Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments Headquarters in Cairo- File Photo
CAIRO – 7 July 2018: The Parliament’s Religious and Endowments Affairs Committee approved the Endowments Ministry’s right to issue fatwas (religious decrees) in a new law, following fierce row between the Endowments Ministry and Al-Azhar, the latter deemed the highest Sunni religious authority in Islamic world.
Prior to the parliament’s decision, Al-Azhar was the only organization officially entitled to issue fatwas inside the country.
Following several meetings and a lot of consultations between the two parties, the Parliament’s Religious Committee approved the new fatwa law. Egypt Today capsules the key items of this controversial law to its readers as follows:
1. The new law completely prohibits issuing any fatwa for the public unless it is through: “the Supreme Council of Scholars at Al-Azhar, Dar al-Ifta (affiliated with Al-Azhar), Al Azhar's Islamic Research Academy and the General Department of Fatwa affiliated with Endowment Ministry.”
2. Al-Azhar’s preachers, scholars, teachers, instructors and clerics are only permitted to guide people in general issues, but cannot issue fatwas.
3. Issuing fatwas via media outlets is regulated and limited to only accredited entities listed by the law.
4. According to the draft, people who breach the law’s articles will be jailed for no longer than six months and fined with no more than LE 5,000 or either of the punishments. In case of repeating the same violation, the punishment shall be the imprisonment and fine with no less than LE 10,000.
According to the newly approved law, a scholar who is proven incompetent for issuing fatwas will be punished with a fine of not more than LE 20,000 and not less than LE 10,000 if he uses media to issue fatwas. The punishment also doubles if the person decides to reappear on media to issue fatwas for a second time.
This law comes within the framework of Egypt’s efforts to fight terrorism, extremist ideology and odd fatwas that incite sedition, in light of the recent increase in the number of fatwas issued and the number of unlicensed people preaching about religious habits on social media.
In a statement before the conference titled “The Role of Fatwas in Stabilizing the Society,” Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb said that Egypt nowadays is facing an “unprecedented wave of distortion of Islam’s teachings by unlicensed persons.”
“Unfortunately, some have been allowed to issue flawed fatwas that distort Islamic Sharia and violate Islam's true teachings," said Tayeb.
Fatwas are Islamic religious rulings issued by a recognized religious authority or individual, based on the Holy Quran and the Prophet’s teachings for guidance on the routine of daily life subjects such as marriage and inheritance.