Wa `alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, thanks for your good and interesting question. It does really deserve attention and study.
The mufti should be well-versed in the sciences of Shari`ah such as Islamic jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, scholars' differences and agreements, and objectives of the Shari`ah. Also, he should be aware of the daily life and contemporary issues (`lm al-waqi`). The mufti should be aware of world changes, circumstances, and affairs. This requirement enables the mufti to implement Shari`ah-based evidence on current contemporary situations and problems.
The online mufti should know even more about the questioner's conditions, laws of his country, prevailing customs and so on, so that he would be able to give the right fatwa.
In his response to your question, Dr. Sano Koutoub Moustapha, deputy chairman of the International Fiqh Academy and professor of fiqh and its principles at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, stated,
Thank you very much for your kind question.
Certainly there are qualifications and conditions which the person must fulfill before allowing himself or herself to issue fatwas. Those qualifications may be summarized into the following:
1. Mastering the science of principles of jurisprudence,
2) Mastering the science of Hadith,
3) Mastering the science of Maqasid ash-Shari`ah (Objectives of Shari`ah),
4) Mastering legal maxims,
5) Mastering the science of comparative religions,
6) Mastering the foundations of social sciences,
7) Knowing Arabic, and
8) Having sufficient knowledge of social realities.
The abovementioned sciences are meant to help and enable the person to issue fatwas in accordance with the principles of Islamic teachings. Certainly, he or she must be qualified and have the basics and essences of these sciences, especially the sciences of principles of jurisprudence and the objectives of Shari`ah.
As far as online fatwas are concerned, I am of the opinion that the mufti must be fully aware of the realities and changes that are taking place in the world. He or she must be fully informed about the latest developments in the world. This will enable him or her to issue fatwas which are able to change and address the needs of social realities.
All in all, one should not give fatwas before becoming qualified. It is just like giving medicine to a sick person before being qualified in the field of medicine. A fatwa is a medicine which has to be given by a qualified physician.
In this context, I shall call upon those beloved brothers and sisters who are exercising and issuing fatwas without being suitably qualified and say that they must refrain from doing this. The Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) once said: "Those who do not fear Hell among you are those who have no hesitation in issuing a fatwa without having qualifications."
Accordingly, they should refer all matters and questions to qualified and sincere people.
May Allah guide all of us and may He grant us better understanding of His divine order.