The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore has warned the Muslim community to be vigilant of individuals or groups who disseminate deviant teachings and urged them to be wary of any religious activity carried out in secret.
Deviant teachings came into the spotlight last year, after a man who in his teachings claims to be a self-styled prophet authorizes gambling to help needy Muslims and aspires to have 13 spiritual wives, The Straits Times reported on Wednesday.
The council’s fatwa committee, a group of high-level Islamic scholars who decide religious decisions, on Wednesday warned Muslims at the Singapore multinational to be wary of any religious activity by a group or leader carried out in secrecy and exclusivity, he said.
The council, also known as Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), stressed the importance of acquiring religious knowledge only through qualified and registered religious teachers, he said.
He also urged Muslims here to learn from a variety of teachers, instead of listening to a single source of reference, and encouraged them to consult with other religious leaders if they encountered views that might seem problematic.
Community members should be careful of classes or activities that take place late at night and are not open to a large audience. Such sessions which are conducted by people who forbid their followers to record what is being taught are also red flags, the committee noted.
“The fatwa committee would like to urge the community to remain suspicious of individuals or groups who are spreading deviant teachings,” according to the report citing MUIS.
âIt is important that Muslims constantly strive to seek religious knowledge from qualified teachers who are registered under the Asatizah Recognition Program (ARS).â The ARS is the compulsory accreditation program of the MUIS for religious teachers. This ensures that the asatizah (teachers) here are credible, qualified and uphold a code of ethics, according to the report.
In its decision, the fatwa committee described four common characteristics of deviant teachings: claims to receive revelation / divine inspiration; Changes in religious rules, such as adding religious rituals without any solid basis, or changing established forms of religious practice.
Beliefs in the esoteric or hidden meanings of the Qur’an which conflict with the known meanings and messages of the holy book; and questionable spiritual healing practices which conflict with well-known principles of spiritual healing in Islam.
But the council stressed that Muslims should be wary of any religious teaching taught or practiced in secret and are married in an exclusivist manner, and are based on questionable or unverified sources.
In Islam, knowledge does not need to be preached in a secret way because all the information has already been clarified and made known to the public, he added.
“It is the responsibility of each individual to assess the source of the knowledge, and to ensure that it is trustworthy and credible,” the council said.
The fatwa committee occasionally receives complaints about deviant or misleading teachings, MUIS said, adding that for each report it receives, it will assess and assess the complaint accordingly.
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