Singapore—The strange tale of a local religious leader reported by the former husbands of the women followers who he took as “spiritual wives” has been in the news lately.
The leader, according to a series of reports in The Straits Times, is not a registered Muslim Religious Teacher, and was already under investigation in 2015 due to accusations of inappropriate behavior toward the daughter of one of his “spiritual wives.” The police said in the following year that no action would be taken against him, after consideration of the facts and circumstances.
At the moment, the man has five “spiritual wives.” At one point, however, he had nine. He is said to be in his 50s and is listed as officially married under the Registry of Muslim Marriages, with three adult children.
He is not, however, listed on the database of certified religious teachers in Singapore, the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, which ST discovered upon checking with the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas).
The man, who is unnamed in the reports, is a former massage therapist. He founded a new Muslim sect that encourages members to gamble, which is forbidden, in order to raise money to help the poor.
A report about the women who are now his “spiritual wives” says that they remain loyal to him and aid the man in running his eatery and events management company, that they are all in their 40s and that they constitute the core of the religious group, which numbered around a dozen at one point.
Moreover, the five “spiritual wives” have attained a degree in education. One lectures at a junior college and co-founded a women’s association. Another has a diploma in Shariah law and certificates in Islamic education and research, has founded a woman’s organisation and served as the senior executive of a charity group. Two of the wives had been employed in a local Malay Muslim organisation.
A number of the wives have children and are divorced from their former husbands.
ST identified the woman who has a diploma in Shariah law and certificates in Islamic education and research as Kak Long, which means older sister in Malay, and who is believed to have recruited the other “wives.”
The group does not practice open recruitment but directly approaches “trustworthy candidates or financially independent women.”
Kak Long told ST that there are individuals who are spreading “untruths” regarding the sect.
ST also endeavoured to speak to the leader of the sect, and reported that on Oct 25, the man told ST that he has no involvement in the group and denied having “spiritual wives.”
But the husbands of the wives are telling a different story.
One man, who used the moniker “Mr Ahmad” to hide his identity, told ST he had been part of the group from 2004 to 2007, joining because of the group’s alleged thrust to help Muslims, especially women and the needy.
At one point, all the men were forced out of the group and it became an all-female following.
Mr Ahmad said the leader brainwashed his ex-wife and that the “spiritual wives” had been promised S$3 million each in 2015 if and when the group’s businesses succeeded.
Another former male follower told ST that the leader would go “into a trance and spoke in an Indonesian accent. Through a spirit called Mbah, he would advise followers on religious and business matters, and even scold them for doubting his divine powers.”
He left the group in 2009 after the leader began calling himself a prophet.
Three of the “spiritual wives” former husbands, as well as four other ex-members of the group came forward to ST with the story, for the purpose of warning the Muslim community regarding the errant leader.
Pergas’ chief executive, Ustaz Mohammad Yusri Yubhi Md Yusoff, told ST via an email, “ We encourage the Muslim community to report any deviant teachings to the relevant authority, that is, Muis (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore).
We would also advise our Muslim community to seek knowledge from qualified religious teachers or asatizah who are recognised under the ARS.” —/TISG