The contemporary student in the West is faced with a number of challenges that assail him like cold dark waves from multiple directions. Since he is new to his craft, he struggles as the waves mercilessly beat and pound his small boat as he struggles for shore. The lighthouse for such difficulties is the senior scholars of the Ummah. Those who, while many aspirants were lost to the cold dark tide, have gone through these same channels with, in some cases, even smaller boats, more murderous storms and ended up safe.
The subject of giving fatwa is one that has witnessed a number of heated and difficult discussions. Recently I was blessed to sit and discuss some of these points with one of the great lighthouses for students of knowledge, Dr. `Ali Gom’a.
Dr. `Ali: Asalamu alaykum Suhaib! Come in.
Suhaib: Wa alaykum al-salam, ya Mawlana, it is great to see you.
Suhaib: May I please ask you something about ifta in the West?
Dr. `Ali: Sure.
Suhaib: When I answer people’s questions and prepare rulings, I find that simply quoting from the books of my madhab is not going to cut it.
Dr. `Ali: Indeed.
Suhaib: I started to reflect on what the sheikhs taught me here at Dar al-Ifta. I remember my teacher Dr. Muhammad Wissam telling me, “I have 91 madhab’s at my disposal and I use them to achieve what’s best for the solicitor’s dunya and akhirah!”
Dr. `Ali: Yes.
Suhaib: But when I do that people accuse me of unorthodoxy. So what should I do?
Dr. `Ali: We look at what all the scholars have brought, apply it to our context and look to achieve what will benefit the person in this life and the next.
I am a Shaf’i trained scholar, but on many issues I have given fatwa based on the Maliki opinion because it achieved what would best facilitate things for people and benefit them in this life and the next. This religion is an easy religion.
Suhaib: Quoting Qur’an, “Allah intends ease for you.”
Dr. `Ali: Yes.
Suhaib: What do I tell those who charge me with upholding a wrong understanding when following this method I have learned here?
Dr. `Ali: Pauses, looks up and says, “Tell them they don’t understand!”
May Allah bless Dr. Ali and all of my teachers. I’m forever indebted to them.