: otheruses4|the Arabic language word|the 2006 film|Fatwa (film)A fatwā ( _ar. فتوى; plural "fatāwā" _ar. فتاوى), in the Islamic faith is a religious opinion on Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be, depending on the status of the scholar.


In the early days of Islam, fatwa were pronounced by distinguished scholars to provide guidance to other scholars, judges and citizens on how subtle points of Islamic law should be understood, interpreted or applied. There were strict rules on who is eligible to issue a valid fatwa and who could not, as well as on the conditions the fatwa must satisfy to be valid.

According to the "usul al-fiqh" (principles of jurisprudence), the fatwa must meet the following conditions in order to be valid:
#The fatwa is in line with relevant legal proofs, deduced from Qur'anic verses and hadiths; provided the ahadith was not later abrogated by Muhammad.
#It is issued by a person (or a board) having due knowledge and sincerity of heart;
#It is free from individual opportunism, and not depending on political servitude;
#It is adequate with the needs of the contemporary world.

Today, with the existence of modern independent States, each with its own legislative system, and/or its own body of Ulemas, each country develops and applies its own rules, based on its own interpretation of religious prescriptions. Many Muslim countries (such as Egypt and Tunisia) have an official Mufti position; a distinguished expert in the Sharia is appointed to this position by the civil authorities of the country.


During the Islamic Golden Age, in order for a scholar to be qualified to issue a fatwa, it was required that he obtained an "ijazat attadris wa'l-ifta" ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") from a Madrassah in the medieval Islamic legal education system, which was developed by the 9th century during the formation of the "Madh'hab" legal schools. Later during the Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe, the "ijazat attadris wa'l-ifta" evolved into the doctorate, or more specifically the Doctor of Laws qualification, in medieval European universities.

To obtain an "ijazat attadris wa'l-ifta" in the Madrassah system, a student "had to study in a guild school of law, usually four years for the basic undergraduate course" and ten or more years for a post-graduate course. The "doctorate was obtained after an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate's thesis," and to test the student's "ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose" which were scholarly exercises practiced throughout the student's "career as a graduate student of law." After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded doctorates giving them the status of "faqih" (meaning "master of law"), "mufti" (meaning "professor of legal opinions") and "mudarris" (meaning "teacher"), which were later translated into Latin as "magister", "professor" and "doctor" respectively.citation|last=Makdisi|first=George|title=Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West|journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society|volume=109|issue=2|date=April-June 1989|pages=175-182 [175-77] ]

Fatwa at national level

In nations where Islamic law is the basis of civil law, but has not been codified, as is the case of some Arab countries in the Middle East, fatwa by the national religious leadership are debated prior to being issued. In theory, such fatwa should rarely be contradictory. If two fatwa are potentially contradictory, the ruling bodies (combined civil and religious law) would attempt to define a compromise interpretation that will eliminate the resulting ambiguity. In these cases, the national theocracies expect fatwa to be settled law.

In the majority of Arab countries, however, Islamic law has been codified in each country according to its own rules, and is interpreted by the judicial system according to the national jurisprudence. Fatawa have no direct place in the system, except to clarify very unusual or subtle points of law for experts (not covered by the provisions of modern civil law), or to give moral authority to a given interpretation of a rule. In nations where Islamic law is not the basis of law (as is the case in various Asian and African countries), different mujtahids can issue contradictory Fatwa. In such cases, Muslims would typically honour the fatwa deriving from the leadership of their religious tradition. For example, Sunni Muslims would favor a Sunni fatwa whereas Shiite would follow a Shi'a one.

There exists no international Islamic authority to settle fiqh issues today, in a legislative sense. The closest such organism is the Islamic Fiqh Academy, (a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)), which has 43 member States. But it can only render Fatwa that are not binding on anyone.

Legal implications of a fatwa

There is a binding rule that saves the fatwa pronouncements from creating judicial havoc, whether within a Muslim country or at the level of the Islamic world in general: it is unanimously agreed that a fatwā is only binding on its author.

This was underlined by Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obeikan, vice-minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia, in an interview with the Arabic daily "Asharq al awsat", as recently as on July 9, 2006, in a discussion of the legal value of a fatwā by the Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA) on the subject of misyar marriage, which had been rendered by IFA on April 12, 2006 (see relevant excerpts in note below). [http://www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=5572]

Despite this, some times, even leading religious authorities and theologians misleadingly present their fatwā as obligatory, [http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503546692 ] or try to adopt some "in-between" position.

Thus, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar in Cairo, Muhammad Sayid Tantawy, who is the leading religious authority in the Sunni Muslim establishment in Egypt, alongside the Mufti of Egypt, said the following about fatwās issued by "himself" or the entire Dar al-Ifta:

"Fatwa issued by Al-Azhar are not binding, but they are not just whistling in the wind either; individuals are free to accept them, but Islam recognizes that extenuating circumstances may prevent it. For example, it is the right of Muslims in France who object to the law banning the veil to bring it up to the legislative and judicial authorities. If the judiciary decides in favor of the government because the country is secular, they would be considered to be Muslim individuals acting under compelling circumstances." Otherwise, in his view, they would be expected to adhere to the fatwā. [http://middleeastinfo.org/article4171.html]

In Morocco, where king Mohammed VI is also Amir al-Muminin (Commander of the faithful), the authorities have tried to organize the field by creating a scholars' council ("conseil des oulémas") composed of Muslim scholars (ulema) which is the only one allowed to issue fatwā. In this case, a national theocracy could in fact compel intra-national compliance with the fatwā, since a central authority is the source. Muslims in other nations would obviously not be required to obey it.

