Beware of individuals, groups who spread deviant teachings, Singapore Islamic Council warns Muslims

Singapore, Dec 9: The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore has warned the Muslim community here to be vigilant about individuals or groups who spread deviant teachings and urged them to be wary of any religious activity that is conducted in secrecy.
Deviant teachings came under the spotlight last year, after a man who, in his teachings, professes to be a a self-styled prophet, permits 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 senior Islamic scholars that decides on religious rulings, warned Muslims in the multi-national Singapore on Wednesday to be wary of any religious activity by a group or leader that is conducted in secrecy and exclusivity, it said.
The council, also known as the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), has stressed the importance of acquiring religious knowledge only through qualified and registered religious teachers, it said.
It also urged Muslims here to learn from a variety of teachers, instead of listening to only one source of reference, and encouraged them to consult other religious leaders should they encounter views that may appear to be problematic.
Community members should be careful about classes or activities that take place late at night, and which are not open for large audiences to attend. Such sessions that are conducted by people who disallow their followers to record what is being taught are also red flags, noted the committee.
“The fatwa committee would like to urge the community to remain wary against individuals or groups who spread deviant teachings,” the report quoted MUIS as saying.
“It is important for Muslims to consistently strive to seek religious knowledge from qualified teachers who are registered under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS).”
The ARS is MUIS’ compulsory accreditation scheme for religious teachers. It makes sure asatizah (teachers) here are credible, qualified and abide by an ethical code, the report said.
In its ruling, the fatwa committee outlined four common characteristics of deviant teachings: Claims of receiving revelations/divine inspiration; Modifications of religious rulings, such as the addition of religious rituals without any sound basis, or changing the established forms of religious practices.
Beliefs in esoteric or hidden meanings in the Quran and which conflict with the known meanings and messages of the holy book; and dubious practices of spiritual healing which conflict with well-known principles of Islam in spiritual healing.
But the council pointed out that Muslims should be cautious of any religious teachings taught or practised in secrecy and are espoused in an exclusivist way, and are based on dubious or unverified sources.
In Islam, knowledge does not need to be preached in a secretive manner as all information has already been clarified and made known to the public, it added.
“It is the responsibility of every individual to evaluate the source of knowledge, and to ensure that it is trustworthy and credible,” said the council.
The fatwa committee receives complaints about deviant or misleading teachings from time to time, said MUIS, adding that for every report it receives, it will evaluate and assess the complaint accordingly. (PTI)