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Friday August 13, 2010 10:59:11 PM, ummid.com News Desk
An open letter to the Fatwa-Makers Assalam Alaikum, my dear brothers. I hope that by your rules a sister can write a letter to .... Read Full
Malegoan: In a move that can probably work as a model for the Muftis in India, Saudi King Abdullah has issued a royal order saying only approved scholars can issue religious edicts or decrees popularly known as fatwas.
"As part of our religious and national duty we want you to ensure that fatwas are only issued by members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars and other permitted people," Arab News correspondent Fatima Sidya quoted King Abdullah as saying in the decree.
The Royal Decree was sent Thursday to Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, who heads the Presidency for Scholastic Research and Religious Edicts (Dar Al-Ifta) as well as the scholars council.
The decree also asked Al-Asheikh to report to the king on those fully qualified and eligible to issue fatwas.
"Individual fatwas on personal matters such as matters of worship, dealings, personal matters are exempt from this ruling, but they should be between the questioner and the scholar. There should be a total ban on any topics involving strange or obsolete views", the King ruled.
The king said the issuing of fatwas by unqualified persons was a violation of Islamic teachings.
"We have observed the fallout from unqualified people issuing fatwas. It is our religious duty to stop them in order to preserve our religion, which is our dearest possession, and cut off an evil which, if we do not tackle now, will return with added force." the king added in the decree. "Religion is no place for bragging nor seeking worldly ambitions."
The king said differences of opinion among scholars should be confined to their own circles and not involve other people.
"We find some people undermining the role of official establishments and crossing into state jurisdiction. They pose as eligible scholars to dispute these religious establishments," he added.
"This situation has prompted us to face them with determination in order to return them to the right path and make them understand the great role played by our religious establishments."
Islamic Affairs Minister Saleh Al-Asheikh had warned earlier that many fatwas issued by individuals recently had lacked balance.
They include giving permission to kill men and women who share workspaces or, more bizarrely, allowing them to work together if a woman breastfeeds her male colleagues.
"They should not publish fatwas before consulting other experts," he said.
The minister also told members of the public to only ask for fatwas from authentic sources, including Dar Al-Ifta.
He said he had noticed scholars issuing fatwas on silly issues.
"This will give a bad impression about the Kingdom, especially with it being an Islamic state. We have so many other important issues to deal with. We have to confront terrorism and the false allegations people make connecting Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him) with terrorism," he said.
Other fatwas, including giving permission for women to travel without a legal guardian, allowing men to pray at home instead of going to mosque and allowing people to celebrate birthdays have triggered heated debates among religious scholars.
A number of leading sheikhs welcomed King Abdullah's decision.
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Muslih, who hosts a fatwa program on a religious channel, said major issues requiring a fatwa should remain in the hands of top scholars.
However, he added that personal matters such as how to pray, perform ablution or pay zakah were considered as educating the public and therefore exempt from the decree.
Sheikh Saleh Al-Shamrani, a teacher at the Scholarly Institute for Islamic Studies, also agreed with the king's decree and said it would curb outlandish fatwas during Ramadan.
"Lately, some people have had the nerve to issue random fatwas. Some of them have little religious education, while others claim they are scholars. It is time to return fatwas to qualified people who are fit to issue them," he said.
"We have waited for this decision, especially as religious channels host people belonging to different intellectual schools of thought and the public might see their beliefs as the truth."
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