Fatwa

Fatwa

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Encyclopedia
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 issued by an Islamic scholar
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

. In Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

 any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā is called, in that respect, a Mufti
Mufti
A mufti is a Sunni Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law . In religious administrative terms, a mufti is roughly equivalent to a deacon to a Sunni population...

, i.e. an issuer of fatwā, from the verb أَفْتَى 'aftā = "he gave a formal legal opinion on". This is not necessarily a formal position since most Muslims argue that anyone trained in Islamic law may give an opinion (fatwā) on its teachings. If a fatwā does not break new ground, then it is simply called a ruling.

An analogy might be made to the issue of legal opinion
Legal opinion
In law, an opinion is usually a written explanation by a judge or group of judges that accompanies an order or ruling in a case, laying out the rationale and legal principles for the ruling....

s from courts in common-law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 systems. Fatwās generally contain the details of the scholar's reasoning, typically in response to a particular case, and are considered binding precedent by those Muslims who have bound themselves to that scholar, including future Muftis; mere rulings can be compared to memorandum opinion
Memorandum opinion
A memorandum opinion or memorandum decision is a judicial opinion that does not create precedent, persuasive or mandatory in some jurisdictions. A memorandum is often brief and written only to announce judgment in a particular case...

s. The primary difference between common-law opinions and fatwās, however, is that fatwās are not universally binding; as the Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 is not universally consistent and Islam is very non-hierarchical in structure, fatwās do not carry the sort of weight that secular common-law opinions do.

Popular misconceptions



Some people use the term to mean an Islamic death sentence imposed upon a person. This is indeed one possibility among others (and is properly called a Haraam
Haraam
Haraam is an Arabic term meaning "forbidden", or "sacred". In Islam it is used to refer to anything that is prohibited by the word of Allah in the Qur'an or the Hadith Qudsi. Haraam is the highest status of prohibition given to anything that would result in sin when a Muslim commits it...

), but is a rare use for a fatwā. The term's correct definition is broader, since a fatwā may concern any aspect of individual life, social norms, religion, war, peace, Jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

, and politics. Most Islamic opinions (millions of fatwā have been issued over the 1,400 years of Islam's existence) deal with mundane issues faced by Muslims in their daily life, such as the customs of marriage, financial affairs, moral questions, et cetera. They are issued in response to questions by ordinary Muslims, and go unnoticed by those not concerned, while the much smaller number of fatwā issued on controversial subjects, such as war, Jihad, and Dhimmi
Dhimmi
A , is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia law. Linguistically, the word means "one whose responsibility has been taken". This has to be understood in the context of the definition of state in Islam...

s (particularly by extremist preachers), sometimes get wide coverage in the media because of their political content (see examples below).

A fatwā is not automatically part of Islamic teachings. While the person issuing it may intend to represent the teachings of Islam accurately, this does not mean that that person's interpretation will gain universal acceptance. There are many divergent schools within the religion, and even people within the same current of thought will sometimes rule differently on a difficult issue. This means that there are numerous contradictory fatwā, prescribing or proscribing a certain behavior. This puts the burden of choice on the individual Muslim, who, in case of conflict, will be forced to decide whose opinion is more likely to be correct.

History


In the early days of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, fatwās 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 was eligible to issue a valid fatwā and who could not, as well as on the conditions the fatwā must satisfy to be valid.

According to the usul al-fiqh
Usul al-fiqh
Uṣūl al-fiqh is the study of the origins, sources, and principles upon which Islamic jurisprudence is based. In the narrow sense, it simply refers to the question of what are the sources of Islamic law...

(principles of jurisprudence), the fatwā must meet the following conditions in order to be valid:
  1. The fatwā is in line with relevant legal proofs, deduced from Qur'anic verses and ahadith; provided the hadith was not later abrogated by Muhammad
    Muhammad
    Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

    .
  2. It is issued by a person (or a board) having due knowledge and sincerity of heart;
  3. It is free from individual opportunism, and not depending on political servitude;
  4. It is adequate with the needs of the contemporary world.


With the existence of modern independent States, each with its own legislative system, or its own body of Ulema
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

s, each country develops and applies its own rules, based on its own interpretation of religious prescriptions. Many Muslim countries (such as Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

) have an official Mufti
Mufti
A mufti is a Sunni Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law . In religious administrative terms, a mufti is roughly equivalent to a deacon to a Sunni population...

 position; a distinguished expert in the Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 is appointed to this position by the civil authorities of the country. But his fatwās are binding on no one: neither the State that appoints him, nor any citizen.

