Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree saying only state-approved scholars can issue fatwas or religious edicts.
The Saudi monarch in his decree cited that the fatwas were being “issued by unqualified persons which was a violation of Islamic teachings and caused disputes and dissents among the Muslims”, according to a statement by the government.
The King's ruling, which came during first week of Ramadan, also imposed a total ban on edicts on topics involving "strange or obsolete view."
The government announced that those who break the law and issue fatwas without the government’s sanction will be subject to “civil and religious penalties”.
August 13, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
The step by Saudi Arabia represents a very important step in the issuing of fatwas. Fatwas have been regularly issued by Islamic scholars in the kingdom and many have been used by Al Qaeda to justify attacks either in or outside the kingdom. Many of those fatwas, often quoted by the Al Qaeda leadership were issued by well-regarded, often mainstream scholars in the Kingdom, though the fatwas themselves were issued on a personal basis. Other fatwas were directed at the reformists and have included ones against journalists.
This has continuously created a point of embarrassment for the country’s authorities and strained relations between the traditional and reformist camps of the religious establishment. The edict by the King will almost certainly be adhered to. However, it is expected many from the traditionalist and Salafi camps will very strongly oppose it and it is expected that there will be rouge clerics who will continue to issue fatwas without governmental sanction. However, those are likely to be less well-regarded and will only receive little attention and acceptance. The edict by the King to control the issue of fatwas is therefore very important in ensuring a clear gap is made between mainstream traditionalists and Jihadist traditionalists. The step is also a strong indication that the King is hastening the reform of the country’s judiciary.