By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A13
Now that the British are leaving Shiastan and things are relatively quiet, folks there can fret about the more typical concerns of daily life. And many are logging on to the official Web site of the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for answers.
The attractive site -- http://www.sistani.org-- has the answer for just about anything, from bullfighting ("discouraged") to birth control ("permissible"), lying on your résumé (not permissible), cloning (okay) to Zoroastrians (no one asked yet).
The answers from Iraq's preeminent Shiite cleric are often pragmatic and seem in part aimed at getting people to chill out. For example, one person worried about whether it was okay to eat cheese from a non-Muslim country if he didn't know if it was prepared according to Muslim dietary laws.
" Answer: It is permissible for you to eat it."
Another e-mailer asked: "Can a Muslim, who rents a fully furnished house in the West, consider everything in it to be ritually pure as long as he does not find any trace of impure things in it, even if the previous occupant was from Ahlul Kitab, i.e., a Christian or a Jew? What if the previous occupant was a Buddhist or an atheist who does not believe in God and the prophets?
" Answer: Yes, he can consider everything in the house ritually pure as long as he does not know that it has become impure. Just conjecture or doubt about impurity is of no value."
Yet there are some areas where Sistani is adamantly hard-line, especially about copyright law.
" Question: What is the ruling on copying computer software, movies, audio CDs and other such things, which bear the wording 'All Rights Reserved' or 'Copyright'? Does this rule apply equally to Muslim made products and those made by non-Muslim individuals or companies?
" Answer: Copyrights must be respected; it is not permissible to copy a software product, if it is against the law.
" Question: A lot of Islamic books and software have copyrights on them. What is the Islamic view of copyrights? If I photocopy a book or duplicate a CD with a copyright am I doing a sin?
" Answer: Copying or duplicating a book or software without their owner's permission is not permissible.
" Question: Can I use cracked CD software?
"Answer: If someone else has cracked the software, you can use it but you are not allowed to copy or burn it into another compact disc."
Sistani and the Recording Industry Association of America, united at last!
The site is straightforward and easy to understand, but not for the frivolous. One e-mailer asked: "I have seen a dream that has made me very anxious, will His Eminence interpret it for me?"
" Answer: Grand Ayatollah Sistani does not interpret dreams. Should you have any questions in the area of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and ideological matters, do not hesitate to email us."
Or you can write the Ayatollah at his address in Qom, Iran, heart of the Islamic revolution, or two sub-offices in Iran or to his office in Damascus. Nothing listed in Iraq.
[Remainder of this article addresses other issues]
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