General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide
Name and Purpose
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide (GSFOW) is a specialized body located in the premises of Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta with an aim of coordinating between fatwa offices worldwide and optimizing their performance along with producing sound scholarly work in the field of ifta`. To that end, the purpose of the GSFOW is to expand their communal influence, thereby making ifta` one of the factors contributing to the progress and civilization of humanity.
The establishment of the GSFOW was announced in Cairo, Egypt on 4th Rabie’ al-Awwal 1437 AH/15th December 2015 CE. Membership is available to all Muslim countries pursuant to the Secretariat’s bylaws. The number of members is expected to increase to exceed 50 members during 2017.
On the domestic front, Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa proceeded to execute the largest process of streamlining religious discourse and its tools and purifying it from all adulterations. It also proceeded to charter new and modern territory, becoming the first religious institution to break into the world of social networking and emerging as the leading Islamic religious institution on social media with the greatest number of followers. In addition, Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa has also expanded its fatwa system, stepped up its overseas scholarly tours and provided numerous forms of scholarly support, assistance, and training to other fatwa authorities in different countries. The efforts expended by Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa, and its vision and executive strategy have attracted the attention of international institutions. Consequently, the European Parliament sought to forge a partnership with Dar al-Iftaa to create its first establishment for religious reference for fatwa, while the UN, the largest international organization, praised the pivotal and constructive role Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa plays in combating religious extremism and excommunication groups.
Outside Egypt, Dar al-Iftaa has sought to lead Muslim countries in addressing aberrant and deviant fatwas that loom large amongst the Muslim minority populations in non-Muslim majority countries. Consequently, the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide was created.
Importance and Timing
Many observers and those who are concerned with religious affairs in general and with fatwa affairs in particular, know that religious strictness and extremism represent the greatest danger and most dire threat not only to Muslim communities in the various countries of the world but to all non-Muslim communities and nations.
Religious fatwas have played a key role in the formulation of stern concepts. Capitalizing on the influential role of fatwa in the lives of Muslims, groups espousing a culture of violence and extremism have manipulated religious legal pronouncements to create for themselves a platform for worldwide violence and terrorism. The world is seeing unprecedented levels of violence and terror in which those groups have emerged as the primary elements in the destruction and disintegration of countries and of redrawing the map of the region and its division. It is precisely because of this that combating and eliminating this scourge has become an urgent duty of our times as well as an obligatory duty for scholars of the Muslim world and their moderate religious institutions.
It is for this purpose — to develop policies to eliminate fatwa chaos and address violent and extremist fatwas — that the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide was established. It is intended to provide a guiding principle for fatwa issuers and regulators in Egypt and the entire Muslim world.
Why the General Secretariat?
The importance of the General Secretariat lies in its spatial and temporal contextual role. Our times are witnessing powerful ideological currents of extremism on the lookout for fatwas to legitimize violence. Statistics show that there are an estimated 50, 000 fighters in the ranks of Daesh half of whom come from Muslim minority populations. Moreover, since the media apparatus of Daesh has a 12-language service in use, it was incumbent upon long-established and prominent religious institutions to formulate decisive, vigorous, and methodologically sound responses to misguiding ideas.
It was likewise necessary to announce the formation of an entity premised in Egypt, to lead moderation, renewal, and enlightenment and bring together fatwa authorities from different countries under a single umbrella.
It is possible to argue that the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide was created in response to signs of the times and the problems and conditions of Muslims in their respective countries and communities. The crises and problems Muslims experience in different parts of the globe require qualitative responses that are proportional to the scale of current problems and challenges. The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide is the first Islamic institution in the world to bring together in one body fatwa authorities from different world countries with an aim to restore the positive societal role of the institution of fatwa and to remove from it the damage wrought by non-specialists, pseudo-scholars, and extremists.
Vision of the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide is seeking to operate as an umbrella bringing together fatwa authorities from Muslim countries or Muslim populations in non-Muslim majority countries.
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide believes that a sound fatwa is the main building block for a stable individual, society, nation, and community; a fact which plays an influential role in creating prosperity and stability in the global environment.
The GSFOW aims to:
Consolidate a moderate methodology of fatwa issuance.
Exchange scholarly, practical, and regulatory experiences between member fatwa offices.
Provide scholarly and practical counsel to fatwa offices to improve their performance in issuing fatwas.
Reduce the gap of differences between fatwa bodies through the various forms of scholarly consultation.
Address the phenomenon of fatwa chaos and extremism.
