By Hassan Al Mustafa
9 July 2018
Fundamentalist groups have often had a
field day in interpreting and adapting religious texts to suit their own
purposes, review them outside their temporal and objective meanings and employ
them in inapplicable contexts — be they events, subjects and eras — as well as
use them as weapons against others.
Exploiting religious texts to issue Fatwas
has been essential for Islamist movements. The assassination of former Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat, the attempted murder of novelist Naguib Mahfouz, the
massacres committed by the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, as well as the
suicide operations carried out by al-Qaeda and ISIS are all based on fatwas
used by terrorists.
This approach of arbitrarily issuing fatwas
seeks to find a textual reference that justifies partisan action. It
contradicts the foundations of ‘ijtihad,’ the origins of jurisprudential
deductive reasoning among Muslim scholars and the concept of the modern state
and its civism. This state is based on the principle of institutionalizing work
and organizing it according to laws imposed on everyone and that are the state’s
As such, many countries are now working on
controlling the sway of ‘fatwas’ and trying to institutionalize them, so that
violent groups and those that lack religious competency are not able to exploit
Avoiding Exploitation of Fatwas
Last June, the UAE Council of Ministers
ratified the formation of the Emirates Fatwa Council under the chairmanship of
Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah along with a number of experts that include women.
In addition to his religious expertise, Bin
Bayyah is known for his strong conscience regarding the importance of the
development of Fiqh, and a deep understanding that change in time and place
directly impacts judgments. In addition, he is far from extremism and believes
in a more tolerant and open-minded religious discourse. He is also the
president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies which focuses on
overcoming sectarian divisions and mitigating sectarian tensions.
Before this council was formed, the Muslim
Council of Elders, chaired by Al-Azhar Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb was
established. All these institutions aim to transfer Fiqh and religious
discourse that was in accordance with the circumstances of earlier times to a
level suited for the transition of Arab societies into modern civil states.
Rescuing Islam from the hands of extremists
is not an easy task. As such, it necessitates extensive political and
The UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah
bin Zayed visited the Vatican and met with Pope Francis where they emphasized
the importance of dialogue between religions and the promotion of the values of
tolerance and coexistence among peoples. This comes within the UAE’s work to
restore the status of an Islam that is open to others, a humanistic Islam that
does not distrust those with different doctrines but seeks to create common
space for different religions and communities, to undermine the threat of
conflict and wars in the world.
In the past decades, the Arab Gulf has been
a harmonious place for co-existence among its various components, while
ensuring its durability, thus preventing the exploitation of Fatwas and their
use for creating civil strife and accusing the society of infidelity and
immorality. It is a responsibility that necessitates constant action and joint
civil and government efforts.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and
Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and
Middle Eastern societal matters.