A portrait of Muslim Brotherhood's supreme authority

Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who preached in Tahrir Square 10 days ago, loathes Israel, justifies suicide bombings against its civilians.

Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
1. Sheikh Dr. Yusuf Abdallah al-Qaradawi is a central figure affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. He was expelled from Egypt and found refuge in Qatar, operating from there throughout the Muslim world.
2. Many consider him the supreme religious and ideological authority for the Muslim Brotherhood, although he is not officially its leader. (In the past, he refused to accept the title of the Muslim Brotherhood’s General Guide). He is influential in Egypt and considered one of the most important Sunni Muslim clerics of our generation, and a spiritual authority for millions of Muslims around the world, including the Hamas movement.
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3. Al-Qaradawi's popularity among the Sunnis has grown because of the massive use he makes of electronic media, mainly television and the Internet. One of his most important tools is the Al-Jazeera TV channel, which broadcasts his popular program “Life and Islamic Law,” viewed by tens of millions of Muslims.
4. Al-Qaradawi has often exploited the program for blatant anti-Semitic propaganda and incitement (see below). He was also one of the founders of the IslamOnline website in 1997, which often quotes him.
5. Al-Qaradawi refers to his religious views as “moderate Islam,” which seeks to balance intellect and emotion. He has positive attitudes toward reforms in Islam, which he calls “correcting perceptions which were corrupted.” He is considered one of the foremost propounders of the doctrine of the “the law of the Muslim minorities,” which provides the Muslim minorities around the globe with space in which to maneuver and compromise between their daily lives and Islamic law. The aim of implementing his doctrine is to unite and unify Muslim minorities to make it possible for them to live under non-Muslim regimes, until the final stage of spreading Islam to the entire world.
6. At the same time, building a bridge between the exigencies of Muslim emigrants’ daily lives and Islamic religious law also includes regarding taking over Europe as Islam’s next target. In 2003, al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa declaring that “Islam will return to Europe as a victorious conqueror after having been expelled twice. This time it will not be conquest by the sword, but by preaching and spreading [Islamic] ideology…The future belongs to Islam…The spread of Islam until it conquers the entire world and includes the both East and West marks the beginning of the return of the Islamic Caliphate…”
7. Although al-Qaradawi opposes Al-Qaida and its methods, he enthusiastically supports Palestinian terrorism, including suicide bombing attacks targeting the civilian Israeli population. In the past he also supported “resistance” (i.e., terrorism) to the occupation of Iraq. He issued fatwas calling for jihad against Israel and the Jews, and authorizing suicide bombing attacks even if the victims were women and children. He regards all of “Palestine” as Muslim territory (according to Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas ideology), strongly opposes the existence of the State of Israel and rejects the peace treaties signed with it, and opposes the Palestinian Authority. (In the past, he called for the stoning of Mahmoud Abbas.)
8. In response to the dramatic events in Egypt, al-Qaradawi (whose statements are widely reported in Egypt) expressed his support for the demonstrators. He called on the Egyptian people to fight the despots and forbade the security forces to shoot civilians. The IslamOnline website recently posted a chapter of his book [Islamic] Law and Jihad, according to which jihad against corruption and a tyrannical regime is the most exalted form of jihad, even more important than jihad against external enemies.
9. Al-Qaradawi was expelled from Egypt in 1997 because of his affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed. After Mubarak was ousted, al-Qaradawi appeared at a February 18 rally attended by more than a million people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and delivered the sermon. He expressed his esteem for the young people of Egypt who had revolted against the “despotic Pharaoh” Mubarak. He sent a message of interfaith unity between Muslims and Christians, who had stood and demonstrated side by side. He praised the Egyptian army which had “adhered to freedom and democracy” and called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and for the rapid formation of a civilian government. He ended the sermon with a call for the liberation of Al-Aksa mosque and asked the Egyptian army to open the Rafah crossing and allow aid convoys to enter the Gaza Strip. A few days later, apparently on February 21, he returned to Qatar.
10. The Muslim Brotherhood, which until al-Qaradawi's arrival was careful to keep a low profile, was quick to declare that it was not behind the invitation that brought him to Egypt, apparently to prevent tensions with the other protest movements. Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad al-Katatni, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said that the Muslim Brotherhood had not invited al-Qaradawi to Egypt, but rather that the invitation had come from “the youth in [Tahrir] Square.” Spokesmen for other protest movements tried to diminish the importance of al- Qaradawi’s appearance.
