VIEWS: 186 PAGES: 18

                          Ana Belén Soage*

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the best known and more important contemporary Muslim clerics. He is
widely read and heeded throughout the Muslim world. This article discusses al-Qaradawi’s thought,
his influence, his style of leadership and where he stands on the spectrum of Islamist political
thought and activity.

   Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the cofounder        phenomenon. He emphasizes the importance
and president of the International Association      of psychological factors and identifies inner
of Muslim Scholars and the European Council         life, society, or culture as the locus of the
for Fatwa and Research. He has his own              sacred in a religious leader’s personality. 4
Arabic-language website and supervises the          Based on these parameters, he classifies
popular site Islam Online (bilingual                religious leaders into three types: the self-
English/Arabic). He is extraordinarily prolific,    encountering leader, who locates the source of
and has written over 100 books on Islam and         the sacred within him/herself (a typical case
Islamism.                                           being Joan of Arc); 5 the group-containing
   Among his peers, the shaykh’s reputation is      leader, who sees his authority as derived from
held in high regard: The illustrious Mustafa al-    followers, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; 6
Zarqa declared that owning a copy of his al-        and the tradition-managing leader, who
Halal wal-Haram fil-Islam was “the duty of          derives authority from positions occupied
every Muslim family.” The renowned Abu al-          within the institutional life of a religious
Ala al-Mawdudi described his Fiqh al-Zaqa as        tradition. 7 Shaykh al-Qaradawi is a textbook
“the book of this century in Islamic                example of a tradition-managing leader.
jurisprudence.” 1 Yet he owes his global fame           Hutch regards the leader’s early biography
to his regular appearances on the religious         as being of crucial value to understanding
program al-Shari’a wal-Hayat, broadcast by          subsequent evolution. The next section of this
al-Jazeera. 2                                       article presents a summary of al-Qaradawi’s
   His website boasts:                              childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood,
                                                    adapted from his autobiography. 8
           All contemporary Muslims have
       read one of his books, messages,             AL-QARADAWI’S BIOGRAPHY
       articles or fatwas, or listened to one of
       his     lectures,   sermons,      lessons,      Yusuf Mustafa al-Qaradawi was born in
       discussions or answers, either in a          1926 in Sift Turab, a small village on the Nile
       mosque, at university, in a club, on the     Delta whose only remarkable feature is that it
       radio, on television or on cassette. 3       is the resting place of one of Muhammad’s
                                                    minor Companions. 9 Al-Qaradawi’s father
AL-QARADAWI           AS    A    RELIGIOUS          died when he was only two, and he was
LEADER                                              brought up by his mother in the household of
                                                    his uncle Ahmad, a poor tenant farmer who
   In Religious Leadership: Personality,            considered him a son. 10 Al-Qaradawi was not
History and Sacred Authority, Richard Hutch         deprived of affection during his childhood,
offers a paradigm for analyzing that                and in his memoirs he writes that whereas

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                        51
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

most people only have one home, he had two:          to the shaykh, these lessons were characterized
his uncle’s and his maternal grandfather’s, 11 a     by the three features that would mark his
relatively well-off fruit and cereal merchant        future life as a preacher and scholar:
who could afford meat twice a week. 12               relevance, leniency, and independence from
Yusuf’s was a traditional, religious family: His     any Islamic legal school. 21
uncle Ahmad went to pray in the mosque five              The villagers of Sift Turab followed the
times a day, “even for the dawn prayer,” and         strict Shafi’i school, and the ideas introduced
another of his uncles had memorized the              by Yusuf were well received despite criticism
Koran. 13 He started attending the kuttab            from the older shaykhs. In particular, his
(Koranic school) even before he began state          teaching that touching a woman does not
school, and in both he was a diligent, hard-         invalidate the ablutions--a common source of
working student. 14 He finished memorizing           dispute that arose when a wife accidentally
the Koran when he was only nine, thereby             touched her husband while serving him dinner,
earning the title shaykh and the first of a long     forcing him to perform ablutions again before
list of prizes: a modest amount of money. 15         the evening prayer--proved popular with the
    Upon completing primary school, Yusuf            women who, when their husbands got angry,
yearned to continue his education at al-             would exhort them: “Calm down! Pray
Azhar’s secondary school. Yet because the            according to Shaykh Yusuf’s school.” 22
long years of study there would not guarantee            In his autobiography, al-Qaradawi devotes
gainful employment, his uncle tried to               much attention to three major issues in the
convince him to learn a trade or open a shop.        political life of Egypt during the first half of
It was the intervention of a shaykh from a           the twentieth century: the opposition to British
neighboring village--an event al-Qaradawi            colonialism, Zionist ambitions in Palestine,
describes as providential--that persuaded            and the rivalry between the Wafd party and the
Ahmad to “leave the future in the hands of           Muslim Brothers. 23 He often draws attention
Him who controls it” and allow his nephew to         to his own role: While at the Azhari secondary
follow the path he had chosen. 16                    school, he was elected student leader, and his
    The adolescent moved to Tanta to study at        was an exceptional leadership in that it was
the town’s Azhari secondary school. He was           “both loved by the students and respected by
often at the top of the class, which brought         the shaykhs,” and was able “to promote the
him small monetary awards to supplement his          national, Arab, and Islamic causes… without
income. 17 While in Tanta, he had the                getting involved in the customary acts of
opportunity to listen to Hasan al-Banna,             violence.” 24
founder and first leader of the Muslim                   Islamist students not only organized
Brothers, and became one of his followers. 18        demonstrations to mark the anniversary of
He also started writing verse, much of which         events such as the Balfour Declaration; some
peppers his memoirs. His first work, published       of them went on to fight in the first war
at his own expense, was a theatrical piece in        against Israel (1948) as part of a Muslim
verse about his namesake, Joseph. 19                 Brotherhood contingent. Qaradawi believes
    At 14, al-Qaradawi already officiated as         that this campaign was the main reason for the
imam at his village’s mosque on occasions            Brothers’ persecution by the Egyptian
such as Ramadan. His contact with the                authorities. According to his version of the
Muslim Brothers encouraged him to preach in          story, the Western powers put pressure on
other villages on the Nile Delta “to guide [the      Prime Minister Mahmud al-Nuqrashi, who
people] toward reaffirming [their] faith,            banned the group and jailed many members. 25
rectifying [false] religious concepts, and           Al-Qaradawi also recounts their “major role”
developing the values and behaviors                  during the struggle against British power in
demanded by religion.” 20 When he was only           the Suez Canal Zone in the early 1950s 26
20, he started giving lessons in Islamic                 Al-Qaradawi presents an extremely
jurisprudence (fiqh) in his village. According       idealized image of Hasan al-Banna, who is

52                         Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                          Ana Belén Soage

