chapter  6
Transnational Ulama, European Fatwas, And Islamic Authority: A Case Study Of The European Council For Fatwa And Research
Pages 21

In Islam, the Law is a privileged means of access to the sacred. For many believers, adherence to Islamic normativity (shariعa) is an essential part of being a Muslim. The passage to Europe has produced many discontinuities, but normative concerns (even when the norms are not strictly followed) seem to remain an integral and under-researched part of Muslim life in non-Muslim lands ( Waardenburg 2000 ). One mode of social expression of normative Islam occurs in the form of fatwas, the demand and production of authoritative opinions. It has been argued that fatwas ‘circumscribe the mental and moral universe of their day, always balancing around the boundaries of what is conceivable, legitimate and right’ ( SkovgaardPetersen 1997 : 13). They are thus particularly useful instruments for studying social dynamics in Muslim communities. The relationship between the mufti (the person who issues a fatwa) and the mustafti (the person who requests one) is one of authority: in the eyes of many questioners, the mufti speaks in God’s name ( Abou El Fadl 2002 ), acting as the ‘heir of the Prophets’. The questioner is therefore highly encouraged to follow the fatwa, even if s/he will not be punished for ignoring the answer, for fatwas, unlike the judgements delivered by the qadi , are not legally binding. In Europe, where Islam is disconnected from both the state and mainstream society, the institution of the fatwa has been considered the only useful mechanism in dealing with issues related to Islamic normativity ( Oubrou 1998 ). Perhaps more so than elsewhere, the fatwa’s enforcement depends on the charisma and authority socially conferred upon the mufti .