Fatwa for good
Last week we covered some of the initiatives that “moderate” Muslims are undertaking to marginalize the jihadists that undermine the religion. The concept of fatwa has much abused of late. There are non-clerics issuing Fatwas left and right, there are even TV stations where viewers can request a fatwa via an SMS text, This makes a mockery of what a fatwa truly is:
A fatwa in the Islamic faith is a religious opinion concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwa is called, in that respect, a Mufti, i.e. an issuer of fatwa. This is not necessarily a formal position since most Muslims argue that anyone trained in Islamic law may give an opinion (fatwa) on its teachings – Fatwa – Wikipedia
So when Osama Bin Laden issues a supposed fatwa its legitimacy is highly questionable. Controversial and high profile fatwas such as the one issued against Salman Rushdie calling for his death, again ore of dubious authenticity. It is also forgotten that fatwas can also have positive impacts. For example, it is not widely publicized that the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa against Iran developing nuclear weapons. So, one of the highest the latest fatwas issued should be welcomed as good news. Dr Tahirul Qadri, founder of Minhaj ul Quran, a Pakistani non-political, non-sectarian, movement has issued a fatwa stating suicide bombings and terrorism are un-Islamic and scripturally forbidden. This is significant as Minhaj ul Quran has representation in over 100 countries and its broad-based and Sufi traditions make it popular among young Muslims, especially the young Pakistan diaspora.
Next week, here in Britain, one such renowned Muslim opinion-former will deliver a hard-hitting fatwa against suicide bombings and terrorism. Founder of the vast Pakistani grassroots movement known as Minhaj ul Quran, Dr Tahirul Qadri has authored an unprecedented 600-page fatwa on why suicide bombings and terrorism are un-Islamic and scripturally forbidden. This is likely to be a powerful, popular fatwa from a much loved, inspiring scholar of Islam.
Earlier this month, invitations to attend the launch of the fatwa went to most parliamentarians. A leading Labour MP friend wrote the following lines in an email to me: Is this helpful? Do we need a fatwa to say suicide bombing is wrong? Surely it should be just part of being a human being?
Well, yes and no. If our politicians and others ignore the value of moderate Muslim leaders coming out with fatwas against terrorism, not only do we close down an important and emerging public space, we also forget our own history of progress. After all, John Locke's works on tolerance were nothing more than Christian fatwas in the midst of 17th century European wars of religion. Locke wrote with references to the Bible. His arguments were rooted in theology