fat·​wa ˈfət-wə How to pronounce fatwa (audio)
: a legal opinion or decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader

Examples of fatwa in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Rushdie, the target of a decades-old fatwa by the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calling for his death, was stabbed in the neck, stomach, chest, hand and right eye. Carolyn Thompson, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2023 While the Iranian government sought to distance itself from the fatwa in 1998 by pledging not to seek to carry it out, its position on the issue has been ambiguous over the years. Lauren Kent, CNN, 16 May 2023 Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989 was not just targeted at a British novelist far away; it was meant to stifle emerging dissent, particularly in religious circles, after the humiliating end of the Iran-Iraq War the previous year. Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, Foreign Affairs, 12 Oct. 2022 Across social media, writers expressed concern for Rushdie’s health, but an instinctual solidarity with him and the sense—so strong at the time of the fatwa—that his fate spoke to all of us as members of a liberal society did not materialize. Russell Jacoby, Harper's Magazine, 16 Feb. 2023 Apart from Iran’s Islamic revolution, for which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini could claim only partial credit, his most momentous achievement was the February 1989 fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. Reuel Marc Gerecht, WSJ, 25 Aug. 2022 Related:Long after the fatwa, Salman Rushdie is headed to Dallas to talk about his latest novel, 'Quichotte' Tim Diovanni, Coordinating Arts & Entertainment Editor. Dallas News, 16 Aug. 2022 The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who described the book as an insult to Islam and the faith's Prophet Mohammed, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie's death in 1989. Aya Elamroussi, CNN, 16 Aug. 2022 And in 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini, denouncing the book as blasphemous, issued the fatwa. Aryeh Neier, The New Republic, 14 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fatwa.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Arabic fatwā

First Known Use

circa 1889, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fatwa was circa 1889

Dictionary Entries Near fatwa

Cite this Entry

“Fatwa.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fatwa. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on fatwa

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!