Yet, in the Islamic legal vocabulary, the term fatwa has quite a different meaning. It is in order to overcome the caricature, especially before the difficulties of European authorities in disciplining the training and activities of self-proclaimed imams and muftis, that this book, containing specialist contributions, acquires both meaning and usefulness. It intends to focus on the internal evolution of Islam as a minority religion in Europe. In it we learn that the term fatwa literally indicates a legal opinion expressed by an expert whose function is to illumine the consciousness of those requesting it, on the basis of the double inspiration of the Koran and the Sunna. The fatwa concerns daily life as well as more complex aspects, such as politics and finance, down to wartime conventions.
The volume’s title is not as challenging as it looks, given that it address a community with Islamic religious tradition and ethics, socially and culturally non-European but forming now an important part of Western society. How is it possible to adapt one’s traditional foundations to the social, cultural and political reality of Europe, in which Islam has a minority statute? How to manage conflictual issues such as the condition of women, family law, the peculiarities of Islamic finance, or even the right to a confessional cemetery? What kind of Islam is to be privileged in order to guarantee European Muslims a legal position consistent with the laws in force in their Countries of residence? Is Islamic law compatible with European laws? Is it possible to conceive of and elaborate a specific Islamic law for the European social and cultural context? These are some of the crucial questions this book attempts to answer by reviewing some paradigmatic fatwas issued at different points in time.
As stressed by the authors, many of whom are Muslims, enlightened Europe strives, more or less explicitly, to confine religion to the private sphere. Before such secularization, the presence of an Islamic community stands out like a real challenge, given that the ostentatious religious practice of part of it forces Europeans to rethink their own conception of religion. On the other hand, European Muslims, aware of their own double belonging, must come to terms with the social and cultural reality to which the course of history has led them. They must appropriate a change in perspective, made necessary by the fact that in secular Europe Islam will no longer be able to function by imitation, just as happens in Islamic countries. Islam is called to rethinking itself as a doctrine-faith, a legal system and a practical way. A direct consequence and an unpredicted result is that European Islam might be elevated to a model and legal reference for the Countries in which Islam is a State religion.
Here is thus an interesting and original book for a better knowledge and understanding of Islam in Europe, in view of the construction of a real dialogue among Muslims, non-believers and believers of other religions.