Activists on social media are circulating a legal opinion (fatwa) by the late Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz, in which the former Mufti of Saudi Arabia stated his position on the Muslim Brotherhood. Bin Baz served as the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1992 until his death in 1999.

The question to which Bin Baz responded was: “In the Muslim world today, there are several groups and methods, Sufism for example, in addition to the Tablighi Jamaat, the Muslim Brotherhood, Sunnis and Shia. How can we know the groups which abide by the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet?”

Bin Baz issued his fatwa in his role as chairman of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Iftaa in Saudi Arabia. In Fatwa 6250 he said: “The most righteous Islamic groups and the closest to the teachings of the Prophet are Ahl Al-Sunnah, including Ahl Al-Hadith, Jamaat Ansar Al-Sunna and then comes the Muslim Brotherhood. In general, all of the Islamic groups can be right or wrong at times, so you need to collaborate with them when doing the right thing and avoid the errors they make. I advise all Muslims to cooperate in order to achieve righteousness and piety.”

This fatwa has now been re-circulated widely. It was not the first of its kind, though. In another opinion, the late Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Jibreen, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia, said on his official website: “We are loyal to and support every Sunni group calling for the Sharia, encouraging goodness, forbidding evil and avoiding sins. Hence, we need to advise and warn these groups if they have some kind of deficiency or violate the major teachings of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood, which calls for the absolute submission to Allah and which advises Muslims and shows the right path to those who accompanied them, is included too.”

According to Salman Bin Fahd Al-Ouda, a Saudi scholar and the Assistant Secretary-General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, “The Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organisation, and I think they are moderate, fair and good. I do not belong to the Brotherhood, but I am proud that I have many acquaintances who are active members of such group and I cherish their friendship.” Indeed, the Sheikh pointed out that he based his studies on many books written by some members of the movement. “The Brotherhood has a long history, and its members are sincere and credible. The organisation has an undeniable intellectual background, and I appreciate the efforts they are making. Hence, my words are a testimonial which I have no fear or regret to express.”

However, the current Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and head of the Council of Senior Scholars called the Brotherhood an extremist organisation similar to “ISIS” and “Al-Nusra Front” when responding to a student during a seminar held in 2014. “These groups have fallen in blasphemy and error and do not belong to Islam,” claimed Abdul-Aziz Al Ash-Sheikh at the seminar in Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Grand Mosque in Riyadh.

Since the diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, many Saudi scholars have been under pressure to adopt and support Riyadh’s official position against Doha, which maintains that the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism are supported

and financed by Qatar. It has been reported that a prominent Saudi scholar was arrested for two days and had his passport taken off him in a government attempt to force him and others to attack Qatar in the media.

The circulation of prominent jurists’ opinions about the Muslim Brotherhood by activists and opponents of the boycott of Doha is intended to strengthen the position of Qatar, as they generally refute the charges of terrorism against the movement.