Authoritative legal opinion given by a mufti (legal scholar) in response to a question posed by an individual or a court of law. A fatwa is typically requested in cases not covered by the fiqh literature and is neither binding nor enforceable. Its authority is based on the mufti's education and status within the community. If the inquirer is not persuaded by the fatwa, he is free to go to another mufti and obtain another opinion; but once he finds a convincing opinion, he should obey it. Theoretically, muftis should be capable of exercising legal reasoning independently of schools of law (ijtihad), although followers of tradition (muqallids) are also allowed to issue fatwas. Historically, fatwas were independent of the judicial system, although some muftis were officially attached to various courts. In the Ottoman and Mughal political systems, the chief mufti was designated shaykh al-Islam. Other muftis were appointed to positions as market inspectors, guardians of public morals, and advisers to government on religious affairs. Under colonial rule, madrasas took over the role of religious guides, and special institutions were established to issue fatwas. In modern times, print and electronic media have reinforced the role and impact of fatwas by making them instantly available to the public. Present-day Muslim states have tried to control fatwas through official consultative/advisory organizations within religious ministries.
See also Mufti