Dar al-Ifta issued a fatwa on its official website on Saturday stipulating that chatting between men and women who do not know each other is prohibited in Islam, and should be done only in conditions of extreme necessity.
Dar al-Ifta, which falls under the jurisdiction of Al-Azhar, is Egypt’s official gate for issuing religious fatwas related to Islam.
Under a section called “mind-preoccupying fatwas,” Dar al-Ifta said that chatting between men and women strangers is a waste of time, “as many experiences in our present time prove that this opens the door for evil and frivolity, an entrance for Satan, and is a source of corruption and sedition.”
The fatwa also instructed women not to send personal photos online to people they don’t know, in order to protect themselves, and to keep their own chastity and dignity intact.
The fatwa went viral on social media, as users lambasted it as a regressive and extremist move by the Islamic institution. Others believe that Dar al-Ifta has lost track of its priorities and its role.
“Would anyone in Dar al-Ifta give us a fatwa about torture in police stations? Exporting gas to Israel? Money over consumption by the presidency? Unemployed youth, for example?” one Twitter user said.
Another Twitter user slammed Al-Azhar’s silence on the practices of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against women and non-Muslim minorities.
“Chatting is prohibited, but it is not prohibited that women are taken as slaves and forced into sex,” she explained.
According to privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm, Dar al-Ifta stated that the fatwa is old and dates back to 2011. However, the fatwa is displayed on Dar al-Ifta website’s main page, without the date of posting.
Al-Azhar launched a campaign earlier against ISIS, urging media outlets not to use the term “The Islamic State” to refer to the extremist jihadi group that is currently occupying parts of Syria and Iraq, and to call them “Qaeda Separatists” instead.
Dar al-Ifta promoted a Facebook page named “ISIS under the Microscope,” that aims to question how to confront ISIS and how to end its influence.
In a statement released by the page, the country’s Grand Mufti, Shawky Allam, described ISIS as a “Satanic plant” and a “stray” terrorist organization.