Jeddah (Saudi Arabia): King Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia on Thursday issued a decree stating that only senior
clerics are permitted to issue fatwas, or Islamic religious
edicts, the official SPA news agency said.
It cited the text of the decree as saying that for the
time being, only members of the Council of Senior Ulema
(scholars) will be allowed to issue fatwas.
The ruling comes during the first week of Ramadan, the
holy fasting month for Muslims worldwide.
In the decree, the Saudi monarch also asks the grand
mufti, who heads the council, to submit a list of others who
are qualified to issue fatwas.
The limitation is necessary because many individuals have
started surpassing the authority of official religious bodies
and have issued fatwas that cause disputes and dissent among
Muslims, the decree said.
"We have followed this issue and noted many violations
that we cannot allow. It is our religious obligation to
confront it firmly to safeguard religion, preserve unity and
to prevent evil," it said.
"All those who violate this order subject themselves to
accountability and punishment, whoever they are, because the
interests of the religion and the nation are above anything
else," the king warned in the decree.
In recent months, one Saudi cleric saying music is not
un-Islamic and another endorsing breastfeeding for grown men
sparked a pitched battle in the ultra-conservative kingdom
over who can issue fatwas.
Riyadh cleric Adel al-Kalbani said that "there is no
clear text or ruling in Islam that singing and music are
haram" or religiously forbidden.
Aside from some folk music, public performances of music
are banned in Saudi Arabia, and conservatives say it is haram
even in the home.