SINGAPORE - A landed property in Geylang has become a point of contention between the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and netizens who allege that it has mishandled the bequeathed property.
Muis has come out to clarify that the property at 5 Lorong 9 Geylang, which it was entrusted to manage, could not be used as a religious school as intended, due to its dilapidated state.
The Straits Times understands that this was why the property was sold and proceeds used to co-fund the purchase of another building in Beach Road.
Muis issued a statement on this on Monday (June 21), after Facebook user Mohamed Ismail Ismail posted in the Suara Melayu Singapura group last Friday that Muis had mismanaged the property, which he said had belonged to his great-grandfather.
In a photo he uploaded of a property which has a red Chinese banner and assorted Chinese prayer elements, he said: "The intention of the Haji Pitchay Meerah Hussain Wakaf was to fund an Islamic school; they got a Chinese temple instead."
In its statement, Muis said that the property, which was a wakaf bequeathed by Haji Pitchay Meerah Hussain, was unable to generate income.
It thus "migrated" the intention of Mr Pitchay to another property in Bugis, which it has been able to monetise, with the income used to make contributions to madrasahs, or religious schools.
A wakaf is traditionally defined as the permanent dedication by a Muslim of any property for any purpose defined by Muslim law as religious and charitable. The concept has now evolved to be similar to a trust fund, where money is invested and the returns used to help the community.
Muis is the administrator of all wakaf in Singapore, under the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
It does so under the advice of the Fatwa Committee, a group senior Islamic scholars established that decides on religious rulings here.
"Because the original property had been in a dilapidated state and was not generating any income to fulfil the wakaf's original intent, in 2002, Muis migrated the wakaf to 11 Beach Road, a 999-year leasehold commercial property," said the council.
"Muis assessed that this would be the best and closest alternative to fulfilling the wishes of the wakif (bequeather), given that the original property could no longer be used as a madrasah."
The council added that it was of the view that if the property in Geylang was left in its original condition and location, the intent of the late Mr Pitchay would not be achieved.
Muis said that since the migration of the wakaf, it has been able to disburse the yield from the wakaf to full-time madrasahs, in line with the original intention of Mr Pitchay.
The council noted that over the past seven years, the wakaf has disbursed more than $200,000 to Madrasah Al-Maarif and Madrasah Wak Tanjong in Geylang, as well as Madrasah Alsagoff in Bugis.
It is contacting surviving members of Mr Pitchay's family to reassure them that his wishes are being respected, and that the "broader intention behind the creation of the wakaf" remains fulfilled.