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22 JANUARY 2021
1. As Singapore rolls out its national COVID-19 vaccination programme, the Muslim community is reminded that its actions in navigating the current pandemic must be guided by the Islamic principle of safeguarding the general well-being of the community. The proactive action of getting inoculated to prevent infection and further harm to one’s family and community would outweigh any concern on the halal status of the vaccines available.
2. These reminders were made by panellists during an online forum to engage the Muslim community here on Singapore’s vaccination programme. Deputy Mufti, Dr Mohammad Hannan Hassan, Fatwa Committee member Ustaz Fathurrahman Dawoed, and medical expert Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Nurhidayati Mohamed Suphan were on hand to provide a comprehensive discussion on vaccination, offering both medical and religious perspectives to concerns that have been raised.
3. The event was held on 20 January and live streamed on Masjid Yusof Ishak’s Facebook page and SalamSG TV’s YouTube channel.
Elaboration on the Religious Position on Vaccines
4. Ustaz Fathurrahman emphasised that any irsyad (religious guidance) or fatwa (religious ruling) must be fundamentally based on Islamic principles. It must also take into consideration the specific context of the community. Based on these, the Office of the Mufti issued an irsyad (religious guidance) on 13 December 2020 on the permissibility of the use of the COVID-19 vaccines.
5. Referring to the irsyad, Dr Hannan highlighted that religious guidance on the matter of vaccines is not entirely new. The Fatwa Committee had previously advised that vaccines were a form of preventive treatment from diseases which is encouraged in Islam, such as in the fatwa (religious ruling) on the Rotavirus vaccine issued in 2013.
6. Ustaz Fathurrahman reiterated that the relevant irsyad reinforced this position, ruling that a vaccine is a basic necessity in the face of a life-threatening pandemic. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine is also an important consideration, which is in line with the principle of the avoidance of harm in Islamic jurisprudence.
7. He also highlighted that in the current pandemic, there are other principles that are consistent with Islamic jurisprudence, allowing for the use of vaccines in order to protect lives. “Although the current vaccines do not contain any use of animal sources, even if the vaccine was to contain ingredients that are typically prohibited, there are Islamic principles such as istihala or istihlaq that we can take into consideration in the permissibility of the use of vaccines.” The importance of safeguarding lives and avoidance of harm would outweigh any concerns about the vaccines being halal.
Addressing Medical Concerns on the Safety of Vaccines
8. In response to concerns relating to the safety of vaccines, Dr Nurhidayati clarified that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has conducted tests to ensure the safety of the vaccines. “The vaccines that are approved and distributed in Singapore would have undergone stringent processes by the medical experts specialising in infectious diseases.” She explained that this is in addition to the multiple phases in the development of a vaccine before it can be approved for safe use.
9. Dr Nurhidayati also elaborated that although there were risks of side effects, these side effects were minor and affected a very small portion of users globally. ”It is very rare to be severely affected, and the current data has shown that there has been no cases of complications in Singapore.” Moreover, she assured that doctors will monitor individuals who get vaccinated very closely to minimise any relevant risk.
Call for Community to Contribute to Society
10. Dr Hannan urged for the community to take proactive action to prevent infection by taking the vaccine. “Getting vaccinated does not merely safeguard our personal well-being; it also safeguards the well-being of the larger society.” He hoped that the community will remain confident in the guidance provided by the local scholars and experts.
11. He also expressed that the community should always contribute and play an active part in providing solutions in the face of challenges and adversities. “My aspirations for the Muslim community is for us to always manifest the noble values of confidence, compassion and graciousness in whatever we do.”
MAJLIS UGAMA ISLAM SINGAPURA