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The Sheikh and the Fever - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Egypt’s Mufti Ali Gomaa said that preventing Egyptian pilgrims from travelling to Mecca would not be Haram [prohibited religiously] if there were a security- health- or climate-related reason to do so. He added that on 30 occasions in Egypt’s history, pilgrims were prevented from performing the Hajj pilgrimage.

Sheikh Gomaa made these comments out of fear of more people becoming infected with Swine Flu. The jurist sheikh did not hesitate to issue that fatwa, unlike other sheikhs who refrained from taking such positions, either fearing people’s reactions or out of ignorance of what’s going on.

Other sheikhs raised other questions such as is a person who dies of Swine Flu considered a martyr? Is it permissible to postpone the academic year because of this epidemic? The best answer I heard came from the Saudi Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al Okaiban who said that sheikhs should let the ministries of health and education decide whether or not the academic year should begin on time. What has a jurist or sheikh got to do with this?

The truth is that this obsessive state has accustomed people to asking sheikhs about every single little issue and about matters that are irrelevant to juristic issues. People ask about an emotional issue, or for their dream to be interpreted or for professional or academic advice.

One Sheikh was asked by a Muslim woman from a European country about a matter that concerns living in that country, and when he responded to that question with an answer she did not like, she insisted on repeating the same question saying that she is a woman who loves her religion. The sheikh, who was answering her from his country at the heart of the Islamic world, insisted on giving the same answer.

There are many fatwa programs that are full of questions and minor details that preoccupy the people calling in and the media profits from this obsession with fatwas.

I think this suggests that many are seeking a “father figure” by clinging to the sheikh’s cloak and turban in the same way a child clings to his father.

This also suggests a state of intellectual laziness and dependence on whoever is offering quick solutions and can relieve our religious consciences easily.

Religious rulings, which were valuable and significant once upon a time when they were issued by knowledgeable and proficient jurists who issue these fatwas after meticulous study, can now be dealt by anybody in this era of media temptation. The calls that are made to these television programs offering fatwas are evidence of the childish mentality we live with.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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