The Grand mufti of Egypt, Dr. ̔Ali Gomaa, stated that Dār al-Iftā al-Miṩriyyah [Egyptian House of Fatwa] will, by the will of Allāh, witness a cultural burst in 2009! The Dār will offer religious legal services in a contemporary manner with the aim of achieving the highest degree of communication with Muslims in Egypt, the Arab world, and around the globe, as well as with scholars, researchers, and other institutions.
Dr. ̔Ali Gomaa added that the fruits of Dār al-Iftā’s financial and administrative independence from the Ministry of Justice will become apparent in 2009. The Dār was allocated funding for its developmental plan as outlined in an independent financial statement in the national budget. After having had its regulations authorized for the first time in its history, Dār al-Iftā established the organizational structure and allocated responsibilities for the different functions to each employee. Dr. Gomaa said that Dar al-Iftā’s independence does not sever it from the Ministry of justice but it will remain politically affiliated with the Ministry.
An On line Revolution in Education and Training
This year will mark the inauguration of the E-learning program which Dār al-Iftā developed over the past two years. This project is tantamount to a technological revolution in the field of Islamic legal sciences. It aims to train researchers and students to practice the sciences of Islamic law and develop skills in issuing formal legal rulings outside the classroom. Towards this end, everything they need will be made available to them in their homes and countries via the Internet. Consequently, this will impact how others perceive Muslims, (refuting the notion), that they are against progress and development. For just as Muslims have employed the fruits of progress to advance the universe, they likewise [continue] to employ them to promote the sciences and principles of Islam.
Dr. Gomaa said that the E-learning program, a service offered to specialists and muftis around the globe, is a crucial step in promoting the concept of moderation and tolerance of Islam. It also serves to restrict the rigid opinions advocating the spread of terrorism, violence, and fanaticism in otherwise secure societies around the world. Moreover, the E-learning program is one of the most important auxiliaries to the developmental system and internal mechanics of Dār al-Iftā , ushering it into the digital era.
Publications and Journals and the Heritage Project
Dār al-Iftā will issue a quarterly scientific magazine. The magazine will publish researches conducted as a requirement for the promotion to professor, academic papers and studies in Islamic law conducted by Egyptian and foreign religious scholars and senior researchers. An approval panel of scholars from al-Azhar University will appraise these researches before publication.
The panel members will include Professor Mohammed Rif’at ̔Uthmān, Professor Sa̔d al-Ḏīn al-Hilaḻī̱, and Professor ̔Abdullāh Rab̔ī̱, all of who are al-Azhar University staff members and members of the panel for evaluating candidates to the rank of professor. The magazine’s editor-in-chief is Professor Fawẕī Khaḻīl.
In addition, Dār al-Iftā will issue a new collection of fatāwa (religious pronouncements). These fatāwa will be chosen from among those issued by the Dār since it was established. The High Council for Islamic Affairs first started issuing the Dār‘s fatāwa in 1975 and has so far compiled 20 volumes. Dār al-Iftā later issued three more volumes making a total of 23 volumes containing five thousand fatāwa. Each of the fatāwa in these volumes contains the most important principles relevant to the subject of the fatwa, a synopsis of its rulings, and the principles upon which these rulings were built. Dār al-Iftā has completed the 24th, 25th, and 26th volumes and they are now ready for publication. All of these volumes will be digitized and made available on CDs, thus facilitating research, copying, and publishing.
Dār al-Iftā will embark on a new project, The Heritage of Fatāwa, which aims to digitize around 150,000 fatāwa.
Dār al-Iftā undertook the task of scanning these documents to enable handling them without fear of damaging the originals. The originals were then handed over to the National Document Archives of Egypt which is the authority responsible for preserving such important historical documents. This measure was appreciated by intellectual and cultured individuals alike as it preserves the heritage of the Islamic community in an appropriate place.
Dār al-Iftā has a digital database which is being developed continuously. It comprises of thousands of photocopied books and scientific references in the different branches of Islamic law and humanities. These were photocopied from the originals and occupy 400 gigabytes of memory. The aim of constructing an open digital database is to assist and provide members of the fatwa council and researchers in Dār al-Ifta with the greatest number of original references, thus enabling them to formulate their written fatāwa and conduct researches. The Dār’s library is another source of rare and invaluable references.
Dār al-Iftā’s website was recently upgraded in terms of design and content. It caters to speakers of Arabic, English, French, and German; therefore it is possible for a speaker of these languages to submit a question and receive an answer for it in his native language. The Dār will add Russian, Turkish, Urdu, and Malawi to its repertoire and translation of the website contents in these languages is currently under construction and experimentation. Dār al-Iftā plans to introduce a number of other languages at a later phase as part of its developmental plan.
