The United Arab Emirates leads the global technology race among Muslim countries, with notable advancements in recent years. The Emirates has made significant strides in technology, boasting a dedicated Ministry of Artificial Intelligence and cultural hubs like the Museum of the Future, allowing for the testing of numerous cutting-edge technologies. To prevent misuse, the UAE is formulating policies aligned with religious principles.
In a bid to guide scientific development, the Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates introduced a charter during its second international conference. Addressing challenges in tech development, innovation, digital progress, and various sectors such as health, economics, space, energy, climate, and agriculture, the charter aligns with Sharia law, governing the predominantly Muslim nation.
However, controversies have arisen surrounding fatwas, revealing a general ambivalence within the Muslim community toward adopting new technology. Instances worldwide depict religious leaders issuing contentious fatwas, such as an Indian Islamic seminary forbidding TV viewing. To address these concerns, the UAE established the Fatwa Council, ensuring the formalization of Sharia-related policies throughout the country.
The need to integrate fatwa into the realm of science was discussed in the recent Fatwa Council meeting, attended by representatives from 50 countries and 71 fatwa sectors worldwide. As the UAE stands as one of the Gulf’s rapidly advancing technological nations, the council deliberated on challenges faced by Muslim astronauts, particularly regarding religious practices during long space missions. A fatwa has been proposed to provide guidelines for Muslim astronauts to adhere to their beliefs while on such extended missions, potentially allowing exemptions from certain religious activities. The Fatwa Council is expected to establish rules in this regard in the near future.
Despite being the sole authority to issue fatwas related to Islamic rulings in the UAE, the Fatwa Council faces challenges from unauthorized fatwa-issuing institutions within the country. The recent council meeting clarified that only fatwas issued by the official council would be considered valid. Additionally, a dispute arose between the Fatwa Council and the court concerning cryptocurrency, with Bitcoin deemed a non-tradable currency according to Sharia.
In Islamic law, fatwas, which means ‘clarifications,’ are issued by recognized institutions and are the result of scholarly deliberation. Only Muslim scholars who have attained the rank of mufti can issue fatwas. While there is a common misconception that fatwas are radical rulings, they primarily serve as religious explanations. It’s important to note that a statement by a mufti on an issue is not automatically a fatwa, as there are specific rules and regulations governing the issuance of fatwas.
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