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The Fatwā Debated? Shūrā in one Indonesian Context

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In July 2002 I attended a series of consultative iftā sessions, known as Bahsul Masail, held at a general meeting convened by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organisation that represents traditionalist fiqh in Indonesia. Based upon close observation of the sessions, I show how consultation with the lay membership of NU impacted upon four fatwās drafted by the executive. These fatwās discuss NU's guiding principle, its definition of the Ahl al-Sunna wa'l-Jamā'a, the call for Sharīa to be adopted by the state, and the permissibility of suicide bombs as a weapon of war. I argue that although the NU membership may apply pressure to discuss an issue or to call for a fatwā and their voices may well alter the phrasing of a fatwā, the resulting declarations are largely shaped by the political concerns of its executive board.


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