Develop a scholarly and qualifying system for the benefit of Muslim leaders around the world that reinforces ideals of moderation and coexistence.
Build scholarly partnerships to support a moderate fatwa methodology in Egypt in its capacity as the first defensive line protecting the sound principles of Islam.
Lead the renewal of religious discourse by providing practical examples of renewing, developing, and designing curricula; promoting ideas; and providing alternatives.
Integrate the efforts of different fatwa authorities so as to correct the erroneous beliefs, thereby reducing the hostilities against Islam incited by extremist groups.
Support moderate scholars around the world.
Combat chaos and extremism in fatwa.
Disseminate refined fatwa principle worldwide with an aim to participate in formulating a philosophy of a global civilized construction.
Confirm that fatwas issued by non-specialists cause great societal disruption as is the case with the fatwas issued by Daesh and its sister groups.
Train and increase the experience of muftis and Islamic legal scholars in fatwa.
Promote national and international stability and peace by combating and taking the necessary measures against extremist ideologies.
The GSFOW aims to launch a bunch of initiatives and scholarly projects, the most important of which are:
1- Conferences and Seminars
In view of the challenges facing the universal community of Muslims, the GSFOW aims to hold an annual conference to explore fatwa related issues in an effort to help Muslims everywhere confront the severe political, economic, security, and ethical realties of Muslim countries. Consequently, Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta` proposed to address the following topic at the 2016 conference:
Scholarly Formation and Fatwa Training for Mosque Imams to Serve Muslim Communities;
2- Scholarly Publications
The GSFOW intends to contribute toward promoting awareness and education in the field of jurisprudence and ifta` through publishing researches conducted by the members of the Secretariat and research papers presented at its international conferences. The collection and publication of conference papers is therefore the initial step in the practical implementation of the conference results.
The GSFOW also intends to issue a peer-reviewed multi-lingual journal predicated on scholarly facts related to unprecedented issues and on fatwa criteria and applying them to our practical reality. This creates an opportunity to publish the work of specialists in fatwa and juristic studies in an effort to disseminate the true image of Islam and settle any debates related to controversial issues. This serves to provide a balanced Islamic legal information to knowledge seekers and those interested in conducting researches and studies in the field of ifta`. It likewise encourages specialists and researchers to publish their papers and ideas, especially fatwa related issues, consequently building a large database comprising a range of Islamic legal information, rulings, and the scholarly skills of fatwa-issuing.
3- Fatwa Training
Training and developing fatwa skills and auxiliary disciplines is an effective and important tool in creating earnest individuals who are able to advance this lofty mission and develop their work methods, thus allowing them to attain the highest levels of performance.
The training department at the Secretariat contributes towards refining the skills and competency of preachers and muftis along with giving them the knowledge and skills needed to tackle contemporary developments consciously and efficiently.
This department provides numerous training programs which aim at the following:
- Providing Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim countries with the know-how to deal with various rising issues and their shari’a- based solutions.
- Offering training to researchers in Islamic legal research and the skills of issuing fatwas.
- Conducting educative programs on the rulings of Islamic jurisprudence.
- Arranging training sessions in the craft of ifta` to mosque imams worldwide to help them answer the inquiries of mosque visitors.
The publication and translation department is tasked with publishing and translating researches, fatwas, juristic studies, scholarly articles, and book abridgments from Arabic into other languages and vice-versa before submitting them to the Secretariat. In addition, it supplies the Secretariat with research papers and published reports in languages other than Arabic to benefit from and respond to them as well as to facilitate communication with non-Arabic speakers worldwide. The purpose is to convey the moderate message of Islam to all Muslims, irrespective of country or language. Proposals include:
1- Translating and publishing studies, fatwas, and scholarly researches to and from the Secretariat to benefit Muslims everywhere.
2- Translating and publishing juristic books.
3- Supplying the periodical that is to be issued by the Secretariat with translated material on all Islamic issues.
4- Developing a monthly newsletter in several languages on Islamic issues and news about the Secretariat.
5- The Website
Websites are among the most important modern tools that help link the universal community of Muslims together and facilitate the transfer and dissemination of information. It was therefore important to launch a website for the GSFOW in several languages to communicate with the Muslim public around the world. The website goals are to:
1- Include a large number of languages to reach out to the greatest possible number of Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide.
2- Receive and respond to inquiries for fatwas and related issues.
3- Clarify the true image of Islam against the false claims of extremist organizations.
4- Introduce the definition of fatwa, tools used for issuing fatwas, criteria for implementing fatwas and other related issues.
