ABU DHABI // Imams will call on Muslims to shun unauthorised fatwas in today's sermon in an effort to curb fundamentalism and rigidity in religion. The sermon advocates moderate interpretations of Islamic law, stressing that issuing fatwas, or religious edicts, is a "big responsibility". The General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, the government body that distributes the Friday sermon to the vast majority of the country's mosques, issues the edicts through its fatwa centre.
Dubai's Department of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, which answers to the federal authority, also has a fatwa service, as does the Ministry of Justice. "Issuing fatwas is a great trusteeship and big responsibility," the sermon says. "It is forbidden for someone to take on fatwas without complete knowledge of it." It is essential for Muslims to seek a path of "mercy, facilitation, centralism and moderation" in religious edicts, the sermon says.
It cites a number of hadiths, or sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and Quranic verses urging restraint in issuing fatwas and declaring things halal (lawful) or haram (unlawful) without complete knowledge. In one hadith, the Prophet Mohammed says: "Those among you who are most daring on passing fatwas are the most daring on Hell." It warns that even the Prophet's companions shied away from making religious judgements if they felt that their knowledge was limited.
"We wonder at those who dare to issue fatwas without knowledge in these times, so it is required of every Muslim eager to know his religion to ask the ulama [religious scholars] and specialists, and not seek others who pretend to have knowledge," the sermon says. Preachers will direct worshippers to seek out the authority's fatwa centre, which aims to "tune the fatwa to the correct legal approach" and "spread correct understanding" of religious law through its network of specialised ulama.
In April, the authority said it received about 1,500 calls a day asking for religious opinions. Dubai's Islamic Affairs Department said it issued more than 27,000 fatwas in the first half of the year. firstname.lastname@example.org