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Home > definition and current debates > ’Snowmen are anti -Islamic’, cleric issues a fatwa

’Snowmen are anti -Islamic’, cleric issues a fatwa

Saturday 17 January 2015, by siawi3

Saudi cleric issues fatwa on snowmen

Religious leader forbids building of anti-Islamic idols that might resemble human beings, after winter storm in north of country


The building of snowmen has been forbidden by a top Saudi cleric.
Photograph: Vadim Ghirda/AP
Reuters in Dubai

Monday 12 January 2015 12.18 EST

A prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has whipped up controversy by issuing a religious edict forbidding the building of snowmen, describing them as anti-Islamic.
Asked on a religious website if it was permissible for fathers to build snowmen for their children after a snowstorm in the country’s north, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid replied: “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun.”
Quoting from Muslim scholars, Munajjid argued that to build a snowman was to create an image of a human being, an action considered sinful under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.
“God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on,” he wrote in his ruling.
That provoked swift responses from Twitter users writing in Arabic and identifying themselves with Arab names.
“They are afraid for their faith of everything ... sick minds,” one Twitter user wrote.
Another posted a photo of a man in formal Arab garb holding the arm of a “snow bride” wearing a bra and lipstick. “The reason for the ban is fear of sedition,” he wrote.
A third said the country was plagued by two types of people: “A people looking for a fatwa [religious ruling] for everything in their lives, and a cleric who wants to interfere in everything in the lives of others through a fatwa.”
Munajjid had some supporters however. “It (building snowmen) is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism,” one wrote. “May God preserve the scholars, for they enjoy sharp vision and recognise matters that even Satan does not think about.”
Snow has covered upland areas of Tabuk province near Saudi Arabia’s border with Jordan for the third consecutive year as cold weather swept across the Middle East.



Seriously, a fatwa against snowmen? Saudis push back on Twitter.

A prominent Saudi cleric issued a religious ruling against snowmen and other creatures, suggesting ’lifeless’ forms such as boats and fruits instead.

By Taylor Luck, Correspondent January 14, 2015

Mohamed Alhwaity/Reuters/File
View Caption

Amman, Jordan — When a historic blizzard swept Saudi Arabia last week, residents reveled in the snow, creating Saudi-style sculptures.
A flurry of photos on social media show frosty camels, snow sheikhs adorned with red-and-white headdresses, and snow women wearing black veils concealing their frosty faces.
Sheikh Mohammed Saleh Munajjid, a prominent Saudi cleric, wasn’t amused. He issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, against such sculptures, suggesting instead “lifeless” forms such as boats and fruits.
Recommended: How much do you know about Egypt? Take this quiz.
He based his ruling on Islam’s historic stance against the worshipping of “images of animated life painted by hand, carved in wood or copper,” reminding followers that in pre-Islamic times “infidels” would worship statues they fashioned out of dates.
Sheikh Munajjid’s edict met with such a backlash on social media, however, that he was forced to climb down late Monday. He conceded that snow sculptures outlining the bodies of humans or animals were acceptable as long as they remain “without the clear landmarks of a face such as an eye, a nose or a mouth,” similar to scarecrows.
While social media has been blamed for a proliferation of questionable fatwas, which can propel an imam from obscurity to overnight celebrity, the reverse is also true: Millions of Muslims across the world can instantly critique the credentials and jurisprudence behind each imam’s fatwa.
This online interaction reflects the Islamic principle of ijma, or consensus, on religious edicts, under which public opinion is able to cast off weak or impractical fatwas.
Last May, Saudi cleric Abdullah Swuailem issued an edict forbidding travel to non-Muslim states except “in extreme necessity,” adding that “whoever dies in the land of infidelity could go to hell.” The previous year, Dubai’s Department of Islamic Affairs said husbands could divorce their wives via text message. Both edicts met a backlash and were disregarded.
Without a central body responsible for fatwas, Islam leaves it to religious scholars to judge the fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudence, of each edict.
The strength of a fatwa rests on its basis in the Holy Quran or in the sunnah tradition, comprised of sayings, or hadiths, attributed to the prophet Muhammad by his followers. The closer the source of a hadith was to the prophet, the stronger the fatwa. Others are weighed against previous fatwas and practices accepted by a majority of Islamic scholars as fiqh.
Many Muslim states seek to regulate fatwas using semi-governmental institutions so as to weed out those deemed politically threatening and promote those aimed at ensuring stability, as seen during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Yet they remain largely powerless at censoring the Internet, where with the click of a button a cleric can directly reach millions of Muslims across the world – and some clerics in Saudi have more than a million Twitter followers.
So what was once a one-sided discussion of Islamic do’s and don’ts has become a robust and evolving debate.
Saudi Twitter users made that clear to the Saudi cleric. Even after he amended his anti-snowman fatwa, they posted photos of their latest snow-sheikhs tagged to his Twitter account – with “clear landmarks of a face.”