• Anees Bhayat

‘Fatwā Shopping’


The Imām of Al-Ḥaram, Shaykh Sālih Āl-At-Tālib حفظه الله made some sterling points in yesterday's [1] khutbah. He mentioned that one of the biggest doors to fitnah in this era is following upon the remote, aberrant & unconventional stances of the ‘Ulamā & Jurists in matters of Sharī‘ah.

He also pointed out that there are now individuals who, in wanting to follow their desires, hide behind the statement of ‘...but there's a difference of opinion on the issue’ each time an āyah, ḥadīth or command of Sharī‘ah is mentioned to them that disagrees with their desires.

The reality is that the Qur’ān and aḥādīth are in fact the go-to points at times of differences, to use as proofs to settle any differences, while these people are using the differences as proof to contradict the Sharī‘ah and justify the following of desires. Allāh says:

كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ النَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنْذِرِينَ وَأَنْزَلَ مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ فِيمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ ۚ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ فِيهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوهُ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ فَهَدَى اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ مِنَ الْحَقِّ بِإِذْنِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ

All men used to be a single Ummah (i.e. on a single faith). Then (after they differed in matters of faith), Allāh sent prophets carrying good news and warning, and sent down with them the Book with Truth to judge between people in matters of their dispute. But it was no other than those to whom it [the Book] was given who - led by envy against each other - disputed it after the clear signs had come to them. Then Allāh - by His Will - guided those who believed to the truth over which they disputed; and Allāh guides whom He wills to the straight path. (2:213)

وَمَا اخْتَلَفْتُمْ فِيهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَحُكْمُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبِّي عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ

And whatever dispute you have in any matter, its judgment lies with Allāh… (42:10)

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ ۖ فَإِنْ تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا

‘O you who believe! Obey Allāh and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. Then, if you quarrel about something, revert it back to Allāh and the Messenger, if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day. That is good, and the best at the end.’ (4:59)

Ibn ‘Abdil-Barr رحمه الله said, “Difference of opinion is not an authoritative source (ḥujjah) according to anyone I know from the jurists of the Ummah, except those who have no foresight, and understanding, and whose opinion is not authoritative.” (Jāmi‘ Bayānil-‘Ilm wa Faḍlih)[2]

The underlying problem is that we are not fully content with Islām being our religion, Muhammad ﷺ being Allāh's Messenger, and Allāh Himself being our Rabb. This puts our claim to believing and submission to them into question:

فَلَا وَرَبِّكَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىٰ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَجِدُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

So, never by your Lord! Never shall they become believers, unless they make you the judge in the disputes that arise between them, then find no discomfort in their hearts against what you have decided, and surrender to it in total submission. (4:65)

And it is for this reason we do not feel at peace or content with ourselves and life in general, for the Prophet ﷺ said, “Indeed that person has tasted the sweetness of Īmān, who is pleased with Allāh being his Rabb, Islām being his religion, and Muḥammad ﷺ his Messenger.” (Muslim)[3]

I’d like to clarify here that the issue the Shaykh is discussing here is searching around for and taking up remote fatāwā, or ‘fatwa shopping’, not where there is genuine basis for ease in matters of the Sharī‘ah and concession, for that is where the differences among the righteous ‘Ulamā of the Ummah are a blessing. The same can be said for those issues in which both sides of the difference are based on strong evidences from the Qur’ān and Sunnah according to the accepted principles of Fiqh.

He then emphasised the need to learn about, understand and implement taqwā, as well as or even before understanding the orders of Sharī‘ah, as this aids in implementing them and safeguards falling into evils such as the one highlighted. May Allāh grant us true understanding, and save us from the evils of our desires. Āmīn.

[1] The date being 8th Jumādā Al-Ūlā.The Khutbah can be accessed here in various formats: https://www.gph.gov.sa/ar-sa/Grand%20Mosque%20Library/Pages/Speeches.aspx?subjID=0&EventType=Khutbah&EventPlace=1&lang=Arabic&index=59188&Year=1436&Month=05

[2] الِاخْتِلَافُ لَيْسَ بِحُجَّةٍ عِنْدَ أَحَدٍ عَلِمْتُهُ مِنْ فُقَهَاءِ الْأُمَّةِ إِلَّا مَنْ لَا بَصَرَ لَهُ وَلَا مَعْرِفَةَ عِنْدَهُ، وَلَا حُجَّةَ فِي قَوْلِهِ (جامع بيان العلم وفضله، بَابُ ذِكْرِ الدَّلِيلِ مِنْ أَقَاوِيلِ السَّلَفِ عَلَى أَنَّ الِاخْتِلَافَ خَطَأٌ وَصَوَابٌ)

[3] حدثنا محمد بن يحيى بن أبي عمر المكي، وبشر بن الحكم، قالا: حدثنا عبد العزيز وهو ابن محمد الدراوردي، عن يزيد بن الهاد، عن محمد بن إبراهيم، عن عامر بن سعد، عن العباس بن عبد المطلب، أنه سمع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، يقول: «ذاق طعم الإيمان من رضي بالله ربا، وبالإسلام دينا، وبمحمد رسولا» (رواه مسلم، كتاب الإيمان، باب ذاق طعم الإيمان من رضي بالله ربا)

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