Definition of Mufti and Grand Mufti
Definition of Mufti and Grand Mufti – “A mufti is a scholarly rank a Muslim jurist reaches through study and certification. It enables them to look into Islamic positive law and draw relevant rulings for a current situation. Throughout history, the ruling class would choose from among this distinguished class of scholars a Grand Mufti to oversee an official body that helps disseminate fatwas in an organized and mass manner” (What is a Grand Mufti?).
A fatwa, according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam is an “opinion on a point of law…, the person who gives a fatwa, or is engaged in that profession, is a mufti;—the person who asks for a fatwa is a mustafti” (“Fatwa” in the Encyclopaedia of Islam).
Ali Gomaa has been the Grand Mufti of Egypt since 2003 which makes him especially qualified to discuss fatwas; in fact, Ali Gomaa has been called “one of the most recognizable Muslim scholars that walk the planet today.” Ali Gomma well qualified as a non-Western, Arabic speaking authority for understanding Islam and fatwas. Ali Gomaa is professor at Dar Al-Ifta which issues hundreds of thousands of fatwas every year.
In this episode, Ali Gomaa discusses the four phases of a fatwa.
Ali Gomaa says the first phase of a fatwa is “conception.”
“How does the mufti think? The first thing the mufti does is to conceive the case. It is crucial to conceive it in the right way. Both the mufti and the inquirer bear the burden of this conception. The mufti asks the inquirer. He helps them extract the truth and explain the case in an objective way. He does his best to understand it accurately and from all sides. Such expertise doesn’t often exist in people, which is how to ask, to be able to reach the truth.”
“The mufti should be trained to question the inquirer. To reach the closest picture to reality, Allah’s willing. This is what most of fiqh learners lack for; how to give a fatwa. Fatwa needs training.”
The second phrase of a fatwa is “conditioning”
“After the phase of conception, then comes conditioning. It is when I hear a question, then I should categorize it. Is it a gift or a will? Is it marriage or divorce. Is it cash selling, delayed, or manufacturing contract? Is it an act of worship, transactions, or relationships, etc. This is conditioning, which is the mufti’s responsibility.”
The third phase of a fatwa is “knowing the ruling.”
Then comes the phase of knowing the ruling. A mufti knows the ruling either from its sources if he is mujtahid (interpreter), or by reviewing the scholar’s opinions, among all what we have in hand, of a huge jurisprudence treasure. It is around a million and 170 thousand juristic branch we have in hand. In around 85 madhab (juristic school) of thought, of scholars throughout ages.”
“Ibn-Daqiq El-Eid used to say, referring to the continual interpretation even if the schools did not increase, “We haven’t imitated Ash-Shafi’i however our deduction matched his.” This makes Ibn-Daqiq El-Eid an interpreter. Yet, when he made interpretation, he found himself matching Ash-Shafi’i. Thus, he categorized himself under the school of Ash-Shafi’i.”
“Imam As-Siouty also says in his book ‘Al-Tahaduth Bene’mat Allah’ – he wrote a book in this subject to prove that interpretation is continuous. Despite the discontinuity of the emergence of new madhabs. So, there is a difference between continuity of interpretation and madhabs. ‘Ar-Rad Ala Man Akhlad ila Al-ard wa Jahela ana Al-ijtehad fe Kul Asren Fard’. And in this book ‘Al-Tahaduth Bene’mat Allah’ he said that “he has deduced alone. He found the result of his deduction matching Ash-Shafi’i’s madhab except in 17 cases.””
“Seventeen cases only were the cases that didn’t match Ash-Shafi’i. Then he found them to be weak cases in the madhab. It is like he did not deviate from of the Ash-Shafi’s madhab. He used to say, “I am Galalu-Din As-Siouty Ash-Shafi’i. He means he has not created a new madhab, for when he applied the rules he had chosen, he found himself typically matching Ash-Shafi’i’s madhab.”
