KARACHI -- More than 1,800 prominent Pakistani religious scholars issued a fatwa earlier this month, condemning suicide attacks, armed uprisings and acts of terrorism in the name of Sharia.
The fatwa, issued January 15, was signed by 1,829 religious scholars and teachers belonging to various sects and schools of thoughts.
The state-run Islamic Research Institute at the International Islamic University Islamabad compiled the fatwa titled "Paigham-e-Pakistan" (Message of Pakistan) and released it to the public during a ceremony at Aiwan-e-Sadr, the presidential palace in Islamabad.
Many prominent Islamic scholars signed the fatwa, including the heads of all five boards of religious seminaries of all sects and religious groups.
Fatwa against terrorism, 'jihad'
The fatwa condemns terrorism and extremism and labels suicide attackers and those who support and train them as traitors.
It also declared that the act of waging war and bloodshed in the name of "jihad" can only be initiated by the state, and endorses the government's ongoing actions against anti-peace elements.
Religious scholars and analysts are hopeful the fatwa will help discredit terrorist groups that use name of Islam for their nefarious and un-Islamic motives.
Maulana Rafi Rehman, one of the signatories of the fatwa, said the fatwa can help remove misconceptions about militancy through the teaching of the Koran and true interpretation of Islam.
"Islam is a religion of peace and reconciliation, but the militants, not only in Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan and other Gulf countries, present a completely opposite image," Rehman said.
This fatwa will help educate the youth to keep them away from joining the militancy, he said.
Sabookh Syed, an Islamabad-based analyst who studies religious groups in Pakistan, said the fatwa will have a positive effect on the security situation in Pakistan.
"To gather religious clerics of various sects and schools of thought and making them agree on a fatwa against terrorism is indeed a great achievement," he said.
Building on past fatwas
Pakistani religious scholars have issued fatwas against the Taliban, terrorism and acts of violence in the past.
A group of 31 religious scholars signed a fatwa on May 27, 2017, declaring suicide attacks, insurgency against the state and terrorist activity of any kind in the name of Sharia haram (strictly forbidden) in Islam.
The Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) issued a fatwa in June 2013 against Taliban militants, terrorism and suicide bombings. "Suicide attacks are forbidden in Islam, and those involved in the killing of innocent people are condemned to hell," the fatwa said.
Similarly in October 2012, at least 50 religious scholars associated with the SIC declared the Taliban and terrorist attacks "un-Islamic" in a fatwa.
"The Taliban's version of Islam deviates from the authentic interpretation of Sharia," the fatwa said, adding that the Taliban have nothing to do with Islam and are driven by ignorance.