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A Grand Mufti is the leading mufti (Islamic jurisconsult) of a state. The office originated in the early modern era in the Ottoman empire and has been later adopted in a number of modern countries.
Muftis are Islamic jurists qualified to issue a nonbinding opinion (fatwa) on a point of Islamic law (sharia). In the 15th century, muftis of the Ottoman empire, who had acted as independent scholars in earlier times, began to be integrated into a hierarchical bureaucracy of religious institutions and scholars. By the end of the 16th century, the government-appointed mufti of Istanbul came to be recognized under the title Shaykh al-Islam (Turkish: şeyhülislam) as the Grand Mufti in charge of this hierarchy. The Ottoman Grand Mufti performed a number of functions, including advising the sultan on religious matters, legitimizing government policies, and appointing judges. After the dissolution the Ottoman empire the office of the Grand Mufti has been adopted in a number of countries across the Muslim world, often serving the role of providing religious support for government policies. The Grand Mufti is generally an individual appointed by the state, although the office has collective or elective character in some modern countries.
Muftis are Muslim religious scholars who issue legal opinions (fatwas) interpreting Sharia (Islamic law).:16–20 The Ottoman Empire began the practice of giving official recognition and status to a single mufti, above all others, as the Grand Mufti.:5 The Grand Mufti of Istanbul had, since the late 16th century, come to be regarded as the head of the religious establishment. He was thus not only pre-eminent but bureaucratically responsible for the body of religious-legal scholars and gave legal rulings on important state policies such as the dethronement of rulers. This practice was subsequently borrowed and adapted by Egypt from the mid-19th century.:5 From there, the concept spread to other Muslim states, so that today there are approximately 16 countries with sizeable Muslim populations which have a Grand Mufti.:85 The relationship between the Grand Mufti of any given state and the state's rulers can vary considerably, both by region and by historical era.
State-appointed Grand Muftis
Throughout the era of British colonialism, the British retained the institution of Grand Mufti in some Muslim areas under their control and accorded the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem the highest political stature in Palestine. During World War I (1914–1918), there were two competing Grand Muftis of Jerusalem, one endorsed by the British and one by the Ottoman Empire. When Palestine was under British rule, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a position appointed by the British Mandate authorities. In the Palestinian National Authority, the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Grand Mufti is appointed by the president.
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, with office created in 1953, is appointed by the King.
The State Mufti of Brunei is nominated by the Sultan.
Nations with elected Grand Muftis
In countries such as Australia where the office of Grand Mufti receives no official seal of government imprimatur, clerics can be elected to the position by one segment of the Islamic community in that country and yet not be recognised by other Muslim communities in that country.
Nations with collective Grand Muftis
- Indonesia has a system of collective mufti, in which the position of Grand Mufti is held by the Indonesian Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia). This assembly can issue fatwas.
- Malaysia also has a unique system of collective mufti. Nine of the fourteen Malaysian states have their own constitutional monarchy; nine are ruled by their own constitutional monarch while the country is led by a monarch elected from the nine. These nine monarchs have authority over religious matters within their own states: therefore, each of these nine states have their own mufti who usually controls the Islamic Council or Islamic Department of the state. At the national level, a National Council of Fatwa (Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan) has been formed under the Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia or JAKIM). JAKIM appoints five Muftis for the five states which do not have monarchs. The muftis of the nine monarchical states, together with the five officials appointed by JAKIM in the National Council of Fatwā, collectively issue fatāwā at the national level.
- Sri Lanka has a system of collective ulama from different traditions of Islam. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama has a President who oversees the decisions but does not necessarily have the powers to overturn any decisions made by rest of the ulama. The concept is similar to a democratic coalition system. The current president is Ash-Sheikh Mufti M.I.M. Rizwe.
Prominent past Grand Muftis
- Mohammed Tahir al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from the 1860s to 1908
- Kamil al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1908 to 1921
- During World War I (1914–1918), the Ottoman Empire claimed that As'ad Shuqeiri was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
- Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 to 1948
- Hussam Al-din Jarallah, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1954
- Sulaiman Ja'abari, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1993 to 1994
- Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from October 1994 to July 2006
- Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al ash-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1969
- Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz (1910–1999), Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1992 to 1999
- Australia: Taj El-Din Hilaly
- Bangladesh: Abul Qasim Noori
- Bangladesh: Dr. Syed Irshad Ahmad Al Bukhari
- Bosnian: Mustafa Cerić (1993 to 2012)
- Ismail Omar Abdul Aziz (First State Mufti of Brunei)
- India: Mustafa Raza Khan Qadri (1950 to 1981)
- Indonesia: Shaykh Abdul Qadir Hassan son of Hassan Bandung
- Pakistan: Grand Mufti Mufti Muneeb Ur Rehman
- Mufti Radha ul Haq Grand Mufti of South Africa
- Syrian Arab Republic's Grand Mufti, Ahmed Kuftaro (Deceased September 1, 2004)
- India: Taj-us-Shariah Akhtar Raza Khan (Deceased 20 July 2018)
List of current Grand Muftis
States recognised by the United Nations
|Entity||Grand Mufti||Office assumed|
|Europe||Muhammad Shabbir Ahmed Patel (acting)||2007|
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