“So, interpretation is continuous even if the madhabs are not increasing. Interpretation can match previous schools. Therefore, there is no need to create a new school with a new name, because it hasn’t deviated altogether or in its major cases from the old school, old rules, nor the old methodologies. Thus, still, interpretation is continuous, despite madhabs are not increasing.”
The fourth phase of a fatwa is called “Fatwa.”
“The fourth phase comes under the title: Fatwa. After we knew the ruling. For example, I asked about alcohol, and knew it is intoxicating, and so it is prohibited, then comes role of fatwa. “So, whoever is constrained, neither being inequitable nor aggressive, then no vice will be upon him” I should consider reality.”
“Hence, we should understand what this word means. It might be of a vague meaning in most of people’s minds (reality).”
Ali Gomaa says reality has four aspects
The first aspect of reality is the material
“What is reality? In fact reality has four aspects: The first world is the materialistic aspect: Cars, planes, carpets, lamps, … etc. are things of the materialistic aspect. They can be possessed. Therefore, animals, sheep, cows, horses, … etc. are parts of the materialistic world.”
The second aspect of reality is humanity: the natural personality and legal personality
“The second is the human aspect that includes human. In our time, for example, we have two personalities: the natural one which has an identity, brain, has a speaking soul and is held accountable before Allah, and a legal personality, which is in the form of companies, that developted later to become S.A. companies, cross-continent companies, and banks. It totally separated from their owners, that it represents an existing personality. Nevertheless, it is a legal personality. We should understand the difference between the two personalities, we might talk more about the legal personalities in one of the episodes and how their rulings differ from the natural personality, or match as well. How to weigh this.
The third aspect of reality is events
“The third aspect is ‘events’. The value of the dollar has risen or fallen. There is a war in a certain place. A certain place has been occupied by some forces. A conference will be held in a certain place, which talks about so and so.”
“These events have to be handled in a certain way, because these events involve: place, time, circumstances, and people too, who make it. They make the events and participate in them. They are not the people mentioned in the second element. So, it is things, people, events, and thoughts. However, events are composed of this. That’s why when we study the event, its place, time, as well as the people involved in this event. We study the circumstances of this event. Is it a state of war, peace, health, or illness? Is there prosperity or recession. Poverty, richness, knowledge, ignorance, etc. Many circumstances. A status of necessity and another of choice.” So, all these factors should be considered when realizing reality.”
The fourth aspect of reality is thoughts
“The fourth element is thoughts. There are several philosophies that belong to a certain paradigm. A general frame for man, the universe and life and what’s before and what’s after. These thoughts answer the big questions.”
“The two big questions are: where are we from? What are we doing now? What will happen tomorrow? These thoughts are sometimes intertwined and contradicting. We may agree with them or disagree. These are the elements of reality. However, reality is not that specific. It is so intertwined and complicated, so progressive, so changeable, and sometimes so deteriorating. Therefore there is a direct relation between each element and the othe three. This relation differentiates between human deed and human behavior.”
“When someone comes and asks how to pray two raka’as or asks if it is allowed to buy or sell a certain merchandise in a certain way or asks about the idea of insurance or banks or the legal personality…etc. He is then asking about human deeds that people do. These deeds are easily handled. However, when he asks me about the international relations or about current events. There is a huge difference between fatwa and opinion – yes – I have a certain opinion in these issues. However, fatwa means the clarification of the shari’a’s ruling. At that time I should study all this map. If I did not have the ability and the tools to study the elements of behaviors, I cannot give a fatwa for an act, which is the medium of those behaviors. Hence, there is a huge difference between the abstract act in which we can quickly give a fatwa about, for not having to monitor or follow it and due to the absence of direct relations as deep as that in the behaviors.”