5- Publish the activities of the Secretariat, fatwas, and juristic researches for the benefit of Muslims worldwide.
6- Address Muslim minority issues and provide a safety net to Muslims living in non-Muslim countries to protect them from falling prey to extremist ideologies.
6- Common Convoys
The universal community of Muslims is in dire need at present to raise awareness about the true principles of the Islamic faith, disseminate moderation, combat fanaticism and sternness, and counter all forms of extremism. This requires concerted efforts to promote the authentic teachings of Islam and facilitate knowledge to Muslims around the globe in accordance with the Quranic teaching, “And help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor” [Qur`an 5: 2].
To this end, the GSFOW plans to dispatch scholarly and fatwa convoys worldwide to provide an accurate perception on Islam as well as spotting the mistakes found in fatwas issued by non-specialists. It is no wonder then that the scholars undertaking this task have varying juristic orientations and different legal views in multiple languages so as to achieve the complementarity needed for the benefits of Muslim communities across the globe.
7- The GSFOW Journal
“The GSFOW Journal” is a quarterly peer reviewed journal issued in several languages that focuses on publishing scholarly researches from different countries. The journal takes into consideration investigating the legal views and juristic bases of the scientific foundings related to unprecedented issues along with laying out the criteria of issuing fatwas and its application to reality. It thereby allows specialists in fatwa and juristic studies to publish their work in the journal to disseminate the true image of the Islamic faith and their stance towards controversial issues.
The journal also provides a rich Islamic legal corpus for knowledge seekers and those interested in conducting researches and studies in the field of ifta`. It likewise encourages specialists and researchers to publish their papers and ideas, especially ifta` related issues, consequently building a large database comprising an array of Islamic legal information, rulings, and fatwa- issuing skills.
Bureaus and Offices
Bureaus and Offices
In Their Own Words
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide will lead the universal community of Muslims during these challenging times in an effort to remove the aberrance that has crept into many fatwas and resulted in creating political, economic, security and moral deterioration across many Muslim countries. The most prominent of the problems Muslims face today are audaciousness in giving fatwa and falsely ascribing to Islamic law what does not belong to it.
HE Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian
Grand Mufti of Lebanon
The founding of the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide has fulfilled the hope of many muftis and Muslim scholars worldwide to regulate the fatwas promulgated through various channels, particularly the media, by demanding that they cease to broadcast aberrant fatwas or fatwas issued by unqualified organizations and individuals and which only serve to foment strife between Muslims. The Secretariat set clear goals to protect the security and stability of Muslim countries against the imposition of extremist methodologies in fatwa issuance that take advantage of the ignorance and difficult social circumstances prevalent in some countries. This dictates the necessity for the entire Muslim world to act in solidarity to address and eradicate extremist methodologies.
HE Sheikh Mohammad Ahmed Hussein
Grand Mufti of Palestine and Orator of Al-Aqsa Mosque
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide will work on refuting extremist ideas and aberrant opinions that undermine the security and stability of Muslim societies. It will also consolidate the concepts of tolerance and mercy of Islam to instill in people’s minds the importance of the stability of Muslim and Arab societies. In addition, it will raise awareness regarding hate-mongers and some satellite channels that broadcast the opinions and fatwas of pseudo-scholars who seek to destabilize Muslim communities.
HE Sheikh Abdul Karim Salim al-Souliman Khasawneh
Grand Mufti of Jordan
The announcement of the establishment of the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide came at the most opportune time when the Muslim world is experiencing fatwa chaos — a situation that is exploited to achieve political ends and personal gains and not for the sake of God or public benefit. Fatwas of this nature aim to promulgate political ideologies that have caused much confusion for Muslims over their religion, undermined their security, and raised doubt and uncertainty among youth, some of the educated, and especially among the general public. This is tantamount to violating the legal boundaries set by God and jeopardizing the security of societies through fraud and deception.
HE Sheikh Ahmed al- Nur Mohammed al-Helw
Mufti of Chad
The establishment of the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide was received with the greatest approbation and enthusiasm by some muftis in different world countries. This comes at a time when the Muslim world has realized the scale of the problem it faces due to the presence of groups that espouse aberrant ideas and action.
Dr. Maumoon Abdul-Gayoom
Former President of Maldives
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide has met the demand of leading world figures who called upon scholars and establishments that are engaged in fatwa issuance to unite in one common effort to regulate and unify fatwa in the Muslim world and to restrict the activity only to those who possess the necessary knowledge and are mindful of God.
