In Conversation: Ustaz Tarmizi Wahid
This is part of a series of conversations with different religious leaders to explore how doing what we consider the “right thing” resonates within their own religious teachings.

The world is seemingly descending into chaos; countries posturing and making threats, national leaders playing with deadly new toys. They threaten not only their neighbours, but also global stability and innocent people randomly targeted in terrorist attacks.


Locally there are escalating discussions about the different racial groups in Singapore and what we need to do to sustain and further strengthen the social and cultural harmony that has been built over the last 50 years. In short, now is the time to really put the spirit in “Kampong” and make sure that every Singaporean knows the part they must play.


Through our work at the BMDP, we feel that we are truly representative of the very best in character and human spirit – we are indeed the “kampong spirit” in action. Reaching out with our story, that anyone can be struck down by a blood disease and at the same time, anyone can do something to help.  We ask people to make a commitment that looks beyond boundaries and under our global mandate, the act of donation must remain one of total anonymity, without reward, payment and free of judgement. To be a bone marrow donor is to save a life – and the person in need could be just around the corner in our small island or across the globe.


Read our interview with Ustaz Tarmizi Wahid, founder of the Safinah Institute who shares his thoughts on how all Muslims in Singapore should support our cause. This is part of a series of conversations with different religious leaders to explore how doing what we consider the “right thing” resonates within their own religious teachings.


- Jane Prior


Recruiting bone marrow donors from within the Malay community has always been a challenge, and the reluctance to sign up is often attributed to worries that it may be against the Islamic faith. To explore this further, we spoke with Ustaz Tarmizi Wahid, Founder of the Safinah Institute and one of Singapore’s current generation of Islamic teachers.


Q: Today there are concerns at many levels about the Malay community so what are your thoughts on these fears that the Malays are becoming marginalised from the rest of Singapore?


Tarmizi:  Unlike our grandparents and parents’ generations, where teaching was all local and in the most part quite traditional, Singaporeans today are being exposed through more modern and diverse approaches. Also, with the rapid and vast influence of the Internet as well as through travel experiences, new ideologies are becoming more visible in the beliefs and practices of some local Muslims. As a result, Islam has become more “colourful” which sometimes includes extreme and often exclusivist forms of practicing the faith which most of us feel should not play a part in Singapore’s unique multi-cultural society.

After spending time furthering my own Islamic study overseas, I realised there was a need to help young Muslims within our own community to understand more about Islam, so they could find meaning as well as a deeper connection to the faith. To support this, I set up the Safinah Institute with the mandate to break down complex Islamic sciences and terminologies, so that everyone can appreciate the lessons and then practice with confidence and stand true to their faith.



Q: Why do you think so many people believe Islam does not allow them to be bone marrow donors?


Tarmizi:  Some years ago, I was involved in the discussions around revising the HOTA (Human Organ Transplant Act). Historically, it started out with only the Malay Singaporeans being allowed to opt-in, while for everyone else it was the opt-out system. Within the first few years of HOTA being introduced, very few Malays came forward to pledge and become organ donors, and this was happening while the number of Malays in queue to receive an organ transplant were high. So upon review of the MUIS Fatwa Committee, and acknowledging the need to uphold the Islamic principle of ensuring the welfare and well-being of all, it was revised, and thus the Malays became a part of the HOTA system alongside everyone else.


Obviously, we had much discussion around this – MUIS and the various mosque and community leaders all contributed to the conversation – and we were all confident that in no way could we continue to remain out of the system. Likewise for bone marrow donation, there is absolutely no reason for a Muslim to not donate and in any event, it’s a very different proposition as bone marrow is replaced within just weeks.



Q: Some people have asked what happens if the recipient of the bone marrow is a non-Muslim, or they commit acts of sin? Am I responsible for this?


Tarmizi:  There is a saying in Islam “that it is not the eye, but it is the sight; not the ear but the hearing” that will be accountable for their actions on the day of judgment. Everyone is responsible for their own decisions and a donor cannot be held to account for any harm that may be caused by the recipient of their bone marrow. This is a very limited argument and most likely a way to avoid or delay making a contribution altogether for other reasons that are unspoken. I ask the potential donors to focus instead on the positive aspect which lies in the act of giving itself.



Q: Are there any teachings within Islam that positively support the act of being a donor?


Tarmizi:  There are numerous verses in the Quran and the Hadith which encourage people to go out of their way to help others who are in need and saving lives is part of this. In one we say, “it is wrong for a Muslim to go to sleep knowing his neighbour is hungry” which strongly endorses the gift that a bone marrow donor makes to a neighbour, albeit a stranger who may be half way across the world. Further Islamic teaching shares that “no one can truly believe if they do not want for their brother what they want for themselves”.


As a teacher within the Malay community, I would encourage our members to take on this noble initiative to become a bone marrow donor for no other reason than to sincerely alleviate others of their suffering. That is such a simple thing to do, and if you ever to be called up as a suitable match to a patient, then it would indeed be a reward for the donor in this life and the next.



Q: A young Malay donor recently made her donation during the month of Ramadan and some suggested this was wrong to break her fast at this time. Please share your thoughts on this.


Tarmizi:  The process of donating bone marrow does not invalidate one’s fast. I applaud this young donor for her courage and selflessness for the act of giving and urge all to support anyone under similar circumstances.

PUBLISHED ON 04 May 2017
Registering to become a bone marrow donor means committing to be there when you get the call to give life. Each registrant provides hope for those waiting. A person could, however, be a match within a few months of registering, a year later or even seven years later.
How to register?