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Queries to muftis were supposed to address real and not hypothetical situations and be formulated in general terms, leaving out names of places and people.
Since a mufti was not supposed to inquire into the situation beyond the information included in the query, queries regarding contentious matters were often carefully constructed to elicit the desired response.
Some petitioners sought out a second fatwa because they were unsatisfied with the first, and the two sides in a legal dispute generally each sought to obtain a fatwa that would support their position.
Muftis often consulted another mufti on difficult cases, though this practice was not foreseen by legal theory, which saw futya as a transaction between one qualified jurist and one "unqualified" petitioner.
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The generation of Companions was in turn replaced in that role by the generation of Successors (tabi'un).
The concept of fatwa thus developed in Islamic communities under a question-and-answer format for communicating religious knowledge, and took on its definitive form with development of the classical theory of Islamic law.
The level of technical detail supplied in a fatwa, such as citations of sources or specification of legal methodologies employed, depended on the technical level of the petitioner.
In theory, a petitioner was supposed to verify the mufti's scholarly reputation, but mufti manuals (adab al-mufti) recognized that it would be difficult for a lay person to do so, and advised the petitioner to trust their sense of the mufti's piety and ideally follow the advice of a single scholar known for exemplary morals.