SINGAPORE - Ustaz Ali Mohamed, 71, has encountered many challenges in his decades of volunteering, from rehabilitating radicalised individuals to counselling drug offenders.
But he considers his hardest challenge to be formulating fatwas, which he has been doing as part of the Fatwa Committee - a group of senior Islamic scholars who make religious rulings in Singapore.
"There have been fatwas from overseas about scientific and medical advances, but we cannot blindly adopt them. We must look at our context to ultimately decide what guidance to provide," he said.
The co-president of the Religious Rehabilitation Group was involved in landmark fatwas like the 2007 ruling that Muslims can be included in the Human Organ Transplant Act, which allows for organ donation after death unless people opt out.
On Saturday (Oct 14), he was given the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's (Muis) Outstanding Award for his lifelong achievements and contribution to Singapore's Muslim community.
The awards fete those who have made a difference in fields such as education, community service or Islamic teachings.
Ten welfare organisation leaders and mosque management board members also received Service Awards for their exemplary long service to the community.
All 11 received their awards from President Halimah Yacob at a ceremony in the Istana.
Muslim community's spirit of giving
Muis chief executive Haji Abdul Razak Maricar said they help to bond the community, and promote social harmony by actively reaching out to friends, fellow Singaporeans, and foreign workers.
He also highlighted the community's spirit of giving in his speech, citing a sustained increase in zakat, an annual tithe given by Muslims to the needy. More families in need have been helped and $18.4 million was given out last year, 16 per cent more than in 2015.
"This is indeed a manifestation of the deep set values which form the core of the Singapore Muslim identity, ever willing to strengthen the community and contribute to the nation and beyond," he said.
He presented President Halimah a $100,000 cheque, raised by the Muslim community for this year's President's Challenge fundraising drive for the disadvantaged.
Another award recipient was Dr Radiah Salim, who started the Club Heal voluntary welfare organisation in 2012 to help people with mental illness and support their families.
Said Dr Radiah, 54: "We want to remove the stigma against mental health once and for all. It hinders people from seeking help early, which makes recovery harder."
Ustaz Ali, who helped set up the Religious Rehabilitation Group in 2003, said of his work in countering radicalisation: "Islam is not a religion of hatred or violence. When living with non-Muslims, we have to play an important part to show that it's a small group who are radicalised.
"We cannot stop. My work is not done," he added.