The mufti is a Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious matters. Every country that defines itself as Muslim has a grand mufti and an Iftaa institution that includes hundreds of muftis. These muftis have a specific education and must study an array of Islamic subjects, based on which sect of Islam each country follows. The role of this institution is to determine whether our laws and our practices as a people abide by our chosen sect and interpretation of Islamic laws. We Egyptians have one of the biggest Iftaa institutions for Sunni Muslims, and it has always been a progressive interpretation that takes into account the reality of our world.
The Egyptian Iftaa institution is the entity the government turns to on questions like whether interest-based banks are halal. It is also where Sunni Muslim Egyptians get their rulings. People ask questions as important as the details of inheritance law, questions as big as whether their life is in accordance with their belief system’s teachings. They also ask questions as trivial as whether medical nasal drops are allowed while fasting and every other question in between. Moving from under the dictatorship of the Mubarak regime, the Iftaa institution should be able to do its job without political calculations, terror or bribery.
The Muslim Brotherhood has its own mufti!
All of a sudden lately, I have seen several statements by the Muslim Brotherhood mufti. It struck me the first time, and then over and over again. Why does the MB need its own mufti? Aren’t the Brothers following the same religion as the country’s Iftaa institution? So are the Brothers (our ruling organisation) not obliged to obey the country’s grand mufti? Having their own mufti means having a separate sect of Islam. For example, we know that the Salafis have their own muftis, but this is because most of them follow a much more conservative and elementary interpretation of Islam, the Wahhabi school of thought. So it is understandable that they have their own rulings. But for the Brothers, that is not supposed to be the case, unless they declare themselves, as the Wahhabis did, and tell us what interpretation of Islam they have. What if Egypt’s grand mufti ‘s ruling is different from the Ikhwani mufti’s ruling? Who rules? Who governs?
Questions like this could be posed:
- Should we shut down all banks if they do not follow the Islamic banking rules?
- Should we ban NGOs that admit the right of homosexuals to exist?
- Should we allow a woman to divorce her husband?
- Should we allow Christians to celebrate their feasts by ringing church bells?
- Should we punish anyone caught eating during a morning in Ramadan?
And the list goes on. Now these are governing laws, they do define how we want to live and who we are, and what interpretation of Islam we are following. If the Muslim Brothers do not agree with all the laws that have governed this country based on the Iftaa institution’s rulings, they should tell us. We saw signs these questions (and many others) were to be revisited during the short period we had a parliament. We are now witnessing similar discussions in the Shura Council, and in the MB rhetoric.
The Wahhabis are clear about it, we know what we are going to get if they rule Egypt. It will be Saudi Arabia in Cairo… but without money. With the Brothers we don’t know what we are heading into. It is like a new sect of Islam is taking control of the biggest population in the Middle East. And we have no idea what they stand for. Reading books about them, and even their own books, it is clear that they are an isolated community with their own set of rules. But you don’t get to really know these rules. You need to study until you learn… a whole different education presented to you by the imams of the Brothers over the decades.
Is this really the case? Are they really separate from our beliefs? Do they need a mufti of their own to create even more problems? Lately he denied that he told Morsi not to visit churches, and denied he said that no one should wish Christians well on their feasts. Now what if he did rule that? Should the president follow? Should the country follow, then? They are, at the end of the day, the ruling entity: they define the country and forge the laws governing us. Will they rule out all the Egyptian Iftaa institution’s rulings and replace them with their own mufti’s rulings?
Is this a way to govern a country? Having two entities speaking for the same religious school of thought? We would understand if they declare themselves as such, then they will have their mufti and we will have ours, like every other country which hosts different sects. Iraq and Lebanon are examples. We can be like Syria ruled by the Alawites, or Bahrain ruled by Sunnis, or the mix they have in Lebanon.
But so long as the Brothers pose as a group following Egypt’s interpretation of Islam, they need to obey Egypt’s grand mufti’s rulings. All we ask is that they let us know. Can the Brothers tell us why our ruling organisation has a mufti of its own? And what exactly does this mean for our future?