Awqaf issues more than 1.2 million fatwas in four years

The Fatwa Centre at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) has issued more than 1.2 million religious edicts in the past four years in response to questions about what is permissible under Sharia law.

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ABU DHABI // More than 1.2 million religious edicts have been released by the Fatwa Centre in the four years since it opened.

To best handle this evolving load, the facility, at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, is considering changes.

Possibilities being discussed include increasing the number of SMS characters allowed when texting a fatwa in reply to a question, dedicating and increasing the number of muftis responding to questions, and developing communication skills.

Dr Mohammed Matar Al Kaabi, director general of the authority, also known as Awqaf, said the 1.2 million edicts were “a reflection of the great success of the centre”.

Since 2008, Awqaf has been issuing fatwas, or religious edicts, through its “Ifta centre” in Abu Dhabi. The fatwas answer people’s questions, submitted by phone, by text or online, about what is permissible under Sharia.

“Because of its special status, the centre has gained the confidence of the public and benefited from the free-of-charge means of communication,” Dr Al Kaabi said. “The centre’s reputation is not limited only to the UAE, but it has also earned an international reputation through its website.”

In the Awqaf building in the Madinat Zayed neighbourhood, the fatwa centre’s staff work on two shifts, from 8am to 2pm, then from 2pm to 8pm, during regular working days. Their workload can reach 3,500 calls a day during special religious occasions.

Dr Al Kaabi called on the centre’s muftis to “maintain the gain” of the facility and “embrace all it takes to develop and upgrade its services”.

“This can be achieved by studying Islamic jurisprudence and its principles on a regular basis and further consolidating this by training workshops of high academic quality,” Dr Al Kaabi said.

He also called on muftis to follow up closely on “the evolution of society”, so that they can issue contemporary fatwas that recognise “both the reality and the ultimate goals of Islam”.

Fatwa questions received are divided into five categories – worship, etiquette and behaviour, family matters, woman-specific questions and general topics.

The most common questions concern the specifics of worship, such as how to conduct certain prayers or queries related to zakat and Haj.

The fatwa centre’s phone number is 800 24 22. Texts can be sent to 2535.

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