Pre-marriage course proposed for Muslims under 21

Muslim couples where at least one party is under 21 must attend a marriage preparation course before getting hitched under proposed changes to the law governing Muslim affairs in Singapore.

The Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY) yesterday said this requirement is one of several proposed changes to the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Amla), for which the Government is seeking public feedback.

The pre-marriage education, aimed at helping couples to navigate marital issues, will have to be approved by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

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Replying to queries by The New Paper, an MCCY spokesman said: "Through the mandatory marriage preparation programme, minor couples would be able to make informed decisions about the marriage and be better prepared for the adjustments and challenges that they will face in the next stage of their journey."

Ustaz Ali Mohd of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) called the proposed change "beneficial" for minor couples.

"It will benefit the community, teach them about responsibility, encourage them to manage their finances," he said.

"The course will prepare them to have a good life and for the future."

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Under the proposed changes, such couples must also get their parents' consent to get married.

Currently, minors in a Muslim marriage are not required by law to get parental consent, said MCCY.

"Support from the extended family, including parents and guardian, especially in the crucial first years of their marriage is critical to help younger couples build a strong marriage foundation for a lifetime of commitment," said its spokesman.

The MCCY also proposed to enshrine a current requirement for parties filing for divorce to be referred to a support programme at any stage during the proceedings.

This is aimed at instilling a more "child-centric" approach during the divorce process.

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Other proposed changes to Amla aim to give the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) greater say over the appointment of trustees of endowment properties.

These include steps like requiring Muis' approval in writing before a new trustee can be appointed to a wakaf (an endowment of property bequeathed by Muslims) and obtaining Muis' consent before any proceedings on the removal or appointment of wakaf trustees.

A draft of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Amendment) Bill is available on the websites of MCCY and Reach.

The public has until 6pm on April 13 to submit their feedback by e-mail or post to MCCY.

This article was first published on Mar 15, 2017.
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