WHAT IS SYARIAH COURT FRIENDS?
The Syariah Court Friends project (“SCF”) is a long-standing partnership between the NUS Pro Bono Group and Syariah Court. To date, it is the only programme providing volunteers an opportunity to engage and learn about the practice of Syariah law in Singapore. The Syariah Court plays an important legal function for the Muslim community in Singapore. Hence, the SCF serves as a programme to support the Court in their everyday functions in order to improve services for litigants-in-persons.
WHO DO WE WORK WITH?
The project’s main beneficiaries are litigants-in-persons of the Syariah Court facing marital and inheritance issues. Volunteers attend to these litigants-in-persons at the Counter, and assist them in filling up registration forms, making payments and explaining Court procedures. To better understand the practice of Syariah law in Singapore, volunteers interact with many of the Syariah Court staff at the Counter, or by attending mediation sessions, pre-trial conferences and hearings. Through this, litigants-in-persons are guided through the Court processes, while volunteers get a first-hand experience of the practice of Syariah law in Singapore.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
“I’ve had a very fulfilling experience during my volunteer sessions at the Syariah Court. It was a wonderful opportunity to understand the workings of Syariah Law in Singapore. There is one particular experience that stands out for me. There was a mother of 3 children who came to Syariah Court to seek a divorce from her husband as he was abusing her as well as the children. It was difficult to explain to her that the court could not grant her sole custody before the divorce proceedings had started. I had to explain to her that she had to go to the police to report the abuse and that the Court could not interfere with family matters when the divorce process had not started. She was understandably distressed due to her situation and was very angry with me for being unable to assist her in the matter. It was not the most pleasant experience but I did learn how to empathize with clients and deal with difficult situations.” – Taikhoom Khairullah, Year 3
“The Syariah Court is a place not many of us will find ourselves in in the future, so volunteering here is rare opportunity to learn more about the Muslim community and Syariah Law in Singapore. Not only that, but dealing with many divorce cases, I witnessed many saddening cases, and learnt many things about both people and relationships that are universal. Overall, I enjoyed my time at the court; I loved befriending the incredibly nice staff, as well as assisting litigants-in-persons. Even if some of our tasks may be simple, it was gratifying to see how many litigants-in-person still appreciated my efforts to help make their turbulent time just a little easier. To say that the entire experience was eye-opening is a cliché, but it is also a truth.” – Tan Su, Year 2
TIME PERIOD AND COMMITMENT
Volunteers must be prepared to commit to 9 sessions (including 1 observation session) of 3.5-4 hours each. The 9 sessions will span across the semester, and will be allocated according to each volunteer’s availability. Each volunteer must also attend the compulsory briefing by the court before beginning to volunteer.