The word “fatwa” (pl. fataawa) has become well known around the world. People often hear that a scholar has issued a “fatwa”.
So what does the word “fatwa” actually mean? It is an Arabic word, and it literally means “opinion”. Related words in Arabic are “afta”, which means to give an opinion, and “yastafti”, which means to ask for an opinion.
This was the linguistic meaning of the word “fatwa”. In a religious context, the word “fatwa” carries more meaning. This is because when a Muslim has a question that they need to be answered from an Islamic point of view, they ask an Islamic scholar this question, and the answer is known as a “fatwa”. This “fatwa” carries more weight than just the random opinion of any person on the street. Muslim scholars are expected to give their “fatwa” based on religious evidence, not based on their personal opinions. Therefore, their “fatwa” is sometimes regarded as a religious ruling. Just like Allaah says in Suratun Nisa ayah 176:
Meaning: They ask you for a legal verdict…
Here is an example of a fatwa: As you know, Muslims are expected to pray five times every day at specific times during the day. A person who is going to be on a 12 hour flight may not be able to perform their prayers on time. So they might ask a Muslim scholar for a “fatwa” on what is the appropriate thing to do, or they might look up the answer in a book or on the internet that are highly recommended. The scholar might advise them to perform the prayer to the best of their ability on the plane, or to delay their prayer until they land, for example. And they would support their opinion with evidence from the kitaab and sunnah. So it is now left for the one who asked the scholar to take a verdict that is more correct among to him based on the evidence from provided.
It is interesting to note that in Islam, there are four sources from which scholars extract religious law or rulings, and upon which they base their “fatwa”. The first is the Quran, which is the holy book of Islam, and which is the direct and literal word of Allaah, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (salla llaahu alaehi was sallaam). The second source is the Sunnah, which incorporates anything that the Prophet Muhammad (salla llaahu alaehi was sallaam) said, did or approved of. The third source is the Ijmau (consensus) of the Sahaba (companions) of the Prophet, meaning that if the companions have all agreed on a certain issue, then this consensus is regarded as representing Islam. Finally, the forth one, if no evidence is found regarding a specific question from the three first sources, then a scholar performs what is known as Al-Qiyaas ‘inda dhoroora (logistic reasoning deduced from the Qur’an and Sunnah). This is ONLY applied where/when there is no direct evidence from the first sources for particular issue. One would still notice that the scholar giving the verdict has actually made use of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
It is also interesting to note that different scholars frequently have different opinions regarding any given question. This is why there is usually more than one “fatwa” regarding any one question. In fact, there are a number of methodologies for how to understand evidence gathered from the previously mentioned sources of Islamic law. Scholars who follow different methodologies will frequently arrive at different answers to the same question.
Muslims believe that any given action that they perform in their lives falls into one of five categories:
- Not Permitted
All actions fall into the “permissible” category, unless there is evidence from one of the four sources previously mentioned (al-Qur’an, as-Sunnah, al-Ijamu, Al-Qiyaas ‘inda dhoroora) that proves otherwise. Here are some examples:
- The five daily prayers are obligatory upon Muslims. Those who do not perform them are committing a sin, and they will be accountable for that on the day of judgement.
- Performing additional voluntary prayers is commendable. Those who perform them will be rewarded, but those who do not are not committing a sin.
- Driving a car is permissible, meaning that the action of driving is not good or bad in itself. There is no sin or reward attached to it. Most things fall under this category.
- Divorce is a despised action. Although there is no sin associated with it, it must only be considered as a last resort when all other means of solving the problems between the spouses have been exhausted.
- Drinking alcoholic drinks is not permitted. Those who do so are committing a sin, and will be held accountable for it on the day of judgement.
When someone asks a scholar about performing a specific action, the reply will be a “fatwa” explaining which of these five categories this action would fall under. So if you ask a scholar to give a fatwa about adultery, they would tell you that it is “Not Permitted”. If you ask about fasting in Ramadan, they would answer that it is “Obligatory”. Muslims are usually encouraged to ask for reasoning and evidence behind any fatwa, and should avoid blindly following the opinions of scholars without understanding the reasons behind them. This is because Muslims should always feel that they are practicing Islam to gain the pleasure of God, and not to gain the pleasure of acceptance of any human being.