described as both an inspiring leader and as an         During his university years, al-Qaradawi
astute observer. 27 He is exonerated of all the     found a job as a preacher at a mosque in the
“errors” committed by the group, such as the        town of Mahalla al-Kubra, not far from his
assassinations of Judge Ahmad al-Khazandar          village, to finance the cost of living in Cairo.
and al-Nuqrashi. These are blamed on the            His Friday sermons proved so popular that the
Muslim Brothers’ armed branch, the “Special         owners of the mosque were forced to build a
Organization” that had become “an                   multistory annex to accommodate the crowds.
organization within the organization” and a         One of his friends took notes of the sermons,
problem al-Banna had intended--but did not          which were later published under the title
have the time--to deal with. 28 The sweep of        Nafahat al-Jum’a (Scents of Friday). 33 Yusuf
arrests that followed the homicide of al-           also continued his work with the Muslim
Nuqrashi reached Yusuf, who spent several           Brothers, legal once again and led by retired
months in prison and learned there of al-           judge Hasan al-Hudaybi . 34
Banna’s murder by the security services on              In addition, the shaykh was among the
February 12, 1949.                                  founding members of his faculty’s student
   At this point, he reflects:                      union, which he eventually led. 35 After the
                                                    1952 revolution, in which he claimed the
       While the Egyptian nation was                Muslim Brothers played a central role as the
       overwhelmed with grief, people in the        popular base for the Free Officers, he was sent
       West--especially in Europe and the           to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Gaza Strip-
       United States--celebrated what they          -together with another member, who is barely
       deemed a happy occasion…. They               mentioned in his memoirs--to establish
       knew more than anybody the worth of          contacts for the Brothers. 36 This mission, his
       the man and his preaching and the            first trip abroad, shows his rising star within
       enormity of the danger he represented        the organization.
       for them. 29                                     The first part of al-Qaradawi’s memoirs
                                                    ends in 1953 with an epic account of his final
    Al-Qaradawi has fond memories of his first      exams--in which, true to form, he got the best
spell in prison. The Muslim Brothers turned         grades--and a critical review of the
the Tur detention camp, where they were             curriculum, 37 similar to the one he gave about
being held, into “a mosque for prayer, a            the secondary school syllabus. 38 His
university for learning, a society for              graduation from university can be considered
cooperation, a forum for culture, a club for        the end of his formative years.
sports, a meeting place for communion, a                The rest can be summed up in a few lines
parliament        for       consultation    and     adapted from the shaykh’s personal website: 39
understanding.” 30 When he was released--in         He was imprisoned twice more (from 1954 to
the first batch, which shows that he was still a    1956, and in 1962) for his membership in the
rather junior member--he took the final exams       Muslim Brotherhood, and in 1959 he was
at the Azhari secondary school and, despite the     forbidden to preach. He worked briefly at the
period of absence from his studies, he obtained     Ministry of Religious Endowments and at the
the second best grades in the whole of              cultural department of al-Azhar, and in 1962
Egypt. 31 His good results granted him a            this institution sent him to Qatar to run its
financial reward and the opportunity to enter       center there. In Doha, he established the
the Fu’ad I University (the future Cairo            Department of Islamic Studies and the Faculty
University), where he could in due course           of Islamic Law and Islamic Studies at the
become assistant professor of Arabic.               Teacher Training College. In 1973 he earned
Nevertheless, al-Qaradawi decided to stay at        his doctorate from al-Azhar, with a thesis on
al-Azhar because, he writes, he felt “a             “The Role of Legal Alms [Zakat] in the
responsibility to work for its reform” and          Resolution of the Social Problems.” Since
enrolled in its faculty of theology. 32             then, he has written numerous books,

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                         53
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

participated in establishing Islamic banking,        adolescence and early adulthood within two of
and become a celebrity through his                   the most important institutions of the Muslim
appearances on al-Jazeera.                           world: The first, al-Azhar, represents tradition
    Al-Qaradawi’s autobiography shows the            in the most literal sense: For over a thousand
ambition that took him out of his small village      years it has been the most prestigious center of
and catapulted him to international stardom.         Islamic learning in the Sunni world, forming
He justifies his desire to excel by explaining       the elite circle of clerics who interpret
that “God Almighty loves fine things and             religious texts and issue fatwas (legal
detests inferior ones, and the noble prophet         opinions) to guide believers.
said: ‘If you ask God for heaven, ask for the            The second institution was the Muslim
highest Paradise.’” 40 When he was at the            Brotherhood, founded by Hasan al-Banna in
Azhari secondary school in Tanta, one of the         1928--barely four years after the end of the
teachers asked the students what they wanted         caliphate that had symbolized the unity of the
to be when they grew up, and Yusuf blurted           Islamic community, and partly as a response to
out: “shaykh of al-Azhar.” The teacher, who          that traumatic event. A deeply religious man
had made fun of the modest aspirations of the        with a mystical bent, al-Banna saw in Islam
other students, declared with all seriousness:       the only way to bring about the regeneration of
“Do not rule that out, children. Many a big          Muslim society and confront enemies both
hope has realized, and many a remote dream           internal (superstition, secularism 48 ) and
has come true.” 41                                   external (colonialism, Zionism).
    In fact, the tone of the shaykh’s memoirs            Al-Qaradawi resents being categorized as a
betrays arrogance, starting with his statement       traditionalist and insists that he has always
that his initial reluctance to write them was        been a reformer. 49 Nevertheless, he carefully
overcome by arguments that “they would be of         cultivates the image of a shaykh and always
great benefit to the readers, in particular the      appears in public wearing the quftan (dark
promising new generations of the Muslim              robe) and kawala (red cap wrapped in a white
community.” 42 He characterizes his closest          turban) that make up the Azhari “uniform.” He
friend during his youth, Muhammad al-                is keen to preserve the ulama’s control of
Dimirdash, as somebody who started                   religious affairs: During the crisis over the
following him around because “he was                 Danish caricatures, he attacked the popular
attracted to those of genuine talent.” 43 He         Muslim preacher--but not scholar--Amr
relates several disagreements with lecturers         Khalid for taking part in a conference in
who ended up apologizing and expressing              Denmark to promote interfaith dialogue,
their admiration toward him. 44 Recounting a         deeming it “a departure from the ulama’s
debate during his foreign tour as a                  consensus.” 50 Indeed, al-Qaradawi stresses
representative of the Muslim Brothers, he            that “reform of [the Muslim] religion must be
boasts that his words “silenced” his                 carried out from within, using its legal
opponents. 45 He even criticizes the Brothers        instruments, according to the way of its people
for not encouraging him to learn English             and its ulama.” 51
despite      his   “extraordinary    gift   for          Elsewhere, the shaykh argues that the
languages.” 46                                       adaptation of Islam to the modern world
                                                     should be based on the legacy of the past, an
AL-QARADAWI AS A                TRADITION-           immense wealth of jurisprudence that
MANAGING LEADER                                      illuminates the way so contemporary jurists
                                                     can build a legal framework that draws on its
   Quoting Max Weber, Hutch explains that            logic,    spirit,   basis,    directives,   and
the tradition-managing leader “leads by dint of      interpretations to treat the problems of this
the authority of the office s/he occupies within     age, while taking into account the change of
the institutional life of a given religious          time, place, and human condition. 52
tradition.” 47    Al-Qaradawi       spent    his

54                         Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                           Ana Belén Soage

   Al-Qaradawi was one of the hundreds of                    reforming ourselves and our society
thousands of young men inspired by al-                       according to God’s commands before
Banna’s vision. In contrast with later                       we demand from our young people
Islamists, al-Banna had a generally good                     serenity, good sense, calm, and
relationship with al-Azhar, 53 and therefore his             restraint. 60
Azhari followers were not torn between two
loyalties. The shaykh was a member of the               The shaykh also warned that “forces
Brotherhood for several decades, and although        opposed to the triumph of Islam” are “feeding
he claims to have left it, he acknowledges his       the flames” of radicalism in order to achieve a
debt towards it for the part it played in his        series of objectives: alienating the population
intellectual development. 54                         from the Islamists by portraying them as
   Furthermore, al-Qaradawi does not shy             intransigent fanatics; diverting the youth
away from meddling in the group’s internal           towards secondary issues so that they forget
affairs, as shown by his public support for          the bigger picture; instigating clashes between
Hizb al-Wasat, formed by a handful of young          different Islamist forces; using extremism as
Muslim Brothers in 1996 without the consent          an excuse to strike at the entire Islamist
of the group’s conservative leadership. 55 In        movement; and driving Islamists to
addition, he is seen as one of the                   desperation, because their efforts only lead to
Brotherhood’s main ideologues, and in 2002           internal divisions and state repression. 61
he was offered the position of its “general          However, if in the past the target of al-
guide”, which he turned down. 56                     Qaradawi’s diatribes was mainly the Muslim
   Al-Qaradawi also sought to influence the          rulers, the increasing Western influence in the
members of the multiple radical groups that          Muslim world is now his target for blame. In a
emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. He                   more recent work he has written:
admonished them for having their own
interpretations of the Muslim sacred texts, 57               There are, among Muslims, a few
and has repeatedly criticized their abuse of                 individuals or groups who use violence
excommunication (takfir)--declaring other                    indiscriminately. Still, they do not
Muslims, or even a society as a whole,                       represent all Muslims but are small
apostates, thus sanctioning violence against                 groups whose importance has been
them. 58 On the other hand, he sympathetically               inflated by the Western media--and
refers to them as “youths” in need of                        most of them were pushed to
guidance. 59 In a work first published in 1982,              extremism by the West’s injustices,
the shaykh attributed the appearance of                      aggression, and iniquity against
radicalism to society’s failure to govern itself             Muslims, and its continuous support of
according to God’s will:                                     Israel. 62

