Singapore’s top Muslim leader has called on his community to be wary of messages that misquote the Quran as well as prophetic sayings and traditions to justify acts of violence.
In his Friday (Sept 29) sermon delivered at all mosques here, Mufti Fatris Bakaram squarely refuted messages in ISIS’s recent propaganda video featuring Singaporean fighter Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad – and highlighted how they have grossly distorted Islamic teachings.
The 39-year-old, who has been fighting on the frontlines in Iraq and Syria for four years now, had in the clip urged others to join him on the the terror group’s path of destruction, calling this “the path of the prophets”.
Shahdan also claimed that Muslims must be hostile to believers of other faiths, and claimed he had answered the call of jihad and was under the leadership of a caliph.
He also believed that anyone who followed ISIS and died while fighting for the terror group would die a martyr, noted Dr Fatris.
“All of this is completely wrong. Islam has never considered the killing of innocent lives as jihad,” he said. “Islam does not allow for violence and oppression to prevail, places of worship to be destructed and heritage sites to be destroyed and blown up.”
Those who participated in these crimes are under the “skewed impression” they will die as martyrs.
And even worse, said Dr Fatris, they justify these heinous acts by misquoting Islam, the Quran and prophetic traditions.
“It is obvious that what is being committed by ISIS is not just a crime towards Islam, but towards the global community,” he added.
The Mufti made clear that ISIS’ actions are fundamentally against ethics and guidelines taught by the Prophet Muhammad.
Dr Fatris said: “Now, more than ever, we will need to ensure that ourselves, families, and our beloved community have the religious resilience to challenge the messages that violates Islamic teachings and endanger the lives of humanity.”
It is the responsibility of every Muslim to understand religious texts comprehensively, and the community should not simply and uncritically accept information from unknown sources without verification, he added.
“Failure to comprehend the context of religious texts can lead to problematic and inaccurate interpretations,” said Dr Fatris, pointing out that various verses in the Quran have specific context, and cannot be applied to all circumstances.
He added: “Applying these texts that are meant to be specific in nature to any situation is considered a deviance.”
Dr Fatris urged the community to find out where and from whom their family members are obtaining religious instruction from in the hopes of protecting them from deviant teachings.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in a statement on Friday expanded on Dr Fatris’ sermon, pointing out the problematic aspects of the ISIS video.
Among other things, it highlighted how Shahdan intended to encourage and justify violence against non-Muslims, even when Muslims live in peace and harmony among them – which “goes strongly against the Quranic principle of reciprocating peace and harmony”.
It added: “What Megat Shahdan has done is therefore blasphemous and un-Islamic, as it taints and distorts the intentions of our prophets to suit ISIS’ violent narratives.”
Shahdan had parroted ISIS doctrine of encouraging Muslims to migrate to “Islamic territories”, noted Muis.
“However, credible Muslim scholars worldwide have always maintained that Muslims should continue to be contributing citizens and co-exist harmoniously with other communities in diverse, multi-religious societies,” it said, adding that scholars in both the classical and contemporary periods, have said that there is no need for Muslims to migrate if they can practise their religion where they live.
In Singapore, it said, the community is privileged to have the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which helps guide, support and ease religious life here.
The Association of Adult Religious Class Students (Perdaus), citing the ISIS video as well, also released a statement on Friday, saying it rejects and condemns any expressions of religious violence and hatred.
It believes an “open, consultative and evidence-based discussion on sensitive issues” is the way forward, and stressed the imporatnce for both Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about Islam from credible teachers under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme.
Perdaus added that it regularly ensures teachers’ and students’ understanding and practice of Islam are deeply rooted in the local context.
“We strongly believe that an Islamic education with an accredited institution and under credible teachers is an essential part of life in multicultural Singapore and should be made accessible to all,” it said.
“Education plays a critical part in stomping out radical ideas and teachings, especially amongst those who have no one to turn to for answers.”