Who can give a Fatwa?

It is reported that Imām Mālik – Allāh have mercy on him – was asked, “Who is allowed to give religious rulings (fatwā)? He replied:

Issuing fatwā is not allowed except for a person who knows what the people have differed in. It was said, ‘Do you mean the different views of the people of opinions (those who depend more on analogy and speculation)? He replied, “No, [I mean] the different views of the Companions of Muḥammad – Allāh’s praise and peace be upon him. And he must also know the textual evidence that abrogates [other rulings] and that which is abrogated [by other texts], both in the Quran and the ḥadīth of Allah’s Messenger – Allāh’s praise and peace be upon him. Such a person can issue fatāwā.

Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr, Jāmi’ Bayān Al-‘Ilm wa Faḍlihī article 1529.

It is reported that ‘Abdullāh b. Al-Mubārak – Allāh have mercy on him – was asked, “When can a person issue an edict (fatwā)?” He replied, “When he is knowledgeable about the narrations (hadith and traditions of the Salaf), and has insight into [juristic] opinion.

Ibid. article 1532.

The Narrations are the Religion

It is reported that Muḥammad b. Sīrīn said, “They used to consider themselves on the [right] path as long as they followed al-athar (guidance of the Sunnah and Salaf as passed down in the narrations).”

Al-Lālakā`ī, Sharḥ Usūl I’tiqād Ahl Al-Sunnah wa Al-Jamā’ah Vol.1 p120.

It is reported that ‘Uthmān b. Ḥāḍir said, “I said to Ibn ‘Abbās: ‘advise me.’ He replied, ‘It is upon you to be upright, follow al-athar, and beware of innovating [in religion].’”

Ibn Battah, Al-Ibānah Al-Kubrā Vol. 1 p214.

It is reported that ʿAbdullāh b. Al-Mubārak said, “Let it only be the narrations (al-athar) that you rely upon, and take from reasoning and opinion that amount that will help you to understand and explain ḥadīth.”

Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr, Jāmi’ Bayān Al-‘Ilm wa Faḍlihi Vol. 3 p329.

It is reported that Sufyān Al-Thawrī said, “The narrations (al-āthār) are the religion.”

And it is reported that he also said, “A man should not even scratch his head except based on a narration.”

Al-Harawī, Dhamm Al-Kalām wa Ahlihī Vol. 2 p264.

It is reported that Al-Musayyib b. Rāfi’ Al-Asadī said, “We only follow, we do not innovate; we follow behind and do not start anything [in the religion], and we will never stray as long as we adhere to the narrations.”

Al-Harawī, Dhamm Al-Kalām wa Ahlihī Vol. 2 p265.

The Madhab of Imam Malik

Ma’an b. ‘Īsā reports that Imām Mālik said, “I am but a man. I make mistakes sometimes and I am correct sometimes, so examine my opinions and accept anything that agrees with the Book and Sunnah; and leave anything that does not agree with the Book and Sunnah.”

Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr, Jāmi’ Bayān Al-‘Ilm wa Faḍlihi Vol.2 p465.

Beautiful Cursed Women

On the authority of ʿAbdullāh Ibn Mas’ūd – Allāh be pleased with him, who said:

May Allāh curse those women who tattoo or seek to be tattooed, those women who remove facial hair or seek it to be removed and those women who put gaps between their teeth for beautification; those who seek to change Allāh’s creation.

This reached a woman from Banī Asad who was called Umm Ya’qūb and who used to read the Qur`ān. She came to [Ibn Mas’ūd] and said, “What is this I hear from you, that you curse women who tattoo or seek to get tattooed, and those who remove facial hair and those who put gaps between their teeth for beauty, those who change Allāh’s creation?” ʿAbdullāh [Ibn Mas’ūd] replied, “And why should I not curse those whom Allāh’s Messenger has cursed and those who are mentioned in Allāh’s Book?” She said, “I have read [the Qur`ān] from cover to cover and I have not seen it mentioned.” He replied, “If you had really read it [carefully] you would have found it; Allāh the Mighty and Sublime said:

And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids you, shun it. [Al-Ḥashr (59):7]

The woman then said, “Well I have just seen some of this on your own wife.” He said, “Go and see her.” So she went to the wife of ʿAbdullāh but didn’t see anything. She returned to him and said, “I don’t see anything.” He said, “Well, if any of those practices had been done I would not be with her any more.”

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim. This translation is from the version in Muslim.

Points to note

  • The teachings of Allāh’s Messenger have the same legal weight as teachings in the Qur`ān because the Qur`ān commands us to take everything the Messenger teaches us, even if it is not specifically mentioned in the Qur`ān. This refutes the claim of heretics who say we only need to follow the Qur`ān
  • It can even be said that a ruling given by Allāh’s Messenger is in the Qur`ān based on the verse quoted
  • Tattooing, removal of facial hair – including the plucking of eyebrows – and making gaps between the teeth for beautification are strictly forbidden in Islām and are regarded as major sins. In another narration, hair extensions have also been mentioned
  • Exceptions have been made by scholars in cases where a woman suffers a condition that causes her to grow a full beard, or where filing of teeth and widening spaces are needed for medical reasons
  • Being cursed (al-la’nah) means to be removed from Allāh’s mercy; this goes to prove that these practices are major sins
  • People should ask Allāh to curse those whom Allāh’s Messenger has asked to be cursed
  • Women can ask male scholars about matters of religion and can converse with them for the purpose of understanding knowledge and legal rulings
  • Wives who remain disobedient to Allāh should be divorced
  • A person who helps another to sin is regarded as a participant in that sin

These points have been summarized from Ibn Ḥajr, Fatḥ Al-Bārī and Al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

Woe to those who Study

It is reported from Al-Awzâ’î – Allâh have mercy on him – that he said:

I have been told that it used to be said, “Woe to those who study [their religion] for a purpose other than worship, and those who seek to permit what is forbidden through doubts and specious arguments.”

Al-Khattîb Al-Baghdâdî, Iqtdâ Al-‘Ilm Al-‘Amal, p77.