Issuer qualifications


During what is often referred to as the Islamic Golden Age
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

, in order for a scholar to be qualified to issue a fatwā, it was required that he obtained an ijazat attadris wa'l-ifta
Ijazah
An ijazah is a certificate used primarily by Sunni Muslims to indicate that one has been authorized by a higher authority to transmit a certain subject or text of Islamic knowledge...

("license to teach and issue legal opinions") from a Madrassah in the medieval Islamic legal education
Legal education
Legal education is the education of individuals who intend to become legal professionals or those who simply intend to use their law degree to some end, either related to law or business...

 system, which was developed by the 9th century during the formation of the Madh'hab legal schools.

National level


In nations where Islamic law
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 is the basis of civil law, but has not been codified, as is the case of some Arab countries in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, fatwā by the national religious leadership are debated prior to being issued. In theory, such fatwā should rarely be contradictory. If two fatwā 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 fatwā 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. Fatwā 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 fatwā. In such cases, Muslims would typically honour the fatwā deriving from the leadership of their religious tradition. For example, Sunni
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

 Muslims would favor a Sunni fatwā whereas Shiite
Shi'a Islam
Shia Islam is the second largest denomination of Islam. The followers of Shia Islam are called Shi'ites or Shias. "Shia" is the short form of the historic phrase Shīʻatu ʻAlī , meaning "followers of Ali", "faction of Ali", or "party of Ali".Like other schools of thought in Islam, Shia Islam is...

 would follow a Shi'a one.

There exists no international Islamic authority to settle fiqh
Fiqh
Fiqh is Islamic jurisprudence. Fiqh is an expansion of the code of conduct expounded in the Quran, often supplemented by tradition and implemented by the rulings and interpretations of Islamic jurists....

 issues today, in a legislative sense. The closest such organism is the Islamic Fiqh Academy
Islamic Fiqh Academy
Islamic Fiqh Academy is an Academy for advanced study of Islam based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was created at the decision of the second summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference 1974 and inaugurated in February 1988.-References:...

, (a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)), which has 57 member States. But it can only render fatwā that are not binding on anyone.

Legal implications


There is a binding rule that saves the fatwā 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. He said, "Even the decisions of the official Ifta authority [the official Saudi fatwā institute] is binding on no one, whether for the people or the State."

Still, sometimes, even leading religious authorities and theologians misleadingly present their fatwā as obligatory, or try to adopt some "in-between" position.

Thus, the Sheikh
Sheikh
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

 of al-Azhar
Al-Azhar Mosque
Al-Azhar Mosque is a mosque in Islamic Cairo in Egypt. Al-Mu‘izz li-Dīn Allāh of the Fatimid Caliphate commissioned its construction for the newly established capital city in 970. Its name is usually thought to allude to the Islamic prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatimah, a revered figure in Islam...

 in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, Muhammad Sayid Tantawy, who is the leading religious authority in the Sunni Muslim establishment in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, alongside the Mufti of Egypt, said the following about fatwās issued by himself or the entire Dar al-Ifta:

"Fatwā 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
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 who object to the law banning the veil
French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools
The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools bans wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public primary and secondary schools...

 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.

In Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, where king Mohammed VI
Mohammed VI of Morocco
Mohammed VI is the present King of Morocco and Amir al-Mu'minin . He ascended to the throne on 23 July 1999 upon the death of his father.-Education:...

 is also Amir al-Muminin
Amir al-Muminin
Amīr al-Mu'minīn usually translated Commander of the Faithful or Leader of the Faithful, is the Arabic style of Caliphs and other independent sovereign Muslim rulers that claim legitimacy from a community of Muslims...

 (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
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

), 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. Even then, however, the issue would not necessarily be religiously binding for the residents of that nation. For, the state may have the power to put a fatwā in effect, but that does not mean that the fatwā is to be religiously accepted by all. For instance, if a state fatwā council made abortion acceptable in the first trimester without any medical reason, that would have direct impact on official procedures in hospitals and courts in that country. Yet, this would not mean that the Muslims in that nation has to agree with that fatwā, or that fatwā is religiously binding for them.

