Britain’s First Fatwa Research Centre (est. 1981)

Yahya Birt
3 min readJun 7, 2023
The original Urdu announcement of Britain’s first dar al-ifta’ in 1981

Among the late Maulana Yusuf Motala’s many achievements is the establishment of a dar al-ifta’ inside the Darul-‘Ulum al-‘Arabiyya al-Islamiyya in Holcombe near Bury in 1981, founded only eight years after the seminary’s own inauguration. Given this early date, this may well be the first dar al-ifta’ founded in Britain.[1] As a fatwa research centre, its placement within the Islamic seminary was designed to assure the Muslim public that it would have the practical support and backing of the other religious scholars at “Bury”, as the seminary was and is colloquially known among British Muslims. A fatwa is a non-binding legal opinion, and as the announcement indicates, the common practice is to write to or visit a mufti (a Muslim legal expert who can issue fatwas) to ask questions about religious matters relating to worship or social transactions.

The translation, thanks to Prof. Sajjad Rizvi, follows below:

The Establishment of Dar al-ifta’ inside Darul-’Ulum

Tens of thousands of Muslims from different countries have migrated to Britain and set up permanent residence here. For them and their future generations one needs to establish not only maktabs and madrasas but also a dar al-ifta’ so that their everyday concerns concerning acts of worship and social transactions can be answered. For some years Maulana Abdul Baqi, who lived in Wimbledon, fulfilled the need of responding to questions but for some time he has become incapacitated. So there is a need for a dar al-ifta’ in the Darul-‘Ulum where Muslims can get answers to their religious questions.

Those at the Darul-’Ulum have felt this need so they chose an able student who had completed his secondary state education and studied hifz, grammar, fiqh, adab and other disciplines with his teachers at the Darul-’Ulum and then went to the Mazahirul-’Ulum in Saharanpur [in Uttar Pradesh, India], where he studied hadith for two years and received a sanad and then on the advice of Darul-’Ulum remained in Saharanpur and attained the rank of mufti.

Having got these licenses he now teaches hadith studies at Darul-‘Ulum and can answer questions. He is Mufti Shabbir Ahmad who can read and write Urdu, Gujarati and English. So readers are requested to refer to Mufti Sahib for their religious questions and to send no more than three questions in a letter sealed in an envelope.

The servant of the Darul-‘Ulum

Maulana Yusuf Motala


[1] Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam issued some fatwas, with the first coming in 1894. However, certainly there is no claim made that a something akin to a dar al-ifta’ was set up in the Liverpool Muslim Institute. If readers are aware of an earlier dar al-ifta’ in the UK that predates the one at “Bury” then please do get in touch.