SINGAPORE - Muslims here will have a new religious leader on March 1, when the current mufti Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, 49, retires after nine years in office.
Ustaz Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, 43, who is currently the deputy to Dr Fatris, will take over as the mufti, Singapore's highest Islamic authority, and oversee key religious rulings for Muslims here.
The change was announced on Thursday (Jan 9) by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), which noted that Dr Nazirudin has already been making significant contributions in supporting the mufti to advance religious policies.
Muis also announced that Dr Nazirudin will be supported by two deputy muftis: Ustaz Mohd Murat Md Aris and Ustaz Dr Mohammad Hannan Hassan.
Mr Murat will oversee religious policies, while Dr Hannan will be in charge of the development of religious teachers and the curriculum of Islamic schools.
In a statement from Muis, Dr Fatris said he decided to step down to make way for new blood to lead the community.
He noted that it was his responsibility to develop the next generation of devotees and religious leaders.
"I am happy to see through the development of the next generation of religious scholars in Singapore with a good mix of knowledge, training and experience, who are ready to take over from me and guide Singaporean Muslims in their religious life," he added.
During his term as mufti, Dr Fatris led the development of progressive religious policies and programmes to strengthen the next generation of Islamic scholars and teachers.
According to Muis, this included further developing the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, a national accreditation programme for religious teachers that requires them to abide by an ethical code, and which includes efforts for their continual professional education.
During his tenure, the scheme became compulsory in 2017.
Muis said Dr Fatris will continue to serve the community as a senior associate member of the Fatwa Committee, which decides Singapore's religious rulings.
He will also chair the Al-Quran Steering Committee, which promotes the understanding of the holy Islamic text, and will continue to mentor and guide Muis as well as younger religious teachers here.
In a post on Muis’ Facebook page on Thursday, Dr Fatris said that during his term as mufti, he had made it his mission to strengthen the development of Islamic religious teachers.
“I am glad to see significant progress in the development of young religious teachers and scholars who are able to develop skill sets and capabilities needed to lead the community,” he added.
Dr Fatris, who holds a master's degree in education from the International Islamic University Malaysia and a doctorate in Islamic Studies from Birmingham University in the United Kingdom, is known for his early contributions towards education in the community, starting his career as a teacher at Madrasah Aljunied in 1993.
In his 20s, he was appointed principal of Madrasah Al-Irsyad Al-Islamiah.
During his term, he introduced secondary education for students there in 1998, where previously students would typically continue their education at other religious schools after Primary 6.
His successor, Dr Nazirudin, was appointed deputy mufti last March after previously holding the post of Muis' senior director for religious policy and development.
Dr Nazirudin, who has a PhD in theology from the University of Oxford, helped Muis develop policy in fatwa development and religious teacher training
Of his new role, he said he was"deeply humbled" by the mufti appointment and thanked Dr Fatris for his guidance, promising to further advance the work of his predecessors.
"I will be working very closely with a strong team in the Office of the Mufti to serve the Singapore Muslim community and the wider society in achieving greater progress and social cohesion," added Dr Nazirudin.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, President Halimah Yacob thanked Dr Fatris for his service, and underscored the need for leadership change.
She said: “Leadership renewal is important to ensure these institutions remain strong and responsive to the needs of the Malay/Muslim community.
“On a larger scale, our community leaders also play important roles in promoting peace and social cohesion within our society by building our social trust.”