Respected ARB members and fellow asatizah,
Assalamu’alaikum Wr Wb
I pray that you are all in the best of health and spirits, and please allow me to wish you a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and thank you for being with us today through this platform.
من العائدين والفائزين والمقبولين، وكل عام وأنتم بخير تقبل هللا منا ومنكم صالح األعمال
RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP IN MANAGING CRISIS
2 Asatizah, as the religious leaders, this pandemic has brought about unprecedented issues that have tested our spiritual and mental resilience. We were worried and doubtful, sometimes even feeling at a loss because there were no points of reference that we could simply adopt, both from our traditions and from contemporary scholarship. We quickly realised however that we needed to take ownership of this, and that a good grasp of the context and situation is extremely crucial in order to effectively provide a meaningful solution to the needs of the community. We knew we had to be open, innovative and bold in making the much-needed decisions for the community.
3 When we made the decision to close the mosques, many were doubtful and unhappy, especially since we were amongst the first to make such a decision. But our religious leaders, with the support of our asatizah, continued to stand by our ijtihad in protecting the safety and welfare of our community. I wonder what would have happened if we had waivered to accusations that we do not have enough tawakkal (trust) in God and gave in to calls to place our normal religious activities above and beyond the health and medical advisories. I think things would have been very different today, and so would people’s perception of our religion and community.
4 But alhamdulillah (all praises to Allah), due to our relentless and united efforts to educate our community, we are now beginning to see the fruits of our labour. And our decision which received much doubts because it was so different, eventually became more common amongst the other Muslim communities – right from our decisions on all congregational prayers, to the decision to suspend pilgrimage this year. I think this should assure us of our abilities to issue confident and trailblazing religious advisories that can serve as a point reference for international Muslim communities.
A CARING AND MINDFUL RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP
5 A confident, but caring and mindful religious leadership serves as the pillar of a religious community. We need to be sensitive and mindful of the needs of our community and think of ways to help and support them. Our Prophet was a leader who felt the pain of his people and was compassionate and merciful towards them.
6 It is in this spirit that the Fatwa Committee had thought of ways to alleviate the difficulties experienced by families who have lost their means of income due to COVID-19. The Committee had suggested for the interpretation and application of the 8 asnafs to be expanded to include this group, to uphold the maqasid (objectives) of zakat in preserving social justice. I am pleased to announce that we will be sharing the details of this fatwa soon, inshaAllah (God willing).
THE OUTCOME OF A CONFIDENT AND MINDFUL RELIGIOUS LEADERSGIP: A RESILIENT COMMUNITY
7 One positive outcome of this crisis is how the positive role of religion as a source of strength and resilience has been further corroborated. And this strength is the result of a united and prudent religious leadership that we should seek to strengthen and protect.
8 And the outcome of a confident religious leadership is a community that is resilient. Our community was undoubtedly affected greatly by the closing of mosques. But I am most proud of how our community has risen above this crisis, and did not allow this to dampen their spirituality, to weaken their religious identity or to affect their religious lives. They actively sought for creative alternatives to adapt and progress. They chose optimism and opportunities over resignation and hopelessness.
9 This is the state of our community today – it is resilient and adaptive of the new norms, and it continuously strives to enliven the religious life in Singapore. Alhamdulillah (all praises to Allah), this is an achievement that we should be grateful of and continue to nurture further.
10 Our journey, however, is far from over. We need to continue readying ourselves for a future that is more challenging. I am very mindful of the worry and anxiety due to the drastic changes in our religious practices. But we must continue to persevere even when the crisis is tiring us out. We need to elevate our knowledge, skills and discipline that is needed to guide our community post-COVID 19. Therefore, we must continuously seek to ensure that our asatizah are given ample opportunity to improve their skills, and ARS will continue to provide courses online. We need to constantly adapt and nurture new religious norms, through our dynamic and progressive understanding of the higher objectives of Shariah. We cannot but rely on the flexibility and wisdom of Shari’ah to provide alternative solutions in the face of challenges, and this would require the involvement and the participation of all asatizah. This is our battle moving forward and let us not be the ones to hinder our community’s progress.
11 Allah s.w.t. has shown us both the challenges, but also our strengths and the goodness that come from this crisis. Thank you for all that you’ve done for our community, and let us remain united in paving the road ahead, in ensuring the continuity of a vibrant and meaningful religious life come what may.
.وبالله التوفيق والهداية