characteristics of deviant teachings, and to remind the community to be vigilant against individuals or groups who spread deviant teachings.

2. The Fatwa Committee stresses the importance of

a. acquiring Islamic knowledge only through qualified and registered asatizah (i.e. those who are registered under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme in Singapore);

b. learning from a wide variety of asatizah instead of listening to only one source of reference;

c.  consulting other Asatizah and religious scholars when encountering views from any individual that may appear problematic.


3. The Fatwa Committee would like to urge the community to remain wary against individuals or groups who spread deviant teachings. It is important for Muslims to consistently strive to seek religious knowledge from qualified teachers who are registered under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme. The community should also be cautious of any religious teachings taught or practised in secrecy and/or in an exclusivist way, or from dubious and unverified sources. It is the responsibility of every individual to evaluate the source of knowledge, and to ensure that it is trustworthy and credible.


4. The Committee identified four common characteristics of deviant teachings:

a. The claim of receiving revelation/divine inspiration.

b. The modification of religious rulings, such as

  • addition of religious rituals without any sound basis, or
  • changing the established forms of religious practices, such as spiritual marriages (“nikah batin”) in place of the traditional nikah in front of the wali and witnesses, or omission of the established five obligatory prayers in daily practice.

c. Belief in esoteric (hidden) meanings in the Quran (e.g. that alphabets of the Quran carry specific meanings) and which conflict with the known meanings and messages of the Quran.

d. Dubious practices of spiritual healing (ruqyah) which conflict with well-known principles of Islam in spiritual healing as established by many scholars and experts.

Please refer to the full fatwa here: ENG | MLY


5. The Fatwa Committee received a question concerning a media report regarding teachings that were suspected to be deviant. The ARS office subsequently received questions from the community on identifying key characteristics of deviant teachings.


6. The Fatwa Committee has been given authority, and follows a rigorous process, to evaluate any form of Islamic teaching, as stated in Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA). This process involves examining teachings by a specific group or individuals, obtaining evidence, and identifying deviant characteristics of the teachings espoused by the individuals or group.

7. All fatwa decisions that have been issued on deviant teachings in the past follow this process. In past cases, evidence obtained by Fatwa Committee includes (i) books and writings clearly associated with a particular teaching; (ii) online content that spread the teachings; (iii) clear admission by leaders and followers of the group that they espouse and practice such teachings.

8. There may be cases where the validity of the evidence cannot be determined by the Fatwa Committee, as it is beyond its jurisdiction or powers to investigate. In such cases, the Fatwa Committee would be unable to conclude that a particular group is deviant or otherwise, but may issue a general guidance to the Muslim community on the characteristics of deviant teachings so as to protect the community and prevent them from falling victims to such groups.