Earth & Conservation

What Is A Fatwa?

Throughout the world, Islamic scholars issue fatwas to Muslims looking for interpretations of the Quran. But what exactly is a fatwa?

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In Islam, a fatwa is a clerical interpretation of religious scripture. Those endowed with religious authority are known as muftis and issue fatwas. Muftis can rule on everything from person-to-person advice on their private life to global calls to action. On a high level, fatwas can be similar court rulings in the U.S., stemming from a particular situation and then put into practice. Still, fatwas are not necessarily legally binding, as is the case in India. In 1989, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa that ordered the killing of writer Salman Rushdie. In recent years, ISIS has issued a host of fatwas on a range of topics, including gender roles and acceptable clothing styles. Still, a fatwa is far from being set in stone. More than 100 Islamic scholars have come out against ISIS' fatwas. It's worth noting that muftis can be somewhat self-appointed. There's no necessarily formal training required. It's been reported that individuals can shop around different "cyber muftis" when seeking fatwas for religious insight. There are even fatwa podcasts. As with much in religion, people get out of it what they put into it.

Learn More:
What is a Fatwa? (islamicsupremecouncil.org)
"In recent years, the term "fatw?" has been widely used throughout the media, usually to indicate that a death sentence has been dealt to someone or some group of people."

Islamic State Issues Fatwa On How To Properly Rape Enslaved Women, Girls (huffingtonpost.com)
"Far from trying to conceal the practice, ISIS has boasted about it and established a department of "war spoils" to manage slavery."

32 Islamic State Fatwas (jihadica.com)
"In mid-February, self-declared Islamic State resident Abu 'Umar al-Masri (@__UmBack__) Tweeted photos of 32 official Islamic State fatwas."

How one book ignited a culture war (theguardian.com)
"It's 20 years since Iran's religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a death sentence on Salman Rushdie for 'insulting' Islam with his novel The Satanic Verses."