Inside Islam : There are more to fatwas than Rushdie

Mar 1st, 2010
by Reem.

How come we don’t hear moderate Muslim scholars condemning terrorism? This question arises repeatedly with regard to Islam’s stance on violence and terrorism. Of course Muslims as individuals and communities have spoken out against terrorism repeatedly and many scholars have come out against this kind of violence, but their voices do not seem to be heard.

Another Muslim scholar is joining the many who have condemned terrorism. Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the head of Minhaj ul Quran, will deliver a fatwa in Britain in the next weeks condemning terrorism and outlining in a 600-page document why actions like suicide bombings are against Islam.

The term “fatwa” elicits a negative response in the minds of many who remember the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses. However, most people do not realize that fatwas are non-binding religious ruling and not mandatory commandments from on high. In other words, the general assumption is that when a scholar issues a fatwa, Muslims worldwide act on it. This is certainly not the case. Scholars around the world issue fatwas about numerous topics all the time, sometimes opposing other scholars’ fatwas. Not everyone agreed with Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie.

Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s document will represent a positive connotation for the term “fatwa” since it is calling for a stop to terrorism based on an Islamic argument. Moreover, it reiterates the message that violence and terrorism are contrary to the core values of Islam. While it may not completely stop terrorism, it will add to a constructive dialogue on how to prevent more violence.

What’s your impression of the word “fatwa”? What does it bring to mind? What do you think of this fatwa? Please share your comments below.

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