A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Female Muftis in Dubai?

Okay, this will cause a few exploding heads here and there in the Muslim world, assuming it's true: from the UAE newspaper The National:

DUBAI // The UAE will appoint what are likely to be the world’s first state-sanctioned female muftis next year, after the Grand Mufti announced details yesterday of plans to recruit and train them.

Six Emirati women are being considered for the training programme, said Dr Ahmed al Haddad, who is also the head of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department. Once accepted they will begin the course, which will last several months, early next year.

The move follows a fatwa issued by Dr al Haddad in February that sanctioned women’s role as muftis. In May, he called on qualified Emirati women to apply for the programme, which includes instruction in Sharia law and legal thinking . . .

The status of female muftis has caused controversy within the religious establishment elsewhere in the Muslim world, with Egypt’s Al Azhar University, a powerful centre of Sunni scholarship, rejecting the possibility of women becoming grand muftis.

However, Dr al Haddad said that debate did not affect whether women should serve in other roles.

“The controversy over female muftis is not necessarily over this point, but about whether or not a woman should be appointed as the grand mufti of a state,” he said. “And that is not what we’re trying to do at this point.”
Well, yeah. Let's start small. But this seems pretty revolutionary. Who'd a thunk that the first muftis (Islamic scholars qualified to give legal opinions) in the Arab world would be in a Gulf state? (Well, yes, I know Dubai is not typical, but still.)

Perhaps not at all surprisingly, this has been noticed in the Saudi press.

No comments: