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This article is about the Arabic language word. For the 2006 film, see Fatwa (film).

A fatwā (Arabic: فتوى‎; plural fatāwā Arabic: فتاوى‎) in the Islamic faith is the term for the legal opinion or learned interpretation that the Sheikhul Islam, a qualified jurist or mufti, can give on issues pertaining to the Islamic law. The person who issues a fatwā is called, in that respect, a Mufti, i.e. an issuer of fatwā, from the verb أَفْتَى 'aftā = "he gave a formal legal opinion on". This is not necessarily a formal position since most Muslims argue that anyone trained in Islamic law may give an opinion (fatwā) on its teachings. If a fatwā does not break new ground, then it is simply called a ruling.

An analogy might be made to the issue of legal opinions from courts in common-law systems. Fatwās generally contain the details of the scholar's reasoning, typically in response to a particular case, and are considered binding precedent by those Muslims who have bound themselves to that scholar, including future muftis; mere rulings can be compared to memorandum opinions. The primary difference between common-law opinions and fatwās, however, is that fatwās are not universally binding; as Sharia is not universally consistent and Islam is very non-hierarchical in structure, fatwās do not carry the sort of weight that secular common-law opinions do.


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