Sources


Sources of fatwā include:
  • Al-Azhar University
    Al-Azhar University
    Al-Azhar University is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.It is...

  • Mufti Ebrahim Desai
    Mufti Ebrahim Desai
    Ebrahim Desai is a Muslim Deobandi mufti and teacher of Islamic law based in Durban,Sherwood, South Africa. He runs the fatwa website , an online Islamic questions and answers database and used to head the Dar al-Ifta of Madrasah In'aamiyyah, Camperdown as the Principal Mufti as well as used to be...

     (for the members of the Deobandi sect)
  • Darul Iftaa, Bareilly Shareef (for members of the Sunni Barelvi school)
  • Darul Iftaa, Jamiatul Ashrafia Misbah ul-Ulum (for members of the Sunni Barelvi school)
  • Cairo University
    Cairo University
    Cairo University is a public university located in Giza, Egypt.The university was founded on December 21, 1908, as the result of an effort to establish a national center for educational thought...

     Center of Islamic Research and Studies
  • Islamopedia Online A growing resource of fatwās issued in English, French, Arabic, Urdu and Persian as well as news articles, editorials & analysis, exhibits and other original content for people interested in learning about Islam. Run by the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University.
  • Islamic Enlightenment Foundation A source for authentic fatwas in Arabic, English and Urdu. Fatwas issued by Muftis from Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia, Binnori Town, Pakistan.
  • Darul Uloom Karachi

Contemporary examples



Fatwā 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 certain cases, religious issues and political ones seem to be inextricably intertwined. The term fatwā is sometimes used by some Muslims to mean to "give permission" to do a certain act that might be illegal under Islamic law; other Muslims view this to be incorrect.

Despite the word "fatwā" not being included in the Qur'an, individuals commonly obtain fatwā to guide them in everyday life. Due to the lack of a central unifying rulemaker, different sheiks may give different answers to the same question. This leaves an opportunity for the controversial practice of "fatwā shopping", in which an individual asks the same question of different sheiks until they receive an answer they like.
Examples of famous or controversial fatawā include the following:

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Ruhollah Khomeini
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran...

 in 1989 pronounced a death sentence on Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses
The Satanic Verses (novel)
The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie's fourth novel, first published in 1988 and inspired in part by the life of Prophet Muhammad. As with his previous books, Rushdie used magical realism and relied on contemporary events and people to create his characters...

.

In 2001, religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 issued a fatawā against the children's game Pokémon
Pokémon
is a media franchise published and owned by the video game company Nintendo and created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1996. Originally released as a pair of interlinkable Game Boy role-playing video games developed by Game Freak, Pokémon has since become the second most successful and lucrative video...

, after finding that it encouraged gambling, and was based on the theory of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, "a Jewish-Darwinist theory, that conflicts with the truth about humans and with Islamic principles".

In 2001, Egypt's Grand Mufti
Grand Mufti
The title of Grand Mufti refers to the highest official of religious law in a Sunni or Ibadi Muslim country. The Grand Mufti issues legal opinions and edicts, fatwā, on interpretations of Islamic law for private clients or to assist judges in deciding cases...

 issued a fatwā stating that the show "Who will Win the Million?" (modelled on the British show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a television game show which offers large cash prizes for correctly answering a series of multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The format is owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television International. The maximum cash prize is one million pounds...

) was un-Islamic. The Sheikh of Cairo's Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.It is...

 later rejected the fatwā, finding that there was no objection to such shows since they spread general knowledge.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a controversial Egyptian Islamic theologian. He is best known for his programme, ash-Shariah wal-Hayat , broadcast on Al Jazeera, which has an estimated audience of 60 million worldwide...

 released a fatwā on April 14, 2004, stating that the boycott of American and Israeli products was an obligation for all who are able. The fatwā 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.


Sheik Sadeq Abdallah bin Al-Majed, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, issued a fatwā that prohibits vaccination of children claiming it is a conspiracy of the Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 and Freemasons.

Indian Muslim scholars issued a fatwā of death against Taslima Nasreen, an exiled controversial Bangladeshi writer. Majidulla Khan Farhad of Hyderabad-based Majlis Bachao Tehriq issued the fatwā 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.

