Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2020, Page: 9-17
Interpreting Islam in the Jewish State: Muftis and Iftaʾ in Israel
Muhammad Al-Atawneh, Department of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
Received: Oct. 3, 2019;       Accepted: Nov. 14, 2019;       Published: Jan. 13, 2020
DOI: 10.11648/j.ash.20200601.12      View  441      Downloads  135
Islam is the religion of the majority of Arab citizens in Israel. According to a report issued by Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, there are 1.2 million Muslims in Israel, comprising about 80% of the Arab population in the country. Over the past four decades, Islam has become an important factor in the political and socio-cultural identity of the Arab minority; the number of Muslims in Israel who define their identity first and foremost in relation to their religious affiliation has steadily increased. This article studies the authority, ideologies and legal methods and mechanisms used by muftis practicing iftaʾ in the State of Israel when interpreting Islam for the resident Muslim minority. Key questions are: Who serve as the primary religious authorities for Muslims in Israel? Does a unique ‘Israeli-Islam’ exist? The present research found that the evolving Islamic law of minorities in Israel is much less developed than it is in the West; as such, one cannot yet identify Islam in Israel as ‘Israeli-Islam,’ as having its own distinct nature (as in the case of ‘Euro-Islam’). To date, there seems to be no single locus of Islamic religious authority in Israel; multiple groups claim to speak on Islam’s behalf. As such, there is religio-political fragmentation amid the Muslim community in Israel, each group seeking to create its own religious authority: CIS of the al-Qasemi Sufi Order; ICIF of NIM and, finally, the ad-hoc SIM iftaʾ committees. To date, none of these iftaʾ agencies in Israel has been able to formulate, authorize and apply a code of Islamic minority law in Israel, and they continue to rely heavily on foreign Islamic religious authorities. Israeli Muslims continue to maintain strong ties with the regional socio-cultural and religious space and with their peers in the Muslim-Arab world. Israeli iftaʾ agencies tend to adopt and adapt work methods used by foreign, regional Islamic religious authorities and to accept, as is, or adapt many of their opinions/decisions.
Muftis, Iftaʾ, Authority in Islam, Religious Minorities
To cite this article
Muhammad Al-Atawneh, Interpreting Islam in the Jewish State: Muftis and Iftaʾ in Israel, Advances in Sciences and Humanities. Vol. 6, No. 1, 2020, pp. 9-17. doi: 10.11648/j.ash.20200601.12
Copyright © 2020 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), https://www.cbs.gov.il/en/Pages/default.aspx (last access, 10 November 2019).
Ghanem, A. (2001). The Palestinian-Arab Minority in Israel, 1948–2000: A Political Study. New York: State University of New York Press, p. 124; Shafir, G., and Yoav P. (2002). Being Israeli: The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 111.
Amara, M. (2003). “The Collective Identity of the Arabs in Israel in an Era of Peace,” Israel Affairs 9, p. 255.
On the Islamic resurgence in Israel, see Yvonne, H. (1992). “Islamists and the ‘Problem of Israel’: The 1967 Awakening,” Middle East Journal 46 (2), pp. 266-85; Ali, E. H. D. “The Islamic Resurgence: Sources, Dynamics, and Implications,” in Ali. E. H. D. ed. (1982), Islamic Resurgence in the Arab World New York: Praeger Publishers; Thomas, M. (1986). Islamic Resurgence among the Arabs in Israel (Givat Haviva: Arab Studies Institute; idem (1988). The Awakening of the Moslems in Israel. Givat Haviva: Institute for Arabic Studies [Hebrew]; idem (1989), “The ‘Muslim youth’ in Israel,” Hamizrah Hehadash 32, pp. 10-21 [Hebrew]; Rekhess, E. (1993), “Resurgent Islam in Israel,” Asia and African Studies 27, pp. 189-206. On religious resurgence, see Eisenstadt, S. (2000), “The Resurgence of Religious Movements in Processes of Globalisation: Beyond End of History or Clash of Civilisations,” International Journal on Multicultural Societies,” 2 (1), pp. 4-15; Beckford, J. (2000), “Religious Movements and Globalization,” in Cohen, R. and Rai, S. eds. (2000), Global Social Movements. London: Athlone Press; Hourani, M. (1991). “Tawba: Repentance among Israeli Moslem Arabs,” Bamikhlala 2, pp. 102-10 [Hebrew]; Wuthnow, R. “World Order and Religious Movements,” in Bergson, A., ed. (1980), Studies of the Modern World System. New York: Academic Press, pp. 57-75.
