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A legal pronouncement in Islam, issued by a religious legal authority, on a specific issue. Usually a fatwa is issued at the request of an individual or a judge to settle a question where fiqh, (Islamic jurisprudence) is unclear. Because there is no central Islamic priesthood, there is no generally accepted method to determine who can issue a fatwa and who cannot. Thus, in both theory and practice, different Islamic clerics can issue contradictory, or competing, fatwas. What happens subsequently depends on whether one lives in a nation where Islamic Law is the basis of civil law or whether one lives where Islamic Law has no legal status. In nations based on Islamic Law, fatwas by the national religious leadership are debated before being issued and are decided upon by consensus. In such cases they are rarely contradictory, and they carry the status of enforceable law. If two fatwas are contradictory, the ruling bodies (which combine civil and religious law) effect a compromise interpretation which is followed as law. In nations that do not recognize Islamic Law, religious Muslims are often confronted with two competing fatwas. In such a case, they would follow the fatwa of the leader in the same religious tradition as themselves. Thus, for example, Sunni Muslims would not adhere to the fatwa of a Shi'ite or Sufi.

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