11. Al-Qaradawi’s appearance at the rally in Cairo was a tribute to the great popularity he enjoys in Egypt and reflects a new stage in the Muslim Brotherhood’s public involvement in the events in Egypt. However, the statement made by the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman may indicate a potential rivalry and/or dissension between the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt and al-Qaradawi, who entered the leadership vacuum which has plagued the Muslim Brotherhood in recent years. Al-Qaradawi’s biography
12. Al-Qaradawi was born in a small Nile delta village in 1926. His father died when he was two and he grew up in his uncle’s house, in a religious environment. When he was four he was sent to a religious school. According to stories, when he was nine he knew the Koran by heart. As a youth he studied at a religious school in Tanta, where he delved into the writings of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom al-Qaradawi said shaped his political and religious thinking.
13. When he was 18 he became a student in the religion department of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He graduated in 1953. The following year he passed the exam to receive a teaching license. In 1958 he received a Master’s degree in Arab language and literature and in 1973 received a Doctorate. He has written more than 50 books about various aspects of Islamic jurisprudence. During his studies at Al-Azhar he was exposed to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and devoted himself to political Islamic activity and to preaching against the British presence in Egypt. His preaching against Nasser’s regime led to his being arrested several times.
14. His Islamic political activity and sharp tongue caused him to be dismissed from Al-Azhar University in 1961 and assigned to head its branch in Qatar. In Qatar, released from the pressures of the Egyptian regime, he became prominent as an independent cleric. He has lived in Qatar since 1961, where he headed an high religious school. In 1977 he founded the Department of Islamic Law Studies in the University of Qatar and headed it until 1990. He also founded an institute for Sunnah study.
15. To this day, the institutions he founded are important centers for his activity in the Arab- Muslim world and among Muslim communities in the West. He was granted Qatari citizenship in honor of the services he performed for the country. He has received a number of awards and decorations, among them the King Feisal of Saudi Arabia Award, the Islamic University of Malaysia Award and the Sultan of Burundi Award.
16. After the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed, al- Qaradawi was a wanted man and could not return to Egypt. From his base in Qatar, he has held a number of posts, both in and outside the country. These included head of the Qatar University’s institute for the study of the history of the prophet Muhammad; chairman of the association of Muslim scholars, and head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. (The ECFR is an Islamic-European umbrella organization for the rapprochement between Muslim communities throughout Europe and for building bridges between the various Islamic schools so that they can integrate life in democratic Christian Europe with Muslim law.) In July 2007 he launched a forum for moderate Islam named after himself and funded by the Sharia department of the University of Qatar and the moderate Islamic Center in Kuwait. Although al-Qaradawi began as a Muslim Brotherhood activist he later denied membership in it and several times even refused to head the movement in Egypt. Ideology, political activity and publications
17. Conservative Muslims object to what they consider al- Qaradawi's excessive flexibility and have occasionally attacked his fatwas as “too permissive.” Despite the criticism he is esteemed in the Muslim world and most Muslim clerics respect his fatwas. Many people today consider him the heir of Sayyid Qutb (the Muslim Brotherhood theoretician and senior activist in Egypt) and as the movement’s highest religious and ideological authority, even if he did reject offers to officially head it.
18. The most important of Al-Qaradawi’s books is The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam. It was translated into many languages and has sold millions of copies. Today it is considered the best selling Muslim book after the Koran.
19. Al-Qaradawi’s enthusiastic support of Palestinian terrorism, including when it is directed against civilians, reflects his claim that Israel is a militaristic society where every civilian is a potential soldier. He has also issued fatwas authorizing attacks on Jews around the world because in his view there is no essential difference between Judaism and Zionism, and therefore every Jewish target equals an Israeli target. His status as a leading Sunni Muslim cleric gives added importance to his fatwas supporting Palestinian terrorism and make him particularly influential in shaping anti-Israeli sentiments in the Arab-Muslim world.
20. In July 2003, during the height of the suicide bombing terrorism (the second intifada), he addressed the issue of suicide bombings at an ECFR conference. He said that istishhad (death as a martyr for the sake of Allah), carried out by Palestinian organizations to oppose the so-called “Zionist occupation,” were by no means to be defined as terrorism.
21. Senior Hamas figures relied on al-Qaradawi’s fatwas which authorize suicide bombing attacks against Israel to justify such attacks. For example: a) Sheikh Hamid al-Bitawi, a senior Hamas activist in Judea and Samaria, relying on an al- Qaradawi fatwa, said that according to Islamic jurisprudence, “jihad is a collective duty…” and that if infidels occupy any bit of Muslim land – such as the occupation of Palestine by the Jews – jihad becomes the duty of every individual, thus making it permissible to carry out suicide bombing attacks. b) Dr. Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, a senior Hamas leader who died in a targeted killing, relying on a fatwa issued by al-Qaradawi, said that “suicide depends on intention. If the person intends to kill himself because he is fed up with life, that is suicide (which is prohibited). However, if he wants to die to strike at the enemy and to receive a reward from Allah, he is considered as delivering up his soul [and not as committing suicide].”
