– Osama bin Laden’s Islamic Education and His “Fatawa”.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Osama bin Laden was not a trained theologian. He was never known as a “great thinker” in the Islamic world. And what his followers saw as his “fatawa” (religious edicts) is what the elusive Mullah Omar saw as a violation of Islam. Mullah Omar, another confused and extremist mullah, said, “Only muftis can issue fatwas.”[1] He then said that Osama bin Laden “is not a mufti and therefore any fatwas he may have issued are illegal and null and void.”[2] Mullah Omar was adamant about this: “Bin Laden is not entitled to issue fatwas as he did not complete the mandatory 12 years of Koranic studies to qualify for the position of mufti.”[3]

The “12 years of Koranic studies” requirement is not necessarily true from a Sunni standpoint. The general point, however, is correct. It takes a long time of serious hard work and persistence from a learned scholar to reach the level of proclaiming religious edicts. Religious edicts in Islam are not a free-for-all for any person to say.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, a contemporary orthodox Sunni scholar, says that:

“a lay person is not allowed to give…a fatwa based on a hunch or some floating set of understandings they have developed. This would be sinful, even if they are right. Rather, it would be their duty to go back to scholars, either directly, or from a clear, reliable text that explicitly mentions the answer.”[4]

Sunni Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera, another contemporary Sunni scholar, explains who a “mufti” is and a mufti’s competencies:

“A mufti could normally be defined as someone well-grounded in Islamic law who has acquired the ability from qualified teachers to issue formal legal rulings on matters concerning Islamic law.”

“Reaching this status normally requires that one study the principle books of fiqh, usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence), books of fatawa (legal verdicts), and other related subjects, and then sit with muftis and practice researching issues of fiqh and providing answers to them with reference to the source books. Studies in other Islamic sciences are also very important: for instance aqida, tafsir, and hadith, since many fiqhi questions involve these subjects and a mufti is oftentimes required to have deep understanding of these sciences too.”[5]

Osama bin Laden certainly did not fulfill the general qualifications of being a Mufti, and was therefore unqualified to issue fatawa of any kind and on any issue.

Osama’s education was mainly in the worldly domain – not the Sunni spiritual domain – in spite of his intermittent, informal Islamic education with individuals holding dubious, Wahhabi-Salafi credentials. Even if had studied Islam formally and had become an Islamic scholar of some sort, he would have been indoctrinated in some manifestation of Wahhabism-Salafism which is rejected by the masses of Sunnis.

Osama was enrolled as a student at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah in 1976 as an “economics and management” student. And he didn’t even complete that education. Jean Sasson said:

“Najwa says that, despite reports claiming otherwise, Osama never graduated from the King Abdul Aziz University, but left three or four years after enrolling, only a few terms before graduation” (p.29).

And so Osama could not even complete a worldly education. Najwa is one of Osama’s wives and she arguably knows Osama well. After all, Osama was her husband and the father of some of her children. She definitely knew more than Osama’s deceived followers did who were and still are digesting Osama’s gibberish as sound fatawa, and who will find no correct Islamic justification for Osama’s “fatawa”. And I’m not talking about what his “fatawa” state, which are also wrong from an Islamic standpoint. I am talking about his issuing pseudo-fatawa while playing Mufti which is a serious violation of Islam, the religion he dubiously claimed to love.


[1] UPI Exclusive: “Osama bin Laden – ‘Null and Void’”. by Arnaud de Borchgrave. United Press International. June 14, 2001

[2] Ibid. UPI.

[3] Ibid. UPI.

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