Are Fatwas dispensable? Examining the contemporary relevance and authority of Fatwas in Australia

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Abstract

Fatwas play a central role in the articulation and contextualization of Islamic law. Despite its lofty status within Islam’s juristic tradition, the authoritative value and function of fatwas in contemporary Muslim societies is undergoing significant change. Whereas historical fatwas generated immense solidarity within Islam’s legal schools and traditional ulama (religious scholars), Muslims today are confronted with an unprecedented supply of fatwas from various religious actors, institutions and digital platforms vying to speak for Islam. Using Australia as a case study, this article investigates the role, demand, and relevance of fatwas in Australia. It draws on empirical fieldwork conducted between 2018 and 2019 with Muslim religious actors including imams/sheikhs, educators, academics and members of the Australian Muslim community. The findings show Australian Muslims are largely sceptical about the relevance and credibility behind fatwa-making in Australia. Among the findings, participants demand greater scholarly expertise, legal analysis, and institutional output in the production of fatwas. Participants additionally expressed desire to establish locally based fatwa councils with the ability to produce context-specific fatwas for Australian Muslims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314–342
Number of pages29
JournalOxford Journal of Law and Religion
Volume11
Issue number2-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022

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