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The Internet's Effect on Fatwas in Islam

The Internet's Effect on Fatwas in Islam

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Published by Matt Schumann

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Matt Schumann on Oct 26, 2012
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12/04/2012

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MattSchumannHonorsThesisReligiousStudiesFromClassicalOrdertoContemporaryChaos:AStudyoftheInternet’sEffecton
Fatwas
inIslamAbstract
Thispaperexploresthechangesinthestructureof
ifta’
asaresultoftheintroductionoftheInternetasamediumforthedisseminationofIslamiclegalopinions.TheinvestigationbeginswithasurveyofcurrentscholarshipontherelationshipbetweentheInternetandIslam.The paperthenmovestoestablishanunderstandingofclassical
ifta’
thatiscomparedwiththe
ifta’
presentincontemporarymedia.Thefinalsectionofthepaperillustratesthecrisisof
ifta’
intheMuslimworldasaresultoftheintroductionoftheInternetandotherformsofcontemporarymedia.Intheconclusiontheauthordetailshisownsolutiontothisproblem.
NoteonTranslationsandTransliterations
ThispapercitesanumberofArabiclanguagesources.Theauthorusestransliterationsofthesources’titlesinhiscitations.Theseandothertransliterationsfollowtheguidelinesofthe
InternationalJournalofMiddleEasternStudies.
 
2ThequestionofhowtheInternetaffectsreligionhasbeendebatedsincetheearly1990s.
1
Whileitisbeyondthescopeofthispapertoprovideacomprehensivereviewofthisfieldofscholarship,itisappropriatetohighlightafewtheoreticaltrends.Firstisthediscussionofreligion’srelationshipwithtechnology.AsAnastasiaKaraflogkapointsout,itiscommontothinkofreligionasbeingopposedtotechnology.However,thisbeliefisalmostentirelyfalse.
2
AlexisKortnotesthatchangesintechnologyhavehadhugeimpactsonreligionsinthepast.ThemostnotablewouldbetheprintingpressanditsroleintheProtestantReformation.
3
Mediatechnologyisespeciallyimportanttoreligions.IntheUnitedStates,EvangelicalChristianshavebeenespeciallyadeptatusingmassmediatospreadtheirreligiousmessage.Itissafetosaythatanyproselytizingfaithwillutilizewhatevermeansareavailabletospreaditsbeliefs.TheInternetisaveryuniquemassmedium.Unliketelevisionorradio,theInternetisinteractive.Ratherthanjustreceivingamessage,userscanparticipateindiscussionsandconnectwithoneanother.AnyonewithanInternetconnectioncanaccesswebsites,commentonarticles,orcreatetheirownwebpages.Thisinteractiveenvironmentiscalledcyberspace.Whilevariousdefinitionsofcyberspaceexist,Karaflogkanotesthatits“capacitytoreshape,reorganizeandrestructureeveryaspectofbothsocialandpersonallifehasbeenthecommondenominatorinthediscourses[aboutit].”
4
ScholarsacceptthepotentialfortheInternetandcyberspacetodramaticallyalterthe‘traditional’socialandreligiousorderineveryway.
1
AnastasiaKaraflogka,
E-Religion:ACriticalAppraisalofReligiousDiscourseontheWorldWideWeb
(London,Equinox,2006),11
2
Ibid.,100
3
AlexisKort,“
Daral-DyberIslam:Women,DomesticViolence,andtheIslamicReformationontheWorldWideWeb
”,
 JournalofMuslimMinorityAffairs
25,no3(December,2005),363
4
Karaflogka,112
 
3IftheInternethastheabilitytoaffect“everyaspect”ofasocietyorareligion,howisitchangingIslam?OnewaytheInternethasalteredpreexistingsocialstructuresisbyopeningpreviouslyclosedsystems.WecanseethisinthepopularityofWikipedia,anencyclopediathatanyInternetusercanedit,andintheexplosionofself‐publication,manifestintheubiquityofblogs.IhavechosentoexplorethenatureofInternet
 fatwas
becausetheinstitutionof
ifta’ 
6
isoneexampleofaclosedsysteminIslam.Bythispaper’sconclusionIhopetohavedemonstratedhowtheInternethasopenedthetraditionalstructureof
ifta’ 
.Beforemovingfurther,itisimportanttonotethetextsthatprovidedthemosthelptothispaper.Dr.WaelHallaq’s
 Authority,ContinuityandChangeinIslamic
Law 
wasextremelyhelpfulindescribingthenuancesofclassical
ifta’ 
.Dr.GaryBunt’sworks
IslamintheDigitalAge
and
iMuslims:RewiringtheHouseofIslam
werealsohelpfulinprovidingtheoriesontheimpactoftheInternetonIslam.Additionally,Mohammedel‐Nawawy’sandSaharKhamis’
IslamDotCom
towasequallyhelpful.IwasalsoinfluencedbyAlexisKort’spaper
Daral-CyberIslam:Women,DomesticViolenceandtheIslamicReformationontheWorldWideWeb
.ThispaperalsomadeuseofArabiclanguagesources,particularlyDr.UsamaUmaral‐Ashqar’s
Fawda‘l-ifta’.
Othersourcesarecitedinmypaperandappearwiththeseinthebibliography.Thepaperisorderedasfollows.IntheIntroductionisabriefliteraturereviewtoprovideanoverviewandcriticalappraisalofcurrentscholarshiponIslam’swebpresence.
5
TheEncyclopediaofIslamdefines
 fatwa
asan“opiniononapointoflaw.”E.Tyan,J.R.Walsh"
Fatwā
."
EncyclopaediaofIslam,SecondEdition
,ed.P.Bearman,Th.Bianquis,C.E.Bosworth,E.vanDonzelandW.P.Heinrichs.Brill:2010.http://www.brillonline.nl.ezproxy.rice.edu/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM‐021915
6
TheEncyclopediaofIslamdefines
ifta’ 
as“[t]heactofgivinga
 fatwa.
”Ibid.

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