This is an interesting article. It starts out with a couple fatwas that have become widely ridiculed and are scandalous to most in the region: The first stated that a woman from the time of Muhammad who supposedly drank the prophet’s urine was blessed by her action. The second stated that the ban on unmarried men and women working together need not hold if the woman breast-fed her coworkers, thereby establishing a familial relationship.
Besides the rather entertaining examples that drew so much attention, it describes the everyday role of fatwas that are given for fairly routine matters, at least as the tradition is practiced in Egypt:
At 11:30 one recent morning, a young woman entered and sat in the chair opposite him. She held her son, about 4, on her knee as she explained that her husband had married another woman (four wives are allowed in Islam) and that the new wife was only 18. “He said he would spend five nights with her and one with me,” the woman complained. “Can I ask for a divorce?”
Under Islam, the sheik advised, all wives must be treated equally. So if she could not work the matter out “peacefully, then yes, she could ask for a divorce.”
That was her fatwa.
A couple approached. The man’s clothes were tattered, and his wife looked distressed. Their 9-year-old son’s clothing was clean, his hair gelled, his smile bright. The man explained that they had adopted the child when he was 9 months old, and that they had just heard that under Islam their son had to be put out of the house, because the mother had not given birth to him or breast-fed him.
He would reach puberty as an outsider, and could not, technically, be around the woman he knew as his mother. The imam at their local mosque said it was haram — forbidden under Islam — to live with the boy.
The sheik said yes, that was right, that the boy could not live with them. The father leaned in, disturbed, and said, “And that’s it.”
The sheik seemed stuck and referred them to another sheik for another opinion.
That was their fatwa.
[Note: although the number of paragraphs exceeds the 3 that is the general CAF rule of thumb, I’ve trimmed them back to the usual legal standard of about 10% of the total article]