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A fatwā (
Resembling jus respondendi in
Muftis acted as independent scholars in the classical legal system. Over the centuries,
In the modern era, fatwas have reflected changing economic, social and political circumstances, and addressed concerns arising in varied Muslim communities. The spread of codified state laws and Western-style legal education in the modern Muslim world has displaced muftis from their traditional role of clarifying and elaborating the laws applied in courts. Instead, modern fatwas have increasingly served to advise the general public on other aspects of sharia, particularly questions regarding religious rituals and everyday life. Modern public fatwas have addressed and sometimes sparked controversies in the Muslim world, and some fatwas in recent decades have gained worldwide notoriety. The legal methodology of modern ifta often diverges from pre-modern practice, particularly so in the West. Emergence of modern media and universal education has transformed the traditional institution of ifta in various ways. While the proliferation of contemporary fatwas attests to the importance of Islamic authenticity to many Muslims, little research has been done to determine how much these fatwas affect the beliefs or behavior of the Muslim public.
The word fatwa comes from the Arabic root f-t-y, whose meanings include "youth, newness, clarification, explanation." A number of terms related to fatwa derive from the same root. A jurist issuing fatwas is called a