FaithWorld

Top Algerian Salafist’s fatwa says unrest is un-Islamic

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(A Salafist sheikh consults Islamic literature in Algiers, August 2, 2010/Louafi Larbi )

The spiritual leader of Algeria’s influential Salafist movement has issued a 48-page fatwa, or religious decree, urging Muslims to ignore calls for change because he says that democracy is against Islam. The fatwa by Sheikh Abdelmalek Ramdani, who lives in Saudi Arabia, comes at an opportune time for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as Algerians watching protests in other Arab states have begun pushing their own political and economic demands.

“As long as the commander of the nation is a Muslim, you must obey and listen to him. Those who are against him are just seeking to replace him, and this is not licit,” Ramdani wrote in the fatwa obtained by Reuters. “During unrest, men and women are mixed, and this is illicit in our religion,” said Ramdani, who claims several hundred thousand followers here.

Algeria has been shaken since January by a wave of protest sparked by a spike in food prices. The opposition has made several attempts to march in Algiers for democracy, transparency and a change of leadership. Anxious to keep a wave of popular revolts in the Arab world from spreading to Algeria, the government has lifted a 19-year state of emergency and opened up state media to the opposition. It has also been paying out huge sums in subsidies, wage increases and interest-free loans to placate discontent.

Ramdani, who moved to Saudi Arabia after threats from radical Islamists, wrote in his “Fatwa on Unrest” that an observant Muslim can only “pray and be patient” when faced with an unwanted ruler.

Libyan Islamic scholars issue fatwa for Muslims to rebel

benghazi protest

(Protesters in Benghazi, February 20, 2011/Youtube via Reuters TV)

A coalition of Libyan Islamic leaders has issued a fatwa telling all Muslims it is their duty to rebel against the Libyan leadership.  The group also demanded the release of fellow Islamic scholar Sadiq al-Ghriani, who was arrested after criticising the government, and “all imprisoned demonstrators, including many of our young students”.

Calling itself the Network of Free Ulema of Libya, the group of over 50 Muslim scholars said the government and its supporters “have demonstrated total arrogant impunity and continued, and even intensified, their bloody crimes against humanity.”

Open dissent by established Muslim clerics is rare in North Africa, but the crackdown on protesters rallied the scholars to form the previously unknown Network of Free Ulema. Their first statement issued on Saturday denounced the government for firing on demonstrators who were demanding “their divinely endowned and internationally recognised human rights” and stressed the killing of innocent people was “forbidden by our Creator.”

Short of talent, Islamic finance taps women scholars

malaysia islamic finance (Photo: Islamic Financial Centre booth at Malaysia’s Central Bank – High Level Conference 2009 in Kuala Lumpur February 10, 2009/Zainal Abd Halim)

When Malaysian Aida Othman signed up for the new law programme at the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, she did not expect to become one the few women with their hands on the levers of the world’s $1 trillion Islamic finance sector.

Rising global demand for scholars who can advise firms on compliance with Islamic legal principles called sharia is behind the quiet and almost accidental way in which women are growing into a small but powerful force in a male-dominated business.

“There are not many women involved my job,” Aida, who manages the sharia advisory practice at Malaysia’s biggest law firm, told Reuters. “I’m glad to be able to show to young graduates and young scholars in my field if you’re interested enough there is a way into sharia advisory,” the 41-year-old, who went on to study at Cambridge and Harvard, said.

Saudi royal order says only appointed clerics can issue public fatwas

saudi fatwasSaudi King Abdullah has ordered that public religious edicts, or public fatwas, be issued only by clerics he appoints, in the boldest measure the ageing monarch has taken to organise the religious field.

Timid efforts by the absolute monarchy to modernise the deeply conservative country have led to a profusion in fatwas from scholars and mosque imams in the country, who use the Internet to publicise them as they fight what they perceive as the westernisation of the country. (Photo: Saudi King Abdullah, 30 July 2010/Ali Jarekji)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah gestures during his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the Royal Palace in Amman July 30, 2010.

Sonorous black Saudi cleric rescinds objection to fatwa against singing

saudi singerAn imam whose voice helped him become the first black Saudi to lead prayers at Mecca’s Grand Mosque said he was wrong to speak against a fatwa prohibiting singing, in the latest spat between reformist and conservative clerics in the kingdom.

