The Grand Mufti (Arabic: مفتي عام muftī ʿām , "general expounder" or كبير المفتين kabīr al-muftīn , "the great of expounders") is the highest official of religious law in a Sunni or Ibadi Muslim country. The Grand Mufti issues legal opinions and edicts, fatāwā, on interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence for private clients or to assist judges in deciding cases. The collected opinions of the Grand Mufti serve as a valuable source of information on the practical application of Islamic law as opposed to its abstract formulation. The Grand Mufti's fatāwā (plural of "fatwā") are not binding precedents in areas of civil laws regulating marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In criminal courts, the Grand Mufti's recommendations are generally not binding either.
Muftis are Muslim religious scholars who issue influential legal opinions (fatwas) interpreting Sharia (Islamic law). The Ottoman Empire began the practice of giving official recognition and status to a single mufti, above all others, as the Grand Mufti. The Grand Mufti of Istanbul had, since the late 16th century, come to be regarded as the head of the religious establishment. He was thus not only pre-eminent but bureaucratically responsible for the body of religious-legal scholars and gave legal rulings on important state policies such as the dethronement of rulers. This practice was subsequently borrowed and adapted by Egypt from the mid-19th century. From there, the concept spread to other Muslim states, so that today there are approximately 16 countries with sizeable Muslim populations which have a Grand Mufti. The relationship between the Grand Mufti of any given state and the state's rulers can vary considerably, both by region and by historical era.
State-appointed Grand Muftis
Nations with elected Grand Muftis
- In countries such as Australia where the office of Grand Mufti receives no official seal of government imprimatur, clerics can be elected to the position by one segment of the Islamic community in that country and yet not be recognised by other Muslim communities in that country.
Nations with collective Grand Muftis
- Indonesia has a system of collective mufti, in which the position of Grand Mufti is held by the Indonesian Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia). This assembly can make fatāwā.
- Malaysia also has a unique system of collective mufti. Nine of the fourteen Malaysian states have their own constitutional monarchy; nine are ruled by their own constitutional monarch while the country is led by a monarch elected from the nine. These nine monarchs have authority over religious matters within their own states: therefore, each of these nine states have their own mufti who usually controls the Islamic Council or Islamic Department of the state. At the national level, a National Council of Fatwa (Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan) has been formed under the Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia or JAKIM). JAKIM appoints five Muftis for the five states which do not have monarchs. The muftis of the nine monarchical states, together with the five officials appointed by JAKIM in the National Council of Fatwā, collectively issue fatāwā at the national level.
- Sri Lanka has a system of collective ulama from different traditions of Islam. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama has a President who oversees the decisions but does not necessarily have the powers to overturn any decisions made by rest of the ulama. The concept is similar to a democratic coalition system. The current President is Ash-Sheikh Mufti M.I.M. Rizwe.
Prominent past Grand Muftis
- Ismail Omar Abdul Aziz (First State Mufti of Brunei)
- Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz (1910–1999), Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1992 to 1999
- Dr Asri Zainul Abidin, Mufti of Perlis, in Malaysia
- During World War I (1914–1918), the Ottoman Empire claimed that As'ad Shuqeiri was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
- Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from October 1994 to July 2006
- Kamil al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1908 to 1921
- Syrian Arab Republic's Grand Mufti, Ahmed Kuftaro (deceased September 1, 2004)
- Hussam Al-din Jarallah, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1954
- Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 to 1948
- Mohammed Tahir al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from the 1860s to 1908
- Mustafa Raza Khan Qadri (1950 to 1981), Grand Mufti of India (Barelvi movement)
- Pakistan: Grand Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani
- Abul Qasim Noori, Grand Mufti of Sunni Bangladesh
- Indonesia: Shaykh Abdul Qadir Hassan son of Hassan Bandung
- Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al ash-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1969
- Sulaiman Ja'abari, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem from 1993 to 1994
- Bosnian ex-Grand Mufti, Mustafa Cerić (1993 to 2012)
- Australian ex-Grand Mufti, Taj El-Din Hilaly
- Shaykh Mufti Radha al-Haq (1987 to 1997), Grand Mufti of South Africa, now Retired
- Mufti Ismail Kacholwi, Grand Mufti of Europe (since 1988). In 2007 Mufti Sahib migrated to India, although he still remains the Grand Mufti of Europe. In 2007, The President of The Islamic Consultative Assembly of Europe, His Excellency – Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Motala Sahib appointed Mufti Muhammad Shabbir Ahmed Patel Sahib, of Darul-Uloom Bury as a Deputy of Mufti Ismail Kacholwi Sahib, as Mufti Ismail Kacholwi Sahib does come over to the UK frequently!
List of current Grand Muftis
States recognised by the United Nations