       We must be brave and recognize that              The question of the Islamists’ position vis-
       our behavior has contributed to               à-vis the West will be addressed later, after the
       pushing those youths to what we dub           completed      analysis     of     al-Qaradawi’s
       “extremism.” We claim that we follow          personality as a religious leader.
       Islam but fail to put Islam into practice.
       We read the Koran but do not                  AL-QARADAWI        AS                        AN
       implement its rulings. We pretend to          “OPPORTUNIST” LEADER
       love the prophet but do not follow his
       example. We write in our constitutions           Hutch classifies tradition-managing leaders
       that the state’s religion is Islam but do     into three types: The Consolidator, who
       not give it the place it merits in            provides the religion with firm foundations;
       government,          legislation      and     the Perfectionist, who develops its doctrine;
       orientation.…We should start by               and finally, the Opportunist, who adapts the

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                           55
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

religion to new conditions in order to ensure            In recent times, the term Salafism has come
its survival. 63 In this framework, al-Qaradawi       to designate a radical Islamist current closer to
is an “opportunist” tradition-managing leader.        Wahhabi literalism than to the thinking of the
Cheryl Benard has referred to him as a                nineteenth-century Islamist pioneers, but al-
“reformist traditionalist,” 64 a label al-            Qaradawi is eager to reclaim it, arguing--not
Qaradawi dismisses as a contradiction in              very     convincingly--that     there is      no
terms 65 but that effectively points to the           contradiction whatsoever between abiding by
tension between his insistence at relying on 15       tradition and being a reformer. 69
centuries of Islamic scholarship and his                 Following the lead of the Salafists, al-
contention that new circumstances require new         Qaradawi criticizes two types of ulama: those
measures. In effect, al-Qaradawi claims to be         who, awed by the West, try to adapt Muslim
an heir to the reformist tradition within Islam,      doctrine to the Western model; and those who
which he traces back from Ibn Taymiyya to             follow blindly a certain legal school and
Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida, and Hasan                accept its obsolete precepts on subjects
al-Banna. 66                                          ranging from music or chess to the education
    In the early era of Islam, eminent scholars       of women. 70 However, that does not mean that
such as Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi’i, and al-Ash’ari        tradition should not continue to be central to
used their personal judgment and the sources          contemporary Islam. He explains:
of Islamic jurisprudence (the Koran and
Sunna) to set the rules by which Muslims                     The priority of the contemporary mufti
should abide. This process was called ijtihad,               should be to take the people out of the
or “personal effort.” However, around the                    narrow prison of the [four orthodox]
tenth century, ulama became intent on                        legal schools into the wide open space
preserving orthodoxy and merely imitated                     of the Shari’a, which includes both
(taqlid) and transmitted (naql) the legacy of                extant and extinct schools, the sayings
the past, thereby “closing the door of ijtihad.”             of the many imams who did not follow
This fixed creed lent stability to a religious               a specific legal school--of whom there
community that had lost its political unity and              are many--and, first and foremost, the
helped ulama withstand the pressures of rulers               sayings of the ulama amongst the
wishing to “bend” the rules. 67 However, it                  Prophet’s Companions [Sahaba]. 71
inevitably led to intellectual stagnation and
decadence.                                                This seems rather conservative when
    The controversial Jamal al-Din al-Afghani         compared to the ideas of al-Afghani, who did
(1839-1897)--who,          notwithstanding    his     not believe that the interpretation of the texts
epithet, was probably Iranian and therefore           should be constricted by the work of previous
Shi’a--is credited with “forcing open” the door       generations of ulama--or, indeed, that the
of ijtihad. Although he was not the first to          religious scholars should have a monopoly
advocate it, his reputation as a scholar and his      over it. He wrote:
tireless political activism won him a wide
audience. He rejected both the unquestioning                 Whoever has a good command of
adoption of Western ideas and the blind                      Arabic is of sensible mind and
imitation of the orthodox schools of                         acquainted with the lives of the salaf
jurisprudence and made a case for a return to                and the principle of unanimity [ijmaa],
the path of the “righteous ancestors” (al-salaf              and is able to determine whether a
al-salih) and their fresh approach to Islam.                 ruling should be interpreted literally or
That is why the school of thought initiated by               allegorically should be able to look
al-Afghani and developed by his followers--                  into the Koran and the authentic
notably Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida--                     hadiths and derive rulings from them,
was dubbed Salafism. 68                                      by analogy [qiyas].… Yes, those
                                                             outstanding imams of the Muslim

56                          Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                           Ana Belén Soage

       community did an excellent work of                    that you do not have, but you have
       interpretation--may God reward them                   abilities that he did not have, and you
       for it--but it should not be assumed that             have the talent to play a role. Do not
       they grasped all the secrets of the                   withdraw from that role! Do not
       Koran. 72                                             disregard that talent! 76

    In any case, reform is a prevalent subject in        In addition, al-Qaradawi’s personal website
al-Qaradawi’s writings, and he has stated that       reproduces the enthusiastic letter of one of his
“renewal for us is not only a demanding              devotees, who addresses him as “commander
necessity, it is a religious obligation.” 73 He      [amir] of the preachers of our time” and
often quotes a hadith that proclaims: “At the        “renewer of our time.” 77 Unsurprisingly, the
start of each century, Almighty God will send        shaykh greatly values his own work: He has
to this community [umma] someone to renew            been criticized for using the minbar (the pulpit
its religion.” 74 Prominent renewers of the past     of the mosque) to complain that Qatari
include al-Shafi’i (died 820), who tried to          television was destroying old recordings of his
reach a compromise between the defenders of          programs 78 and, in his autobiography, he often
tradition (ahl al-hadith) and the supporters of      bemoans the loss of his early poetic
reasoning (ahl al-ra’i); al-Ash’ari (died circa      productions. 79
935), a repentant Mutazilite who founded one             Yet in spite of his self-importance, al-
of the early schools of kalam (Islamic               Qaradawi is only one of the many scholars
theology); al-Ghazali (died 1111), who               working in the field of Islamic reform. In
renounced philosophy but introduced its              addition, the avoidance of rigidly following a
methods into Sunni orthodoxy, together with          particular school was institutionalized in the
Sufi mysticism; Ibn Taymiyya (died 1328),            early twentieth century, when the legal
who anticipated nineteenth-century reformers         systems of the Muslim world were overhauled
in deploring the imitation of the legal schools;     by the selection and combination of rulings
and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), disciple             deemed more suitable to the demands of
and collaborator of al-Afghani, and an eminent       contemporary life, regardless of the legal
scholar in his own right.                            school from which they hailed. 80
    It is quite possible that al-Qaradawi would          So what has made al-Qaradawi stand out?
like to be considered the renewer of the             How has he become an internationally
twenty-first century. He remembers that when         celebrated figure? The answer lies in his
he was at university he disagreed with one of        leadership skills, which gave him the vision to
his lecturers who contended that nobody could        identify an inspiring theme and the charisma
attain the level of greatness of Muhammad’s          to turn that theme into a movement.
Companions. Al-Qaradawi argued that some
later Muslims--such as Salah al-Din and Ibn          WASATIYYA
Taymiyya--had been even greater, “which
opens a window of hope for the ulama and                In the 1960s and 1970s, when al-Qaradawi
preachers that strive in our time.” 75 One of his    was still a fledgling author, the main challenge
classmates mentioned al-Banna, but al-               faced by the Islamists was Arab nationalism,
Qaradawi may have been thinking of himself,          embodied by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel
especially as he had recounted that a shaykh         Nasser. After cofounding the non-aligned
told him that he saw a certain resemblance           movement at Bandung, nationalizing the Suez
between him and the founder of the Muslim            Canal and surviving a 1956 Anglo-French-
Brothers and, when he rejected the                   Israeli attack, he enjoyed enormous popular
comparison, the older man warned him:                appeal throughout the Arab world and beyond.
                                                     Nasser referred to his system in Egypt as Arab
       Do not underestimate yourself! It is          socialism.
       true that Hasan al-Banna had abilities

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                          57
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

