What Is a Fatwa?

From Imam Suhaib Webb

Edited by OmarKN

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"After faith, the greatest blessing the Creator gave humanity is the intellect." Imām ibn Jawzī


A fatwā is not binding as noted by the great sharia scholar al-Qarāfi who wrote, غير يلزم "Not binding"

People tend to think that because heretics presented fatwā as a binding decree, as do pseudo intellectuals, Islamophobes. Ironically, they both tend to see Islam in the same way. The word for fatwa, comes from a word that means to clarify or resolve. That is why a pubescent is called fitya (from the same word as fatwā) because at the onset of adulthood a person's appearance, attitudes and other things, a mystery during childhood become clear.


Such is a fatwā. It clarifies perplexing issues for a questioner regarding understanding a text related to an action or belief; as well as issues for which there is no text, like organ donation or plastics surgery. There are a number of factors that influence a fatwā, science for example. Just look at the change in fatwās on abortion, adoption, and currency. They all changed over time because new information and circumstances compelled scholars to review previous opinions. That is proof enough to show fatwā is not binding, not anti-intellect.


In fact, as noted by al-Ghazzali, fatwā represents a marriage between the sacred and the human:

1) It is used by scholars to understand texts or actions where no text exists. The text = the sacred, the scholar = the human.

2) The faithful are encouraged to see fatwā, but they are not bound by an answer, but encouraged to seek the best answer for their situation.

3) that interaction involves
A. Text (sacred)
B. Scholar (human)
C. Questioner (human)


Thus, the notion that fatwās are the voice of God through scholars is absurd. In fact, as noted by Khalil, a great jurist, fatwas have no power to punish or reward anyone and they are "not binding" nor is the "a sin involved" with fatwā, unless given by the unqualified

It is not some sloppy science, open to anyone, instead a fatwa is a non binding religious opinion. Many don't know that hence the misgivings.


A person who gives a fatwā would need to master eleven subject matters, memorize the Quran, study its legal verses and the same with Hadith.

"A person's sight and speech deserves to be supervised and subdued more than anything else!" Ibn Jawzi


2017-04-10 vs.1.1; from 2017-04-10
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