• Category Category: M
  • View View: 2155
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

MUFTI. A Muslim Jurist capable of giving, when requested, a nonbinding opinion known as a fatwa, on a point of Islamic law is termed a mufti. During the forma tive period of Islam, learned Muslims whose counsel was sought on legal and ethical issues that arose in the community attempted to provide opinions and answers in the light of their understanding of the Qur’an and in relation to the emerging body of hadith (prophetic traditions). This activity subsequently crystallized to constitute the major Muslim legal schools. In its formal aspect, the position of mufti arose and became institutionalized as a response to the need for legal opinion and advice from scholars knowledgeable in early Islamic history among the various schools of law. In time, however, the mufti came to occupy a mediating position between the qadi, the judge who administered the law, and the faqih or jurisprudent-that is, between actual courtroom situations where justice was administered and places of learning where the theoretical study of legal texts took place. The mufti’s opinions built on precedent and were incorporated in legal reference manuals such as the well-known Fatawd `Alamgiriyah. The mufti also played an important role in the islamization of newly converted regions through education and counsel about legal norms.

Traditionally, a mufti was to be a person of integrity who possessed a thorough knowledge of established texts, traditions, and legal precedents. Although most were private scholars, some were appointed to official positions, notably in Mamluk Egypt and in the Ottoman Empire. In the Twelver Shi’i tradition an analogous role came to be played by the mujtahid, who maintained continuity within the tradition after the ghaybah (occultation) of the twelfth imam in the ninth century. Under Safavid rule the mujtahid held the office of shaykh alIslam. The role of such jurist/theologians eventually led to the development of the concept of wilayat al faqih, the “governance of the jurist.” [See Shaykh al-Islam; Wilayat al-Faqih.]

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as legal codes of European origin were introduced to the Muslim world, the mufti’s role became limited primarily but not exclusively to the sphere of personal law. But since a mufti often acted as a religious teacher in the local community, people continued to seek his opinions on a wide range of matters dealing with practice of the faith as well as on everyday life. This role has persisted in the many new nation-states that emerged after colonial rule. As many of these Muslim countries seek to integrate and institutionalize aspects of Islamic law in national life, new patterns are emerging for the mufti’s role in society. Some have been appointed as muftis of the state; others provide consensus as part of advisory councils of religious scholars or constitutional assemblies of scholars. It is the private role of the mufti, however, that continues to be influential, offering possibilities for further evolution in their creative task as counselors and mediators for tradition in times of change.

[See also Faqih; Fatwa; Qadi-.]


Coulson, Noel J. A History of Islamic Law. Edinburgh, 1964. Survey of Sunni Muslim legal history, theory, and practice, up to the modern period.

Messick, Brinkley. “The Mufti, the Text, and the World: Legal Interpretation in Yemen.” Man 21.1 (March 1986): 102-119. Analytic illustration of the methodology, conceptual framework, and social context of decision making by a Yemen mufti.

Sachedina, A. A. The just Ruler in Shiite Islam. New York, 1988. Comprehensive treatment of the history of Shi’i jurisprudence and its doctrine of the just ruler.

Schacht, Joseph. An Introduction to Islamic Law. Oxford, 1964. Standard work of Western scholarship on Muslim jurisprudence and law.

Shafi’i, Muhammad ibn Idris al-. Islamic jurisprudence: Al-ShdfiTs Risala. Translated by Majid Khadduri. Baltimore, 1961. This translation makes available a pioneering work on Sunni jurisprudence.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/mufti/

  • writerPosted On: August 17, 2014
  • livePublished articles: 768

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Translate »