22. To help fund Hamas’s civilian infrastructure (the da’wah) al-Qaradawi established the Union of Good, which he heads today. It is an umbrella organization which raises money for Hamas and other Islamist activities around the globe. The Union of Good was declared a terrorism-sponsoring organization and outlawed by Israel in February 2002. In December 2002 it was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and outlawed.
23. At the beginning of 2010 he criticized Abbas for a UN vote regarding the Goldstone Report, and issued a fatwa calling for Abbas to be stoned in Mecca. Abbas demanded a retraction from al-Qaradawi, who denied having issued the fatwa. However, he did admit that during a sermon he said that if accusations against any person in the Palestinian Authority were proved true [i.e., that he had supported the cancellation of the vote on the Goldstone Report], that person should be stoned in Mecca as punishment for treason. In response, Mahmoud al-Habash, the Palestinian Authority minister of religion and endowments, said that his ministry had ordered all preachers in PA mosques to attack al-Qaradawi personally.
24. Al-Qaradawi has often made anti-Semitic remarks. For example, his “Life and Islamic Law” program broadcast on March 15, 2009, discussed the topic of righteous Muslims in Islam. One of the viewers called in and asked about the role of the righteous (al-salkhoun) in the Koran in the liberation of the [Islamic] holy places and the victory of the [Muslim] nation. Al-Qaradawi used the opportunity to attack the Jews, basing his answer on a hadith [oral tradition] calling for the murder of Jews. On the program he said that righteous Muslims were “the salt of the earth” who were always instrumental in liberating lands. He called them a source of hope and said he hoped that through them Jerusalem would be “liberated,” as would “Palestine,” the Gaza Strip, and all the lands ruled by the enemies of the Muslims. He said that the war against the Jews was not only the war of the Palestinians but of all Muslims. He said that the prophet Muhammad had said that “you will continue to fight the Jews and they will fight you until the Muslims kill them. The Jew hides behind rock and tree. The rock and the tree say, ‘Oh, slave of Allah, oh, Muslim, here is the Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”
25. Al-Qaradawi denounced the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and said it was the duty of every Muslim to help bring the perpetrators to trial. As opposed to his opposition to Al-Qaida, he called for attacks on Americans fighting in Iraq. In August 2004, the “Pluralism in Islam” conference was held by Egypt’s Journalists’ Union in Cairo. At the conference al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa allowing the abduction and murder of American civilians in Iraq to exert pressure on the American army to remove its forces. He emphasized that “all the Americans in Iraq are fighters, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and they have to be fought against because the American civilians come to Iraq to serve the occupation. Abducting and killing them is a [religious] duty to make [the Americans] leave [Iraq] immediately. [On the other hand] abusing their corpses is forbidden by Islam.”
26. Al-Qaradawi issued the fatwa a week after public figures from various Muslim countries had published an open letter calling for support for the forces fighting the coalition in Iraq. It was signed by 93 Islamic clerics and public figures, including al-Qaradawi and figures from the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Ten days later, al-Qaradawi sent a fax to the London-based daily Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat denying “what the media said” and insisting he never issued a fatwa on the issue. Before the denial was issued, Azzam Halima, al-Qaradawi’s office manager, had confirmed that al- Qaradawi issued a fatwa stating that it was a duty to fight the American civilians in Iraq because they were invaders.
Iran, the bomb and unrest
27. Al-Qaradawi strenuously opposes attempts to disseminate Shi’ite Islam and is critical of Iran’s attempts to spread it to Sunni countries. He has also criticized Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on a number of occasions.
28. In the past al-Qaradawi has said that Muslims should acquire nuclear weapons “to terrify their enemies.” However, he has said that nuclear weapons should not be used.
29. Regarding the recent events in Tunisia, al-Qaradawi said that the struggle should be continued until all the members of ousted president Ben Ali’s party were removed from their positions, with the exception of the interim president, who should, he said, remain in power to prevent the creation of a constitutional vacuum. He called on Tunisia to release its political prisoners, bring back political exiles and restore the Islamic customs which were forbidden by the secular regime, such as wearing the veil (hijab) on university campuses.
30. Regarding the recent events in Libya, al-Qaradawi called on Muammar Gaddafi to relinquish power and to learn the lessons of Egypt and Tunisia. He said that a revolt against Gaddafi was an Islamic religious duty, and called on the members of the tribes in Libya to rise up against Gaddafi and join the ranks of the demonstrators. He called on the Libyan army “to behave like their brothers in Egypt, to stand alongside the people to restore to Libya its Arab Islamic character.” He said that those who had died during the violent events in Libya were shaheeds in paradise and supported the jihad fighters rising up against the Libyan regime.
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), an NGO based north of Tel Aviv that is dedicated to the memory of the fallen of the Israeli intelligence community.