Launch of the Singapore Syariah Appeals Reports

Members of Muslim Law Practice Committee Mr Ahmad Nizam (right) and Ms Guy Ghazali (left) with Ms Halijah Mohamad (centre) inspecting the SSAR during the launch

Sale of the SSAR during a dialogue session with the Syariah Court on 20 July 2012

The practice of Syariah law in Singapore recently celebrated a significant milestone in its development with the successful launch of the inaugural Singapore Syariah Appeals Reports (“SSAR”).
The Launch
The launch was held on 21 May 2012 at Suntec Singapore Convention Centre, graced by the Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
Guests present to commemorate the launch included legal illuminaries such as the Honourable Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, and other Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court, distinguished members of the Syariah Court Appeal Board and the Presidents of the Syariah Court, the respected Muftiof Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, officials from the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura ("MUIS"), also known as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, and Syariah as well as non-Syariah practitioners.
In his speech, Dr Yaacob commended the team that made the SSAR possible. The Minister who regarded the Syariah Court as a key institution of the Muslim community talked about the importance and relevance of the SSAR to Syariah practitioners whom he said will find the SSAR publications useful as reference and thus would enable them “to cite local cases of greater relevance to support their arguments, instead of relying on cases decided by other jurisdictions”.
The Muftidelivered the keynote address entitled Judicial Precedents in Muslim Law, which was not only fitting on this occasion but was enlightening as well. For the first time for many attending, we were informed about the perspective that exists on the application of judicial precedents as held by Islamic jurists, the differences that exist and the possible reconciliation of those differences.
About the SSAR
The SSAR is an official compilation of the decisions of the Appeal Board from 1980 to 2010 published by the Syariah Court. It is a culmination of two years’ effort and relentless determination by various parties, which today marks its completion.
The SSAR covers a wide range of cases that have been heard and determined by the Appeal Board. These cases are categorised by way of the following topics:
1.   Volume 1 – Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage;
2.   Volume 2 – Ancillary Matters;
3.   Volume 3 – Custody;
4.   Volume 4 – Jurisdiction, Powers and Procedure; and
5.   Volume 5 – Marriage. 
As the maiden official publication of the decisions of the Appeal Board, the SSAR provides not only an important but essential source of reference for lawyers, particularly those who practise Syariah family law. It also serves as a useful source of information for practitioners and non-practitioners and those with interest in understanding how Syariah principles are applied in the local context.
The Appeal Board
The Appeal Board is a body constituted under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (“AMLA”) which at present constitutes 20 members. The members are appointed by the President of Singapore and made up of Muslim legal scholars, district Judges, senior lawyers and senior legal officers. Every appeal before the Appeal Board is heard by a panel of three members.
The Appeal Board listens to matters on appeal from the following:
1.   The decisions of the Kadior Naib Kadiof the Registry of Muslim Marriages; and
2.   The decisions of the Presidents of the Syariah Court relating to Muslim divorces including orders consequent upon divorces such as the disposition or division of matrimonial assets, payment of maintenance to the wife during the period of iddah(nafkah iddah), payment of consolatory gift to the wife (mutaah) and custody, care and control of and access to the children of the marriage, and also matters of procedure.
Impact of the SSAR on Syariah Practice
With the publication of the SSAR, the Syariah Appeal cases are now more readily accessible than before to members of the Bar. This will greatly assist practitioners of the Syariah to better understand, analyse and rationalise the decision-making process of the Appeal Board and to identify the considerations that the Appeal Board takes into account in dealing with particular issues, for example, factors which the Court considers when determining the issues of custody, division of assets, mutaahor nafkah iddah.
Indeed, this will surely add clarity to the practice of the Syariah law in Singapore. More importantly, this will contribute significantly to giving some semblance of certainty to the practice of the Syariah in Singapore. This can only have the positive effect of allowing lawyers practising the Syariah to acquire more solid grounds upon which they can formulate and render their advice to clients and/or prepare submissions for hearings.
It is expected that the SSAR will be a boon to young lawyers or lawyers with little or no experience dealing with Syariah Court/Appeal Board matters. The clarity of the law and the accessibility to cases will allow and encourage such practitioners to acquaint themselves with the substantive and procedural aspects of the Syariah Court/Appeal Board. Once equipped with the requisite knowledge, it is hoped that these lawyers will be more prepared to take up Syariah Court/Appeal Board matters, if and when the opportunity arises.
A Long-Awaited Publication
The long-awaited and much-anticipated first publication of the SSAR is warmly embraced by the legal fraternity, particularly lawyers who practise Syariah law.
We continue to be optimistic and look forward to publications of the post-2010 decisions of the Appeal Board and also decisions of the Syariah Court subject of appeal or otherwise.  
To all those involved in making the SSAR possible and a reality, they must be commended for their significant and extensive efforts.
  Guy Ghazali
      Tan Rajah & Cheah
      Member, Muslim Law Practice Committee
  Yasmeen J Marican
      Harry Elias Partnership LLP
      Member, Muslim Law Practice Committee
The SSAR is available at a price of S$365.72 for members of the Singapore Academy of Law.