News

Taabah Foundation Senior Fellow presents at the Program on Medicine and Religion

On Sunday 3 August and Monday 4 August 2014, Tabah Senior Fellow, Jihad Hashim Brown, participated in the Initiative on Islam and Medicine Working Group at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.
The Working Group convenes its sessions with support of the John Templeton Foundation. The objectives of this round were to “Review the conceptual definitions and major debates regarding what ‘health’ consists of with an eye towards considering the telos of medicine/public health and how it relates to human flourishing;” and, “Introduce the major concepts related to the science of medical prognostication, risk assessment, and population health epidemiology. Specifically we will focus on concepts of and the tools assess risk at the clinical (patient) and community levels.”

Brown in his paper presented on “the theological conceptualisation and ethico-legal definition of maslaha (public benefit and medical risk)”; as well as, “the relationship between maslaha (public benefit), maqasid (aims & purposes), and darurah (dire necessity)”.

Release of new analytic paper: Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa

In an event featuring the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the Chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, and al-Habib Ali al-Jifri, Tabah Foundation released its latest analytic paper “Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa“.

The new paper presents errors in the process of issuing fatwa and proposes solutions for  reducing such errors and improving the accuracy of fatwas.

Tabah Foundation for Islamic Studies has released its newest research publication, titled Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa. The brief sheds light on the errors that may occur in the process of issuing fatwas which may result from  employing heuristics, It also proposes solutions for reducing such errors and improving the accuracy of fatwas. The new publication was issued in both Arabic and English.

The event organized by Tabah to mark the release of the brief was attended by high profile Islamic figures, among them the Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gumaa, H.E. Dr. Hamdan Musallam Al-Mazrouei, Chairman of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Dr. Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Grand Mufti of Dubai and Managing Director of the Fatwa Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities, al-Habib Ali- al-Jifri, Chairman of Tabah Foundation, along with a number of muftis and academics. Sheikh Musa Furber, researcher at the Tabah Foundation, delivered a talk that shed light on a number of errors that petitioners commit when dealing with issues for which they need a fatwa. He also addressed the impact of such errors on the process on issuing fatwas when scholars deal with matters relating to the contemporary context or newly occurring issues. This study analyzes such mistakes.

During the event, the researcher presented the concept of fatwa and the significance of the role of the mufti in the process of issuing fatwas. He identified four stages in the process of issuing a fatwa: conception (the petitioner describes a specific case and the mufti asks for additional details); adoption (the mufti matches the relevant features of the case to the relevant legal subjects); evaluation (where the mufti checks whether the pre-conditions, essential elements and associated conditions for the issue that has been identified have been met in the petition’s specific case, and its ensuing legal consequences); and response (the mufti re-examines the petitioner’s circumstances to ensure that applying the ruling will realize the petitioner’s interests without violating the overall objectives of the Shari‘ah).

Then the researcher addressed a number of patterns that could be attributed to heuristic-related biases affecting the mufti, which he categorized into ten patterns: The anchoring effect (focusing on a past reference or a single trait or piece of information); the availability effect (estimating the likelihood of events based upon the ease with which they can be recalled from memory); the confirmation bias (seeking out or interpreting information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions); fundamental attribution error (over-emphasizing the role of personality traits when explaining one’s own behavior); the halo effect (allowing the observation of a positive trait in one area or aspect of an individual to influence a positive evaluation of other traits); the reverse-halo effect (allowing the observation of a negative trait in one area or aspect of an individual to influence a negative evaluation of other traits); the overconfidence effect (excessive confidence in one’s own ability and accuracy when answering questions); the primacy and recency effects (the tendency that items near the end of a list are the easiest to recall); the recency bias (recalling or giving greater weight to recent over earlier events); and the self-serving bias (the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than for failures). The researcher briefly explained the impact of these patterns in the conception and adoption stages of fatwa.

