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Somalia Conflict & Fatwa Deviation

Answered as per Maliki Fiqh by BinBayyah.net

Eminent Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Vice-Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IMUS), stated that fatwas permitting killing, as done by some youths in Somalia, are invalid, censuring the use of fatwas as a vehicle for fighting and tribulation, even if under the pretext of defending Shari`ah.

In the last episode of “Ash-Shari`ah Wa Al-Hayah” (Shari`ah & Life), broadcast on 15/11/2009 and entitled “Fatwa Industry”, Sheikh Bin Bayyah gave a juristic description of the current status of fatwa in the Muslim World, highlighting the Somali conflict as a demonstration of Muslim misunderstanding of Shari`ah as well as irrelevant application of religious texts.

The Sheikh asserted that some Somalis attack others and claim that they do so in line with the principle of Wala’ (i.e., loyalty to whatever belongs to Islam) and Bara’ (renunciation of whatever is against Islam). He addressed them, “This is not true jihad, according to Shar`i evidence and texts. You are ignorant of evidence, heedless of sound interpretation, and mistaken in application”.

Customized Fatwas

Bin Bayyah analyzed the Somali model of customizing fatwas in the field of Takfir (i.e., accusation of blasphemy or unbelief) and how they derive rulings. They claim that the government supports unbelievers who should be fought and that whoever supports the government is unbeliever, because it supports unbelievers, which renders it unbelieving.

Criticizing such defective thinking, Sheikh Bin Bayyah said that not every unbeliever is to be fought and that a government that supports unbelievers should not necessarily be disbelieving. “All such notions are evidently erroneous in Shari`ah,” he confirmed.

Bin Bayyah explained that fatwas are divided into three categories:

1. Fatwas on large-scale issues that affect the whole Muslim nation, such as war, Takfir, etc. Such fatwas are to be referred to Fiqh academies.

2. Fatwas on such issues as business, finance, banking, interests, and other contemporary economic questions. Such fatwas are to be referred to reliable specialists.

3. Fatwas on personal issues that have clear religious texts and well-established rulings, which can be referred to ordinary people with fair religious knowledge.

Fatwa Industry

Bin Bayyah pointed out that fatwa-making is an industry subject to certain prerequisites. According to him, just like different political, economic, and social conditions today, fatwas have become unregulated and dangerously out of order. “Fatwa is not free from such disorder,” he said.

Noting that there are “readymade fatwas” available on demand, he described such fatwas as inflexible and are most probably deceptive. As regards the fatwas issued by earlier scholars and imams with evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah, Bin Bayyah said, “When issued, such fatwas were relevant to their times and places.” He stressed that fatwas must fit reality, consider objectives of Shari`ah, and weigh benefits and harms. In other words, fatwas must be applied insightfully based on Shar`i evidence and rulings.

Moreover, Sheikh Bin Bayyah clarified that over-the-counter or on-demand fatwas are usual specifically in banking. They come too simplifying to conform to the standard rulings. Another type is fatwas that combine both constancy and change. He elaborated, “Such fatwas must be based on three elements: (1) religious texts, (2) objectives of Shari`ah (i.e., weighing of benefits and harms), and (3) circumstantial factors (i.e., when, where, and who). All such dimensions must be considered; if not, fatwas will turn out lame and deficient”.

Bin Bayyah confirmed that fatwa-related problems stem from nonobservance of the golden rule of fatwa-making: to evaluate partial versus holistic matters and then match them together in harmony and consistency. He stressed that regulation of fatwas can be achieved by adopting a systematic methodology — one that has its roots in the Qur’an, Sunnah, and conclusions derived from both.

Bin Bayyah said that fatwas must consider three things: denotations of texts, objectives of Shari`ah, and reality. Without such trio, fatwas cannot be sound or perfect, especially when addressing complicated issues that need a multifaceted perspective. He added, “From this, we can conclude that a jurist should not issue fatwas on his own, especially in matters that need specialist intervention, such as medical experts, economists, etc.”

Abundance of Fatwas

Concerning the multitude of fatwas issued by different Sheikhs on TV channels, etc., Bin Bayyah maintained that there are basics to be fully known by every Muslim, such as freedom and innocence, which are beyond question. Queries should be only on varying things. He ascribed the many questions asked to muftis to the “backwardness of the Muslim mentality” in all fields: industrial, political, informative, etc.

Islamic Banking

Bin Bayyah stated that many jurists are doing well in the economic field, but unfortunately, they at times disapprove transactions and questions approved by Shari`ah, especially in the fields of finance, economics, and banking, and at other times approve transactions that contravene the Islamic system and its key features.

In the end, the prominent scholar pointed to the importance of careful scrutiny and consultation with specialists in banking and business, as these are sensitive and highly problematic fields. A jurist or mufti must seek advice from economists and bankers to be able to give the right fatwas, Bin Bayyah concluded.

This answer was collected from BinBayyah.net, which contains of feature articles and fatawa by world renowned ‘Alim, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, from Mauritania.

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