HE Sheikh Mohammed al-Mansur Anyass
Advisor to the Senegal President
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide has identified the locus of the underlying causes of [the current conditions of fatwa]. It therefore brought together leading jurists and fatwa experts to agree on a common word to check the efforts of pseudo-scholars and expose to the entire world the deleteriousness of the fatwas issued by extremists and excommunicating groups who operate under the guise of Islam.
HE Sheikh Ibrahim Salih
Grand Mufti of Nigeria
Needs of the General Secretariat for fatwa Authorities Worldwide
As illustrated above, the number of personnel engaged in the different offices and departments of the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide is 55 ranging from researchers, linguists, Islamic legal specialists, and administrators. The staff is tasked with the duty of achieving the goals of the General Secretariat and putting its plans into action.
The General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide is temporarily located within the premises of Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa. There are plans to construct permanent headquarters, subject to sufficient funding being available, to accommodate all offices and departments, scholarly activities, events, and initiatives.
Pursuant to the agreement reached at the International Conference on Ifta` held by Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta` in the period 17-18 August 2015 CE/2-3 Dhul-Qi’da 1436 AH which recommended the establishment of a general secretariat for fatwa offices worldwide, it has been proposed to create bylaws for the establishment of the GSFOW with the following articles:
Article I: A general secretariat called “The General Secretariat for Fatwa Houses Worldwide” shall be established and located in the premises of Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta` in Cairo, Egypt.
Article II: The GSFOW shall have a supreme council headed by the Grand Mufti of Egypt. The supreme council shall be formed of founding members and members joining after the GSFOW’s establishment.
Article III: Tasks of the supreme council: the supreme council shall set public policies and strategies, ratify action plans, and oversee the achievements of the GSFOW’s objectives.
Article IV: The secretary general of the GSFOW shall hold office for a term of four years subject to renewal and shall be appointed by the Grand Mufti of Egypt after the supreme council’s confirmation.
Article V: The GSFOW shall aim to achieve the following objectives:
a. Coordinate between fatwa offices to build a scholarly, moderate, methodological fatwa system with the aim of developing a common strategy between member fatwa offices to adopt a scholarly source based and context related discourse to confront fatwa extremism.
b. Exchange of experiences between member fatwa offices on a continuous basis.
c. Provide fatwa counsel to fatwa bodies and muftis worldwide.
d. Provide scholarly support to Muslim nations and minorities to help them establish local fatwa offices.
e. Lay out the job criteria for the position of a mufti and for the process of fatwa issuing to ensure the accuracy of fatwas.
f. Promote fruitful cooperation between fatwa offices worldwide through possible means.
g. Build and qualify competencies to issue fatwas through the accumulated and diverse experience of member states.
Article VI: Any fatwa or research office shall be entitled to apply for membership to the GSFOW. The president of the supreme council announces membership approval after the consent of the majority of its members.
Article VII: Muslim minorities shall be entitled to request to join the GSFOW by having one or more qualified member accepted by the supreme council.
Article VIII: Application for membership shall be addressed to the president of the supreme council who shall announce approval of application after obtaining the consent of the supreme council.
Article IX: The GSFOW shall have an organizational structure approved by the supreme council.
Article X: The bylaws or one of its articles may be amended with the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members and the president of the supreme council shall announce such amendments.
Article XI: The supreme council shall meet once a year and the president of the supreme council may call the council to convene whenever necessary or by a written request from one-third of the members submitted to the president.
Article XII: The meeting shall be deemed valid when the absolute majority of members are present.
Article XIII: Resolutions shall be passed with the absolute majority of the members present unless otherwise stated by the bylaws.
Article XIV: In the event of a tie vote, the president’s vote breaks the tie.
Article XV: Membership shall expire upon resignation, death, inability, or absence from three consecutive sessions without an excuse and the decision to terminate membership shall rest with the supreme council.
Article XVI: These bylaws shall enter into force as of the date of issuance.
Date Ratified: 15 December 2015 CE/4 Rabie’ al-Awwal 1437 AH.
Any fatwa or research office shall be entitled to apply for membership to the GSFOW. The president of the supreme council announces membership approval after the consent of the majority of its members.
Muslim minorities shall be entitled to request to join the GSFOW by having one or more qualified member accepted by the supreme council.
Application for membership shall be addressed to the president of the supreme council who shall announce the approval of application after obtaining the consent of the supreme council.
Address: Dar al-Iftaa, al-Khalidin Garden, al-Darrasa, Cairo, Egypt, P.O.Box 11675
Web Site: www.fatwaacademy.org