New book on local fatwas

Can a Muslim man donate his sperm? Can cadavers of Muslims be used for medical research? Can pig skin be used to treat a heart defect? These are among the questions answered in a new book explaining the rationale behind 29 fatwas on science, medicine and health.

The first volume in Muis' Fatwas Of Singapore series was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday. He said he hoped the book would be a source of education for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is available in both Malay and English, with an e-book version of the English edition available for download from Muis' website.

Since its inception in 1968, the Fatwa Committee has issued 577 fatwas. As Muis turns 50 next year, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said "it is timely to showcase how our fatwas have evolved, and take stock of the development of Islamic jurisprudence in our country". The series explains the socio-historical context behind some fatwas.

Dr Yaacob explained the importance of developing fatwas with society in mind, adding this is recognised in Singapore's Administration of Muslim Law Act, which allows the Fatwa Committee to follow the tenets of various accepted schools of Muslim law.

And to safeguard public interest, the committee is allowed to re-examine rulings in new circumstances. Dr Yaacob cited a 2007 fatwa that revised an earlier ruling excluding Muslims from the Human Organ Transplant Act. The committee concluded that amending the Act to include Muslims would ultimately promote public interest and welfare.

Speakers at yesterday's conference included Singapore Mufti Fatris Bakaram, who currently chairs the Fatwa Committee, and Professor Quraish Shihab, a prominent Islamic scholar from Indonesia.

As for the above questions, Singapore's Fatwa Committee ruled that a Muslim man cannot donate his semen to a sperm bank, and its chairman in 1972 permitted the use of cadavers in certain cases. And while pig skin can be used to treat life-threatening illnesses, there are certain conditions.

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'New book on local fatwas'. Print Edition | Subscribe