One of al-Qaradawi’s significant contributions was promoting the concept of wasatiyyah, which when interpreted means following a middle path, writes EMERITUS PROFESSOR SULEMAN DANGOR.
SHAIKH Yusuf al-Qaradawi who was born in Sift Turab, in Egypt, in 1926, is described as a scholar, jurist and author. He held many distinguishing positions, probably the most prominent being the founding president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
After completing primary school, he proceeded to Tanta to attend the Azhari secondary school. There, he met Hassan al-Banna and became one of his followers.
At 14, al-Qaradawi began officiating as imam at his village’s mosque on occasions such as Ramadaan. It was al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun who encouraged him to preach in other villages on the Nile Delta. When he was only 20, he started giving lessons in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in his village.
Shaikh al-Qaradawi began his studies at the Institute of Religious Studies. He later joined al-Azhar’s Faculty of the Fundamentals of Religion and Dawah, from where he graduated in 1953. He earned a diploma in Arabic Language and Literature in 1958 at the Advanced Arabic Studies Institute. In 1960, he received his MA degree in Quranic Studies from the Department of Quran and Sunnah Sciences.
Among scholars who had a great influence on Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi were Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim, Sayyid Rashid Rida, Hassan al-Banna, Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi, Abul A’la Maududi and Naeem Siddiqui. He backed the project of Islamic Renewal initiated by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh.
Shaikh al-Qaradawi authored over 120 books on diverse topics. I will mention a few below:
- Fiqh al-Zakat, based on his PhD thesis which he completed in 1973, proposes the reformation of the rules of zakaah to attain the objectives of economic justice.
- Fiqh al-Awlawiyyat (Fiqh of Priorities) reveals how Muslims give priority to unimportant issues over important ones, and how they exercise great caution when it comes to minor sins but do not pay the same attention to major sins.
- Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat (Fiqh of Minorities), deals with challenges confronting Muslim minorities
- Fiqh al-Jihad (Fiqh of Jihad) divides jihad into two categories: military and civil. The latter includes jihad against oppression and corruption, and intellectual and cultural jihad.
- Al-Halah wa’l-Haram fi’l Islam (The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam).
- al-Quds – qadiyyat kull Muslim (Jerusalem – the concern of every Muslim)
- Islamic Awakening between Rejection and Extremism, which discusses the phenomenon of religious extremism among Muslim youth. Qaradawi stated that the declaration of an Islamic caliphate by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) violates shariah law.
- Sunna – a Source of Knowledge & Civilisation
Shaikh al-Qaradawi had a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood). His link with the group led to his imprisonment under King Farouq, in 1949, and three more times during the term of President Gamal Abdul Nasser. He left Egypt for Qatar, in 1961.
In Qatar, al-Qaradawi laid the foundation for the Faculty of Shari’ah and Islamic Studies at the University of Qatar, in 1977, and was appointed as dean of the faculty. In the same year, he founded the Centre of Seerah and Sunna Research. He was also appointed in Algeria as Chairman of the Scientific Council of Islamic University and Higher Institutions in 1990-91.
Shaikh al-Qaradawi’s programme, al-Sharia wa al-Hayah (Shariah and life), broadcast on Al Jazeera, had an estimated audience of 40 to 60 million, worldwide. In 1997, he co-founded the website IslamOnline for which he served as the chief shaikh.
In the same year, al-Qaradawi established the European Council for Fatwah and Research, consisting of prominent Muslim scholars dedicated to researching and writing fatawah in support of Western Muslim minority communities based in Ireland.
One of al-Qaradawi’s significant contributions was promoting the concept of wasatiyyah, which when interpreted means following a middle path between extremes. He was very critical of extremist groups like Isis and leaders who advocated violence against the state, and was particularly critical of those guilty of takfirism. His willingness to consider the opinions of the four Sunni madhaahib as well as the Jafiri school opened new doors.
Shaikh al-Qaradawi also promoted interfaith dialogue. He worked closely with representatives of different faiths with the purpose of bringing about harmony and to counter hate speeches which emanated from various quarters.
The shaikh was highly critical of British colonialism and an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. He considered ‘suicide attacks’ as a justified form of resistance to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. His position was criticised by Western governments as well as Muslim governments and scholars and he was refused entry to the US, Britain and France.
After the downfall of Hosni Mubarak by the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, Shaikh al-Qaradawi returned to Egypt. He demanded the release of political prisoners, called for the new military rulers to quickly restore civilian rule, dissolution of the cabinet of Mubarak loyalists, and an end to the economic blockade of Gaza.
When Muhammad Morsi was toppled by the military, al-Qaradawi was expelled in 2014 and returned to Qatar. In 2015, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a court in Egypt.
Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi received many awards for his contribution to Islamic studies, Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic economics, and for his cultural and scientific achievements.