    As a response, al-Qaradawi published in           criticism of what he sees as “liberal
1971 the first of four books on Hatmiyyat al-         influences” in Saudi Arabia, is the founder of
Hall al-Islami (The Inevitability of the Islamist     Muntada al-Wasatiyya (Club of Moderation)
Solution) to propose a “third way” between            and         manages         the         website
capitalism and socialism. Arab socialism     . 86 However, al-
suffered a crushing military defeat in 1967,          Qaradawi is recognized as the “spiritual father
and proved unable to provide jobs for millions        of the wasatiyya trend.” 87
of new graduates or to maintain the standard              The shaykh offers several definitions of the
of living of the swelling mass of government          term wasatiyya. He often presents it as the
employees. The resulting disillusionment was          middle way between two undesirable
to the benefit of the Islamists, but al-Qaradawi      extremes:
had to find a new theme to put across his
ideology. He found it in wasatiyya.                          Wasatiyya is the [right] balance
    In the Koran it is said that God announced:              between mind and revelation, between
“We have made of you an umma [community]                     matter and spirit, between rights and
justly balanced [wasat]” (Koran 2:143). This                 duties, between individualism and
concept was developed into a doctrine by al-                 collectivism, between inspiration and
Shafi’i, al-Ash’ari, and al-Gazhali--who                     obligation, between the text [i.e. the
worked, respectively, in the fields of Islamic               Koran and the Sunna] and personal
law, dogma, and philosophy. 81 Later, Ibn                    interpretation [ijtihad], between the
Taymiyya wrote Sharh al-Aqida al-Wasatiyya                   ideal and reality, between the
to describe the principles of orthodox Islam. In             permanent and the transient, between
the 1960s, the Egyptian (Nasserist) Ministry of              relying on the past and looking forward
Religious Endowments published Wasatiyyat                    to the future. 88
al-Islam, which aimed at “showing the
‘moderation’ of Islam, i.e., the fairness of its         Similarly, he has written:
rulings, principles and examples, and its
representing the right position between the                  Wasatiyya lies between spirituality and
extremes.” 82 Therefore, when al-Qaradawi                    materialism, between idealism and
adopted the term wasatiyya to characterize the               realism, between rationalism and
Islamist trend he espouses, he knew he was                   sentimentalism, between individualism
drawing on a concept very much rooted in                     and collectivism, between permanence
Muslim minds.                                                and evolution. 89
    Contrary to the assertions of skeptics such
as prominent Syrian reformer Muhammad                    Other times, he focuses on the place of
Shahrur, 83 wasatiyya is not a post-September         wasatiyya within the Islamist movement. As
11 fad: Four years before the attacks on              has already been mentioned, al-Qaradawi
Washington and New York, al-Shari’a wal-              resents being labeled a “traditionalist.” In his
Hayyat had already devoted a program to               opinion, the neglect of some researchers in
“wasatiyyat al-Islam”. 84 Since then, the term        identifying wasatiyya as a distinct trend
has almost become a cliché: It was one of the         despite its broad popular base is a deliberate
main topics of the Islamic Conference’s               attempt to minimize its importance. 90 For
summit held in Mecca in December 2005                 good measure, he proposes his own
discussing the challenges confronting the             classification of the different Islamist trends,
Muslim world in the twenty-first century, and         which includes four groups: those prone to
the word itself appears four times in the             excommunicating their opponents (tayyar al-
summit’s final communiqué. 85 Even radicals           takfir); those characterized by immobilism and
have tried to appropriate it for themselves: The      severity (tayyar al-jumud wal-tashaddud);
Wahhabi preacher Muhsin al-Awaji, notorious           those who resort to violence (tayyar al-unf);
for his admiration of Usama bin Ladin and his         and, finally, the moderates (tayyar al-

58                          Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                          Ana Belén Soage

wasatiyya), who “combine traditionalism and         rules, such as respecting the lives of women
renewal, and balance constancy and changes:         and children. 100 In fact, like all the Islamists,
the changes of the age and the constancy of         the shaykh has a rather idealized vision of
the canonical law.” 91 The terms used to            Islamic history: He claims that the aim of the
designate every trend speak for themselves.         conquering Muslim armies was “to eliminate
   Al-Qaradawi maintains that tolerance is at       the material obstacles in the way of Islam, so
the core of Islam, thus rejecting the stance of     that its message arrived to the peoples and
the Islamist extremists who wish to impose not      they could choose for themselves.” 101
only their religion but also their own version          Regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and
of it:                                              contrary to radical Islamists, al-Qaradawi
                                                    claims that the dispute with the Jews is not
       [T]he [Muslim] faith states two              religious but political, and that the anti-Jewish
       fundamental truths…. First, that the         verses in the Koran must be interpreted in their
       differences between human beings, in         historical context, that is, regarding the
       religion or in any other thing, are the      tensions between Muslims and Jews in
       will of God, and God knows best […].         Medina. 102 In spite of this, he urges Muslims
       Secondly, that only God can punish           to unite for the liberation of Palestine 103 and
       them for their deviations, on Judgment       has repeatedly declared that there should be no
       Day. 92                                      qualms about targeting Israeli civilians since,
                                                    he claims, Israel is a militarized society in
    The shaykh contends that Islam stands for       which every man and every woman is either a
freedom of religion and thought. 93 He gently       soldier or a reservist. 104
chastises those “youths” who appoint                    In any case, reform in Islam is constricted
themselves “legislators, prosecutors and            by texts considered sacred, and al-Qaradawi
policemen” and rush into accusations of             has denounced arguments that some Koranic
apostasy. He suggests that, in any event,           injunctions are no longer relevant as “insolent
apostates should not incur the death penalty        attempts against God to try to strip the Koran
but “only” social ostracism. 94 He has also         of its quality of eternalness.” 105 He offers as
criticized the censorship zeal of al-Azhar for      an example the Koranic command that females
pragmatic reasons: “If books are banned,            inherit half as much as male members of the
people will look for them.” 95                      family, which leads us to the status of women
    Nonetheless, al-Qaradawi has also attacked      in Islam; Al-Qaradawi’s attitude on this
those authors who, “under the pretext of            subject is rather ambiguous. On the one hand,
‘creativity,’” defy social and religious            he rejects that Islam sanctions their reclusion
taboos 96 . During the controversy over the         and forced marriage, practices which he
cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten, he           identifies as a factor in their estrangement
insisted that the boycott of Denmark should         from religion. 106 He encourages female
continue until the Danish parliament issued a       education and is proud to mention that three of
law against insulting all prophets. 97 Moreover,    his daughters hold doctorates in science from
when asked about the case of Egyptian thinker       British universities. 107 Furthermore, he
Faraj Fawda, assassinated by radical Islamists      promotes full political rights for women:
in 1992 after al-Azhar accused him of               During the 2002 municipal elections in
blasphemy, al-Qaradawi implicitly condoned          Bahrain he issued a fatwa allowing women,
the crime by denouncing “those who, not             “especially those past child-bearing age,” to
content with apostatizing, want to propagate        run as candidates. 108
apostasy in society.” 98                                On the other hand, the shaykh asserts that
    On the contentious topic of jihad, al-          “just as we should not oppress [women]--like
Qaradawi says that it should only be used to        rigorists do in the name of religion--we should
protect the call to Islam and to defend the         not go too far and give them free rein to do as
weak. 99 Furthermore, it should follow strict       they please in the name of freedom.” 109 He

