A Fatwa is Only a Legal Opinion

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

When having a discussion about Islam, and someone brings up a fatwa, please remember that a fatwa is only a legal opinion, and not necessarily binding.  A fatwa, legal opinion, is not a hukm, legal ruling.  This is particularly so when the fatwa in question has no context, or if it is from a different era, or a different geographic region.

For example, in the time of the Reconquista, the scholars of the Maliki madzhab issued a fatwa banning marriage with the Christians.  Unless we are living in a circumstance where a Christian army is invading Muslim lands such as what happened in al-Andalus, that fatwa does not apply.

For example, there used to be fatawa that made blood transfusion haram.  There used to be fatawa against Muslims living in non-Muslim lands.  There used to be fatawa against collecting the zakat with money.  There used to be fatawa that Christians are not the same as the Ahl al-Kitab Mentioned in the Qur’an.  Scholars were bought as well, or coerced to issue fatawa justifying slavery, genocide, fratricide, and all sorts of outrages.  That still happens.  Some of our great scholars issued fatawa that we would now consider outright racist against Africans and people of darker skin, or against non-Arabs.  They had their prejudices and biases as well.

If a fatwa sounds ridiculous, offensive or suspect, it likely is fabricated, misinterpreted or specific to conditions that are not mentioned and no longer exist, or even based on cultural assumptions we no longer accept.  We should put them aside and double check with a reliable source.  Sometimes, all we need is a bit of common sense.


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