Reducing The Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa

The role of decision-making biases in the fatwa process.

Muslims often consult a legal expert (a mufti) concerning legal issues and to mediate intra-personal situations. A consultation with a mufti follows a process which includes conception, adaption, evaluation, and, finally, the response. While reviewing fatwas for errors, the author observed that many of the errors encountered could be explained as errors resulting from rules of thumb employed to facilitate information processing and decision making – that is: decision biases resulting from employing heuristics.

This brief introduces the fatwa process, as well as decision-making heuristics and biases. It then presents an analysis of how biases come into play during the fatwa-delivery process. It concludes that there is a need to better understand decision-making heuristics and biases, and the negative impact of relying upon heuristics in Islamic disciplines. It also recommends that muftis be informed of decision-making biases, and that mufti training programs include decision-making biases in their curriculum so as to improve the quality of the services they provide. It is hoped that examining these errors in this way might help reduce future errors and improve the impact that fatwas have on petitioners’ lives.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Arbitration & Mediation in non-Muslim Regions

Shari‘ah-based personal dispute resolution for Muslims living in non-Muslim regions.

Dispute resolution remains a difficult issue for Muslims living in non-Muslim regions. While Muslims within Muslim regions do usually have access to Shari‘ah-based personal dispute resolution through settlement in court by an appointed judge (qāḍī) whose judgments are binding and enforceable, the absence of such judges in non-Muslim regions leaves Muslims residing in such lands without this option. The problem is augmented by the widespread belief that an Islamic state’s courts are the only acceptable means by which to obtain binding dispute resolution for Muslim litigants. The current state of affairs is particularly harmful to Muslim wives in abusive marriages, since it leaves them no means within the Shari‘ah to rectify their situation.

This Analytic Brief will show that the classical schools of Islamic Law provide other options relevant to the current situation. The first part of this Brief will introduce the various models for personal dispute resolution which are covered in classical Islamic law. The second part of this Brief will then discuss the applicability of each model and present a possible strategy for their application in a manner that respects and is harmonious with both the Shari‘ah and the legal environment of Muslims living in non-Muslim regions. The Brief will close by demonstrating how these models might be applied to the problem of Muslim wives caught in abusive marriages.

Ethical Dimensions of Nanotechnology

This brief paper introduces the subject of Nanotechnology and its ethical implications as an applied technology. It goes on to explore and present a blueprint for the theological, legal and ethical issues which Muslim scholars may need to address, as well as a framework through which scholars can determine relevant solutions.

Nanotechnology comprises several fields where matter is viewed and manipulated at the extremely small scale of billionths of a meter. At this scale matter exhibits phenomena and properties that can be used for new applications. Nanotechnology has already made its way into common consumer products such as stain-free cloth, sunscreen, and computer chips. Unfortunately, nothing conclusive is known about the additional health and environmental risks of matter at such a small scale. Concern about these risks, and about how nanotechnology will be used and its impact on society have prompted several invitations for public discussions on the ethical dimensions of nanotechnology. Religious perspectives have been requested. Muslim scholars and opinion leaders have yet to respond.

This brief introduces the topic of nanotechnology and its ethical dimensions. It then presents a blueprint of the theological, legal, and ethical issues which Muslim scholars and opinion leaders may need to address, as well as a framework through which scholars can begin working out some of the answers.