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                           59
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

believes that a woman’s priority should be her               sterility, because many men cannot
family and tries to valorize the work of stay-               stand the discontinuation of the family
at-home mothers by drawing attention to its                  lineage. In cases other than these, I
economic value. 110 He favors the “light”                    consider polygamy a mere legal “trick”
version of female circumcision—because in                    [hila] to satisfy a base appetite. 119
this, as in everything else, “the middle way is
the best”--despite admitting that the hadiths             As regards female genital mutilation, Jamal
that recommend it may not be authentic. 111           al-Banna, the youngest brother of the founder
   Moreover, al-Qaradawi justifies the                of the Muslim Brothers, published a book
discrimination prescribed by the Koran in             entitled Female Circumcision: It Is Not Based
matters such as inheritance or male dominance         on the Sunna, and It Is…a Crime. 120
within the family by arguing that men are                 However, al-Qaradawi has often been
more rational than women and have to face             criticized by Islamist radicals who regard him
financial obligations (such as providing the          as a dangerous innovator, even a heretic, who
dowry and supporting the family). 112 As              “has embarked upon changing the religion of
compensation, wives should be shown                   Allah and misguiding the umma with his
consideration       and       kindness--following     straying verdicts.” 121 His classic al-Halal wal-
Muhammad’s example--and should not be                 Haram fil-Islam (The Lawful and the
expected to contribute to the expenses of the         Prohibited in Islam) has been mockingly
household, even if they are richer than their         dubbed “Al-Halal wal-Halal fil-Islam” (“The
husbands. 113 Finally, the shaykh endorses            Lawful and the Lawful in Islam”) because of
polygamy as a moral way to compensate for             what some consider his excessive leniency. At
the “excess” of women 114 and adds that in            the same time, he has been denied entry into
reality, “multiple unions exist everywhere, but       the United States, and in his visits to Britain
some adopt another woman as a lover, and              he has been the target of fierce media
others adopt her as a wife.” 115                      campaigns that focus on his controversial
   Other reformers have gone much further             stances on Israel, violence, homosexuals, and
than al-Qaradawi. Muhammad Abduh, whom                female genital mutilation. 122
the shaykh identifies as one of his main
influences, 116 reinterpreted the Koranic verse       VIEW OF THE WEST
that sanctions polygamy 117 as meaning that
Islam implicitly forbids it. 118 Abduh added:            Islamists say that the West is hostile to
                                                      Islam because the latter represents an obstacle
       It is not acceptable for a man to marry        to its cultural hegemony and a potential threat
       more than one woman, except in cases           to its military supremacy. Al-Qaradawi is no
       of absolute necessity, such as the first       exception: He insists on the inherent
       wife being affected by an illness that         Islamophobia of the Western psyche rather
       prevents her from performing her               than on specific material interests, 123
       marital duties. And even in such a case,       However, he also attributes Western hostility
       I do not advocate marrying another             to ignorance of the truth of Islam and argues
       woman, because it is not the wife’s            that a better understanding would lead to a
       fault, and gallantry dictates that the         more positive outlook, even to conversion. 124
       man endures her illness, just as it is         That is why he is an advocate of dialogue,
       seen as her duty to endure what may            saying: “The Koran commands us to
       befall him.                                    concentrate on shared features… striving for
                                                      concord, because we all believe in
       There is another case that justifies           monotheism and divine messages.” 125
       taking a second wife--while keeping               This mixture is manifest in his list of
       the first if she so desires or divorcing       demands:
       her if that is her wish--and that is

60                          Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                           Ana Belén Soage

   All we ask from the West is:                      licentiousness, the supporters of materialism,
       1. To get rid of the old grudges,             the advocates of nudism, sexual promiscuity,
           because we are all children of the        abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex
           present, not remains of the past;         marriage.” 128 He often offers as an example
       2. To get rid of the new ambitions and        the alliance of al-Azhar, the Muslim World
           the desire to control our countries       League, the Vatican, and the Islamic Republic
           and our resources, because the age        of Iran during the UN conferences on
           of colonialism is over;                   population (Cairo, 1994) and women (Beijing,
       3. To adopt a really universalist and         1995). 129
           humanist perspective and discard             Al-Qaradawi is a fierce critic of
           the superiority complex of the            globalization, which he characterizes as:
           Romans, who saw all the others as
           barbarians;                                       The imposition of the political,
       4. To discard its apprehensions                       economic,      cultural,   and    social
           towards us, because we are not                    hegemony of the United States over the
           beasts     or     ogres--particularly             world…. It does not mean a
           bearing in mind that, for centuries,              relationship of fraternity, such as that
           we have been the victims of                       favored by Islam, nor a relationship of
           Western injustice;                                equality, such as that favored by the
       5. To leave us to organize our life                   free and the noble all over the world. It
           according to our creed if that is the             means the relationship between the
           wish of our peoples, without                      master and the slave, the giant and the
           meddling in our affairs and                       dwarf, the arrogant and the meek. 130
           imposing its philosophy by force or
           by deception, because we are free
           in our homes;                                Al-Qaradawi is a rather cautious “renewer,”
       6. There is no need for the West to           but that probably accounts for his wide appeal
           see us as an enemy against which          in the Arab world: In times of uncertainty,
           to predispose its people after the        people cling to their beliefs, and the shaykh
           fall of the Soviet Union, or to call      has been able to tap into that need to be
           us “the green peril” after the            reassured. Whether he has provided them with
           disappearance of the “red peril”          the tools to embrace modernity is another
           and the rapprochement with the            matter.
           “yellow peril.” Islam is only a
           danger to indecency and atheism,          *Ana B. Soage holds two degrees, in Politics
           injustice and tyranny, depravity          and     Translation,   from    the   London
           and corruption. 126                       Metropolitan University and the University of
                                                     Granada. She has lived and worked in several
    The last sentence alludes to the common          Middle Eastern countries and is currently
perception of the West as morally corrupt. Al-       conducting Ph.D. research in Egypt with a
Qaradawi has gone so far as to say that the          grant from the Spanish government.
West is the civilization of the anti-Christ who,
according to the hadiths, is one-eyed, just as
the West is “a one-eyed civilization that looks
at the individual, life, and the world with one
eye: the materialist, sensorial eye, ignoring the
unworldly and the spiritual.” 127
    In less heated moments, though, he urges
all believers to unite “against the enemies of
faith, the preachers of atheism and

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                           61
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

NOTES                                                /2001/11/article13.SHTML (last accessed
                                                     January 4, 2008).
1                                                    13
  “Al-Sira al-Tafsiliyya lil-Qaradawi,” al-             Ibid.
Qaradawi Net, November 24, 2004,                        Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Ila-al-Kuttab Thumma      al-Madrasa al-Ilzamiyya,” Islam Online,
ate_id=190&parent_id=189 (last accessed              /2001/11/article15.SHTML (last accessed
January 6, 2008).                                    January 4, 2008).
2                                                    15
  Even before his appearance on al-Jazeera, al-         Ibid.
Qaradawi had been identified as one of the key          Al-Qaradawi, “Ma Bayna al-Madrasa wal-
figures of Islamism, capable of drawing              Ma’had.”
crowds reaching over a quarter million. See             Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Ila-al-Ma’had al-Dini
Raymond W. Baker, “Invidious Comparisons:            fi Tanta,” Islam Online,
Realism, Postmodern Globalism, and Centrist
Islamic Movements in Egypt,” in: John L.             /2001/11/article16.SHTML (last accessed
Esposito (ed.), Political Islam: Revolution,         January 4, 2008).
Radicalism or Reform? (Cairo: The American              Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Durus Fiqhiyya fi al-
University in Cairo Press, 1997), p. 125.            Qarya: Al-Taysir Mabda’i Mundhu al-
  “Al-Sira al-Tafsiliyya lil-Qaradawi.”              Bawakir,” Islam Online,
  Richard A. Hutch, Religious Leadership:  
Personality, History and Sacred Authority            /2001/12/article5.SHTML [last accessed
(New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1991), pp.         January 4, 2008].
15-16.                                                  Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Ila-al-Marhala al-
  Ibid, pp. 83-145.                                  Thanawiyya,” Islam Online,
  Ibid, pp. 147-219.                       
  Ibid, pp. 221-84.                                  /2001/12/article2.SHTML (last accessed
  Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Mudhakkaraat,                   January 4, 2008).
                                                     20           Al-Qaradawi, “Durus Fiqhiyya fi al-Qarya.”
/2001/11/article1.SHTML (last accessed                  Sunni Muslims belong to one of four legal
November 30, 2007).                                  schools of jurisprudence (fiqh): the Maliki, the
  Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Surat Qaryati fi ahd           Hanafi, the Shafi’i, and the Hanbali; most
Sibai,” Islam Online,                                Shi’a belong to the Ja’fari school. The        differences between the Sunni schools are
/2001/11/article2.SHTML (last accessed               rather minor, and they recognize each other as
January 4, 2008). Muhammad’s Companions              orthodox. Al-Qaradawi remembers that when
(Sahaba) are the Muslims who knew him                he first enrolled at the Azhari secondary
personally. The one buried at Sift Turab is          school, he intended to choose the Shafi’i
Abdallah ibn al-Harith, who, after                   school, but the ulama who helped him fill in
participating in the conquest of Egypt (639-         the application form was a Hanafi and
641), settled in the country.                        persuaded him to follow the same school. See
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Ma Bayna al-Madrasa           Al-Qaradawi, “Ma Bayna al-Madrasa wal-
wal-Ma’had,” Islam Online,                           Ma’had.”
                                                     22           Al-Qaradawi, “Durus Fiqhiyya fi al-Qarya.”
/2001/11/article14.SHTML (last accessed                  The rivalry between the two parties was
January 4, 2008).                                    partly the result of their different
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Sura an Usrati,” Islam        understanding of politics: “At its founding in
Online,                                              1928, the Muslim Brothers’ Society was one        prominent part of a handful of ideological

