Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, custodian of Islam's two holiest mosques, has issued a royal decree that only approved scholars can issue fatwas or Islamic religious edicts.
The Saudi Arabian monarch in his decree said fatwas were being issued by unqualified people, which was a violation of Islamic teachings and caused dispute and dissent among Muslims, Saudi Arabia's official SPA agency reported.
The ruling, which came during the first week of Ramzan also imposed a total ban on edicts on topics involving “strange or obsolete view”.
King Abdullah said for the time being only members of the Council of Senior Ulemas (scholars) headed by Grand Mufti would be allowed to issue fatwas.
He also asked the Scholars' Council to report on those fully qualified and eligible to issue fatwas.
The King further said that the differences of opinion among scholars should be confined to their own circles and not involve other people.
“Individual fatwas on personal matters such as matters of worship, dealings, personal matters are exempt from this ruling, but they should be between the questioner and the scholar.”
The King, in his decree, also said: “We find some people undermining the role of official establishments and crossing into state jurisdiction”.
“They pose as eligible scholars to dispute these religious establishments,” he said.
According to him, this situation had “prompted us to face them with determination in order to return them to the right path and make them understand the great role played by our religious establishments”.
The public has been urged to ask for fatwas from authentic sources. Scholars have been notified against issuing fatwas on silly issues.
A number of leading clerics have reportedly welcomed King Abdullah's decision.