Some contemporary fatwa

Fatwa are expected to deal with religious issues, subtle points of interpretation of the fiqh as exemplified by the cases cited in the archives linked below. In exceptional cases, religious issues and political ones seem to be inextricably intertwined. The term fatwa is incorrectly used by some muslims, at times, to "give permission" to do a certain act that might be illegal under Islamic law.

Some examples of fatwa follow:

An important fatwā was issued in July 2007 by Islamic scholars from Al-Azhar University at the Shari'a Court of the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque, supporting interfaith dialogue with Christians and Jews through the shared study of the Quran, hadith and Jewish and Christian sacred texts, in the practice of Scriptural Reasoning [http://www.scripturalreasoning.co.uk] .

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 pronounced a death sentence on Salman Rushdie, the author of "The Satanic Verses".

Yusuf al-Qaradawi released a fatwa on April 14th 2004, stating that the boycott of American and Israeli products was an obligation for all who are able. The fatwa reads in part:

If people ask in the name of religion we must help them. The vehicle of this support is a complete boycott of the enemies' goods. Each riyal, dirham …etc. used to buy their goods eventually becomes bullets to be fired at the hearts of brothers and children in Palestine. For this reason, it is an obligation not to help them (the enemies of Islam) by buying their goods. To buy their goods is to support tyranny, oppression and aggression. Buying goods from them will strengthen them; our duty is to make them as weak as we can. Our obligation is to strengthen our resisting brothers in the Sacred Land as much as we can. If we cannot strengthen the brothers, we have a duty to make the enemy weak. If their weakness cannot be achieved except by boycott, we must boycott them.

American goods, exactly like the great Israeli goods, are forbidden. It is also forbidden to advertise these goods, even though in many cases they prove to be superior. America today is a second Israel. It totally supports the Zionist entity. The usurper could not do this without the support of America. “Israel’s” unjustified destruction and vandalism of everything has been using American money, American weapons, and the American veto. America has done this for decades without suffering the consequences of any punishment or protests about their oppressive and prejudiced position from the Islamic world. [ [http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543874 Boycotting Israeli and American Goods - IslamonLine.net - Ask The Scholar ] ] [ [http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1119503545220&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaEAskTheScholar Ulama’s Fatwa on Boycotting Israeli and American Products - IslamonLine.net - Ask The Scholar ] ]

Sheik Sadeq Abdallah bin Al-Majed, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan, issued a fatwa that prohibits vaccination of children claiming it is a conspiracy of the Jews and Freemasons. [ [http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1522.htm Clip ] ] [ [http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/1522.htm Clip Transcript ] ]

Indian Muslim scholars issued a fatwa of death against Taslima Nasreen, an exiled controversial Bangladeshi writer. Majidulla Khan Farhad of Hyderabad-based Majlis Bachao Tehriq issued the fatwa at the Tipu Sultan mosque in Kolkata after Juma prayers as saying Taslima has defamed Islam and announced “unlimited financial reward” to anybody who would kill her. [ [http://www.app.com.pk/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14998&Itemid=2 Associated Press of Pakistan - Indian Muslim scholars issue Fatwa against Taslima ] ]

In 1998, Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq, issued a fatwa prohibiting University of Virginia professor Abdulaziz Sachedina from ever again teaching Islam due in part to Sachedina's writings encouraging acceptance of religious pluralism in the Muslim world [http://www.uga.edu/islam/sachedina_silencing.html] .

Osama bin Laden issued two fatwas—in 1996 and then again in 1998—that Muslims should kill civilians and military personnel from the United States and allied countries until they withdraw support for Israel and withdraw military forces from Islamic countries. [ [http://www.pbs.org/newshour/terrorism/international/fatwa_1996.html BIN LADEN'S FATWA] ] [cite web|url=http://www.pbs.org/newshour/terrorism/international/fatwa_1998.html|title=Online NewsHour: Al Qaeda's 1998 Fatwa|publisher=PBS|accessdate=2006-08-21]

In 2005, the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the Fatwa that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons.Fact|date=September 2008

In 2008, undercover reporting by a private TV channel in India showed several respected clerics demanding and receiving cash for issue of fatwas. In response, some were suspended from issuing fatwas and Indian Muslim leaders announced that they would create a new body that will monitor the issuing of fatwas in India. [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2000524.cms Clerics issue fatwas for cash] The Times of India. Sept 18 2006] [http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1537516,00.html India's Cash-for- Fatwa Scandal] Time Magazine Sep 21 2006]