62                         Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                           Ana Belén Soage

mass-based parties led by political mavericks           Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Fi Rakb al-Ikhwan,”
seeking to challenge the dominant style of           Islam Online,
politics of notables. A decade into its    
existence, the society had built its identity as     /2001/12/article8.SHTML (last accessed
an      internally    disciplined,    financially    January 4, 2008).
resourceful,      pro-Palestinian    anticolonial        Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Hall al-Ikhwan fi 8
movement appealing to educated lower-                Disimbar        1948,”     Islam       Online,
middle- and middle-class effendis who were 
alienated by the exclusionary political and          /2001/12/article9.SHTML      (last    accessed
economic system of interwar Egypt.” See              January 4, 2008). These alleged celebrations--
Mona El-Ghobashy, “The Metamorphosis of              recounted by Sayyid Qutb, who was in the
the Egyptian Muslim Brothers,” International         United States on a research mission at the
Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 37              time--have become part of the Muslim
(2005), p. 376.                                      Brothers’ mythology. See John Calvert, "'The
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Shuyukh Kuntu                 World Is an Undutiful Boy!': Sayyid Qutb's
Atamanna an Yudarrisuna: Abd al-Basit wa-            American Experience," Islam and Christian-
Fawzi,” Islam Online,                                Muslim Relations, Vol. 11, No. 1 (2000), p.        94; Jami, Wa-Araftu al-Ikhwan, p. 169.
/2001/12/article3.SHTML (last accessed                  Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Dhikrayat al-
January 4, 2008).                                    Mu’taqal,” Islam Online,
     Ibid. The term mihna refers to the    
persecution suffered by the ninth-century            /2001/12/article10.SHTML (last accessed
ulama who resisted Abbasid attempts to               January 4, 2008).
impose the Mutazilite school of thought. The            Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Min al-Tur ila
Muslim Brothers tend to attribute their              Haykstap: Rihla Qasiya la Tunsa,,” Islam
persecution to external enemies: Like those of       Online,
1948, the mihna of 1954 would have been    
ordered by the West and Israel, and those of         /2001/12/article11.SHTML (last accessed
1965, by Moscow. See Saad Eddin Ibrahim,             January 4, 2008).
Egypt, Islam and Democracy (Cairo: The                  Al-Qaradawi, “Kulliyat Usul al-Din wa-
American University in Cairo Press, 2002), p.        Thawrat Yuliu,” Islam Online,
50; Mahmud Jami, Wa-Araftu al-Ikhwan       
(Cairo: Dar al-Tawzi wal-Nashr al-Islamiyya,         /2001/12/article12.SHTML (last accessed
2004), pp. 57, 94, 174.                              January 4, 2008).
26                                                   33
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Ma’arik al-Qanat,”               Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Ma Ba’d Hall al-
Islam Online,                                        Ikhwan,” Islam Online,
/2001/12/article14.SHTML (last accessed              /2001/12/article13.SHTML (last accessed
January 4, 2008).                                    January 4, 2008).
27                                                   34
   Al-Qaradawi, “Durus Fiqhiyya fi al-Qarya;”           Ibid.
“Filistin: Sina’at al-Mawt.” Al-Qaradawi is no          Al-Qaradawi, “Ma’arik al-Qanat.”
exception; members and sympathizers of the              Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Awwal Rihla ila Bilad
Muslim Brothers’ Society regard its founder          al-Sham,” Islam Online,
with great reverence. Their critics accuse them
of almost-heretical hero worship: See Ali al-        /2001/12/article15.SHTML (last accessed
Dali, Judhur al-Irhab: Al-Qissa al-Haqiqiyya         January 4, 2008).
lil-Ikhwan al-Muslimin. (Cairo[?]: Author,              Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Bayna al-Mihan wal-
1993), p. 60.                                        Minah,” Islam Online,

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                        63
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

/2002/01/article1.SHTML (last accessed                   It should not be forgotten that during much
January 4, 2008).                                    of the twentieth century the intellectual elite of
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Waqfa Ma’Manahij al-          the Arab world was mostly secular and
Marhala al-Thanawiyya,” Islam Online,                Western-looking. Some even dared to shake        the foundations of the Muslim worldview: Ali
/2001/12/article4.SHTML (last accessed               Abd al-Raziq, himself an Azhari, published in
January 4, 2008). Many felt that the                 1925 Al-Islam wa-Usul al-Hukm (Islam and
curriculum of al-Azhar was in dire need of an        the Foundations of Government), in which he
overhaul, but when this came, it was not to the      maintained that there is no basis for the
liking of the ulama: In 1961, Nasser put the         caliphate in either the Koran or the Sunna (the
institution under the jurisdiction of the            collection of the prophetic hadiths) and argued
Ministry of Religious Endowments and the             for the separation of state and religion. The
appointment of its highest authority, the            book caused an uproar and led to the
shaykh of al-Azhar, in the hands of the              defrocking of its author. The following year
government. New faculties were added to              saw the publication of Fi al-Shi’r al-Jahilii
include non-religious disciplines such as            (On Pre-Islamic Poetry), in which Taha
medicine, engineering, and law. With a certain       Husayn questioned the origin of the poetry
degree of exaggeration, Gilles Kepel has             that had been considered pre-Islamic, thereby
written that the Nasserist reforms “aimed at         casting doubt on the traditional version of
transforming the venerable Islamic university        early Islamic history. Husayn was accused of
into a sort of annex of Moscow’s Patrice             heresy and put on trial, but he was acquitted.
Lumumba University.” See his Fitna: Guerre               “Al-Islam al-Dimuqratiyya al-Madani,” al-
au coeur de l’islam (Paris: Gallimard, 2004),        Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera, December 14,
p. 209.                                              2004,
   “Al-Sira al-Tafsiliyya lil-Qaradawi” and
“Nubdha an al-Qaradawi,” al-Qaradawi Net,            ive?ArchiveId=108218 (last accessed January
November 24, 2004,                                   4, 2008).
                                                     50         “Hurriyyat al-Ta’bir wal-Thawabit al-
?cu_no=2&item_no=1213&version=1&templ                Diniyya,” Al-Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera,
ate_id=217&parent_id=189 (last accessed              March 9, 2006,
December 30, 2007).                        
   Al-Qaradawi, “Bayna al-Mihan wal-                 ve?ArchiveId=327477 (last accessed January
Minah.”                                              4, 2008). See also Ana Belén Soage, “The
   Al-Qaradawi, “Shuyukh Kuntu Atamanna              Row over the Danish Caricatures Seen from
an Yudarrisuna.”                                     the Arab World,” Totalitarian Movements and
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Limadha Aktub                 Political Religions, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2006), p.
Sirati?” Islam Online,                               367.
                                                     51            Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Thaqafatuna Bayna al-
/2001/11/article1.SHTML (last accessed               Infitah wal-Inghilaq (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq,
January 4, 2008).                                    2000), p. 54.
43                                                   52
   Al-Qaradawi, “Ila al-Marhala al-                      Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna
Thanawiyya.”                                         Qarnayn (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, 2000), p. 225.
44                                                   53
   Al-Qaradawi, “Kuliyyat Usul al-Din wa-                For example, see Yusuf al-Qaradawi,
Thawrat Yuliu;” “Bayna al-Mihan wal-                 “Hayati ma’al-Ikhwan,” Islam Online,
   Al-Qaradawi, “Awwal Rihlah ila Bilad al-          /2001/12/article7.SHTML (last accessed
Sham.”                                               January 4, 2008).
46                                                   54
   Al-Qaradawi, “Fi Rakb al-Ikhwan.”                     For example, on the program al-Shari’a
   Hutch, Religious Leadership, p. 224.              wal-Hayyat, “Al-Wasatiyya fil-Islam,” al-

