This exploratory study examines the confidence Sunni Muslims place in the validity of fatwas based on their elements. It recommends that institutes which issue or disseminate fatwas ensure that their muftis are known to the public they serve.
The present exploratory study examines the confidence Sunni Muslims place in the validity of contemporary fatwas communicated through a variety of communication scenarios.
It recommends that newspapers and others reporting on fatwas change their focus in the types of legal opinions they choose to communicate.
A speech addressing the social philosophies and institutions, many of them common to Muslims and Christians, comprising a vocational and godly society.
This text published today serves as a response to Cardinal Angelo Scola in his speech at the House of Lords, by offering his frank reflections on the presence of Muslims in Europe. This was addressed positively as a factor that contributed to the construction of a ‘good life’ for all communities, on the one hand, whilst on the other, stated negatively that the mere presence of Muslims in Europe constituted a potentially inassimilable problem and a challenge to the status quo.
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.
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.
A concise review and analysis of the Common Word initiative, its history, and the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Reverend Rowan Williams.
A Common Word between Us and You is the letter that began an interfaith initiative led by key Muslim institutions and endorsed by prominent Muslim scholars. The focus of the initiative is to identify common ground between Muslims and People of the Book (specifically Christians), and using this common ground to achieve peace and work towards their shared interests and future. The proposal has been welcomed by the Christian community and it has already triggered tangible results. Key among them is the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury in a letter entitled A Common Word for the Common Good. The initiative’s website address is http://www.acommonword.com.
Tabah Foundation held a seminar entitled ‘The Rationality of Islamic Tradition within the Context of Contemporary Thought.’ The seminar took place during the semi-annual meeting of Tabah’s Senior Scholars Council. It shed light on a recently released research publication by Tabah on postmodern thinking by Dr. Karim Lahham, Senior Research Fellow at Tabah Foundation and Barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple, UK.
Featuring some of the most-renowned Islamic personalities, the participants were led by the former Grand Mufti of Egypt and member of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars Dr. Ali Gomaa, Chief of the Board of Tabah Foundation Al-Habib Ali Al-Jifri, the Libyan Ambassador to UAE and chairman of Kalam Research and Media Dr. Aref Nayed, in addition to a number of professors from Zayed University and a distinguished group of academics and competent experts.
Al-Habib al-Jifri inaugurated the event by pointing out that the region is standing at a cultural juncture, the early introductions of which date back three or four hundred years ago. He asserted that during the current period we are witnessing fast-paced cultural transformation accompanied by a state of comatose blanketing attempts of renewal stemming from our scholarly tradition which are based on an accurate conception of changes in human reality. He added that the current Islamic discourse faces a problem with regard to the possibility of the continuation of its connectedness with its uninterrupted chain of transmission (whether in relation to narration, comprehension, or moral purification); and with regard to the scholarly gradualism which the Muslim community had grown accustomed to being tied to an established methodology, along with an ability to confront present-day challenges.
The seminar was facilitated by Sheikh Usamah al-Azhari, director of the Office of The Message of al-Azhar. Dr. Karim Lahham—the author of the research work in discussion—delivered a paper addressing the consequences of the concepts upon which modernists base their understanding of Islam. He criticized modernists’ raucous voice in their calls for reform, along with epistemological and philosophical poorness in terms of founding real intellectual reform.
Dr. Lahham’s paper concentrated on the extent of such modernists’ comprehension of philosophical principals, along with their accuracy in applying them to the Islamic tradition. He admonished the modernists and postmodernists for incarceration in an “ideological cave” of assumptions. This condition spawned a host of barriers separating Muslims from their own legacy—a legacy that is replete with discerning research methodologies. The gravity of this condition stems from its reduction of faith to religious rituals, and to the political domain through the imposition of epistemological barriers between man and religion. Dr. Lahham warned against the danger of the grave attempts by modernists resulting in the absence of a multitude of re-categorizing sciences, along with their modus operandi in terms of structuring concepts and philosophies based upon scientific rules. At the end of the paper, he called for a comprehensive reconsideration of the relational configuration between traditional sciences and for re-extracting the hidden gems lying latent in the Muslim intellect, including its catalog of sciences and disciplines.
