The mufti, or jurisconsult, stands between man and God, and issues opinions (fatwa, pl. fatawa or fatwas) to a petitioner (mustafti) either with regard to the laws of God or the deeds of man. In early Islam the mufti operated as a privately funded, free agent who was independent of state control. As successor to Muhammad in his role as jurist, the mufti was to exemplify sound juridical wisdom and moral rectitude. His knowledge of the Arabic language, the Qur˒anic sciences, and hadith traditions had to be thorough, as did his grasp of legal reasoning. Such idealized standards eventually yielded to societal needs, until, by the turn of the tenth century, the office of the mufti required that he be thoroughly grounded in no more than juridical precedent within a given school of law.
A mufti is distinct from a judge (qadi) in several ways. The judge's authority is generally delegated by the state, whereas the mufti's is delegated by his peers; the judge's ruling is final, or subject to limited appeal, whereas that of a mufti is but one of many competing juridical opinions; and the mufti rules most often on questions of law, whereas the qadi rules on fact.
A mufti must always appear dignified and neatly dressed, for he serves as a model of good behavior in public. He must avoid delivering opinions when angry, ill, or weary, and also when there appears to be a conflict of interests.
Masud, Muhammad Khalid; Messick, Brinkley; and Powers, David S., eds. Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and their Fatwas, Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Muneer Goolam Fareed
muf·ti1 / ˈməftē/ • n. (pl. muf·tis) a Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious matters. muf·ti2 • n. plain clothes worn by a person who wears a uniform for their job, such as a soldier or police officer: I was a flying officer in mufti.
In the Ottoman Empire, the Mufti (or Grand Mufti) was the name given to the official head of religion within the state, or to a deputy appointed by him as chief legal authority for a large city.