Fatwa charter signed in Saudi to curb abuses

Islamic scholars agree to regulate religious rulings


For the first time in the history of Islam, Muslim leaders have agreed to regulate the issuing of fatwas, or religious edicts, according to press reports Wednesday.

More than 170 Islamic scholars attending the International Conference on Fatwas convened at the Muslim World League in Mecca, Saudi Arabia agreed to a charter intended to curb disruptive and unauthorized fatwas, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.

The charter details the rules for issuing fatwas and discusses the disruption caused by fabrications and misinterpretations of the Quran and Sunnah, the prophet's teachings.

Several infamous fatwas issued last year provoked outrage in the Arab and Western media, such as a rulings calling for the death of Mickey Mouse, banning yoga and permitting the killing of satellite television broadcasters.

The new rules prohibit calling a Muslim an apostate without a flagrant violation of Islamic laws and forbid rulings in cases where a particular matter cannot be judged according to Islamic law.

The charter also advises Muslims not to follow fatwas that sanction bloodshed.

According to the charter a fatwa must be written clearly to avoid ambiguity and facilitate understanding by Muslims and non-Muslims alike by avoiding unnescesary detail.

The conference cautioned the media to exercise caution in propagating fatwas and to consult expert scholars in order to avoid the dissemination of unauthorized and unauthenticated edicts.

The charter states the requirements of the position of mufti, a religious jurist who interprets Islamic law. A mufti, who must be a Muslim male, should be wise and fully aware of his surroundings and the context in which the fatwa is issued. He also must have the ability to apply the text to real life situations and should be knowledgeable of the methodologies of previous muftis.

The conference called upon Islamic educational institutions to compile contemporary fatwas and incorporate them in their syllabi as well as hold seminars that explain to students the benefits, as well the dangers, of fatwas and the rules that have to regulate the issuing process.

The attendees also called on Muslim countries to appoint muftis throughout their lands to help Muslims solve contemporary problems in accordance with Islamic laws.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)