The UAE is likely to appoint its first government-approved female muftis by the end of next year, according to The National. Six women are currently being considered for the training programme, which last several months.
A mufti is a scholar qualified to interpret Islamic law and issue religious opinions (fatwas).
The move appears to be the most significant of several changes in various Arab countries that are beginning to give women a greater role in religious affairs.
The Abu Dhabi fatwa centre, for instance, already has female religious advisers but their role is limited to "women's issues". The new female muftis will have a wider role advising on "matters of worship, jurisprudence, morality and behaviour", Dubai's Grand Mufti, Ahmed al-Haddad, said.
AFP notes that last year Egypt appointed its first female Islamic notary with the ability to perform marriages and divorces, and that since 2006, Morocco has trained mourchidates – female "guides" who give religious advice, especially in prisons, hospitals and schools.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 6 November 2009.