A Call Center Like no Other
The call center in Dār al-Iftā receives approximately 1000 calls daily on our toll free number (107 inside Egypt only) from 8:30 a.m – 5:00 p.m. usually; the inquirer receives an answer within on hour of leaving his question. Over the next year, Dār al-Iftā plans to increase the number of hours allocated to incoming telephone inquiries, consequently increasing the number of fatawa. This will be implemented through a proposed plan for developing the best means of communication and increasing the number of employees. This, to accommodate the anticipated increase in the number of telephone, e-mail, fax, and mail questions as well as questions made in person at Dār al-Iftā.
Teaching and Training
Over the next year, the Dār will offer a series of training courses which will include:
1- Training members of the Fatwa Council. This will be accomplished by having them conduct studies that will entail scouring reference books, guiding them in the manner of applying themselves towards exploring the different [scholarly] opinions and weighing evidences. Towards this end, the Dar will offer members of the council regular training sessions providing them with original references while developing their Internet and computer skills.
2- Training foreign students studying at Dār al-Iftā. Every year, around 800 students from various foreign countries are chosen for training courses. First, they will be trained to speak the Arabic language correctly without an accent. This training will last three years. Two of these years will be dedicated to theoretical studies, and one year to practical training. Students will be chosen on the basis of merit. After passing, students will return to their countries to spread useful knowledge and refute extremism.
3- Preparing full-fledged scholars and training them in sciences that are indispensable for calling to the way of Allah, offer guidance, and issue fatawa. These sciences include administrative sciences, political science, the science of negotiation, mass communications, economics, and content analysis, all of which helps to shape the mind of Muslim scholars. This training will be done in such a way as to integrate information based on original works with the understanding of our present age and its demands.
4- Every year, 15 aspiring scholars are chosen to enroll in an intensive 10-month-long course requiring daily participation. In addition to the above mentioned sciences, they will be provided with media literacy and courses in education. The training will be conducted by specialists and university professors in the relevant fields. This project started three years ago producing 45 scholars. Many of these scholars appeared in the media and proved their competence.
A Lasting Relationship
After completing their studies, students maintain relations with the Dār. As such, they represent a growing integrated body, embracing both past and present. Apart from their studies in Islamic law, these students also read literature that spans a number of disciplines such as philosophy and postmodern philosophy, globalization, and the arts. They are also trained to use modern technology as well as master the English language.
Dr. ̔Ali Gomaa stated: “All of this has a profound impact on achieving a suitable link between the field of Islamic law and the present day and its realities. It also serves to pave the way to prepare a generation of scholars capable of adapting to life in today’s world. Dār al-Iftā is currently working on putting the above mentioned intensive course curriculum in soft copy format allowing its use on the Internet. This is our aim. We are not concerned with introducing new notions, only meeting the requirements of the age while continuing our search for knowledge.
Rigor in Religious Verdicts and Opinions
Gomaa further stated that over the next twelve months we will witness the implementation of effective mechanisms to counter religious rulings issued by unspecialized and unqualified persons who create confusion in the Muslim society. He said that in fulfillment of its role as the highest Islamic authority in Egypt, The Islamic Research Assembly declared Dār al-Iftā al-Miṡriyyah as the only body authorized to issue fatawa. Dr. ̔Ali added that to get out of this predicament, we must follow the conditions laid down by Islamic law concerning the person qualified to issue fatawa. The most important of these conditions is specializing in Islamic law. It is prohibited to issue a fatwa without having thorough knowledge in this field. This is because this includes fabricating lies against Allah and His messenger and misguiding the public, which is a major sin. By specialization, we mean that anyone embarking on this path must have thoroughly studied Fiqh [En. jurisprudence] and its principles, as well as the rest of the Islamic sciences. He must also have read books on these subjects as well as be able to extract information from them. Finally, he must possess knowledge of the reality in which he lives.
Researches and Studies
This year, Dār al-Iftā will issue a significant number of researches in Islamic law on issues pertaining to the different branches of Fiqh and critical contemporary issues. Some of these researches are complete and awaiting approval; others are underway by the three councils of the department of Research in Islamic law.
Dār al-Iftā’s media center plays a pivotal role in monitoring news about the Dār and Dr. ̔Ali in the media. It also provides journalists and the media with statements, religious rulings, opinions, and news of the Dār.
Family Counseling and Renovations
It is worthy to note that we are in the process of establishing an advisory council for family counseling and another for settling financial disputes as well as a Zakāt Calculation Unit. Dār al-Iftā is currently being renovated. Renovations will include an annex and expanding the library and mosque. The mufti further added that the Dār will increase the number of legal councilors to keep pace with the increasing numbers of capital crime cases.
Agreements and Cooperation with Others
Finally, the Dār will implement agreements signed with Egyptian and foreign institutions with the aim of cooperation and benefiting from their expertise. This will aid the Dār in carrying out its functions and issuing fatawa in a cotemporary manner. The Egyptian institutions involved are: ̔Ayn Shams University, the Central Bank, the National Library and Archives, the High Institute of Social Service, and the National Research Center. The foreign institutions are: Houses of Religious Edicts and religious institutions in Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordon, Oman, and Thailand.