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Long Article – The Contextualisation of Islam in a Secular State: A Study of Singapore

This article is co-authored with Asst. Prof. Walid Jumblatt Abdullah and published in Islam and Civilisational Renewal Journal (vol. 12, no. 1, June 2021).

Click here to download and access the article.

Click here for original source.


Muslim-minority communities throughout the world grapple with the contextualisation of Islam in the modern world. Islamic religious scholars, or the ulama, have to issue jurisprudential rulings in accordance with the social, political and religious contexts in which they operate. In doing so, they simultaneously have to deal with matters pertaining to authority and legitimacy. This paper analyses the contextualisation of Islam in secular states, with specific reference to Singapore. A few arguments will be made. Firstly, the paper will tackle the theological justifications for the contextualisation of Islam, which in the first place makes subsequent discussions possible. At the same time, the paper will highlight the limits of contextualisation. Secondly, the paper will focus on the secular state of Singapore, and the issue of contextualisation in the context of the Muslim minority community there. It is argued that the discourse on contexualisation in Singapore is not novel. We further contend that the socio-political context in Singapore rightly drives the discussion on contextualisation, but suggest areas of contention in such efforts. Even though the state is the most dominant actor in the country, and thus its ideologies and attitudes toward Islam is a key determinant in the faith’s contextualisation, other actors display agency in the process too. This paper is situated within the literature on state-society and state-Islam relations.

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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