SHARI'AH IN ACTION:
Dr. Abou El Fadl receives numerous inquiries on a broad range of issues pertaining to Shari'ah and Islamic law. From time to time, he will issue fatwa's (non-binding legal opinions) on various matters. These are real-life examples of how knowledge, beauty and reason come together to address modern day problems and issues in seeking the divine path (Shari'ah).
The fatwa's presented here are for educational purposes only and not necessarily applicable to all situations and cases. They are written in response to specific questions. We have included both the letter of inquiry as well as the response. We have edited all inquiries to protect the identities and privacies of those writing to the Shaykh. Also, please note that these responsa reflect Dr. Abou El Fadl's views at the time of their writing. He continues to research and reflect on these weighty matters ongoing. For more examples, see The Search for Beauty in Islam.
"...Every Muslim may be entitled to declare an opinion on whatever he or she wishes. But a fatwa is not a point of view; it is a legal opinion. A fatwa is not personal advice given in response to a personal problem and it is not simply an answer to a question. A fatwa is a non-binding legal opinion issued in response to a legal problem. For instance, if one asks, 'How many times a day do Muslims pray?' The answer to this is not a fatwa. If one asks: 'Do you think it is a good idea to marry someone older than myself?' The response to this is personal advice but not a fatwa. However, if one inquires about a problem that is the proper subject of a legal inquiry, then one is asking for a fatwa. For example, if one asks, 'My father is opposed to my marrying this man, but legally, could I still marry him anyway?' This question solicits a fatwa. A fatwa assumes a conflict of evidence and a need to weigh and evaluate the evidence. In the language of fiqh [jurisprudence], a fatwa is issued in response to a problematic matter (amr mushkil). The point is well-illustrated by the following incident: A man asked al-Imam Malik about a matter. Imam Malik responded by saying, 'I don't know.' The man retorted, 'But this is a simple and easy matter.' Irritated, Imam Malik said: 'Nothing is easy in knowledge and fatwa.'..."
*For those who wish to submit questions to the Shaykh for possible fatwa responses, Dr. Abou El Fadl can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that because the Shaykh receives so many requests, not every question can be personally answered.