Earlier in August, prominent writer Salman Rushdie was stabbed in an unprovoked attack in New York City. While the author, who suffered serious injuries to the eye and other organs and was treated in the intensive care unit, is said to have improved in health, it remains unclear why the assailant, Hadi Matar, a resident of Fairview, New Jersey, attacked the author. But analysts and experts believe the attack was the culmination of a years-long fatwa against the author, who has faced threats and boycotts since the publication of his controversial novel The Satanic Verses.
What was the fatwa against Salman Rushdie?
A fatwa was issued by Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 calling for his death following the publication of The Satanic Verses, which many Muslims called a blasphemous attack on Islam. In the decades since the book’s publication, there have been not only open threats and calls for a boycott against Rushdie, but also attempts to attack stores selling the book and worldwide demonstrations against it, which escalated into violence several times.
Following the announcement of the fatwa, several extremist groups issued multimillion-dollar rewards for the author’s murder. Ten years later, in 1989, Iran, which had previously supported the assassination directive, declared that it would neither support nor obstruct any attempt on Rushdie’s life.
What is a fatwa?
A fatwa is a “legal opinion on a matter issued by an elector” to a Muslim legal body or mufti in accordance with Islamic law. Fatwas are issued not by a judge or a person, but by a person. These are purely recommendations and not binding orders, which means that they are not mandatory or mandatory for all people, organizations or states to follow. Lama Abu-Ode, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in the US, told the Washington Post that the purpose of the fatwa is “to provide an answer to the legal question in Islam.” An opinion or fatwa arising in response to a legal question, such as whether Muslims can consume certain foods or follow certain customs, may or may not be observed by all Muslims, even though some states or individuals may find it necessary to follow a fatwa. .
Fatwas have been an issue since the early Islamic period in the 7th century and have been used to guide followers on a range of issues including questions/issues of religion, ethics, prayer rituals or habits, questions and dilemmas regarding marriage and relationships, and more.
Is a fatwa a death sentence?
The fatwa against Rushdie attracted international attention and introduced the word into the Western vocabulary, where it was seen as tantamount to “death sentence”. However, the true meaning of a fatwa is not necessarily a death sentence.
Experts and historians believe that there is no historical basis for using fatwas as calls to kill those who insulted Islam or did not comply with Islamic law, Khomeini’s fatwas against Rushdie and the events that followed since then, as well as similar orders or assassinations. attempts by other dissidents of Islam reinforced the perception of the fatwa as a death sentence, especially in the West, which further spread the idea to other non-Islamic countries.
However, in previous eras, fatwas are known to have resulted in death penalty edicts. In 1515, for example, Sheikh al-Islam from among the ulema (learned scientists) issued a fatwa, according to which printing was haram (forbidden). This led to the death penalty being decreed for those found guilty of using the printing press. Incidentally, in the 1800s, a fatwa was again used to allow non-religious books to be printed. For example, the Orange Fatwa of 1504 was issued to allow Muslims a few religious indulgences in order to survive when Islam was banned in Castile, prompting many Muslims to forcibly convert to Christianity. Muslim organizations over the years have also issued several fatwas against Western imperial domination, Western colonialism and Zionism.
Who can issue a fatwa?
Fatwas may be issued by muftis. In modern Islamic countries, muftis are appointed by the government. However, religious organizations or movements, including militant groups, can elect their own muftis (since most of these movements come from anti-state/government views), who can then issue fatwas. The fatwa against Rushdie was issued by Khomeini, who had the highest religious authority in Iran according to Shia Islam.
Muslim clerics also issue fatwas within the framework of Islam. For example, ISIS has issued several fatwas regarding the rules and regulations that Muslims must follow, which it enforces in areas under its control. However, ISIS itself is facing a fatwa by other Muslim clerics who consider ISIS’ interpretation of Islam to be wrong.
Fatwas in India
Fatwas are common in India, which has a significant Muslim population. Some of the famous fatwas include fatwas against actors like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Salman is facing a 2008 fatwa against him for allowing Madame Tussauds to create a wax replica of the actor. The actor has another fatwa against him issued by Darul Ifta Manzar-e-Islam for attending Ganesh Puja at Mumbai’s Lalbaugcha Raja Mandal where singer Sonu Nigam performed aarti.
In 2013, a fatwa was issued against Shah Rukh Khan for having a child through surrogacy to determine the sex of the child before birth.
Badminton star Saniya Mirza also faced a fatwa issued against her by a prominent Islamic cleric in 2005 for wearing “obscene clothes” during matches.