See al-Haj M. (1988). “The Arab Internal Refugees in Israel: The Emergence of a Minority within the Minority,” Immigration and Minorities 7 (2), pp. 149-65; idem, “The Sociopolitical Structure of the Arabs in Israel: External vs. Internal Orientation,” in Hofman J. ed. (1988). Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel: A Quest of Human Understanding. Bristol, IN: Wyndham Hall, pp. 92-123; Smooha, S. (1988), “The Implication of Transition to Peace for Israeli Society,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 555, pp. 23-45; idem (1983), “Minority Responses in a Plural Society: A Typology of the Arabs in Israel,” Sociology and Social Research 67 (4), pp. 436-56.
Twentieth century iftaʾ was characterized by the emergence of the hayʾa, or ‘fatwa committee’, where more than one mufti ratifies the same fatwa. See Masud, M., Messick, B. & Powers, D., eds. (1996). Islamic Legal Interpretation, Muftis and Their Fatwas. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, pp. 3-32.
See the websites of these institutions, at: http://www.isna.net; http://www.e-cfr.org/ar (last access, 10 November 2019).
See Fishman, S. (2006). Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat: A Legal Theory for Muslim Minorities. Washington, D. C: Hudson Institute; Shavit, U. (2007). “Should Muslims Integrate into the West?” Middle East Quarterly 16 (4), pp. 13-21.
See Zuʿbi, A. (2003). “The Khalawati Sufi Order in Palestine and Israel,” M. A. Thesis. Haifa: Haifa University, pp. 31-54 [Hebrew]. On Sufi orders in modern times, see Van Bruinessen, M., and Day Howell J., eds., (2007). Sufism and the ‘Modern’ in Islam. London: I. B. Tauris; Raudvere C., and Stenberg, L., eds. (2009), Sufism Today: Heritage and Tradition in the Global Community. London: I. B. Tauris; Dressler, M., Geaves R. & Klinkhammer G. eds. (2009), Sufis in Western Society: Global Networking and Locality. London: Routledge; De Jong F. (1983), “The Sufi Orders in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Palestine,” Studia Islamica 58, pp. 148-80; Weismann, I. (2004). “Sufi Brotherhoods in Syria and Israel: A Contemporary Overview,” History of Religions 43, pp. 303-18.
http://www.qsm.ac.il/pr/ (last access, 10 November 2019).
Interview with Khaled Mahmud, 5 August 2015.
http://fatawa.qsm.ac.il/m-04.htm (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
http://fatawa.qsm.ac.il/m-07.htm (last access, 10 November 2019 [Arabic]; see also http://alqasimy.com/afta.php (last access, 10 November 2019 [Arabic].
http://fatawa.qsm.ac.il/m-05.htm (last access, 10 November 2019 [Arabic]. On these principles, see al-Shatibi, I. (1969). al-Muwafaqat fi usul al-ahkam. 4 vols. Cairo: Maktabat Muhammad ʿAli Sbih, 3: 257; 4: 196, 198.
Friedman R. (1973). “On the Concept of Authority in Political Philosophy,” in Flathman R., ed. (1973), Concepts in Social and Political Philosophy. New York: Collier Macmillan, pp. 121-45.
Harder, H. (2011). Sufism and Saint Veneration in Contemporary Bangladesh: The Maijbhandaris of Chittagong. London: Routledge, pp. 88-95.
Mahmud, K. (2001). “The Ethical Behavior of the Sufi Disciple with his Sheikh in the Khalwati Order,” in In the Footsteps of Sufism: History, Trends and Praxis: The First International Conference at al-Qasemi College. Baqa al-Gharbiyya, May 24-25, pp. 23-4.
Mahmud, “The Ethical Behavior of the Sufi Disciple,” 24.
http://www.fatawah.com/Content-96 (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
Ibid. See also Zahalka, I. (2018). The development of Islamic law in Israel. In Hatina, M. and al-Atawneh, M. eds. (2018), Muslims in the Jewish State. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, [Hebrew]. P. 6.
http://www.pls48.net/?mod=articles&ID=1148929#.Vb8GcE1WGJA (last access, 10 November 2019)[Arabic]; also http://www.fatawah.com/QuestionAdd.aspx (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
http://www.fatawah.com/Content-96l (last access, 10 November 2019)[Arabic]; http://www.facebook.com/fatawah (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
The latest multivolume edition was published in 2012. See Fatawa al-Majlis al-Islami li’l-ifta’ (Umm al-Fahm: Mu’assasat al-Risala li’l-Nashr wa’l-Iʿlam, 2012). Also see the online Fatwa Bank at http://www.fatawah.com/Fatawah/0/0.aspx (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
See ICIF’s Q/A page at http://www.fatawah.com/Questions/0/0.aspx (last access, 10 November 2019)[Arabic]; Zahalka, “The Development of Islamic Jurisprudence in Israel,” p. 6.
http://www.fatawah.net/Articles/21.aspx (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
In cases with multiple opinions, the murajjih (person who performs tarjih) usually compares those opinions with respect to their transmission, those who espouse them and their evidence.