“Nevertheless, in behaviors, there are deep direct relations which should be known because I have rules to apply among them is: doing the less harmful of two is obligatory. If I don’t know the bigger or the lesser regarding so and so, such as international treaties for example, and other many complicated issues. Therefore, whoever asks about behaviors and wishes to use the fatwa politically, economically, or to oppose the government. I tell him, “I exclude myself from taking part in a game between different parties. I speak only, after I make sure that this is Allah’s doctrine.”
“This is the reality in brief. Studying reality needs more discussion. However, it is part of the iftaa’ process. Thank you very much and see you soon.”
Definition of terms related to fatwas
Madhab (madhhab) – madhhab is a technical term often translated as “school of law.” According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, there are four legal systems recognized by orthodox Sunni Muslims:
- Hanafiyya (Hanafi)
- Malikiyya (Maliki)
- Shafi’iyya (Shafi’i)
- Hanbaliyya (Hanbali)
Legal systems recognized by Shia Muslims are:
- Dja’fari (Jafari)
Consider his fatwa
Here is a brief article by Dr. Ali Gomaa, “Consider his Fatwa”,
1. Notwithstanding the clear distinction between religion and religiousness and between the science of medicine and health care, this distinction is still widely unrecognized in our culture. We see its detrimental confusion in all areas and in common forms; only a small number of which remained intact in our traditional culture, thanks to Allah (SWT). May Allah through this call show us insight into the stances of many of our scholars and thinkers towards this axiom.
2. It is evident that there is no acknowledgment of the difference between religion and religiousness. You might see, for example, a professor of science, agriculture, journalism, engineering, or medicine discussing fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and arguing about fatwas issued by qualified scholars who have spent their entire life perusing references and internalizing matters. He might have some religious knowledge; he barely realizes, or is by no means convinced of, the difference between religion and religiousness. Hence, he deems the matter is open and allowed for all.
3. We also notice a lack of comprehension of what fatwa truly means; and so, a fatwa is confounded with a question or a standpoint. A question requires an answer; a standpoint requires expression and argument; a fatwa is conclusive, just like a judge’s judgement which is non-negotiable and is not followed through by the judge. A fatwa can not be appealed before a higher court or court of cassation. Inspired by this, dissatisfaction with a fatwa necessitates another fatwa issued by a higher body; it does not require rebuttal. To be dissatisfied with a doctor’s opinion should not mean disregarding the whole matter; it should mean referral to and consultation with another doctor embracing more authority, knowledge, and expertise. When presenting an instance of this sort, many people grow astounded and soon reject it, claiming that it places restriction on their opinion and freedom of expression. In fact, it has nothing to do with either; it has to do with adhering to a necessarily sound intellectual approach, as opposed to indulging in a ridiculous farce in which everyone argues confusedly and randomly.
4. Correspondingly, when a question is asked, the questioner and audience may take the answer for a fatwa. On one occasion, someone asked for some information about the Prophet’s (SAWS) wives and considered our answer a fatwa; had we not given him an answer, he would have taken our stance as refusal to act on our duty to issue fatwas. On different occasions, questions are raised about certain political situations which require an opinion, whereas Shari’a (Islamic law)-based ruling pertains to sheer human act. One may well fail to see the difference between the two cases and, accordingly, rush into stirring up much fuss ─which I hope is unintentional─ amongst readers of popular newspapers. I truly hope that this take of the situation is not meant for subjecting fatwa-issuance to negotiable attitudes and thus stripping it of the organization and systematicness it otherwise enjoys and sap the very science it is founded upon.
5. As for the second part of the statement, “… and do not mind his taqwa,” we say that keeping healthy does not make you a doctor, and upholding the teachings of your religion does not make you a religious scholar. Therefore, academicism is the key for eliminating all that. We appeal to everyone in all fields of knowledge to have recourse to academic education and to put an end to amateurishness. Science must always be the ground for specialization. We need to get rid of “Mr. Know-It-All” living in us. I would like here to cite a common proverb embodying age-old wisdom and human experiences, “Let the baker bake the bread, even if he takes half of it.” (Dar al-Tarjama)