After the talk, the floor was opened for a Q & A session. Dr. Ali Gomaa initiated the session with a comment on the use of the term “bias”, speaking of its accuracy in describing reality, its appropriateness resulting from its use in modern literature and from its established use in ordinary speech. He noted that bias is present in almost all disciplines, like engineering, medicine, astronomy and other sciences.
A practitioner of any of these sciences cannot separate himself from the opinions he or she holds. He also added that a mufti must pay attention to the triangle of fatwa: conception, adoption and response. Muftis must ensure that their conception resembles the reality of the case. They must be precise when listening to the case, because there could be a “miss-adoption” if they hear what they want to hear. Finally, they must be precise in using the established ruling by ensuring that it applies to the reality on which the fatwa is based.

H.E. Dr. Hamdan Al-Mazrouei focused in his commentary on the importance of the comprehension and conception of reality held by muftis, and how it reflects on his legal rulings in terms of prohibiting or permitting things to the individual or society. Dr. Ahmad al-Haddad’s speech revolved around research and its foundation in relation to two essential concepts: the fiqh of the self and the fiqh of reality. He also emphasized the significance of God-fearing as the most important attribute of the mufti in issuing fatwa. He also stressed the importance of considering the legitimate legal dispensation for the petitioner.

Al-Habib Ali al-Jifri stressed that this study demonstrated the importance of this subject matter. The real problem lies in the wide gap between a fast-paced, ever changing and complex reality, on the one hand, and the legal rulings appropriate to their historical realities that scholars and jurists have mastered, on the other. This understanding underscores the importance of muftis who have a deep understanding of our current reality. This will enforce the credibility of those in leadership positions in fatwa and Islamic discourse.

It is worth noting that the brief, Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa, recommends conducting an independent study that examines the impact of relying upon heuristics in Islamic disciplines. It also recommends that fatwa institutes educate their muftis about the influence of biases, and that the same instruction is included in mufti-training programs, since doing so will ensure that petitioners receive fatwas that are more accurate and more likely to improve the quality of their lives.

Tabah Offcially Launches: Beyond Flak Attack

Tabah Foundation officially launched it’s latest publication, “Beyond Flak Attack: A New Engagement with the Newsroom”, in Abu Dhabi on May 3rd 2011. The author, Nazim Baksh, and Hassan Fattah, Editor-in-Chief of The National, were in attendance and presented their ideas on the dynamics of Muslim-media engagement. They both called for an appreciation of the role of media and how Muslims can change the story if the story is not reflective of Islam’s nature. They explored how this change can take place and offered some insightful suggestions on ways in which we can move beyond simple flak.

Also in attendance were Khairi Ramadan, a broadcast journalist and prominent news affairs commentator from Egypt, and Sohail Nakhooda of Kalam Research, Dubai. Both offered their remarks and reflections on the proceedings of the event.

Full proceedings of the event will be available on our website soon, please check back for updates.

Related Links: Flak Attack [Full Article]

Reports

Islam-West Dialogue: A Critical Analysis of the Davos Report

A summary and critical analysis of the document Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue, January 2008, its core issues and recommendations for Muslim leaders and scholars of Islamic Sacred Law (Shari‘ah).

The 2008 Islam and the West report, commissioned by the World Economic Forum and Georgetown University, is a global reference on the state of the Muslim-West dialogue for leaders across multiple sectors, including government, media, education, civil society, and faith communities. Overall, it highlights the activities of approximately 90 organizations and describes more than 80 events around five issue areas: International Politics; Citizenship and Integration; Religion, Ethics, and Ideology; Education and Intercultural Understanding; and Economic and Social Development. It also draws on the Gallup Muslim-West Dialogue Index and media content analysis carried out by Media Tenor International to discuss public perceptions of the dialogue and the tone of media coverage both in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Very few perspectives from within the community of scholars of Shari‘ah are offered in the report.

This brief introduces the report, discusses its main findings, and offers suggestions on how Muslim scholars and opinion leaders can contribute to the dialogue in a meaningful way. This report is an opportunity for Muslim scholars to build on the discussion already in progress, share best practices on how to further promote dialogue, and become better equipped to answer the needs of diverse Muslim communities.

 

Islamic Discourse: Between the Conclusive and the Variable [Sh. Abdullah Bin Bayyah]

Perhaps the most looming challenge before Islam today is to be understood. Mis-representation on the part of international media punditry does contribute much to this dilemma, as well as general myopia within the consciousness of Western publics regarding their own “others”; a category within which Islam, more often than not, features as the primary candidate.