Sheikh Saeed Fouda, a researcher in the discipline of kalam (scholastic theology), commented on Dr. Lahham’s lecture by commending the depth of its substance, objectives and outcomes, and its endeavor to deconstruct the intellectual, philosophical and epistemological foundations upon which the modernist intellectual school of thought depends. Sheikh Fouda also referred to features of contemporary philosophy that holistically addresses human beings—rather than human intellect—as a referential yardstick for understanding the world. This is a characteristic feature of postmodern thinking; a symptom that we have been suffering from particularly with respect to the postulation that the mind does not exist by itself, as argued by Nietzsche. The latter considered reason as one of the causes of humanity’s regress. Sheikh Fouda highlighted that postmodern thinking does not acknowledge the existence of a priori concepts and that its proponents describe reason, in their own words, as an idol that must be shattered.
Following Sheikh Fouda’s critique, the floor was opened for comments from the attendance. Dr. Ali Gomaa initiated the session by addressing the definitions of reason offered by Muslim in addition to the “four pillars of reason”: the Brain, sound senses, sensed reality and prior information. This quadrate explains the content and conditions and basis of taklif (moral and legal responsibility) in Islam. Dr. Gomaa confirmed the importance of the role of previous information, with its two sources being revelation and the world. For Muslim scholars, knowledge is taken from both books of revelation; the holy Quran, and the world. Through understanding both books of revelation Muslim scholars credited revelation as a source of knowledge. Muslims learn from both books knowing there is no contradiction between them. In case where a contradiction arises they know it is due to their understanding of the Qur’anic text not the sacred text itself. This is what drove Islamic scholars to divide the Qur’anic text—all of which is definitive in terms of its authenticity (qat‘i al-thubut)—into two categories: definitive in meaning (qat‘i al-dalalah), and speculative in meaning (dhanni al-dalalah). Revelation is therefore neither superior nor antithetical to reason, but rather it is one of its sources. The same applies to the universe: it is a source of reason and if a contradiction arises, the universe then takes precedence over speculative understanding of the scriptural text. Dr. Gomaa also dealt with the topic of the collective consciousness or mind (al-‘aql al-jam‘i), which is considered an essential and indispensible element in the structure of the intellect.
Dr. Aref Nayedh’s comment followed, shedding light on modernists’ incoherence, which he claimed to be no more than a new kind of sophistry and fallacy in their approach in interpretation of Quran. The so-called “Qur’anist school” _which considers Quran the only source of Tashree’_ subscribes to this approach. It is noticeable in this school’s literature—as well as in postmodern literature—that the scriptural text is analyzed through certain mechanisms such as metaphorical interpretation, semiotics, hermeneutics and structuralism. The interpretive approach of this school has slipped into error as a result of its examination of the relations between meanings without referring to the relevant circumstantial prerequisites, like the prerequisites of the historical condition (for example: on the issue of circumstances of revelation, or asbāb al-nuzul), prerequisites of the accumulative condition, or what is known as the collective mind. Extirpating Qur’anic text out of its historical context, from the Prophetic Sunnah which is its interpretative reference, and from the uninterrupted chains of narrations, has led them to falling into such fallacy during their attempt to interpret Qur’anic texts. In the concluding section of his comment, Dr. Nayedh stressed the dire need for the contribution of the discipline of kalam and to connecting this discipline with contemporary philosophies.
Dr. Ali El-Konaissi, Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at Zayed University, followed by commenting that Muslim philosophers—led by al-Kindi—expanded in their engagement with theories of the mind. They interpreted, explained and extracted—not to mention corrected—all ideas on the mind derived from Greek philosophy after first translating Greek works into Arabic. He cited the example of the al-Kindi’s critique and amending Aristotle’s theory of hylomorphism in the work De Anima which was translated into Arabic under the title Fi maheyat al-‘aql (On the Essence of the Intellect). Aristotle asserts that the intellect is divided into two types: an active, and a passive type. In response, and based on his deep comprehension of the essence of religion, al-Kindi reclassified the intellect in a new way. He argued instead that there are four types of the intellect: (1) the primary (or First) intellect, which belongs to God; (2) the potential intellect, which is the human intellect and the tool of connection to primary intellect; (3) the acquired, and; (4) the demonstrative intellect.