In 1998, Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, issued a fatwā prohibiting University of Virginia
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

 professor Abdulaziz Sachedina
Abdulaziz Sachedina
Abdulaziz Sachedina is the Frances Myers Ball Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, teaching mainly subjects associated with Islam. He has been a professor for 33 years, beginning in 1975. He annually teaches courses on Classical Islam, Islam in the Modern Age, Islam,...

 from ever again teaching Islam due in part to Sachedina's writings encouraging acceptance of religious pluralism in the Muslim world.

Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 issued two fatwās—in 1996 and then again in 1998
Fatawā of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden wrote what is referred to as a fatwā in August 1996, and was one of several signatories of another and shorter fatwa in February 1998. Both documents appeared initially in the Arabic-language London newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi...

—that Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s should kill civilian
Civilian
A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or other militia. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation...

s and military personnel
Combatant
A combatant is someone who takes a direct part in the hostilities of an armed conflict. If a combatant follows the law of war, then they are considered a privileged combatant, and upon capture they qualify as a prisoner of war under the Third Geneva Convention...

 from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and allied countries until they withdraw support for Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and withdraw military forces from Islamic countries
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

.

In 2003, on his television show John Safran Vs God
John Safran vs God
John Safran vs God is an 8 part television documentary series by John Safran which was broadcast on SBS TV of Australia in 2004. It has been described in a media release as "John Safran's most audacious project yet". It had a much more serious tone than Safran's previous work Music Jamboree...

, Australian comedian John Safran
John Safran
John Safran is an Australian documentary maker and radio broadcaster, known for combining humour with explorations into religion and other issues...

 tricked Sheikh Omar Bakri into placing a fatwā on Safran's colleague Rove McManus
Rove McManus
John Henry Michael "Rove" McManus is an Australian comedian, television presenter, producer and media personality. He was the host of the self-titled variety show Rove, and is the owner of the production company Roving Enterprises...

 by showing him falsified evidence seeming to indicate that McManus had been making fun of Islam.

In 2005, the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwā that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons.

Another example of a fatwā is forbidding the smoking of cigarettes by Muslims.

In 2007, Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt's al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.It is...

 issued a fatwā that allowed women to breastfeed their male colleagues as a way of bypassing segregation of the sexes at work.

In September 2007, the Central Java division and Jepara branch of the Indonesian organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (the Awakening of the Religious Scholars) declared the government's proposal to build a nuclear power station nearby at Balong on the Muria peninsula haram or forbidden. The fatwā was issued following a two-day meeting of more than a hundred ulama to consider the pros and cons of the proposal addressed by government ministers, scientists and critics. The decision cited both positive and negative aspects of the proposal, which it had balanced to make its judgment. Key concerns were the question of long-term safe disposal and storage of radioactive waste, the potential local and regional environmental consequences of the plant’s operation, the lack of financial clarity about the project, and issues of foreign technological dependence.

In 2008, undercover reporting by a private TV channel in India showed several respected clerics demanding and receiving cash for issue of fatwās. In response, some were suspended from issuing fatwās and Indian Muslim leaders announced that they would create a new body that will monitor the issuing of fatwās in India.

In 2008, a Pakistani religious leader issued a fatwā on President Asif Ali Zardari for "indecent gestures" toward Sarah Palin, U.S. Vice Presidential candidate.

In 2008, Indian Ulema from the world renowned seminary of Deoband have categorically issued a fatwā against terrorism and mentioned that any sort of killing of innocent people or civilians is Haram
Haraam
Haraam is an Arabic term meaning "forbidden", or "sacred". In Islam it is used to refer to anything that is prohibited by the word of Allah in the Qur'an or the Hadith Qudsi. Haraam is the highest status of prohibition given to anything that would result in sin when a Muslim commits it...

or Forbidden. The fatwā also clarified that there is no Jihad in Kashmir or against India as freedom of religion is guaranteed by the state as any state that guarantees freedom of religion can not have Jihad sanctioned against it. This fatwā was reiterated in 2009 where Indian Home Minister P. Chidrambram hailed the move. The full text of the fatwā in English is available here

Deoband Ulema in India have repeatedly mentioned that the Taliban government in Afghanistan was Un-Islamic. This was most recently reiterated at a convention in Karachi recently.
These include the idea of establishing shariah rule with force in the name of Jihad and levying of "jizya" on Sikh citizens of Pakistan, which was termed as nothing more than extortion by armed gangs.
The stand was explained by Maulana Abu Hassan Nadvi as below

This can't be called a war in the name of Islam. Even during a legitimate jihad, which is fought not by a rag-tag army of misguided youth but by the state against identified aggressors, Islam has set certain principles like you can't harm the old, sick, women and children. You can't attack any place of worship. But terrorists kill people indiscriminately. They are earning Allah's punishment.


