A mufti (/ˈmʌfti/; Arabic: مفتي) is an Islamic scholar who interprets and expounds Islamic law (Sharia and fiqh).[1] Muftis are jurists qualified to give authoritative legal opinions known as fatwas.[2] Historically, they were members of the ulama ranking above qadis.[2]

Background history

With the introduction of the secular court system in the 19th century, Ottoman councils began to enforce criminal legislation, in order to emphasize their position as part of the new executive. This creation of the hierarchical secular judiciary did not displace the original Shari'a courts.

Shari'a justice developed along lines comparable to what happened to the organization of secular justice: greater bureaucratization, more precise legal circumscription of jurisdiction, and the creation of a hierarchy. This development began in 1856.

Until the Qadi’s Ordinance of 1856, the qadis were appointed by the Porte and were part of the Ottoman religious judiciary. This Ordinance recommends the consultation of muftis and ulama. In practice, the sentences of qadis usually were checked by muftis appointed to the courts. Other important decisions were also checked by the mufti of the Majlis al-Ahkdm or by a council of ulama connected with it. It is said that if the local qadi and mufti disagreed, it became customary to submit the case to the authoritative Grand Mufti.

Later, in 1880, the new Shari'a Courts Ordinance introduced the hierarchical judiciary. Through the Ministry of Justice, parties could appeal to the Cairo Shari'a Court against decisions of provincial qadis and ni'ibs. Here, parties could appeal to the Shari'a Court open to the Shaykh al-Azhar and the Grand Mufti, where other persons could be added.

Lastly, judges were to consult the muftis appointed to their courts whenever a case was not totally clear to them. If the problem was not solved, the case had to be submitted to the Grand Mufti, whose fatwa was binding on the qadi.[3]


A mufti will generally go through a course in iftaa, the issuance of fatwa, and the person should fulfill the following conditions set by scholars in order that he may be able to issue verdicts (fatwas):[4] Requirements also vary by country and sect.

  1. Knowing Arabic, (The relevant and required texts are in Arabic)
  2. Mastering the study of principles of Islamic jurisprudence,
  3. Mastering the study of Maqasid ash-Shari`ah (Objectives of Shari`ah),
  4. Mastering the study of Hadith,
  5. Mastering legal maxims.


In the 1800s,and still seen today, Muslims relied on building trust with people and forging partnerships, a very important aspect of Islamic life. The mufti was an example of this. In a time where people were often self-financed and independent, kinship often substituted for markets where preexisting bonds of trust facilitated cooperative ventures. These kin-based partnerships had many limitations. For example, if seeking a mufti's advice, the wealth and relationship of the family to the Mufti can cause seniority and sentiment to dictate decisions. Hence, there was social gains from institutions supportive of these cooperative ventures across these groups. This dependency on trust, and personal relationships has been said to have been the cause of the Middle East's descent from its Golden Commercial Age.[5]

European parallels

According to University of Pennsylvania professor George Makdisi, the term mufti is a direct equivalent of the later western term professor, meaning one who is qualified to profess independent opinion on a subject (same as fatwa). According to him, this was the highest level of academic credentials in classical Islamic academic tradition, above mudarris (doctor meaning teacher), and faqih (meaning Master)--a hierarchy later adopted in Western academic tradition.[6]

Disagreement and Radicalization

The process to become a mufti is not standardized, and varies from country to country and sect to sect.[7] In addition, Muftis, as interpreters of religious law, often issue differing and conflicting fatwas.


A Sydney Mufti compared unveiled women to "uncovered meat," though the Islamic body of the area attempted to disavow his statements. He has since gained popularity and raised his status in neighboring New Zealand.[8]

See also


  1. "mufti". thefreedictionary. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  2. 1 2 William L. Cleveland, Martin Bunton (2016). A History of the Modern Middle East. Westview Press. p. 561.
  3. Peters, Rudolph. "Islamic and Secular Criminal Law in Nineteenth Century Egypt: The Role and Function of the Qadi". Islamic Law and Society 4, no. 1 (1997): 70–90.
  4. Reaching the status of mufti by Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera.
  5. Kuran, T. (2011). The long divergence: How Islamic law held back the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  6. George Makdisi (1989) Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West
  7. "الشريعة و القانون - بتفهنا الاشراف > الرئيسية". (in Arabic). Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  8. Collins, Simon Collins, Simon (2006-11-03). "Radical mufti finds backing here". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
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