How lawful are the fatwa?

Can you please explain what qualifications are required to issue a fatwa, and who is entitled to give a fatwa? Finally, how binding is a fatwa?


Before deciding who has the right to issue a fatwa, it is necessary first to define what is a fatwa.
A fatwa is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law and is issued by an Islamic Imam or scholar. Although in the Sunni sect a fatwa may not be binding, yet in the Shia sect it is binding and is enforceable as law.
In contrast, the Quran tells us that God is the only lawmaker, and hence no human (Imam, scholar or similar) has the authority to issue religious laws:

Shall I seek other than God as a lawmaker when it is He who has brought down to you the Book fully detailed?"

We also read in the Quran that not even the prophet Muhammad had the right to make laws.
We read in the Quran about an occasion when the prophet made the error of prohibiting something which was not prohibited by God and God immediately reprimanded him in the Quran:

O you prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, seeking to please your wives.

We must indeed inquire as to why God included this verse in the Quran? Does God intend to belittle the prophet and to highlight his errors in the eyes of the believers? The answer is no. The reason God placed this very important verse in the Quran is to ascertain every reader of the Quran, and across all ages, that no one has the right to issue religious laws (fatwa'a) except God. Messengers are sent as deliverers of God's message (5:99) and not as lawmakers. We read in the Quran that prophet Muhammad was commanded to rule among the people only through what God revealed to him in the Quran:

And we brought down to you (O Muhammad) the Book with truth, confirming what came before it of the Scriptures and superseding it. So rule among them in accordance with what God has brought down, and do not follow their personal desires in place of what has come to you of the truth.

In addition, we read the following very significant words in Sura 4:

They ask you for a fatwa regarding women. Say, "God gives you a fatwa regarding them, and also regarding what is recited to you in the Book about the orphaned girls to whom you do not give what has been decreed for them and you wish to marry them, and about the oppressed children, and about the orphans whose welfare you should maintain equitably. Whatever good you do, God is Knowledgeable thereof. 4:127

In the above verse,
God tells Muhammad that when people ask him for a fatwa that he is to say that it is God who issues a fatwa. The importance of this verse, together with 6:114 and 66:1 is immense in confirming that God is the only lawmaker, and that the sole duty of any messenger is to deliver God's message (5:99). This verse also renders all fatwas issued by Imams and religious figures as unlawful.
From the above verses we can establish the following:

1- All man made fatwa's are unlawful (6:114)
2- All who issue fatwa's are intruding on the exclusive right of God as being the only law giver, and thus they are committing a great sin.
3- All who follow such fatwa's are committing shirk (associating others with God). This is because they have set up their Imams (or their source of fatwa) as a partner with God as a lawmaker:

Or do they have 'shuraka'a' (partners) who legislate for them of the religion what God did not authorize. Had it not been for a decisive Word, judgement would have already been passed over them. Indeed, the transgressors shall have a painful punishment.