Muftiships Web Archive

Based at Columbia University, the Ivy Plus Web Archiving “is a collaborative collection development effort to build curated, thematic collections of freely available, but at-risk, web content in order to support research at participating Libraries and beyond. All Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation members participate in the Program.” Fitting well into this category, the newly launched Muftiships Web Archive project strives to preserve all known centers and websites producing and/or documenting fatawa (sg. fatwa), that is religious edits.

So, what is meant by muftiship? Columbia Professor Brinkley Messick in his The Calligraphic State on p. 140 defines muftiship as, “A mufti is a type of Muslim jurist who delivers a nonbinding legal opinion known as a fatwa, exercising in the process the form of legal interpretation called ijtihad. Across the Middle East and North Africa for many centuries, muftis great and small, official and unofficial have worked at the interface of shari’a text and practice. Analogues for the muftiship have been identified in both Roman and medieval Jewish legal institutions. [4] According to Weber (1978: 798–99, 821) and Schacht (1964: 74), the muftiship was originally a “private” institution that later became “public.” Schacht correctly adds, however, that the later official muftis “had no monopoly of giving fatwas, and the practice of consulting private scholars of high reputation never ceased.” As a consequence, a significant dimension of authoritative interpretation consistently eluded the purview of Muslim states.”

Currently the project documents some 100 websites and pages, the majority from the MENA region. In addition, the project has a special section on fatawa and Covid-19. Those links were provided by Dr. Adnan Zulfikar of Rutgers University and are part of his larger project, Mapping Covid-19 Fatawas. The project will continue to grow and be source for the study of Islam.

The project is lead by Gayle Fischer (Harvard), Guy Burak (NYU), Roberta (Robin) Dougherty (Yale), Peter Magierski (Columbia) and Sean Swanick.