The Value of Fatwas

With random ulemas here, there, everywhere (and maybe nowhere) issuing fatwas left, right and centre, I wonder if the value of the fatwa hasn’t gone down.

The thing with religion is anyone who is mildly religious will try to follow as much of the traditions and customs are possible. However, if one puts way too many restrictions, there is the chance that the follower might “do a ramanamurthy” * and just snap and decide to not any of the customs. AS long as you keep things reasonable, though, there is a good chance that the follower will continue to follow.

Now that the context has been set, I reiterate my question as to whether there isn’t a law of diminishing returns for fatwas. Things I suppose were fine when the fatwa was a rare entity. For example, twenty years ago when someone issued a fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie, it was a rare event (the fatwa) and hence got taken seriously and Rushdie has to go into hiding.

But look at the kind of fatwas that are being issued nowadays and I would be really surprised if these are getting taken seroiusly. For example, read this article (HT: Nitin Pai). There is a fatwa against buying insurance. There is a fatwa against working in banks. There is a fatwa against families accepting income earned by female members. And so forth.

Don’t the ulema understand that there exists a law of diminishing returns, and so people are not likely to take fatwas seriously if too many of them are put in place? Ok I suppose they don’t teach economics in Madrassas. Or is it that Islamic society is still in the part of the curve where slope is significantly positive ? (imagine a curve with the total “degree of acceptance” on the y axis and “number of religious restrictions” on the X axis. You would expect that the curve initially rises and then flattens out, and if you stretch things too far maybe even bend downwards).

All religions and all sects of all religions have their share of loonies. People who come up with random fundaes and then claim it’s part of the teaching of that particular religion and everyone should follow it. But I suppose that most other religions are decentralized enough that loonies are treated as just that, and people go on leading their lives without taking cognizance of the loonies.

PS: Check out this hilarious essay from The Dawn about this bunch of guys who tried to take along a Maulvi to Afghanistan to fight Russians.