King Abdullah’s push for reform has fostered divisions among senior Saudi clerics, and Adil Kalbani shocked conservative clerics in June by speaking in favor of singing, saying neither the Koran nor Prophet Mohammad’s sayings prohibited it. (Photo: Saudi singer Abdul Majeed Abdullah at Qatar’s Song Festival in Doha, January 11, 2007/Fadi Al-Assaad)

But, in remarks published by Saudi al-Hayat newspaper on Wednesday, Kalbani said that he had discussed the fatwa with people including Islamic Affairs Minister Saleh bin Abdul-Aziz bin Mohammad al-Sheikh and had changed his mind.

Muslim scholars recast jihadists’ favourite fatwa

magnifying koran

An Indonesian Muslim uses magnifying glass to read Koran verses printed on lamb parchment, Jakarta, July 27, 2005/Beawiharta

Prominent Muslim scholars have recast a famous medieval fatwa on jihad, arguing the religious edict radical Islamists often cite to justify killing cannot be used in a globalized world that respects faith and civil rights.  A conference in Mardin in southeastern Turkey declared the fatwa by 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya rules out militant violence and the medieval Muslim division of the world into a “house of Islam” and “house of unbelief” no longer applies.

Osama bin Laden has quoted Ibn Taymiyya’s “Mardin fatwa” repeatedly in his calls for Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and wage jihad against the United States.

Tahir ul-Qadri and the difficulty of reporting on fatwas

ul-qadri

Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri at a youth camp in Coventry, central England, August 9, 2009/Kieran Doherty

It never was and may never be easy to report about fatwas for a world audience. This point was driven home once again today when a prominent Islamic scholar presented to the media his new 600-page fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombing. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri is a Pakistani-born Sufi scholar whose youth workshops fostering moderation and understanding in Britain had already caught our attention. His effort to knock down any and every argument in favour of violence is certainly welcome. But the back story to this event is so complicated that it’s hard to report on the fatwa without simply ignoring many important parts of this back story.

Part of the problem was the PR drumroll leading up to ul-Qadri’s news conference.  Minhaj-ul-Quran, his international network to spread his Sufi teachings, touted this fatwa in an email to journalists a week ago as a unique event “because at no time in history has such an extensively researched and evidenced work been presented by such a prominent Islamic authority.” Hype like this usually prompts journalists to throw an invitation straight into the trash can.

Mauritanian Muslim imams initiate rare ban on female circumcision

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Women meeting in western Senegal to discuss eradicating female genital mutilation, 10 Sept 2007/Finbarr O'Reilly

Human rights campaigners who have been struggling for years to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Africa got a boost this week as news emerged that a group of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mauritania had declared a fatwa, or religious decree, against the practice.

“Are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist,” asked the secretary general of the Forum of Islamic Thought in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein. “On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Now that doctors in Mauritania unanimously say that this practice threatens health, it is therefore clear that Islam is against it.”

King Abdullah slaps down Saudi cleric criticial of co-ed university

kaust1 (Photo: Visitors view model of KAUST campus at opening, 23 Sept 2009/Susan Baaghil)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Last week, a senior Saudi Islamic cleric criticised the country’s first mixed-gender university, the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST), and suggested an Islamic committee to make sure it followed Islamic principled and didn’t teach “alien ideologies” such as evolution.

Late on Sunday, the state news agency SPA reported that King Abdullah had removed Sheikh Saad Al-Shithri from a top council of religious scholars.

Waiting in France for a fatwa against forced marriages

dioufIt’s Ramadan and on a bustling shopping street on the fringes of northern Paris, the holy month is in full swing. Bearded men in long robes collect alms, women in headscarves sell sweet pastries. But the period of fasting and charitable acts has little impact on the work of activist Christine Jamaa, whose office is in a secret location not far from the busy street market.

Jamaa, who heads the Voix de Femmes (Women’s Voice) group helping victims of forced marriage,  met me there last week for a interview for my feature “New school year puts French on forced marriage alert.” In the feature, another activist, Fatou Diouf (pictured above in a photo by Jacky Naegelen), told of her family’s attempt to kidnap her and force her into marrying her uncle in Senegal at the age of 18.

While I was in Jamaa’s office, her phone was constantly ringing with emergency calls from threatened girls and women – most of them Muslims of Africa, Asian or Middle Eastern descent. Jamaa herself is a Muslim, like many of the activists who help victims of forced marriage here, and she keeps telling the families and the women at risk that Islam bans forced marriage.