Ahmad Ibrahim

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Installation of Yang di-Pertuan Negara Yusof IshakThe installation of Yang di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak on 3 December 1959 in the presence of Chief Justice Sir Alan Rose, witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Speaker of Legislative Assembly Sir George Oehlers and State Advocate-General Ahmad Ibrahim (right) at the City Hall Chambers. (Image from National Archives of Singapore)

Ahmad Ibrahim
Ahmad Ibrahim (b. May 1916, Singapore – d. 17 April 1999, Malaysia) is one of Singapore’s most prolific legal experts and public service leaders. He actively contributed to the Muslim community and drafted the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which led to the setting up of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura), the Registry of Muslim Marriages, and the administration of institutions like madrasahs and mosques. He was also a key figure in the merger talks between Singapore and Malaysia.
Voting Card for the National Referendum PaperVoting card for the National Referendum Paper. Singaporeans voted at the Referendum of Merger on 1 September 1962. (Image from National Museum of Singapore)

Early Years
Ahmad Ibrahim was educated at Victoria Bridge School, Raffles Institution and Raffles College. He was awarded the Queen’s Scholarship where he studied at England’s St. John’s College. He graduated at Cambridge University with first class honours in economics and law.

Career & Accomplishments
Ahmad Ibrahim was appointed a Singapore Magistrate in 1946, and later a District Judge in 1947. Between 1949 and 1955, he served as the Municipal Commissioner and was a member of the Rural Board. In 1959, he became Singapore’s first State Advocate-General.
State Advocate-General Ahmad Ibrahim in 1962State Advocate-General Ahmad Ibrahim in 1962. (Image from National Archives of Singapore)

Ahmad Ibrahim was one of the instrumental figures as the legal expert in the merger talks in London during 1963 that led to the formation of Malaysia.

The Battle For Merger by Prime Minister Lee Kuan YewThe Battle for Merger by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. (Image from National Museum of Singapore)

In 1965, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from then-University of Singapore (today’s National University of Singapore). Subsequently he was appointed as Singapore’s first Attorney-General in 1966.

Ahmad Ibrahim’s most significant contribution was the drafting of the Administration of Muslim Law Act. This led to the establishment of the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, a statutory board that looks after the interests of the Muslim community in Singapore. He also served as ambassadors to the United Arab Republic and to the Republic of Egypt.

Ahmad Ibrahim receiving a chequeAhmad Ibrahim (right) receiving a cheque from a Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) representative on behalf of a mosque. (Image from National Archives of Singapore)

From 1969 onwards, Ahmad Ibrahim concentrated on the education sector in Malaysia, taking on the roles of Professor of Legal Studies and subsequently the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Malaya. He later became the Sheikh and Dean, Kulliyyah of Laws, at the International Islamic University, Malaysia.

Later Years
Ahmad Ibrahim passed away from a heart attack in Malaysia on 17 April 1999. He is best remembered for his key contributions to the Muslim community in Singapore and the education sector in Malaysia. The late minister Dr Goh Keng Swee once described him as a man of “tremendous breadth and depth of intellect, whose ability as a legal draftsman is unsurpassed in this country”.