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What’s the difference between a Faqih and a Mufti?

What’s the difference between a Faqih and a Mufti?


Assalamu Alykum brother, I hope you’re doing well. I’m a bit confused because I’m not sure if it can be interchangeable, but is it alright to ask you if you could please distinguish what a “Faqih” and a “Mufti” is?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

Alhamdulilah, I am doing well, thank you so much for asking. Rabina yu’barik feek[i].

That’s an important question, and a Faqih is–in general–someone who is an expert in Islamic Law. Sometimes, though this is not always the case, a Faqih is a term used to denote someone of exceptional understanding of Fiqh, like Imam Shafi’i, for instance, but it usually simply means someone who is an expert in Fiqh (law).

Mufti is different and it means different things in different places, but it generally is someone who is an expert on Islamic Law that may issue a Fatwa (legal opinion) on a matter, and they are generally administrative positions. Unlike a Qadi (Judge) the legal opinion (Fatwa) of a Mufti does not have to be relevant to a court case in particular, therefore a Mufti’s Fatwa is non-binding because it does not deal with a particular case.

Now, a Grand Mufti is the highest ranking official in a country, except in one particular case (which I’ll get to), so the Grand Mufti of a country is selected in different ways, but ultimately they are the highest authority on religious matters in a given country or territory (like a city, for example).

The exception to this is Egypt, as Egypt has a Grand Mufti, who is currently Dr. Ali Gomaa, but Egypt’s highest ranking religious figure is not the Grand Mufti, it is the Sheikh Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayeb. In Egypt, the Grand Mufti is an administrative position while he also heads Dar al-Ifta or the Fatwa Council as well as supervises the sentences involving capital offenses, but because of the importance of Al-Azhar, and Sheikh Al-Azhar’s position as the highest ranking religious scholar in Sunni Islam, the Sheikh Al-Azhar is the highest ranking religious figure in Egypt, but that is not to denigrate the Grand Mufti in the slightest, they simply perform different roles.

I hope this clears this up, it can get confusing, especially as titles are thrown around a lot among Western Muslim leaders.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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