Egypt’s prominent Sunni institution, Dar Al-Ifta, organised Monday a national conference entitled “Fatwa Issues in the contemporary period”, with the attendance of the country’s main religious figures.
Grand Mufti Shawqy Allam said in his speech that the conference aims to “return the moderate rhetoric into fatwas, hoping to achieve cooperation between international institutions which are working in the field of issuing fatwas”.
A fatwa is a religious opinion issued by a high profile cleric, upon the demand of a concerned individual, or if the preacher sees a certain issue needs clarification or explanation.
“The current period is witnessing a rise wave of fundamentalism and terrorism, which distorts our religion amid the rise of people who misquote the sayings of the Muslim prophet. We are countering religious illiteracy and fundamental fatwas,” Allam said.
The conference comes after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s repeated calls that Islamic institutions in the country, including Al-Azhar, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, and Dar Al-Ifta, should “renew religious discourse”.
Al-Sisi previously emphasised the importance of “correcting religious speech so that it is in accordance with the tolerant Islamic teachings”, which “should eliminate sectarian disputes and confront extremism and militancy”.
“It is illogical that the way of thinking, which this nation adopts, be the source of unrest, danger, and destruction all over the world. Here I don’t mean the religion, but its interpretation,” Al-Sisi said.
Accordingly, Allam asserted in the Monday conference: “We are facing individuals that are threatening the peacefulness of nations, who incite fire of strife between people of the same country, depending on rumours and lies.”
He added that fatwas have a rule in defending the identity, as they tell people about the opinion of religion in personal matters. Allam added: “We are here so that the sound of sanity speaks…in order to assert the source of specialisation.”
In many cases, Dar Al-Ifta and Al-Azhar have criticised unofficial preachers for being “specialised”. This happened by banning non-graduates of Al-Azhar to preach in mosques.
Allam added that detailed “fatwas shouldn’t be issued unless by specialised members”.
Other topics discussed at the conference were the effect of fatwas on the stability of societies, fundamentalism, moderate teaching, and development.
Al-Azhar’s Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb also spoke during the conference saying that preachers’ responsibility to provide religious advice to solve society’s problems and the rise of “unspecialised outlets for fatwas” is heavy.
Along with Dar Al-Ifta, the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Al-Azhar have been following the Egyptian government’s rhetoric in fighting ‘Islamic State’. The three major Sunni Muslim institutions in Egypt preach against Islamic militancy, by stressing the need to support the state and the current government or by addressing radical opponents of the government, such as so-called “takfiri” elements.
The Ministry of Religious Endowments has heavily condemned the actions of radical Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria. This has come amongst security and regional concerns over the expansion by Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), which rebranded itself ‘Islamic State’ establishing a self-proclaimed ‘Islamic Caliphate’.
Dar Al-Ifta, established an observatory, which called upon media personnel and journalists not to “follow rumours and lies, published all the time”.
The observatory formed after the rise of “Islamic State” last year. It have been monitoring fatwas and measures undertaken by Islamists, starting from Muslim Brotherhood leaders to actions of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, such as beheadings, the abuse of women, and destroying monuments.