When newsbroke on August 12, 2022, that the writer Salman Rushdie had been attacked, many people immediately remembered the fatwa, or edict, issued in 1989 by Iran's Supreme Leader at the time, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, calling on all Muslims to kill him.
Rushdie's 1988 novel, "The Satanic Verses," was accused by Khomeini of insulting Islam and blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad. Riots and credible death threats drove Rushdie into exile, where he spent the next nine years under British police protection. He did not resurface until 1998, after Iran promised not to enforce the fatwa but did not rescind it.
According to several intelligence sources cited by Vice News, Rushdie's alleged assailant, Hadi Matar, 24, had been in contact with members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the military branch tasked with protecting the country's Islamic political system, via social media.
There is, however, no conclusive evidence that Iran was involved. It's unclear whether Matar was influenced by the fatwa, which has been in effect for decades. Given the widespread media coverage of the fatwa against Rushdie, some may conclude that a fatwa always results in the death penalty.
A fatwa, on the other hand, rarely calls for death, can be issued by a variety of religious authorities, and is usually of interest to a specific Muslim individual or community. Fatwa in Arabic can mean "explanation" or "clarification."
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It is a simple edict or ruling issued by a recognized religious authority on a point of Islamic law. When a Muslim is faced with a life, belief, or legal problem and is unsure what to do, the process of issuing a fatwa usually begins.
Assume a Muslim man is debating whether he should accept a teaching position at a religious school or continue working in his father-in-higher-paying law's commercial enterprise. When confronted with such a question, the man may seek an expert ruling, or fatwa, from a recognized religious authority.
In general, Muslims seek fatwas when they are unsure about a course of action or are embroiled in a dispute in order to avoid deviating from God's will. They may believe that deviating from the path of righteousness will jeopardize their admission to heaven. The stakes are high for them.
A Muslim can seek a fatwa from a local cleric, a group of Islamic law scholars - ulama - who collaborate to make decisions, or a trusted institution of religious learning. While fatwas are frequently issued in response to a request from a Muslim layperson, they can also be issued in response to a specific situation.
In spite of the fact that fatwas are frequently initiated by a Muslim layperson's request, they can also be issued in response to a specific circumstance. Examples of this type of fatwa include one that was issued in 2010 by Dar al-Ulum Deoband against terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State on the grounds.
It was said that these groups do not adhere to Islamic law; another example is a fatwa that was issued in 2014 by the Indonesian Council of Ulama against poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife.
The Arabic word fatwa can mean “explanation” or “clarification.”
A legal opinion or decree issued by a religious leader in Islam.
An example of a fatwa is prohibiting Muslims from smoking cigarettes.
The fatwas that call on Muslims to kill a specific individual, like the one that was issued against Salman Rushdie, are extremely rare. But for the time being, the fatwa issued against Rushdie remains in effect.