JEDDAH, (AFP) – King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Thursday issued a decree stating that only senior clerics are permitted to issue fatwas, or Islamic religious edicts, the official SPA news agency said.
It cited the text of the decree as saying that for the time being, only members of the Council of Senior Ulema (scholars) will be allowed to issue fatwas.
The ruling comes during the first week of Ramadan, the holy fasting month for Muslims worldwide.
In the decree, the Saudi monarch also asks the grand mufti, who heads the council, to submit a list of others who are qualified to issue fatwas.
The limitation is necessary because many individuals have started surpassing the authority of official religious bodies and have issued fatwas that cause disputes and dissent among Muslims, the decree said.
“We have followed this issue and noted many violations that we cannot allow. It is our religious obligation to confront it firmly to safeguard religion, preserve unity and to prevent evil,” it said.
“All those who violate this order subject themselves to accountability and punishment, whoever they are, because the interests of the religion and the nation are above anything else,” the king warned in the decree.