It should be noted that Islam is a religion with lots of rules and regulations covering every aspect of life (example
). If a Muslim wonders whether or not something or other is permitted in Islam, he asks an Iman or other Islam scholar for a 'fatwa.'
A fatwa is a religious decree
, or judgment, issued by a recognized Islamic
legal authority. Fatwas can involve simple, everyday matters or more serious issues. For example, a recent fatwa in Lebanon decreed that sensitivity to environmental concerns is consistent with Islam because the prophet Mohammed had a great appreciation for the Earth.
"Fatwas are issued all the time but when they come to the attention of the Western press it's usually because it's for something that we find threatening or bizarre," said Alan Godlas, a professor of Islamic studies in the religion department of the University of Georgia.
"When Osama bin Laden
issued his fatwa in 1998, saying that any American, whether Muslim or not, should be killed, Mullah Omar [the head of the Taliban
in Afghanistan] issued a statement saying that bin Laden isn't qualified to give fatwas. The reason the mullah gave is that bin Laden hadn't gone through the requisite Islamic schooling."
Because of the current political situation, it is doubtful that Mullah Omar would contradict something that bin Laden said today, added Godlas.
"Traditionally, a person's stature [in regards to issuing a fatwa] depended on the person's Islamic training. But with the modern media, what gives somone public stature is simply the attention that the media pays to someone."