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Saudi grand mufti denies issuing fatwa permitting man to chop up and eat wife in event of extreme hungerGetty

A leading Saudi Arabian cleric has denied issuing a controversial fatwa allowing a husband to chop up his wife and eat her body in the event of extreme hunger.

Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti who is the highest religious figure in Saudi Arabia, has said the alleged fatwa was peddled by anti-Saudi forces and was not issued by him.

In a statement released via the Saudi Press Agency, the cleric said: "The fatwa attributed to us is wrong. It is nothing but lies ... It has been circulated to distort the image of Islam, which has elevated and granted a dignified status to men and women without exceptions..."

The fatwa, an Islamic edict, was widely attributed to the mufti of Saudi mufti though it was not formally announced.

Religious authorities were quick to point out the Saudi mufti did not issue any such fatwa to quell the speculation.

"The truth is that this is fabricated and made up from its basis. These ill thoughts cannot come from any Muslim, regardless of a great scholar who Muslims refer to from around the world. It was made up to create this confusion and damage," Khalid ben Abdel-Rahman El-Shaye, assistant secretary general of the Global Commission for Introducing the Messenger, affiliating to the Muslim World League, told CNN Arabic.

According to local reports, the alleged fatwa "allows a man to eat his wife or parts of her body, if the husband was afflicted with a severe hunger. The fatwa is interpreted as evidence of the sacrifice of women and obedience to her husband and her desire for the two to become one".

The reported fatwa has stoked controversy as many derided it over various social media platforms.

Not long ago, the Saudi grand mufti waded into controversy by saying all the churches across the Middle East need to be destroyed. Previously, he also declared Twitter was the "source of all evil".

Updated on 10 April to reflect Saudi denial.