Suicide bombing in any form have also been declared haram and forbidden by Indian ulema. This stand is also supported by Saudi scholars such as Shaykh Muhammad Bin Saalih al-'Uthaymeen who have issued fatwā saying Suicide bombings are haram and those who commit this act are not shaheed (martyrs).

Quotes

  • "In Sunni Islam, a fatwā 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

  • "The current fashion for online fatwās has created an amazingly legalistic approach to Islam as scholars
    Mullah
    Mullah is generally used to refer to a Muslim man, educated in Islamic theology and sacred law. The title, given to some Islamic clergy, is derived from the Arabic word مَوْلَى mawlā , meaning "vicar", "master" and "guardian"...

     - 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
    Qur'an
    The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

    ." ― Brian Whitaker
    Brian Whitaker
    Brian Whitaker has been a journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian since 1987 and its Middle East editor from 2000-2007. He is currently an editor on the paper's "Comment Is Free". He also writes articles for Guardian Unlimited, the internet edition of the paper...

    , The Guardian
    The Guardian
    The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...


  • 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 fatwā 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 fatwās dealing with the concerns of Muslims. However, these fatwās 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 fatwās 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 fatwā. The decisions of the Islamic Fiqh Academy are fatwā 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 fatwā organism]? Are its fatwās 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.

Other meanings


Some fatwās have drawn a great deal of attention in Western media, giving rise to the term fatwā being used loosely for statements by non-Muslims that advocate an extreme religious or political position, and loosely or as slang
Slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 for other sorts of decrees, for example:
"The pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 issued a fatwā." (in a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 history program
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

) [which one? what channel?]
"According to sources in today’s Tibetan resistance, the Chinese Communist "fatwā" to silence Patterson has never been rescinded."

See also

  • Responsa
    Responsa
    Responsa comprise a body of written decisions and rulings given by legal scholars in response to questions addressed to them.-In the Roman Empire:Roman law recognised responsa prudentium, i.e...

  • Mufti
    Mufti
    A mufti is a Sunni Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law . In religious administrative terms, a mufti is roughly equivalent to a deacon to a Sunni population...

  • Taqlid
    Taqlid
    Taqlid or taklid is an Arabic term in Islamic legal terminology connoting "imitation", that is; following the decisions of a religious authority without necessarily examining the scriptural basis or reasoning of that decision, such as accepting and following the verdict of scholars of...

  • Ijtihad
    Ijtihad
    Ijtihad is the making of a decision in Islamic law by personal effort , independently of any school of jurisprudence . as opposed to taqlid, copying or obeying without question....

  • Ijma
    Ijma
    Ijmāʿ is an Arabic term referring to the consensus of the Muslim community. Various schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence may define this consensus as that of the first generation of Muslims only; the consensus of the first three generations of Muslims; the consensus of the jurists...

  • Tafsir
    Tafsir
    Tafseer is the Arabic word for exegesis or commentary, usually of the Qur'an. Ta'wīl is a subset of tafsir and refers to esoteric or mystical interpretation. An author of tafsir is a mufassir .- Etymology :...

  • Posek
    Posek
    Posek is the term in Jewish law for "decider"—a legal scholar who decides the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists....

  • List of fatwas
  • Papal bull
    Papal bull
    A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

  • Fatwa of Osama bin Laden
  • Yusuf al-Qaradawi
    Yusuf al-Qaradawi
    Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a controversial Egyptian Islamic theologian. He is best known for his programme, ash-Shariah wal-Hayat , broadcast on Al Jazeera, which has an estimated audience of 60 million worldwide...

  • Edict
    Edict
    An edict is an announcement of a law, often associated with monarchism. The Pope and various micronational leaders are currently the only persons who still issue edicts.-Notable edicts:...

  • Legal opinion
    Legal opinion
    In law, an opinion is usually a written explanation by a judge or group of judges that accompanies an order or ruling in a case, laying out the rationale and legal principles for the ruling....

    , the secular equivalent

External links