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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 ?
The judge had gone on to provide his views on other legal points, saying that the Selangor fatwa applies to SIS Forum (Malaysia) even if it was only a company.
There is a version of the remote-controlled Fatwa robot designed for people with special needs.
"We will likely hear soon a fatwa which says wine is halal," Sattam said.
Only the previously mentioned institutions have the right to issue public fatwas in the media.
A fatwa was sought by Mohammad Fazal from Muzzafarnagar asking whether using nail polish and keeping long nails by men and women is allowed in Islam.
ISLAMABAD -- Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri on Tuesday suggested turning the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) an advisory body for presenting Islamic views on various policy issues into a Federal Fatwa Centre.
Shaikh Bin Bayyah said the council will repel and defeat rogue and irregular fatwas through ensuring alignment of fatwas (Islamic rulings) in the country and preaching of moderate Islam.
'The fatwa also states that there is an urgent need to fight violent extremism or radicalism, in compliance with the injunction of the Qur'an and the Prophetic Tradition (Al-Hadith),' it said.
The fatwa section of Dubai's Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) issued the edict in response to a question from an anonymous reader about the legality of people secretly using other's wifi.
Salman Rushdie and his book: It is indeed the most famous fatwa issued by any religious cleric in the world.
Sumaida'ie said in a statement today that "these volunteers responded to the national appeal made by Sunni Clerics and their Fatwa Advisory Council emanating from the anti position of expiatory extremist groups and insistence to expel them , which came simultaneously with the Jihadist Fatwa of Cleric Ali Sistani .
Apex court rules their fatwas are not binding on anyone