ICIF, Fatawa al-marʾa al-muslima (Umm al-Fahm: Muʾassasat al-Risala liʾl-Nashr waʾl-Iʿlam, 2015), 6; see also http://www.fatawah.com/Content-96. On tarjih, see Hallaq, W. (2001). Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 127, 130-31; Abu Zahra, M. (1957),ʾUsul al-fiqh. Cairo: Dar al-Fikr al-ʿArabi, pp. 350-65; Weiss, B. (1978), “Interpretation in Islamic Law: The Theory of Ijtihad,” American Journal of Comparative Law 26, pp. 199-212; idem (1992), The Search for God’s Law: Islamic Jurisprudence in the Writings of Sayf al-Din al-Amidi. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
http://www.dar-alifta.org/default.aspx?LangID&Home=1&LangID=2 (last access, 10 February 2018); http://www.alifta.net/Default.aspx?languagename=en (last access, 10 February 2018).
The Arabic term wasatiyya, literally ‘centrist, middle, moderate path’, stems from the Qur’anic verse, Q 2: 143: “And thus We have made you a community of moderation [wasat].” This verse suggests a lenient approach to the integration of opinions from almost all the Muslim schools-of-thought (madhhabs). Despite the widespread use of the term wasatiyya in modern Islamic discourse, there is still no precise and comprehensive definition of the term. Thus, one finds different renditions, such as ‘middle path,’ ‘moderate way’ or ‘median course’. Recently, Muslim scholars have begun to address this matter. On wasatiyya in contemporary Arab and Muslim thought, see Browers, M. (2009), Political Ideology in the Arab World Accommodation and Transformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Polka, S. (2003). “The Centrist Stream in Egypt and Its Role in the Public Discourse Surrounding the Shaping of the Country’s Cultural Identity,” Middle Eastern Studies 39, pp. 39-64.
http://www.fatawah.com/Fatawah/290.aspx?word (last access, 10 November 2019)[Arabic]. In Saudi Arabia, the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas is responsible for conducting research and administering private iftaʾ. See al-Atawneh, M. (2010), Wahhabi Islam Facing the Challenges of Modernity: Dar al-Iftaʾin Modern Saudi Arabia. Leiden: E. J. Brill, pp. 17-34; al-Dawish, A. (2000). Fatawa al-lajna al daʾima liʾl-buhuth al-ʿilmiyya waʾl-iftaʾ waʾl-daʿwa waʾl- irshad, 23 vols. Riyadh: Maktabat al-ʿIbikan; al-Shawadifi, S. (1991) Fatawa hayʾat kibar al-ʿulamaʾ biʾl-mamlaka al-ʿarabiyya al-saʿudiyya. Cairo: Maktabat al-Sunna.
al-Atawneh. M. (2012), “Leisure and Entertainment (malahi) in Contemporary Islamic Legal Thought: Music and the Audio-Visual Media.” Islamic Law and Society 19 (4), pp. 397-415.
ICIF, Fatawa al-marʾa al-muslima, 76-79; al-Jaziri, A. (1999), al-Fiqh ʿala al-madhahib al-arbaʿa. Beirut: Dar al-Arqam, 4: 109-124.
Ibid., 156. See the relevant fatwa at: http://fatwa.islamweb.net/fatwa/index.php?page=showfatwa&Option=FatwaId&Id=115965 (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
ICIF, Fatawa al-marʾa al-muslima, 156.
ICIF, Fatawa al-majlis al-Islami liʾl-iftaʾ (Nazareth 2012), 2: 190-193.
ICIF, Fatawa al-marʾa al-muslima, 145-146.
See al-Jaziri, A. (1999). Al-Fiqh ʿala al-madhahib al-arbaʿa, 4: 109-20.
http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/Fatwa/ShowFatwa.php?lang=A&Option=FatwaId&Id=14566 (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-Arabic-Ask_Scholar/FatwaA/FatwaA&cid=1122528600856 (last access, 10 November 2019) [Arabic].
Al-Tirmidhi (1978). Sunan al-Tirmidhi. Cairo: Matbaʿat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 2: 462.
Interview with Hammad Abu Daʿabis, 29 July 2015.
Zahalka, I. (2018). “The Development of Islamic Law in Israel,” in Hatina M. and al-Atawneh M. eds. (2018), Muslims in the Jewish State: Religion, Politics and Society. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad [Hebrew].
See Rekhess, E. (1991), “Fundamentalist Islam among Israeli Arabs,” in Cohen K. ed. (1991), Perspectives in Israeli Pluralism. New York: Israeli Colloquium, pp. 34-44.
Browse journals by subject