Sunday, September 22, 2013

Googled Mufti's quandry

by Salman Hameed

Here is a short, insightful, and entertaining article from the Magazine section of NYT by Sahahan Mufti, about being mistaken for a Mufti:

 The first time I received such an e-mail, I assumed it was a mistake and ignored it. I ignored the next few e-mails as well, but I began to wonder if someone was playing a prank on me. The e-mails kept coming, sporadically, and without any hint of a setup or any sign of a punch line. Eventually I discovered the explanation. 
My surname, Mufti, is an Arabic word meaning “one who gives a fatwa.” 
And his name shows up quite high on Google searches. Okay that part is not that interesting. However, he provides an example that nicely illustrate what many people expect from fatwas:

This e-mail with the pushy subject line was unlike any other I had received. “My friend, who lives in Sweden, wants to get married to a Swedish woman,” it began in Latinized Urdu. “But this marriage will be a fake marriage.” Tahir, the sender, explained that his friend was already married to a woman in Pakistan but wanted to marry a Swedish woman to obtain Swedish citizenship. Tahir’s friend wanted him to deliver fake Pakistani divorce papers by forging both his and his wife’s signatures. Oblivious to the forgery, the Swedes would allow Tahir’s friend to marry, putting the secret bigamist on a path to Swedish citizenship and all that it offered. I doubted that either of the women were privy to the elaborate scheme. 
It was Tahir’s heedlessly narrow question at the end that surprised me the most: “If I forge the signatures on the divorce papers, will that really mean my friend will be divorced from his wife?” It was this small, rather arcane detail about God’s view of the marital bond that nagged his conscience — not the various international and domestic laws and criminal codes that he would break. “Would you do me a favor and resolve this problem?” 
For his answer, you have to read the article here. However, I was wondering about two things. First, often times people make so much of some crazy fatwas on the internet. Well, in the absence of a centralized authority and the easy of issuing a fatwa, this is exactly one would expect, for better or for worse. Second, I know the point of the article was to point to mundane nature of the question, but it is also about seeking a justification (approval) from an authority - any authority - and the bar for the qualification of being such an authority can be set quite low (for example, whatever google brings up first).

In case you are interested in the subject matter, also check out this project on internet fatwas and new trends in authority.

1 comment:

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