Saudi Gazette runs a piece reporting on calls for official action to be taken against ‘fake muftis’, men with inadequate knowledge of Islam who nevertheless feel qualified to issue fatwas. This, the article suggests, is one of the ways that religious extremism creeps into society. Some of the fatwas issued are just nonsensical; other, though, create serious problems of intolerance.
The problem, though, is that the qualifications for becoming a mufti are pretty loose. “Thorough knowledge” and “deep understanding” of the Quran and Sunnah are terms open to interpretation. Still, there is a need to get out of the era of ‘dueling fatwas’, wherein it’s far too easy to find fatwas in complete contradiction with each other. ‘Shopping for fatwas’, i.e., continually hunting around to find a mufti who will issue the fatwa you like, would be ended as well by a single, uniform body. That is indeed what the government has established. It needs now to make it stick.
Strict action sought against self-styled muftis
Joud Al-Amri | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH – A number of scholars and citizens have urged the authorities to take stringent measures against people who issue religious edicts (fatwas) without authority.
They underlined the need for reining in on the self-styled muftis and religious guides who mislead people with false fatwas based on questionable knowledge of religious matters.
Prominent scholar Sheikh Hassan Safar urged the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawah and Guidance to appoint licensed muftis and preachers across the Kingdom.
“This should be done in coordination with the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Asheikh, who is also head of the Senior Scholars’ Commission and Ifta Council. Issuing fatwas without authority is a grave sin,” he said.
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Sheikh Safar said that a person who issues a fatwa must be qualified to do so and fulfill certain prerequisites. “A mufti must have thorough knowledge of the Shariah and religious affairs, memorized the Qur’an and possess a deep understanding of the interpretation of the Qur’an as well as the Sunnah,” he said.
“Students of Shariah who do not have deep knowledge in religious affairs do not have the authority to issue fatwas.”
According to Sheikh Safar, there are numerous people in the Kingdom who try to pass off as muftis, preachers or guides without having any religious background.