The Grand Mufti (Arabic: مفتي عام muftī ʿām , "general expounder" or كبير المفتينkabīr al-muftīn , "the great of expounders") is the highest official of religious law in a Sunni or IbadiMuslim country. The Grand Mufti issues legal opinions and edicts, fatāwā, on interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence for private clients or to assist judges in deciding cases. The collected opinions of the Grand Mufti serve as a valuable source of information on the practical application of Islamic law as opposed to its abstract formulation. The Grand Mufti's fatāwā (plural of "fatwā") are not binding precedents in areas of civil laws regulating marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In criminal courts, the Grand Mufti's recommendations are generally not binding either.
Muftis are Muslim religious scholars who issue influential legal opinions (fatwas) interpreting Sharia (Islamic law). The Ottoman Empire began the practice of giving official recognition and status to a single mufti, above all others, as the Grand Mufti. The Grand Mufti of Istanbul had, since the late 16th century, come to be regarded as the head of the religious establishment. He was thus not only pre-eminent but bureaucratically responsible for the body of religious-legal scholars and gave legal rulings on important state policies such as the dethronement of rulers. This practice was subsequently borrowed and adapted by Egypt from the mid-19th century. From there, the concept spread to other Muslim states, so that today there are approximately 16 countries with sizeable Muslim populations which have a Grand Mufti. The relationship between the Grand Mufti of any given state and the state's rulers can vary considerably, both by region and by historical era.
Throughout the era of British colonialism, the British retained the institution of Grand Mufti in some Muslim areas under their control and accorded the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem the highest political stature in Palestine.
During World War I (1914–1918), there were two competing Grand Muftis of Jerusalem, one endorsed by the British and one by the Ottoman Empire.
When Palestine was under British rule, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a position appointed by the British Mandate authorities.
In countries such as Australia where the office of Grand Mufti receives no official seal of government imprimatur, clerics can be elected to the position by one segment of the Islamic community in that country and yet not be recognised by other Muslim communities in that country.
Indonesia has a system of collective mufti, in which the position of Grand Mufti is held by the Indonesian Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia). This assembly can make fatāwā.
Malaysia also has a unique system of collective mufti. Nine of the fourteen Malaysian states have their own constitutional monarchy; eight are ruled by sultans (the title for the rulers of Kelantan, Kedah, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Selangor, Perak and Johore) and one by a raja (the title for the ruler of Perlis). These nine monarchs have authority over religious matters within their own states: therefore, each of these nine states have their own mufti who usually controls the Islamic Council or Islamic Department of the state. At the national level, a National Council of Fatwa (Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan) has been formed under the Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia or JAKIM). JAKIM appoints five Muftis for the five states which don't have monarchs. The muftis of the nine monarchical states, together with the five officials appointed by JAKIM in the National Council of Fatwā, collectively issue fatāwā at the national level.
Sri Lanka has system of collective ulama from different traditions of Islam. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama has a President who oversees the decisions but doesn't necessarity have the powers to overturn any decisions made by rest of the ulama. The concept is similar to a DemocraticCoalition system. The current President is Ash-Sheikh Mufti M.I.M. Rizwe.