Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Closing Down the Fatwa Bazaar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A few months ago, I wrote an article entitled “Fatwas” which I began by asking “Who should we follow? Who should we reject? Whom should we label as an infidel? Who should we kill? Who is immoral? Who should we label as a heretic? Who should we boycott? These intense questions must have entered the minds of those who have begun to feel somewhat dizzy, as a result of the fatwas ‘bazaar’. The sheer amount of fatwas raining down on us in this age may be greater than all fatwas issued throughout the entire Islamic history. It is an infinite series, and it haunts you whenever you might be; in front of your television, radio, or computer when you are browsing your emails. All innovations of the modern age have become fatwa outlets, yet we are unsure of who is actually qualified to issue them”.

I wrote this, but did not know at the time that the closure of the ‘bazaar’ would be even faster than I imagined. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s decision to confine fatwa issuance to the ‘senior Ulama Authority’ came to guide us out of this dark, confusing and gloomy tunnel, which we entered as a result of the fatwa chaos. The decision also prevented us from being a source of wonder or even humour, to the world around us. This decision has returned things to normal, fatwas are limited only to specialists, and their true value has returned.

Those who were accustomed to unleashing a torrent of fatwas from their pedestals, satellite channels and internet blogs, should now learn the virtue of silence. They must look very closely at what is stated in the Royal Decree, warning “whoever violates such a command will be subject to accountability and shall be strictly penalized according to the [Islamic] Shariaa no matter who he is, in the interest of religion and the homeland above all else.” The King said “We will follow up on all that has been said, with no concessions.” Such strict, decisive and responsible language is not open to interpretation or misunderstanding. It is specific, and clear in both its intentions and objectives.

The decision received the attention it deserved and was celebrated by scholars of the Muslim nation. It was also welcomed by different categories of the society, praising its sensible nature. Everyone considered it as one of the most important and prominent decisions holding religion in high regard and keeping fatwas as something valuable. I’m fully confident that the authorities tasked with implementing the decision will perform their roles effectively. Those who had the audacity to issue [unsanctioned] fatwas for many years now will face two options: accountability or silence. The wise choice would be to hold their tongue and know where they stand.