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in Islamic law, an opinion made by a judicial/religious scholar (a muftimufti
, in Islamic law, attorney or judicial/religious scholar who writes his opinion (fatwa) on legal subjects for private clients or to assist judges in deciding cases.
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) on a legal, civil, or religious matter. The fatwa is usually a valuable source of information on any subject for private individuals or for judges or other authorities, and it is normally used as a guide and does not have the force of law. Under normal circumstances, a fatwa is legally binding only in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Fatwas are often issued to raise awareness and provide clarification regarding a specific issue for Muslims, who then may or may not follow them. Over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of fatwas have been produced. They came to the attention of many Westerners in 1989 when Iran's Ayatollah KhomeiniKhomeini, Ayatollah Ruhollah
, 1900–1989, Iranian Shiite religious leader. Educated in Islam at home and in theological schools, in the 1950s he was designated ayatollah, a supreme religious leader, in the Iranian Shiite community.
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 issued a fatwa calling for the death of author Salman RushdieRushdie, Sir Salman
, 1947–, British novelist, b. Bombay (now Mumbai, India). He is known for the allusive richness of his language and the wide variety of Eastern and Western characters and cultures he explores.
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, whom he accused of blasphemy. Another well-known and deadly fatwa was issued by Osama bin Ladenbin Laden, Osama or Usama
, 1957?–2011, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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 in 1998 and called for Muslims to execute Americans and their allies.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

An Islamic religious scholar is called an 'alim, a word meaning "one who possesses knowledge." Specifically, it refers to a man who has extensively studied the Qur'an and related commentaries. Some 'ulama (the plural of 'alim) specialize in learning the text from memory and reciting it in a ritualistic style known as tajwid. Others act as judges, basing their verdicts on Qur'anic texts. Such a judge is called a faqih ("one who understands deeply"). Other scholars are called mufti. These are the ones who define Muslim action in society. When a mufti pronounces a legally or morally binding Islamic law, the judgment is called a fatwa.

The Qur'an alone cannot possibly cover modern ethical dilemmas. What should a Muslim do, for instance, when given the responsibility to end life support for a loved one dying of cancer or heart failure—a choice Muhammad could never have conceived during his lifetime? Only one who has studied enough Muslim tradition to apply the "spirit" of older laws to the morality of new social issues can decide the question. The issuance of a fatwa helps establish a precedent for future cases, enabling Islam to change with the times while remaining true to its roots and tradition.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Arabic, “opinion”), in Muslim countries, a juridical decision regarding the correspondence of a given action or phenomenon to the Koran or to the sharia (the body of formally established sacred law in Islam). Afatwa is rendered by a high religious authority, such as a mufti or shaykh al-lslam, and is usually given in the form of a question and answer. Since the Middle Ages, Muslims have been required to obtain afatwa on every important question, including declarations of war and conclusions of peace.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Second, she noted bin Laden's fatwah against the U.S., which was motivated by the presence of U.S.
This is an interesting proposal, but surely governments have to be converted to the idea: the imprimatur of state muftis, enshrined, for instance, in a long series of revisionary fatwah, could be requisite where gender restrictions have to be waived.
Shahin Portohfeh, who has been living in Hillfields, Coventry, for about 15 months, claims he has a fatwah on his life and faces the death penalty if he returns home.
(40) Rushdie's own critique of religious and political extremes of all origins attracted a fatwah, keeping him out of the public eye for years.
(22) See the text of the 1998 fatwah allegedly issued by Osama Bin Laden against Americans.
After Iran imposed a fatwah on him, Salman was forced to go into hiding for much of the nineties - pretty much the same period that Kylie dropped off the radar after being dumped by Mushroom Records.
In her tribute to Salman Rushdie's thinly veiled resistance to censorship, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Lurie wisely refrains from suggesting that the author rediscovered his child-like naivete after being the object of a years-long fatwah. Of J.
Anger is sometimes present, especially in the more political essays, several of which are on censorship and the persecution of artists and writers in the past and the present--the example of the fatwah against Salman Rushdie is cited in several different essays.
And indeed, the study of so-called peripheral literature testifies to the force of culture as difference, not only for contemporary readers of it, but also in terms of its very production (often under the most trying of circumstances, from the furtiveness imposed on Jane Austen's writing by her household to the fatwah against Salman Rushdie and every imaginable kind of harassment in-between).
For example, the chapter on religion and women's human rights recommends that "proposing a fatwah should be an illegal act" (SSJ, 112) This seems to assume that a fatwah is a call to violence; otherwise, there would be no liberal justification for declaring fatwahs illegal.
I do have one bee in my bonnet about the media, and that has to do with the use of the word "fatwah." Journalists use it wrongly on many occasions.
Usama bin Laden preaching a Fatwah to his similarly deluded followers.