TAQLEED (BLIND FOLLOWING)
The Standing Committee of Senior Scholars – presided over by Shaykh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez Ibn Baaz– said,
“The scholars specializing in the fundamentals of jurisprudence (al-usooliyyoon) have mentioned (various) definitions clarifying the true meaning and essence of taqleed. From them is the saying of some that: “Taqleed is to accept the saying of someone without knowing its evidence.” Others held the view that taqleed is: “To accept the saying of someone without a proof.” Abu Ma’aalee al-Juwaynee preferred the definition of taqleed that it is: “The following of someone, the following of whom is not based upon a proof, nor does it rely upon knowledge.” And these definitions of the usooliyyoon are all close in their meaning, but have in them differences [in wording] which originate in the skill of enunciation. However, the point here is to clarify the essence of taqleed by means of approximation.” Fataawaa al-Lajnatud-Daa’imah lil-Buhoothul-’Ilmiyyah wal-Iftaa‘ (5/123).
Imaam ash-Shawkaanee – rahimahullaah – said,
“Technically taqleed means: To act upon the saying of someone without a proof. Excluded from this (definition) is: Acting upon the saying of Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam); acting upon the scholarly consensus; the layman (’aammee) referring back to the muftee; and the judge accepting the testimony of trustworthy people – since there is proof to establish all of this.” Irshaadul-Fuhool (p. 265).
Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said,
“When a person reaches the age of maturity and discernment, it is upon him to intend to obey Allaah and His Messenger, wherever he may be. He should not be of those who:
“When it is said to them: Follow what Allaah has revealed. They say: Rather, we shall follow what we found our forefathers following.” [Sooratul-Baqarah 2:170]
So anyone who turns away from following the Book and the Sunnah and obeying Allaah and His Messenger; turning (instead) to his own custom and habit (’aadah), or the customs and habits of his forefathers or community, is from the people of ignorance; liable to punishment. Likewise, in any issue, if the truth which Allaah sent His Messenger with is clarified to someone, but he then turns away from it to his customs and habits, then he is from those who are censured and liable to punishment. As for someone who does not have the ability to know the ruling of Allaah and His Messenger, and so follows one of the people of knowledge and Religion – knowing of no other view that is more preferable to it – then he is praised and rewarded; he is not censured for this, nor (liable to be) punished.”Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (20/225)
Ibn Taymiyyah – rahimahullaah – also said,
“It has been established in the Book, the Sunnah and the ijmaa’ that Allaah the Most Perfect obligated upon the creation obedience to Him, and obedience to His Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). It is not obligatory upon this Ummah to obey any one specific person in all that he may command and prohibit, except the Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam); to the extent that the most truthful of this Ummah and the most virtuous after its Prophet (i.e. Aboo Bakr) said, “Obey me in what is obedience to Allaah. But if I disobey Allaah, then there is no obedience to me upon you.” Saheeh: The narration from Aboo Bakr (radiyallaahu ’anhu) was related by Ibn Katheer in as-Seeratun-Nabawiyyah (4/439) where he said, “Its chain of narration is authentic.” They are all agreed that there is no single person who is infallible in all that he may order or prohibit, except for Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). That is why more than one of the scholars have said, “Every person’s saying can be taken or left, except for Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam.”This is derived from a statement by Imaam Maalik (d.179H) – rahimahullaah, it was related by Ibn ’Abdul-Haadee in Irshaadus-Saalik (1/227), Ibn ’Abdul-Barr in Jaami’ Bayaanul-’Ilm (2/91) and Ibn Hazm in Usoolul-Ahkaam (6/145, 179).
Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan Distinguishes Between The Salafi Manhaj and The Qutbi Manhaj: https://voiceofthesalaf.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/shaykh-saalih-al-fawzaan-distinguishes-between-the-salafi-manhaj-and-the-qutbi-manhaj/