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Ahmad Nizam on Leaving a Legacy | Singapore Academy of Law (

How the veteran family and defence lawyer is grooming the next generation.


Ask an SAL member who they idolise in the profession and you’ll get a range of answers: some might throw out a present judge’s name while others may look to the past and mould their careers after a historical figure in the law.

For Mr Ahmad Nizam, that hero is the late Mr Ahmad Ibrahim, independent Singapore’s first Attorney-General. Ahmad came across the former AG’s works during a time of flux early in his career. Recalling the period, he says, “The ‘human’ areas of the law, namely family and criminal work, interest me most.”

From the beginning of his career, Ahmad learned from senior lawyers, serving as their assisting counsel in several capital cases. And around the 5th anniversary of his being called to the Bar, he was appointed by former Supreme Court Registrar Mr Chiam Boon Keng as lead counsel for capital cases, known today as the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences.

“But unfortunately, as time went on, I became disillusioned with the practice of criminal law. You know what happens in capital cases, especially drug trafficking cases. I got very depressed each time a client was sent to the gallows. Because to me, it was just not just a file. I got to know the accused, their families and the stories behind their cases. I reached a point where I needed to take a step back to not let it affect me, so I took a break from criminal law.”


He turned to his other love, family law and did many cases both in the Family Court and Syariah courts. Preparing for the latter, he recalls, was no mean feat, given the dearth of materials on Muslim family law at the time. Ahmad would often end up reading one of Mr Ahmad Ibrahim’s pieces (the former AG was a prolific writer, churning out more than 200 published pieces in his life).

Says Ahmad, “There were no substantive texts on Muslim family law in Singapore besides the ones he had written in the 1960 and 1970s.” Although these were outdated, he grew to appreciate the former AG’s intelligent and clear writing style. But for substantive information, he relied on copies of judgments, painstakingly photocopied from seniors.

Ahmad’s experience trying to glean information on Muslim family law, coupled with his admiration for Mr Ahmad Ibrahim’s works, inspired him to later contribute to the area’s jurisprudence as well. He has written articles and spoken both locally and internationally on the applicability of Muslim law in Singapore and its place within the larger legal system.

Together with SAL’s Singapore Syariah Appeals Reports, these filled a lacuna in Muslim law jurisprudence but Ahmad felt that commentaries were still lacking. “So I proposed a title on Muslim Family Law in Singapore to Academy Publishing,” he says, referring to SAL’s publishing arm. The Academy introduced Ahmad (in what he calls ‘divine intervention’) to two other budding authors who shared his interest in Muslim family law: Ms Istyana Putri Ibrahim and Ms Maryam Hasanah Rozlan. Istyana and Maryam had plans to write a practitioner’s handbook on the practice area and the trio decided to merge their projects.

They worked through the pandemic and Ahmad is full of praise for Istyana and Mariam, saying, “I was so impressed by them. They are young and full of energy, and frankly speaking, I had trouble keeping up with them! I would feed them research materials and over the weekend, I’d get a chapter draft at like 5 or 6 in the morning. Working with them pushed me to pull my weight as well.”

L-R: Maryam, Ahmad, Mr Mohamed Faizal SC (AGC), Mr Irwan Hadi (MUIS) and Istyana. Says Ahmad, “Faizal and Irwan rendered invaluable help in proofreading and giving inputs to our drafts.”


The fruit of their labour, Muslim Family Law in Singapore, will be released next month. Ahmad hopes that it will dispel a lingering misconception about practising in the Syariah court: that it’s exclusively the domain of lawyers who are Muslim—as is the case in Malaysia. “But here, the lawyer can be of any religion. What matters is the knowledge and the capacity to represent clients in the Syariah court.”

These clients include ultra-high net worth ones: Ahmad recalls some cases where the assets involved have been worth over US$250 million. “Such cases do exist and if you want to serve this type of clientele, you’ll need to keep up with the law—both in the Syariah and civil courts. There are overlaps between the two areas and there are also instances in which a litigant can find himself in both courts during their divorce. We have highlighted examples of both, in a bid to share our knowledge, research and experience with the profession.”

It’s this desire to teach and groom the next generation of lawyers that sparked Ahmad’s decision to co-create a module on Islamic Family Law in Singapore, now running for the third year at the Singapore University of Social Sciences. He also set up his own firm, Crescent Law, earlier this year. “I’m 55 this year … I want the next decade or so to be about leaving a legacy and making my mark.”

With his new book and firm, he’s well on his way there.

Muslim Family Law in Singapore, co-written by Mr Ahmad Nizam (Crescent Law), Ms Istyana Putri Ibrahim (Legal Aid Bureau) and Ms Maryam Hasanah Rozlan (Kaplan Singapore), will be launched by Justice Valerie Thean on 18 October. The in-person launch will be followed by a day of panel discussions and networking. Register here (participants will get a copy of Muslim Family Law in Singapore).

The team at Crescent Law includes fellow SAL member Mr Aziz Rashid (left)