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.
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 explaning Court procedures. To better understand the practice of Syariah law in Singapore, they also attend 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.
“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 understanbly 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 emphatize with clients and deal with difficult situations.” – Taikhoom Khairullah, Year 2
“I helped out with registration at the Syariah Court. Clients had to fill in a long application form and I helped to explain what each part of the form was about to make the process more human and bearable. Some clients did not know how to answer certain open-ended questions and so being able to guide them to express their thoughts was very useful. Throughout the whole process, I am grateful to have learnt more about Syariah law as I had to explain the processes to the clients. It is important to understand cultures different from mine.” – Carol Yuen, Year 2