Status of a Verdict against the Holy Qur’ān
Question asked by .
Answered by Jhangeer Hanif

Question: My question is two-fold. The first is: Can a verdict (Fatwā) contradict the Qur’ān and still be valid? The second is: Is there some kind of central authority within Islam that ‘authorizes’ a Fatwā?


My response to your first question is in the negative. A Fatwā or religious verdict should neither contradict the Holy Qur’ān nor the Sunnah (established practices) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws). These are the two fundamental sources of Islam from where we derive the religious instructions for the adherents of the Islamic faith. Muslims have been directed to turn to the Holy Qur’ān and the Sunnah in all matters of disagreement. The Holy Qur’ān reads:

If you disagree among yourselves in any matter refer it to God and the Prophet if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. This is better and more seemly as regards the consequences. (4:59)

 Thus, matters which have directly been decided by Allah and His Prophet (sws) should be explained and presented exactly as they are. For instance, Allah has forbidden the believers to eat pork. So, no Muslim scholar, however great he may be, can change this decree of Allah. However, matters which have not been directly addressed by these two sources are available for Muslim scholarship to deliberate in the light of ‘the spirit of other Islamic directives’ and the innate guidance of man regarding good and evil. The decision in such matters should not also go against the explicit directives of Islam. For instance, Islam lays the basis of the society on the institution of family. It wants that the new generation should come into this world through the relationship of a wedded couple. Therefore, the idea of a surrogate mother, which though has not been addressed by these sources directly, is totally against the spirit of Islamic directives and hence stands rejected. However, if a wife and husband themselves take some medicine or undergo a medical treatment to have children or specifically have either sons or daughters, this cannot be objected to since the whole thing is within the ordained limits of family institution. In short, matters which have been dealt with by the fundamental sources of Islam should never be changed and presented as such. For other issues, however, the spirit of Islamic directives and morality should be observed and sustained while reaching a decision.

Unlike Orthodox Christianity, Islam does not have any Pope or a central authority. As explained earlier, the central authority is the Holy Qur’ān and the Holy Prophet (sws)—after his death, obviously, his established practices. Islam declares that only the Messengers of Allah are innocent. No other person is infallible in the sight of Islam; they all stand on equal grounds. It is true that those people who spend their lives in understanding religion develop a good sense of Allah’s decrees but their opinions should also be weighed in the scales of sense and reason. No Muslim is supposed to follow blindly any person other than the Messengers of Allah. From common Muslims to scholars, every person is a common human being and therefore his opinion shall be weighed in the scales of sense and reason by referring to the fundamental sources of Islam.

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