An excellent article that discusses the media fascination with fake and often freaky Muslim/fatwa news stories with the recent example of the hoopla over the “Mars fatwa.” (h/t: Mustafa)
By Abez (MuslimMatters)
So there’s a fun new fatwa being covered in the international news, and it reads like this:
I know what you’re thinking- come on, it’s just another one of those made-up fatwas, like last year’s Great Syrian Sex Jihad and the Erotic Fruit and Vegetable Fatwa of 2011. Those were great fun for the media, and in all their journalistic glee, they forgot to check their stories. There is something to be said for journalistic integrity, unless there’s a funny fatwa story. Then it’s a free for-all.
Summers temps in Saudi go up to 54C/129F, and you think they couldn’t handle this?
Of course, this isn’t the first time the media’s lost sight of due diligence when it comes to stories about Muslims. Remember the man who was too handsome for Saudi? Or the Egyptian Necrophilia Fatwa– where unnamed and unsourced clerics said it was okay for a grieving husband to have “Farewell Intercourse” with his spouse’s corpse for up six hours after the time of death. Grieving wives had conjugal rights to dead husbands as well, because Muslims do believe in equality of the sexes, see?
Remember the fatwa where if your spouse saw you naked, your marriage became invalid? Or how breastfeeding your male colleagues could make them your mahram? Those were fake too.
Muslims generally hear these stories, heave a long-suffering sigh, and go back to worrying about real news- like other Muslims being ethnically cleansed, burned alive, and frozen to death across the world.
Follow-up news: Muslim zombiepocalypse enthusiasts file official complaint against Egypt.
We tend to take these stories in stride with the rest of the c@#$ that mainstream media dumps on us already. Yes, yes, we heard already- we are the stupid, violent, intolerant, controlling men who obsess about sex, gender relations, and suspiciously shaped produce – and the women who love them.
The men I mean. Not the fruit. Because there’s a fatwa about that.
So what is a fatwa?
Let’s say I have a dry cough. I read the directions on the cough syrup, and confirm it was for dry cough. But then I read the fine print, where taking the syrup can be risky in conjunction with other medications. Now, I do happen to take some of those medications, but not often. I am looking for some clarity, so I call my doctor and he gives me his medical opinion– not an order- about my specific case. He tells me what he thinks I should do, and why he thinks so. Whether I think he’s right, or whether I want to go looking for a second opinion is up to me. He hasn’t given me an order, he has given me a fatwa.
In a non-legally binding way, yes.
A fatwa is a non-binding Islamic legal opinion, issued by a legal scholar or institution. It is important to note a few things them:
- Fatawa are legal opinions, not laws
- The purpose of fatawa is to seek clarity. This usually happens in cases dealing with new, specific, or unclear issues.
The doctor told me what he was thinking based on his knowledge, training, and personal experience. He told me why he was thinking it, and I am free to follow it or not. That is a fatwa. Given the number of bad doctors in the world, it seems more understandable then, why there can be confusing Islamic fatawa. Muslims are humans, humans make mistakes, and humans can be expected to have differing opinions, medical or otherwise.
For every two sensible doctors out there is at least one nut-job who tells us to put herbs in our socks or wear a magnetized bracelet to cure the chronic bronchitis I am actually nurturing. So yes, it is possible to get a strange non-legally binding opinion- or fatwa- from a real Muslim, the same way I can get an unhealthy recommendation from a real doctor.
What happened to Mars?
It all started with a Dutch Company called Mars One, whose mission is to “establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.” The company plans to start sending people up to the red planet by 2024, and they’ll be sending them one-way.
According to the original story in the Khaleej Times, the General Islamic of Islamic Affairs and Endowment of the UAE – locally known as the Awqaaf, takes issue with this type of mission.
“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said. “There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”
Whoever opts for this “hazardous trip”, the committee said, is likely to perish for no “righteous reason”, and thus will be liable to a “punishment similar to that of suicide in the Hereafter”.
The committee, presided by Professor Dr Farooq Hamada, said: “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse [4:29] of the HolyQurʾān: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allāh is to you ever Merciful.”
Professor Dr. Who?
Dr. Farouk Al Hamada is real person. In fact, he’s even really in the UAE. He is a published author, and according to his personal website, he is currently “an adviser at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, Emirates.” His website was last updated on Jan 8, 2012.
He is not, however, the Grand Mufti of the UAE, let alone all of Saudi Arabia as some of the headlines claim. A quick Google search shows that there doesn’t seem to be a Grand Mufti of the UAE, but there is a Grand Mufti of Dubai. His name is Dr. Ahmad Al Haddad; in July of 2013, he made the news with some very sage advice, “Be careful about fatwas on twitter.”
- Taking an unnecessary risk with your life is not allowed in Islam
- A one-way ticket to Mars means you’ll probably die
- If you do go and die, you may be held accountable for killing yourself for no good reason
What Dr. Farooq Hamada didn’t say was:
- Travel to Mars is not allowed
- Flying to Mars (versus walking) is not forbidden
- Colonizing Mars (versus visiting) is not allowed
- Housing on Mars (versus education?) is haram
- Living on Mars is sinful
- Even wanting to live on Mars is sinful
- Muslims traveling to Mars will suffer punishment
There are other opinions about this issue- and they will most likely hinge on whether travel to Mars is a righteous reason or reasonably safe. They have nothing to do with flying, colonizing, the high rate of Martian housing, or nurturing secret dreams of space travel. At this point in time, a one-way trip to Mars is a bit like jumping into an alligator pit. If I’m doing it to save a kid who fell in, I can risk my life because that’s a righteous reason. But if I’m doing it to take a selfie, that’s suicide. And I’m an idiot.