Sheikh Yûsuf al-Qâsim
A fatwâ is an Islamic legal ruling issued by scholars on the basis of the Qur’ân, the Prophet’s Sunnah or the understanding extracted from consensus, juristic reasoning (ijtihâd) or comparison with similar events.
A muftî is a qualified person who engages in the activity of issuing fatwâs.
Issuing of a fatwâ is permissible for anyone who is qualified to do it. There is no special class of people that monopolizes this activity. For a person to be qualified, he has to possess knowledge and piety.
In the case of official fatwâs that a government will act upon in its policy and legislation, Islamic governments normally take control to avoid the involvement of unqualified persons. This is needed in order to protect people and their interests. However, those people, once appointed, do not have the status of priests and their rulings do not become binding on the people. A fatwâ that is issued by one of these scholars will only become binding on the public if it is adopted by the government as official policy.
The basic conditions which should be observed by the one who issues fatwâs are the following:
1. Knowledge of the religion from its sources: the Qur’ân, the Sunnah, consensus, and juristic analogy (qiyâs). This includes knowledge of how to derive legal rulings from these sources.
2. Understanding the prevailing circumstances of society to be able to cope with contemporary issues properly.
3. Piety and good intentions.
Source: Islam Today