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Faqih

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

    Faqih

    Pl. fuqaha. An expert in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). When Islamic legal theory emerged in the early tenth century, the term referred to a specialist in case law. The fuqaha constituted a major segment of the religious elite (ulama) and were considered the guardians of the community and its religion. They functioned as judges (qadis) and jurisconsults (muftis). As judges, they acted as trustees of the property of orphans, supervisors of charitable trusts, and marriage guardians for women who had no male relative to serve in this capacity. As jurisconsults, they issued opinions (fatwas) on legal questions addressed to them by members of the community. As a result of massive twentieth-century legal reforms in Muslim countries, the importance of the fuqaha has steadily declined. They have substantially lost not only their influence as a religious elite but also their functions as jurists, judges, legal guardians, and to a lesser degree jurisconsults. They have largely been replaced by modern lawyers, jurists, and judges, and their function is limited to the narrow sphere of family law, though this is not without the encroachment of state secular legislation.

    See also Fatwa; Fiqh; Law: Modern Legal Reform; Usul al-Fiqh

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