JEDDAH – A number of scholars and citizens have urged the authorities to take stringent measures against people who issue religious edicts (fatwas) without authority.
They underlined the need for reining in on the self-styled muftis and religious guides who mislead people with false fatwas based on questionable knowledge of religious matters.
Prominent scholar Sheikh Hassan Safar urged the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawah and Guidance to appoint licensed muftis and preachers across the Kingdom.
“This should be done in coordination with the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Asheikh, who is also head of the Senior Scholars’ Commission and Ifta Council. Issuing fatwas without authority is a grave sin,” he said.
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Sheikh Safar said that a person who issues a fatwa must be qualified to do so and fulfill certain prerequisites. “A mufti must have thorough knowledge of the Shariah and religious affairs, memorized the Qur’an and possess a deep understanding of the
interpretation of the Qur’an as well as the Sunnah,” he said.
“Students of Shariah who do not have deep knowledge in religious affairs do not have the authority to issue fatwas.”
According to Sheikh Safar, there are numerous people in the Kingdom who try to pass off as muftis, preachers or guides without having any religious background.
“Such people pose as muftis on the strength of their physical appearance.
By growing a beard, shortening their clothes so that they rest slightly above the ankles and constantly brushing their teeth with a miswak, they try to fool people. However, such people have only little knowledge about the Shariah and even the Arabic language. They can advise people on simple religious matters but they should not dare to issue edicts on matters concerning those permissible (halal) and those forbidden (haram) in Islam,” he said.
The proliferation of self-styled muftis has created problems in Saudi society as people are often misled on religious matters in their day to day lives. Forty-four-year-old Omar Salem is one such person.
“A so-called mufti told me to pay Zakat (alms) only after Eid prayers and I listened to him and only gave Zakat as per his instructions for three straight years. Later, I realized there was no basis for this timing in Islam,” he said.
Fifty-nine-year-old Hassan Jaber echoed Salem’s sentiments and described how his son was misguided by his P.E. teacher who gave out religious advice to students.
“My son used to get angry and yell at his siblings a lot. He used to tell us that there are many forbidden things in our house.
“Eventually, he began to shout at his siblings over trivial matters. One day he started beating his younger brother for delaying his prayers and I came to know that the boy acted in accordance with the advice given by his school teacher. “When I went to school to meet this teacher, I came to know that he is the P.E. teacher,” Jaber said, adding that the teacher was fond of giving religious lessons and told students that they must strictly obey his instructions.