In 2008, a Pakistani religious leader issued a fatwa on President Asif Ali Zardari for "indecent gestures" toward Sarah Palin, U.S. Vice Presidential candidate. [http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/10/02/pakistani-religious-leader-issues-fatwa-president-complimenting-palin/] Fox News 2 October 2008]


* "In Sunni Islam, a fatwa is nothing more than an opinion. It is just a view of a mufti and is not binding in India." ― Maulana Mehmood Madani, president of the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind [http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20051212&fname=Cover+Story+%28F%29&sid=1&pn=2]

* "The current fashion for online fatwas has created an amazingly legalistic approach to Islam as scholars - some of whom have only a tenuous grip on reality - seek to regulate all aspects of life according to their own interpretation of the scriptures." ― Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,,1688285,00.html January 17, 2006]

* Excerpts from an interview given by Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obeikan, vice-minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia, to the Arabic daily "Asharq al awsat" on July 9, 2006, in which he discusses the legal value of a fatwa by the Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA) on the subject of "misyar" marriage, which had been rendered by IFA on April 12, 2006:

::"Asharq Al-Awsat:" From time to time and through its regular meetings, the Islamic Fiqh Academy usually issues various fatwas dealing with the concerns Muslims. However, these fatwas are not considered binding for the Islamic states. What is your opinion of this?

::"Obeikan:" Of course, they are not binding for the member Islamic states.

::"Asharq Al-Awsat:" But, what is the point of the Islamic Fiqh Academy's consensus on fatwas that are not binding for the member States?

::"Obeikan:" There is a difference between a judge and a mufti. The judge issues a verdict and binds people to it. However, the mufti explains the legal judgment but he does not bind the people to his fatwa. The decisions of the Islamic Fiqh Academy are fatwa decisions that are not binding for others. They only explain the legal judgment, as the case is in fiqh books.

::"Asharq Al-Awsat:" Well, what about the Ifta House [official Saudi fatwa organism] ? Are its fatwas not considered binding on others?

::"Obeikan:" I do not agree with this. Even the decisions of the Ifta House are not considered binding, whether for the people or the State.

ee also

*Grand Mufti
* taqlid, ijtihad, ijma, Tafsir, list of Islamic terms in Arabic, posek
* List of famous fatāwā
* Papal bull
* Fatāwā of Osama bin Laden
* Yusuf al-Qaradawi : fatwa for the boycott of American and Israeli products, 2004

External links

* [http://www.Islam-quran-sunnah.blogspot.com Islam Quran Sunnah - The Right Path]
* [http://sugiero.blogspot.com/2007/03/islamic-measure-for-young-muslim-girls.html Fatwa: Islamic Measure For Young Muslim Girls in Germany]
* [http://dinarstandard.com/marketing/IP_PnG0303506.htm 'Fatwa' helps Proctor & Gamble in Anti-Counterfeiting Campaign]
* [http://www.why-war.com/commentary/2003/12/what_fatwa_islam.html The Fatwa and Revolutionary Islamic Movements]
* [http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm/writings/q-academic/econ_fatwa.html The Warped Economics of Fatwa: Demand Creates Its OWN Supply] by Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
*Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obeikan, vice-minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia, interview with the Arabic daily "Asharq al awsat" on July 9, 2006, discussion of the legal value of a fatwa. [http://www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=5572]

Fatwa websites

* [http://www.darulifta-deoband.org/ Darul Ifta - Deoband India ]
* [http://www.Daruliftaa.com / Darul Iftaa of Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al Kawthari]
* [http://www.SunniPath.com / Website of scholars such as Shaykh Faraz Rabbani ]
* [http://www.islamonline.net/livefatwa/english/select.asp www.IslamOnline.net / Contemporaryislamist scholars from North America, Europe, MiddleEast and featuring] Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
* [http://www.darululoomkhi.edu.pk/ Fatwas by Mufti Taqi Usmani]
* [http://www.islamtoday.com / supervised by Sheikh Salman bin Fahd al-Oadah - Saudi Arabia, maintained in 4 different languages viz. English, Arabic, Francais, Chinese.]
* [http://www.survivorsareus.com / Fatwas by Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid of Saudi Arabia and Dr. Abdullah Faqih of Dubai.0]
* [http://www.askimam.org/ Website of Mufti Ebrahim Desai]
* [http://www.islam-qa.com www.Islam-QA.com supervised by Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, Saudi Arabia, maintained in 7 different languages viz. English, Arabic, Urdu, Francais, Indonesian, Japanese, Spanish.]
* [http://www.halalguide.info/content/blogsection/6/55/ Fatwa by Majelis Ulama Indonesia]
* [http://www.halalguide.info/content/blogsection/8/54/ Fatwa about Islamic Economics] by Dewan Syariah Nasional of Majelis Ulama Indonesia
* [http://www.fatwa-online.com fatwa-online.com, Saudi Arabia.]
* [http://www.dar-alifta.com / Darul Iftaa of Egypt]
* [http://www.efatwa.com www.eFatwa.com]
* [http://www.scripturalreasoning.co.uk / Scriptural Reasoning - An Islamic Fatwa]


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