Before deciding who has the right to issue a fatwa, it is necessary first to define what is a fatwa. A fatwa is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law and is issued by an Islamic Imam or scholar. Although in the Sunni sect a fatwa may not be binding, yet in the Shia sect it is binding and is enforceable as law.
In contrast, the Quran tells us that God is the only law maker, and hence no human (Imam, scholar or similar) has the authority to issue religious laws:
“Shall I seek other than God as a law maker when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed?” 6:114
We also read in the Quran that not even the prophet Muhammad had the right to make laws. We read in the Quran about an occasion when the prophet made the error of prohibiting something which was not prohibited by God and God immediately reprimanded him in the Quran:
“O prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful in order to please your wives” 66:1
We must indeed inquire as to why God included this verse in the Quran? Does God intend to belittle the prophet and to highlight his errors in the eyes of the believers? The answer is no. The reason God placed this very important verse in the Quran is to ascertain every reader of the Quran, and across all ages, that no one has the right to issue religious laws (fatwa’a) except God. Messengers are sent as deliverers of God’s message (5:99) and not as law makers. We read in the Quran that prophet Muhammad was commanded to rule among the people only through what God revealed to him in the Quran:
“Then we revealed to you (O Muhammad) this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with God’s revelations (Quran), and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you.” 5:48
In view of the above, we must inquire: If the prophet of God did not have the authority to issue religious laws, what gives a self proclaimed Imam this right?
From the above it can be concluded that:
1- All man made fatwa’s are unlawful (6:114)
2- All who issue fatwa’s are intruding on the exclusive right of God as being the only law giver, and thus they are committing a great sin.
3- All who follow such fatwa’s are committing shirk (associating others with God). This is because they have set up their Imams (or their source of fatwa) as a partner with God as a law maker:
“Or have they set up ‘shuraka’a’ (partners) who decree for them religious laws never authorized by God. If it were not for the predetermined decision, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, the transgressors have incurred a painful retribution.” 42:21