Dubai will use artificial intelligence (AI) to dole out fatwas virtually, the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai (IACAD) announced on Tuesday, October 29. The initiative is called virtual ifta - which means the act of issuing a fatwa (formal ruling or interpretation on a point of Islamic law given by a qualified Islamic scholar).
The IACAD receives requests for around 130,000 fatwas annually. The initiative will offer a virtual assistant to users from around the world for their questions.
The first phase of the platform was launched at the Emirates Towers, where a three-day exhibition depicting the different stages of fatwa is being held. Available 24/7, the project is in line with the 'Dubai 10X' initiative, which aims to provide solutions that are progressive and contribute to the sustainability and competitiveness of Dubai as the city of the future.
Abdullah Al Awadhi, project manager of the programme, said: "The virtual platform aims to serve Muslims across the world by providing fatwas in different languages. Today's soft launch will include prayer-related (salah) topics through the IACAD's channels such as the website and the smart application in Arabic and English. The next phase will include WhatsApp, which will address issues related to Ifta, such as fasting, prayer and purity, as well as other topics of interest."
Encouraging people to opt for the virtual service, Dr Ahmed Abdulaziz Haddad, director of Ifta at the IACAD, said: "The newest addition to the fatwas section at the IACAD is quite accurate and will provide quicker and safe fatwas to people that will help them steer clear from consulting non-specialists who may give them wrong information or misguide them."
The launch coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the IACAD in Dubai.
Grand Mufti at the fatwa section, Mohamad Ayada Ayoub Al Kobaisi, said the platform will help ease the load of fatwas on the IACAD. "We have now utilised AI technology for the huge bank of fatwas we have. To start with, we are focusing on prayer-related topics, where we are using AI technology to help sort the fatwas, analyse them and give concise answers. We then put these answers in the system to be utilised by different users through our website and social media platforms."
Talking about the accuracy of the fatwas issued, Alkobaisi said there are different levels for AI to understand the question. "For example, until the virtual assistant is not 85 per cent sure about the topic/question asked, it will not respond. In case it is below 85 per cent of its understanding, the AI-powered assistant will give the customer an option of the question it has understood and with options of similar questions. Or it may ask the customer to rephrase and ask the question again in another way so it can grasp it and reply accurately."
Virtual Ifta explained
> It is a 24/7 smart fatwa system that is available to anyone around the world
> It answers queries in Arabic and English
> A virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence guides people through the procedure
> The virtual assistant has to be 85% sure about the question before it responds
> In case the understanding level is below 85%, it gives the user a variety of similar questions or asks him/her to rephrase the question
>It reshapes the mechanism of providing Sharia fatwas through artificial intelligence technology
By Saman Haziq
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