64                         Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                         Ana Belén Soage

Jazeera, October 26, 1997,                          2005/MR1716.pdf (last accessed January 4,      2008), p. 30.
ve?ArchiveId=91751 (last accessed January 4,           “Al-Islam al-Dimuqrati al-Madani.”
2008).                                                  For example “Al-Wasatiyya fil-Islam;” “al-
   El-Ghobashy, “The Metamorphosis of the           Islam al-Dimuqrati al-Madani.”
Egyptian Muslim Brothers,” p. 385.                      Montgomery Watt, Islamic Philosophy and
   Ibid, p. 383.                                    Theology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya         Press, 1997), p. 135.
Bayna al-Juhud wal-Tatarruf (Cairo: Dar al-             For more on the work of the nineteenth- and
Shuruq, 2001), p. 72.                               early twentieth-century reformers, see Ana
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Zahirat al-Ghulwu fil-        Belén Soage, “Rashid Rida’s Legacy,” The
Takfir (Cairo: Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, 1978).       Muslim World, Vol. 98/1 (January 2008).
See also his comments on al-Shari’a wal-                “Al-Wasatiyya fil-Islam;” “al-Islam al-
Hayyat, “Mafhum al-Usuliyya,”al-Jazeera,            Dimuqrati al-Madani.”
October 19, 1997,                                       For example, see Yusuf al-Qaradawi, al-      Halal wal-Haram bil-Islam (Casablanca: Dar
ve?ArchiveId=91754; “Ghazwat Badr al-               al-Ma’rifa, 1975), pp. 10-11.
Kubra fi al-sira al-Nabawiyya,” al-Jazeera,             Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fi Fiqh al-Aqaliyyat al-
December 10, 2000,                                  Muslima: Hayat al-Muslimin Wasat al-       Mujtama‘at al-Ukhra (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq,
ive?ArchiveId=89413; and “Al-Islam wa-              2001), p. 57.
Isti’malat al-Internet,” al-Jazeera, November           Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, “Insidad bab al-
20, 2004,                                           Ijtihad,” in Hadi Khusru Shahi, al-Athar al-      Kamila (Cairo: Maktabat al-Shuruq al-
ve?ArchiveId=102557 (all last accessed              Dawliyya, 2002), pp. 150-51.
January 4 2008).                                        “Reform According to Islam,” al-Jazeera
   Al-Qaradawi, al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya Bayna         Net, May 20, 2004,
al-Huhud wal-Tatarruf, p. 72. See also    
“Muhawalat Taghyir al-Manahij al-                   hive?ArchiveId=3779 (last accessed January
Islamiyya,” al-Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera,      4, 2008).
January 13, 2002,                                       For example, see al-Qaradawi, Thaqafatuna      Bayna al-Infitah wal-Inghilaq, p. 53; “al-
ve?ArchiveId=90282; and “Al-Muslimun wal-           Mubashirat fi Intisar al-Islam,” al-Shari’a al-
Unf al-Siyasi 2,” al-Jazeera, May 30, 2004,         Hayyat, al-Jazeera, January 24, 1999,
ve?ArchiveId=92986 (both last accessed              ve?ArchiveId=89738; “al-Shari’a Bayna al-
January 4, 2008).                                   Thabit wal-Mutaghayyir,” al-Jazeera, January
   Al-Qaradawi, al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya Bayna         2, 2005,
al-Juhud wal-Tatarruf, p. 20.             
   Ibid, pp. 8-9.                                   ve?ArchiveId=110410 (both last accessed
   Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,             January, 4 2008).
p. 245; see also “Muhawalat Taghyir al-                 Al-Qaradawi, “Bayna al-Mihan wal-
Manahij al-Islamiyya.”                              Minah.”
63                                                  76
   Hutch, Religious Leadership, p. 271.                 Ibid.
64                                                  77
   Cheryl Benard, Civil Democratic Islam:               Ahmad Abu-Bakr Al-Muslih, “Risala ila
Partners, Resources, and Strategies (RAND           Amir al-Du’at fi Asrna,” al-Sharq,
Corporation, 2003),                                e.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=3810&version=1&t

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                         65
                  Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

emplate_id=119&parent_id=13 (last accessed            Nasserism; see Kepel, Fitna, especially
January 4, 2008).                                     chapter 4.
78                                                    87
   Turki al-Dakhil, “Shari’at al-Qaradawi!”              Patrick Haenni, “Divisions chez les Frères
Jaridat al-Ittihad, June 18, 2005,                    musulmans. La nouvelle pensée islamique des         déçus de l’expérience militante,” La
14094.htm (last accessed January 4, 2008).            République des idées, April 2005,
   For example, see al-Qaradawi, “Durus     
Fiqhiyya fi al-Qarya” and “Fi Rakb al-                341 (last accessed January 4, 2008).
Ikhwan.”                                                 Al-Qaradawi, Thaqafatuna Bayna al-Infitah
   For an account of that process, see Noel J.        wal-Inghilaq, p. 30.
Coulson’s classic A History of Islamic Law               Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Kayfa Nata’amil ma’al-
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,               Qur‘an al-Azim (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, 2005),
1999), pp. 182-201.                                   p. 110.
81                                                    90
   See Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, al-Imam al-                  For instance, during the program “Al-Islam
Shafi‘i wa-Ta’sis al-Idiulujiyya al-Wasatiyya         al-Dimuqrati al-Madani,” when he attacked
(Cairo[?]: Sina lil-Nashr, 1992), p. 5.               Benard’s report, Civil Democratic Islam.
82                                                    91
   Muhammad al-Madani, Wasatiyyat al-Islam               “Al-Wasatiyya fil-Islam,” al-Shari’a wal-
(Cairo: Dar al-Qahira lil-Taba‘a, 1961), p. 7.        Hayyat, al-Jazeera, October 26, 1997,
   In Muhammad Shahrur, “Afkari sa-         
Tantashir wa-Tufriz Ahzaban Siyasiyya Tasna           ve?ArchiveId=91751 (last accessed January 4,
al-Islah al-Dini,” Sahifat al-Ghadd, undated,         2008).
                                                      92 (last                   Al-Qaradawi, Thaqafatuna Bayna al-Infitah
accessed January 4, 2008).                            wal-Inghilaq, pp. 25-26. See also Fi Fiqh al-
   Transcript available at al-Shari’a wal-            Aqaliyyat al-Muslima, pp. 70-71; and
Hayyat, “al-Wasatiyya fil-Islam.”                     Tarikhuna al-Muftara Alayhi (Cairo: Dar al-
   “Al-Bayan al-Khitami al-Sadir an al-Dawrat         Shuruq, 2006), p. 182.
al-Thalitha li-Mu’tamar al-Qimma al-Islami               For instance, “Al-Hurriyya al-Diniyya wal-
al-Istithna’i,” Mu’tamar al-Qimma al-Islami,          Fikriyya,” al-Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera,
December 8, 2005,                                     February 1, 2005,    
(last accessed January 4, 2008).                      ve?ArchiveId=113763 (last accessed January
     Saudi prince Khalid al-Faysal has                4, 2008).
denounced that “the pioneers of the wasatiya             Ibid.
movement in Saudi Arabia […] are the very                Ibid.
ones who disseminated the thought of Sayyid              Al-Qaradawi, Thaqafatuna Bayna al-Infitah
Qutb and [Abu al-A’la] al-Mawdudi, and they           wal-Inghilaq, pp. 60-61.
are among the students of Muhammad Qutb                  “Al-Qaradawi: Naqbal I’tidharan Mashruta
[Sayyid’s brother]”; cited in Aluma                   bi-Sudur Qanun Yuharrim al-Isa’ lil-Anbiya,”
Dankowitz, “Saudi Prince Khaled al-Faisal             al-Qaradawi Net, February 16, 2006,
Against the Islamist Ideology,” MEMRI,      
March                    16,                2005,     ?cu_no=2&item_no=4168&version=1&templ        ate_id=116&parent_id=114 (last accessed
s&Area=ia&ID=IA21205            (last    accessed     January 4, 2008); see also Soage, “The Row
January 4, 2008). What the prince neglects to         over the Danish Caricatures Seen from the
mention is that for decades the Kingdom               Arab World.”
welcomed         radical     Islamists--including        “Al-Muslimun wal-Unf al-Siyasi 2,” al-
Muhammad Qutb--with open arms in order to             Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera, May 30, 2004,
present an ideological alternative to       