The paper presented is part of the Tabah Papers series produced by Tabah Research. The objective of the paper is to probe the conceptual structures upon which the writings of postmodernist thinkers are founded. The work concludes that any thinker or writer is the heir of the gamut of concepts or conceptual orders which surface in his or her writings whether consciously or otherwise. Any given concept is neither an orphan nor has no origin. Thus, the validity of any concept largely relies on the origin of its genealogy. Consequently, the value of any idea is commensurate to the value of its origin. This is what the researcher has attempted to trace and evaluate in his work.
To read the presented paper, please click here
On April 10–11, 2011, Musa Furber (Research Associate), attended “Where Religion, Policy, and Bioethics Meet,” a conference on Islamic bioethics held at the University of Michigan. This conference was the first if its kind to be held in North America. Although Islamic bioethics has been a topic of interest to Muslim scholars since the 1970s, it has only recently become a topic of interest in Western and English literature. Islamic bioethics in the West is dominated by medical practitioners and social scientists who are not themselves versed in Islamic law and oftentimes antagonistic towards Islamic scholarship. This conference broke new ground by including a number of Muslim jurists amongst its speakers. The conference was attended by over 150 attendees, mostly from the medical community.
Among the conference’s topics were: the relationship of culture and society to bioethical values; the status of bioethics amongst Muslim physicians and in the Muslim world; bioethics within the healthcare system; and Islamic bioethics according to Islamic scholarship. Furber had the honor of being invited to present how traditional jurisconsults respond to bioethical dilemmas and the role of juridical councils. Furber had received many questions about bioethical issues when he was at Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, so the invitation provided an opportunity for him to work with classical and contemporary jurisprudence – theoretical and applied. But more importantly: it was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the Shari‘ah’s positive concern for the sanctity of life and human dignity.
Furber covered in his presentation the relationships between jurisprudence and medicine, the methodology jurists use when researching bioethical issues, the prerequisites for the individual carrying out Islamic legal research, the large number of contemporary bioethical issues that jurists have already addressed, the need for collaborative research for interdisciplinary issues such as bioethics, and the status of opinions issued by individual jurists and juridical councils. His presentation also touched on the need to seek legal rulings from qualified jurisprudence, and the shortcomings of generalizing the highly-contextualized fatawa found in newspapers and online. At the end of his presentation, he recommended that future discourse on Islamic bioethics in North America needs to include qualified jurisconsults.
Later during the conference, several Muslim physicians mentioned their surprise at learning about the range of bioethical issues that had already been covered by jurisconsults. Many attendees indicated their interest that jurisconsults and qualified Muslim scholars take an active role in future discussions. Several non-Muslim professors stressed the need for greater participation from representatives of normative Islamic scholarship as that is the Muslim voice that interests them.
In sha Allah, this is just the beginning of Tabah Foundation’s participation in Islamic bioethics, both abroad and locally. Many regional physicians have expressed their interest in learning about Islamic bioethics, for their own practice and to better serve the needs of their patients.
Engaging topics of applied ethics is one of Tabah’s research initiatives towards the renewal of contemporary Islamic discourse to fit the needs of humanity
Tabah Foundation is proud to announce the launch of its latest publication ‘Flak Attack’ at the Shangri-La Ballroom in Between the Bridges on the 3rd of May at 7:30 pm.
( Attendance by invitation only)
Flak Attack is a Tabah Foundation essay that is geared towards Muslim media professionals, activists, scholars and those interested, who are alarmed at today’s headlines and would like to engage the mass media in the hope of balancing it’s predominantly negative reporting with positive stories pertaining to Islam and Muslims.
Key speakers in the event are:
Nazim Baksh, A broadcast correspondent with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
(CBC) and a Canadian Journalism Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto.
Hassan Fattah, Editor in Chief of The National, a leading English newspaper daily in
Dr. Hessa Lootah, PHD holder in Mass Communications, from Ohio University, USA, Associate Professor at the UAE University and the Head of Mass Communications Department between 2000 and 2004.
Related links: ‘Flak Attack’ full essay