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Long Article – Al-Wala’ (Loyalty) to Government in the Context of Muslim Minority in Singapore

This article is published in Muhammad Haniff Hassan, “Al-Wala’ (Loyalty) to Government in the Context of Muslim Minority in Singapore”, Countering Islamic State Ideology: Voices of Singapore Religious Scholars, edited by Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Rohan Gunaratna, Singapore: Pergas, 2021.


Many studies have shown the centrality of the Al-Wala’ Wa Al-Bara’ (WB), a concept which means “Loyalty and Disavowal” in extremist ideology of IS, Al-Qaeda and their likes. Thus, addressing this concept and how it is applied and understood by Muslims is necessary as part of efforts to countering extremist ideology, deradicalising extremist individuals and inoculating general Muslims from the concept’s negative effects. This article seeks to challenge two ideas related to Al-Wala’ Wa Al-Bara’ (WB), and is subscribed to by many Muslims today. This article first challenges the idea that WB is one of the fundamentals of Islamic faith (`aqidah) that must be uncompromisingly adhered to by all Muslims. The second idea which this article challenges is the idea that it is absolutely prohibited in Islam for Muslims to appoint a non-Muslim as state leader and pledge loyalty or obedience to him. Instead, this article argues that WB is a product of human ijtihad (human effort to deduce meanings from Islamic scriptures) and therefore is open to review, rethinking and criticism. As a result, minority Muslims who have been placed in a difficult theological position in political affairs as a result of WB should not hesitate to critically review it. This paper provides the study of a reviewed position by two key institutions – the Association of Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Singapore (PERGAS) and Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) – that represent Muslim scholars in Singapore which view the prohibition as only applicable to a hostile non-Muslim ruler/person, not all of them.

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About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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