Dial M for Mufti and You Can Quiz the World's First Islamic Helpline

October 10, 2008

Author: Sonia Verma

Source: The Times


One of the most distinguished muftis in the Gulf switches on his computer, dons a headset and prepares to issue yet another fatwa.

Abdulrahman Ammoura, 48, usually dispenses his religious advice to the faithful at a nearby mosque but today he is in a cramped cubicle in Abu Dhabi, answering the telephone at the world's first call centre for people seeking a fatwa, or religious edict. The popularity of the service easily eclipses attendance at his Friday prayers; it is used by Muslims all over the world, and its organisers say it now takes about 3,700 calls a day, including queries from Britain.

“I am tired, so tired,” the mufti says, midway through a six-hour shift. “I hear ringing in my ears.” He is distressed by his most recent caller, a married woman whose alcoholic husband had turned violent, hitting her and forcing her to have sex. Should she seek a divorce, the woman asked. “I said, ‘No - it is better for him to find help'. A woman living alone with children could face too many problems.”

His advice now counts as an official fatwa in the United Arab Emirates, under new rules issued by the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments. The UAE Government established the call centre three months ago in an attempt to root out extreme interpretations of Islam issued by unqualified scholars. All fatwas issued through the call centre comply with the Government's moderate religious stance. Any others are considered invalid instructions.

See also: Islam, International