Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad issued on Monday a decree boosting the role of the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence and expanding its jurisdiction. The order follows widespread criticism of Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmed Hassoun for remarks he gave at the funeral of the late artist Sabah Fakhri.
The decree also abolished the post held by Hassoun, the state-owned press agency SANA reported.
According to the decree, the Awqaf minister of Syria is the president of the Council, and two of his deputies are its members.
Other members include the head of the Union of Levant Scholars, the first Sharia judge in Damascus, 30 top Syrian scholars representing all of the country’s denominations, a representative of Friday prayer leaders, five women Quran scholars, and representatives from religious universities.
The Council is tasked, among other things, with announcing Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudential) rules about religious issues and determining the beginning and end of lunar Hijri months.
The decree stipulated the abolition of “Article 35” of the 2018 law, which stipulated that the Grand Mufti is named by a ministerial decree for a period of three years that could be extended.
It is noteworthy that Hassoun’s mandate ended on October 11 after serving as Grand Mufti for three years.
No decree for renewing his mandate has been issued, meaning that Hassoun is no longer Grand Mufti.
Hassoun, aged over 70, has exceeded the legal age allowed for filling the post.
Controversy arose in the past few days after Hassoun’s statements at Sabah Fakhri’s funeral. He addressed refugees abroad by saying, “go back to your country.”
Moreover, the decision to scrap the position of Mufti of Republic came after an interpretation of a verse of the Quran by Hassoun that drew angry reactions by the Council members who considered it a distortion of the verse.
Syria’s Council of Islamic Jurisprudence was formed in 2018 and had kickstarted its meetings in 2019.
It aims to “consolidate national unity regardless of diversity and to confront the ideology of the enemies of the nation, the takfiri extremists and followers of political Islam,” according to official statements.