66                          Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)
                                          Ana Belén Soage

ve?ArchiveId=92986 [last accessed January 4,        wal-Amaliyyat al-Fida’iyya,” al-Jazeera,
2008].                                              December 9, 2001,
   Al-Qaradawi, Kayfa Nata’amil Ma’al-    
Qur’an al-Azim, p. 121. See also “Al-Taghyir        ive?ArchiveId=90148; “al-Irhab wal-Unf,” al-
Bayna al-Unf wal-Unf,” al-Shari’a wal-              Jazeera, October 27, 2002,
Hayyat, al-Jazeera, June 7, 2005,               ve?ArchiveId=91187 (all accessed January 4,
ve?ArchiveId=125687 (last accessed January          2008); “al-Muslimun wal-Unf al-Siyasi 2.”
4, 2008); “al-Hurriyya al-Diniyya wal-                  Al-Qaradawi, Kayfa Nata’amil ma’al-
Fikriyya,”                                          Qur’an al-Azim, p. 64.
100                                                 106
    “Al-Muslimun wal-Unf al-Siyasi 1,” al-              Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,
Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera, May 23, 2004,       p. 118; Thaqafatuna Bayna al-Infitah wal-      Inghilaq, p. 78.
ve?ArchiveId=92972 (last accessed January 4,            Anthony Shadid, “Maverick Cleric is a Hit
2008); “al-Taghyir Bayna al-Unf wal-Unf.”           on Arab TV,” Washington Post, February 14,
    Al-Qaradawi, Fi Fiqh al-Aqaliyyat al-           2003,
Muslima, p. 34; Tarikhuna al-Muftara Alayhi,
pp. 198-99. That argument was first put             ick-cleric-is-a-hit-on-arab-tv (last accessed
forward by Sayyid Qutb. See his Ma’alim fi          June 30, 2006).
al-Tariq (Damascus [?]: Dar Dimashq, 1964               Ibid; see also al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna
[?]), pp. 87, 105, 111; Al-Adala al-Iytima’iyya     Bayna Qarnayn, p. 175.
fi al-Islam (Beirut, Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq), p.          Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,
99; Fizilal al-Qur’an (Beirut, Cairo: Dar al-       p. 176.
Shuruq, 1982), pp. 295, 1432, 1440ff.                   Al-Qaradawi, “Takamuliyyat al-Umuma
    “Ilaqat al-Muslimin bil-Yahud,” al-Shari’a      wal-Ubuwwa,” December 1, 2005, Islam
wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera, January 19, 2005,           Online,
ve?ArchiveId=112577 (last accessed January          12/article01.shtml (last accessed January 2,
4, 2008).                                           2008).
103                                                 111
    Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,                Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Khitan al-Banat,” al-
p. 216; see also “al-Taghyir Bayna al-Unf wal-      Qaradawi Net, July 5, 2001,
    This idea is often reiterated on al-Shari’a     ?cu_no=2&item_no=341&version=1&templat
wal-Hayyat. See, for example, “‘Awamil al-          e_id=8&parent_id=12 (last accessed January
Muruna wal-Si’a fil-Shari’a al-Islamiyya,” al-      4, 2008).
Jazeera, January 14, 2001,                              Al-Qaradawi, Kayfa Nata’amil ma’al-       Qur’an al-Azim, pp. 64-65; “al-Musawat
ive?ArchiveId=89458; “Wajib al-Muslimin             Bayna al-Rajul wal-Mar’a wa-Tatbiqatha,” al-
Tujah al-Intifada,” al-Jazeera, April 8, 2001,      Shari’a wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera, April 26,       2005,
ive?ArchiveId=89585; “al-Irhab wa-Hamlat  
al-Karahiyya Didd al-Arab wal-Muslimin,” al-        ive?ArchiveId=119953 (last accessed January
Jazeera, June 19, 2001,                             4, 2008).
                                                    113           “Mafhum al-Usra fi al-Islam,” al-Shari’a
ive?ArchiveId=89901; “Kayfa Tastajib al-            wal-Hayyat, al-Jazeera, January 13, 2005,
Umma li-Tahaddiyyat al-Harb al-Jadida,” al-
Jazeera, October 14, 2001,                          4-AE87-4D02-B43E-CD19E39149B1.htm         (last accessed January 4, 2008).
rchiveId=89978; “al-Intifada al-Filistiniyya

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)                        67
                   Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Portrait of A Leading Islamic Cleric

      Al-Qaradawi mentions an oft-quoted     (both
statistic according to which in the United            last accessed January 5, 2008).
States there are eight million more women                 When al-Qaradawi visited London in July
than men. However, according to the CIA’s             2004, The Sun tabloid greeted him with the
World Factbook, the male/female ratio in the          headlines: “The Evil has Landed!” and
United States is 1.05:1 for the population            “Britain’s Welcome for Devil.” A “coalition
under 15; 0.996:1 between 15 and 65 years of          of many of London’s diverse communities”
age; and 0.72:1 over 65 years of age. See             was set up against him--and, by extension,         against London mayor Ken Livingstone, who
world-factbook/geos/us.html#People           (last    received him. The group even has its own
accessed January 4, 2008). The inference is           website
clear: If Muslim men really wish to                   (,
compensate for the “excess” of women, their           which offers a dossier of out-of-context
second wives should be over 65! Al-Qaradawi           quotations of the shaykh’s words; see “Mayor
himself has recently taken a second wife--a           Livingstone and Sheikh al-Qaradawi: A
teenager; see Usama Fawzi, “Zawaj al-                 Response by a Coalition of Many of London’s
Qaradawi min al-Tifla Asma,” Arab Times,              Diverse                          Communities,”  
(last accessed January 4, 2008).                      C.PDF (last accessed January 5, 2008).
115                                                   123
    Al-Qaradawi, Kayfa Nata’amil ma’al-                   For instance, al-Qaradawi, Al-Sahwa al-
Qur’an al-Azim, p. 65.                                Islamiyya Bayna al-Juhud wal-Tatarruf, pp.
    For example, “Al-Islam al-Dimuqrati al-           93-94; Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn, pp. 256-
Madani.”                                              57.
117                                                   124
    “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal         “Al-Qaradawi: ‘Lam Ad’u lil-Unf wa-
justly with the orphans, marry women of your          Nushaddid ala al-Ghadb al-Aqil,’” al-
choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that     Qaradawi Net, February 11, 2006,
ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them),
then only one, or (a captive) that your right         ?cu_no=2&item_no=4161&version=1&templ
hands possess, that will be more suitable, to         ate_id=104&parent_id=15 (last accessed
prevent you from doing injustice” (Koran 4:3).        January 4, 2008).
118                                                   125
    Muhammad Abduh, Al-A’mal al-Kamila:                   Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,
Al Kitabat al-Ijtima’iyya, edited by                  p. 244; see also Al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya Bayna
Muhammad Imara (Beirut: Al-Mu’assasa al-              al-Juhud wal-Tatarruf (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq,
Arabiyya lil-Dirasat wal-Nashr, 1972), p. 87-         2001), p. 68.
88.                                                       Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,
    Ibid, p. 87. That reasoning was used by           pp. 244-45.
Bourguiba to ban polygamy in Tunisia in                   “Al-Muslimun wal-Unf al-Siyasi 1;” see
1956.                                                 also Hawla Qadaya al-Islam wal-Asr (Cairo:
    Jamal al-Banna, al-Khitan: Laysa Sunna            Makabat al-Wahba), pp. 184-86.
wa-la Makrama wa-Lakin Jarima. (Cairo: Dar                Al-Qaradawi, Fi Fiqh al-Aqaliyyat al-
al-Fikr al-Islami, 2005). The Egyptian                Muslima, p. 69.
government has forbidden the practice                     Ibid.; see also al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna
following the death of several young girls.           Bayna Qarnayn, p. 233.
121                                                   130
    “Reading in Qaradawism,” Allahuakbar                  Al-Qaradawi, Ummatuna Bayna Qarnayn,
Net,            p. 232.
htm; see also GF Haddad, “Yusuf al-
Qaradawi,” Living Islam, August 2007,

68                          Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (March 2008)

To top