Foreign Policy: The List: The World’s Stupidest Fatwas

Unclothed sex

Who: Rashad Hassan Khalil, former dean of Islamic law at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt

What: When Khalil ruled in January 2006 that for married couples, “being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage,” liberal Egyptians howled with derision. Other scholars rejected Khalil’s logic on the grounds that everything but “sodomy” is halal in a marriage. Absorbing the criticism but seeking to appease religious conservatives, Abdullah Megawar, the fatwa committee chairman at al-Azhar, reached for an awkward compromise. Sure, he said, a husband and wife could see one other naked, but should not look at each other’s genitals. And they should probably have sex under a blanket, he added for good measure. There is a list at the link below:

Foreign Policy: The List: The World’s Stupidest Fatwas

3 thoughts on “Foreign Policy: The List: The World’s Stupidest Fatwas

  1. These are amazing, but even more amazing for me is the realization that no fatwas that I am aware of have been issued against the Taliban kidnappers of the South Korean kids. Why so much angst about sex and no concern with beheading, kidnapping, murder, suicide bombing and other acts?


  2. Lots (4,110,000) of hits on Google, sob. E.g., Fatwa

    Technical term for the legal judgment or learned interpretation that a qualified jurist (mufti) can give on issues pertaining to the shariʿa (Islamic law).

    Originally only a mujtahid, that is, a jurist satisfying a number of qualifications and trained in the techniques of ijtihad (“personal reasoning,” the fourth source of Islamic law after the Qurʾan, the Prophet Muhammad’s sunna, and ijma, or consensus), was allowed to issue a legal opinion or interpretation of an established law. Later, all trained jurists were allowed to be muftis. Fatwas are nonbinding, contrary to the laws deriving from the first three sources, and the Muslim may seek another legal opinion. The fatwas of famous jurists are usually collected in books and can be used as precedents in courts of law.

    Because most Muslim countries stopped following the shariʿa during the twentieth century and adopted secular legal systems, fatwas are issued mostly on a personal basis or for political reasons. The practice of having a government-appointed mufti issue fatwas justifying government policy has been a major criticism by reformist contemporary Muslim movements. However, many of the latter often allow individuals without the requisite legal training to issue fatwas. Such edicts may be considered by their followers as binding but they are not recognized by the jurists or the rest of the Muslim community as legitimate juristic opinions.


    Masud, Muhammad Khalid; Messick, Brinkley; and Powers, David S., eds. Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and Their Fatwas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.


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