UAE Cabinet forms Emirates Fatwa Council

Two women were named members of the council that is chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah

ABU DHABI, UAE. December 13, 2014 - Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, the head of a forum promoting peace in Muslim societies, speaks during the Religions for Peace conference at the St. Regis Corniche Hotel in Abu Dhabi, December 13, 2014. (Photos by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: Roberta Pennington, News)
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The UAE's fatwa council was created on Sunday after approval by the Cabinet.

The Emirates Fatwa Council will be the official reference for fatwas – Islamic rulings - and will oversee all work related to fatwas.

Chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, the council will co-ordinate fatwas and issue rulings, said state news agency Wam.

The council also has the authority to grant licences to issue fatwas, train muftis and develop their skills, as well as to conduct related studies in co-ordination with the country’s General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.

Experts in Sharia make up the council's members, two of whom are women.

Shamma Al Dhaheri from Awqaf sits on the council, as does her colleague Omar Al Darai, who is director of the Fatwa Department. Members also include representatives from the Department of Islamic Affairs in Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain Sourt and Dubai’s Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities.

Notably, American scholar Hamza Yusuf, who is president of the Zaytouna College in California and is widely regarded as one of the most influential Islamic scholars in the West, is also a member of the Emirates Fatwa Council.

Prof Amany Burhanuddin, head of the Indonesian Council of Scholars for Women and Youth, is the second woman on the council.

The council will also supervise fatwas issued by other authorities and will represent the UAE at international conferences and seminars.