The “Mapping Covid Fatwas Project” came about in early March 2020 when global awareness of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) extended beyond hot spots in China, Iran and Italy. Prof. Adnan Zulfiqar (Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School) began noticing increased commentary from religious scholars on what Islamic law, and Islam in general, had to say about Covid-19. Sensing the need to start cataloguing these opinions, Professor Zulfiqar began collecting fatwās and statements from around the globe on the Islamic legal response to Covid-19. Thus far, the project has collected over 100 fatwās representing almost 30 countries/regions and in various languages including Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, English, Turkish and Indonesian (Bahasa).
The purpose of the project is to provide a clearinghouse of fatwās for scholars, policymakers and others interested in Islamic legal opinions on the pandemic. Our hope is that this resource can be used to support academic research, as well as prove helpful to those crafting guidelines for pandemic related matters in specific countries.
While the majority of fatwās have been collected by our team, we have also created a Fatwa Submission Form that allows others to contribute.
A few key questions initially arose as to what would be included and excluded from the collection.
The first question was what counts as a fatwā? While traditionally a formal, written fatwā might have been the primary means of conveying a legal opinion, contemporary scholars issue legal opinions in a variety of ways. Hence, we collected written opinions that appear in the form of traditional fatwās, but also statements and scholarly articles.
Beyond written fatwās, it was evident early on that many legal opinions were being delivered in video format. Hence, we also include scholarly opinions conveyed in popular question/answer TV programs, YouTube channels for specific scholars or scholarly bodies, press conferences, etc.
Finally, we also recognized the widespread use of social media platforms for disseminating legal opinions and have used these as a source for collecting fatwās, particularly Twitter.
While Friday khutbas are also an important source of scholarly opinion, our researchers found it would expand the scope beyond our present capabilities. Hence, we do not currently include khutbas within the collection.
Finally, a question arose as to “who” counts as a scholar. In this regard, we have generally cast our net quite broadly. Our researchers focus their efforts on official government fatwā issuing bodies, institutions of Islamic learning, associations of scholars and well-known individual scholars. The primary consideration is that a scholar should have salience with a fairly substantial community or constituency such that their legal opinion has significance.
That said, we fully recognize that this has the potential to seem arbitrary and that it is not comprehensive. Selecting the material included thus requires us to draw intelligible lines, which we apply according to the interpretive and subject matter expertise of the scholars leading this project.
For those interested in learning more details about the project, you can watch this recent presentation on “Mapping Legal Responses to Covid-19: The Case of Islamic Law.”
For additional information or media inquiries, please contact Professor Adnan Zulfiqar.