Writing in Asharq Alawsat, Turki Al-Saheil writes about talks now taking place in both the Shoura Council and the Council of Senior Ulema to make the issuance of takfiri fatwas a defined crime. Takfiri fatwas declare that someone is not a Muslim. Not only is that person declared to be a non-believer, but he is also subject to being killed by anyone who claims to be upholding the virtue of Islam. In a culture in which religion is tightly interwoven with daily life, being declared a non-Muslim is not just an exercise in rhetoric.
The wild, ‘cowboy’ issuing of fatawa does distort Islam and it damages the Saudi state. One Shoura Council member is quoted as saying that even though the clerics issuing these fatwas have no connection to the Saudi state, they are still identified as ‘Saudi Arabian religious clerics’, and bring down the reputation of all Saudi clerics. An example raised in the article is that of the clerics who issued fatwas claiming that the public mixing of the sexes was haram, i.e., strictly forbidden by Islam, and to permit this mixing was to put oneself outside the fold of the Islamic nation or umma.
Calls to Criminalize Takfiri Fatwas
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia’s Senior Ulema Council is currently holding closed-door sessions to discuss two important issues affecting the kingdom; the financing of terrorism, and Takfiri fatwas.
Last week, another closed-door session held by the Saudi Shura Council discussed calls to criminalize Takfiri fatwas that are issued from outside the official religious institute in order to put an end to the issuance of such fatwas that have been on the rise in recent years. Takfiri fatwas are fatwas or religious advisory opinions that state that a certain practice or act is haram or religiously impermissible and that anybody who takes part in such practices is not a Muslim.
Sources close to one of the members of the Senior Ulema Council stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that the sessions being held by the council in Riyadh are “secret and extraordinary,” while another source at the Senior Ulema Council explained that the meetings, which commenced on Saturday and will end today Monday 12 April, will discuss the criminalization of the “Takfiri fatwas,” and the “financing of terrorism.”