Zay Muttaqin

March 3, 2010

The Brief Concept of Fatwa

Filed under: 1, Islamic Thought — E.Zaenal.Muttaqin @ 6:16 am

The Concept of Fatwa

By: E.Zaenal.Muttaqin

The demise of prophet Muhammad marked as the end of direct consultative periode regarding Islamic law, then people later need to the certainty of law which is not explained or even cited in Qurán and Sunnah. This phenomenon emerged the concept of fatwa issued by Mufti or someone who could produce the law on something requested. Started as the individually managed, fatwa and mufti institutionalized as a state organization, as it was in Ottoman Empire, syi’i in Iran, mughal in india and so forth. In time constituted also the guidance of Mufti adabu al-mufti[1] which is later in cases altered by modern guidance of Mufti as it is distinct, the syari’a and fiqh as advanced instruction has been largely displaced by a spectrum of secular derived from western models.[2]

Fatwa etymologically derived from the fata means youth,[3] as well the term fatwa was used to cover the cases which are not covered by fiqh. The term Fatwa has a different meaning to judging; though in some extent both are similar, fatwa seems to be the informational and optional although some cases in the past proved compulsory,  in the other hand judging is creative and performative[4] in a specific dispute in a court. Moreover, the practices of institutionalized fatwa varied as it is Ottoman’s Syaikhul Islam, sadr al- sudur in mughal India, savavid in Iran, majlis maalim in Mamluk state, and so forth.  

Fatwa in another word also described by Emilie Tyan[5] as an opinion on a point of “law” as it is referring to the Islamic law since its appearance. Accordingly, in the contemporary era the essence of fatwa and the profession of it have fallen into disuse, still this argument is not merely occurred in entire Muslim countries. But in general since the western models had become a trending issue the general principle of fatwa had been changed.

At certain extent it could be summed up that fatwa is a religious authority issued by mufti in order to cover problems which are not explained in Qur’an and Sunnah. It started individually before institutionalized and later its treaties altered into a broad interpretation in recent era. Thereof there are questions presented here in order to strengthen the understanding of fatwa, namely:

  1. How is the implementation of fatwa and its relevance in an ottoman empire as the way out of religious problem since the king ruled its institution?
  2. As the modernity disseminated from western models, the Mufti treaties was altered gradually. What is the significance arose in the context of fatwa as an opinion on a point of law?
  3. What are the roles and positions of independent fatwa organization such IOL (Islam online) which implemented the new management (niza idara al-jawda) issued by scholars and expert that seems to replace the adabul Mufti?
  4. To what extent can we assert that the fatwa institution is comparable to the roman Jus Respondendi?
  5. are there any relevance arguments regarding the possibility of women to become a mufti, but in contrary it is prohibited in becoming a judge as it is said in Emilie Tyan’s text?
  6. since fatwa was attached into institutional court during Ottoman empire does the mufti can exchange their profession into a judge and in reverse, because according to adab al fatwa the eligibility of mufti is that similar to the eligibility of judge?
  7. the fallen of ottoman empire changed the state into modern state, according to this circumstances how is the continuation of syaikhul Islam in Turkey recently and it relevance to the Indonesia’s MUI?
  8. Why is that Fatwa in several cases such as Theology (ilm al-Kalam) and Quranic interpretation (Tafsir) are not allowed?
  9. How if the regular muftis (other than Independent mufti) are issuing fatwa without doing any taqlid (adherence) on a reason that in some cases there are not any available source foundations to be followed as it is said that only Independent muftis are allowed to do ifta based on their own knowledge without taqlid.

[1] Read more on: Abu umar wa Utsman Ibn As- Sholah Syahrazawi, Adaab Al-Fatwa, Maktabah al-khonji, Beirut, 1992

[2]K.Mas’ud, B.Messick and D.Powers, Muftis, Fatwas, and Islamic Legal Interpretation, in Islam Legal Interpretation: Muftis and their Fatwas, Harvard University Press, 1996, p.26

[3]Khalid Mas’ud , Fatwa, in John L Esposito, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Oxford University Press, 1995, p.8

[4]Khalid Mas’ud, fatwa……Op.,Cit, p.10

[5]Tyan.E, Fatwa, in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Brill Vol II, Leiden, 1965, p.866


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