Al-Arabiya reports a bizarre controversy in Saudi Arabia, in which a bunch of Islamist preachers have evidently declared - with the support of an al-Azhar fatwa - that the contract of Saudi football star Yasser al-Qahtani can not be sold from one team to another. A fatwa against free agency - good thing Bud Selig never thought of this!
I don't follow Saudi football very closely, believe it or not, but from what I gather from the story a Saudi millionaire (Mansour al-Balawi) paid him 42 million Riyals to move to the Jiddah club. Saudi muftis responded by railing against the transaction in their Friday sermons, and by issuing a fatwa against it. Evidently, over-paying (Qahtani made 20 million Riyals for his Riyadh club) is against the sharia... at least when it means having your star player poached!
An al-Azhar fatwa committee then supported the Saudis. I admit that here's where I lose the thread: I get why the Saudi fans of the Riyadh club would issue a fataw to prevent their star player being poached by a rival, but I don't get why al-Azhar backed them up. Anyone?
At this point, a bunch of other ulema jumped into the controversy, rejecting the Saudi/Azhari fatwa - including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who saw nothing forbidden in such a transaction while offering what seems like a fan's defense of the virtues of football.
All I can say is that these Saudi muftis seem to have an exceptionally keen eye for picking out issues guaranteed to alienate themselves from the vast mainstream of Saudi (and wider Arab-Muslim) society. First Star Academy, now football? Maybe next they could denounce motherhood? Oh wait, here's a petition signed by 118 Saudi personalities rejecting the right of women to drive... so they seem to have that covered too. (Amazingly enough, no women signed the petition).