«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
the Muslim world, al-Qaradawi avoids tampering with the basic sine qua non of the religion (e.g., the five pillars of Islam, the six pillars of Muslim faith, and the most fundamental Islamic prohibitions) that has traditionally been accepted as “unalterable” in the Muslim tradition, and that which binds Muslims together irrespective of contextual differences. One of the examples used in Chapter 5 to show this particular tendency on the scholar’s part is his attempt at allowing the concession of jama’ prayers (combined prayers) outside its classically-established conditions of applicability – a marked deviation from Muslim conventions - while maintaining that the five daily Muslim prayers are, nevertheless, mandatory. In addition to his tendency to use the Quran, Sunna, and opinions of classical jurists in a coherent and logical way, alQaradawi shows vigilance in the use of ijtihād, modifying rulings only in exceptional cases and always with recourse to scriptural evidence or classical juristic opinions while maintaining unfaltering aversion to what Muslims generally consider as amoral behaviors.
adaptability that Muslims so often ascribe to the Islamic Revelation.
The second key aspect of al-Qaradawi’s approach is his acute sensitivity to the complexities underlying the minority status of Muslims in the West. Through his notion of “balance” that is embedded within his understanding of “moderation”, as discussed in Chapter 4, the scholar attempts at providing Muslim minorities with an ideal concept of identity negotiation in the midst of what appear to be discombobulating internal subjectivities that are integral to their respective ethnic and national affiliations. In the pursuit of “differentness” (in the sense of not becoming too culturally indistinguishable from the wider social group, as defined by the scholar), which is important in any context that recognizes diversity and pluralism, as opposed to homogeneity, Muslims may perhaps see in the unchanging aspects of al-Qaradawi’s “balanced” Islam a means for enhancing their self-perception of uniqueness and defining themselves in terms of their peculiar religious beliefs with limited reference to others. This coincides with the reportedly-increasing trend of Western Muslims reaffirming their religious identity (most identifiably through Muslim dress codes among other symbols) and asserting their rights as rightful citizens, which is often suggested to be more an expression of self-empowerment than that of anti-Western sentiments (Ramadan, 2004). Although this idea of latching on to a sense of “differentness” may seem counter-intuitive when considering the fact that it is these very unique aspects of Islam that constitute the centerpiece of the debate between its compatibility and incompatibility in the West (e.g., veiling, Muslim code of animal slaughtering, and aversion to homosexuality), alQaradawi’s image of the “balanced” Western Muslim, as highlighted previously, is
assimilationist or isolationist tendencies - or at least so in theory.
The third essential element of al-Qaradawi’s approach is his designation of every single Muslim as a da’ie (preacher) and a role model, as discussed in Chapter 4.2, accords them a way through which they can feel positively useful, needed, and purposeful as opposed to feeling autogenously “second-class” and uncertain of their own worth; this can be crucial in combating the much-hyped defeatist sentiment supposedly engulfing many Muslim minorities. Despite the criticism by Ramadan that adaptive fiqh traps Muslims in a perpetual state of acquiescence and powerless minority, al-Qaradawi’s adaptive approach, particularly by recommending that Muslims solidify a peaceful and thriving cultural “ghetto” and gradually occupy important positions in society, may be viewed contrarily as a positive attempt at emancipating and emboldening them to become a “model minority”. Touching on Muslims as a group, alQaradawi uses his concept of da’wa further to raise awareness of the importance of unity as a response to the reality that Muslims in the West are as diverse, or rather disjointed, in terms of madhhab affiliation and culture as Muslims in the Muslim world;
it is presumable that the existing rivalry, which apparently borders on antagonism, between various ideological groups in the Muslim world (e.g., Sunni, Shia, Salafi, Wahhabi, Sufi, Barelvi, and Ahl al-hadith) may also persist in the West, albeit much less militant and politicized. In al-Qaradawi’s none-madhhab-confined Islam (with the exception of his noted disinclination for some aspects of Shiite Islam), Muslims may possibly find a common ground, however infinitesimal this may be, on which they can connect while retaining “negligible” differences that do not necessarily result in one pronouncing the other kafir.
publicized (though not less important) issue of Muslim confusion between religion and culture; this is the fourth paramount factor of the scholar’s approach. While the difficulty to ascertain where the former ends and where the latter begins should be acknowledged given their complex interweaving in the course of Muslim history, the scholar often shows his despair at the tendency of some segments of Muslims to confuse specific practices such as female circumcision, tribal allegiance, and honorkilling as religious prescriptions or religiously-sanctioned cultural norms. His main theoretical contribution to this problem is his call on Muslim minorities to seek proper education in Islam and on governments in the Muslim world to support the former by helping found and fund Islamic institutions in the West; it is, however, unclear as to what al-Qaradawi means by “proper education” beyond the presumption that it should be devoid of misleading cultural biases. As of the present time, many Islamic institutions in the West, which have proliferated since the 70s, are funded by governments in the Muslim world, though it should also be noted that many of these are reported to be media for Islamist and extremist agendas.
The fifth important attribute of al-Qaradawi’s approach, however far-fetched this may seem, is his intention to create a centralized authority (in the hands of “moderate” scholars) for overseeing Muslim affairs worldwide, which may help to remedy the fragmentation of Muslim thinking and subsequently avoid the phenomenon of Google ‘ulamā, wherein over-zealous Muslim youth rely merely on questionable digital sources to justify extremist or blatantly-deviant ideologies beyond the parameters of the more general conventions in the Muslim world as well as those of modern sensibilities. Supposedly, the rationale behind this approach is not principally to deprive
dissemination and burgeoning of spurious verdicts that may encourage the erosion of the unalterable foundation of Islam and the growth of violent, militant Jihadist Islam, in keeping with al-Qaradawi’s public detestation of the two extremes of liberalism and religious extremism.
The sixth commendable characteristic of the scholar’s approach is his principle of placing meticulous emphasis on short-term goals (e.g., intra-Muslim cultural peace, thriving Muslim ghetto, model minority, pro-Islamic and pro-Muslim West, and preservation of religious identity) while keeping long-term goals (e.g., re-establishment of ‘ulamā as a source of religious reference, consolidation of the Muslim umma, and Islamization of the universe) on the back burner. Rather than forcing onto Muslims the inordinate pressure of abstruse raisons d'être that seem far removed from the reality of the world’s globalized and pluralistic landscape (e.g., Islamization of the West), alQaradawi concerns himself with, first and foremost, the preservation of Muslims’ Islamic identity and the promotion of their welfare. Accordingly, it is clear that his adaptive approach does not skirt beyond the boundaries of intra-Muslim concerns (with the exception of his philosophical ambition of Islamization); by solving Muslim problems through unobtrusive adaptation to the context (such as his verdict that Muslim women who live in a society where veiling is forbidden in public buildings should abide by the rule wherever it is in force), as opposed to making demands for the context to comply with Muslim needs, al-Qaradawi’s avoidance from infringing on the status quo of the wider context is particularly favorable in the current situation where there is a perceptibly-increasing level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the political arena. However, there is, of course, a limit to how much the scholar can compromise. As shown in
contradicting the explicit rulings of the Revelation, and that submission to God entails surrendering one’s “selfish” needs to His wisdom and will marks the boundary line between “co-operating” and “over-compromising” in his thinking.
Taking all the preceding points into consideration, one could argue from a general point of view that what ultimately helps al-Qaradawi’s thinking is the transparency of his views. By his lucid, detailed, and systematic way of putting forth his arguments and verdicts, notwithstanding their “shock” or “controversial” value, the scholar eases his followers and readers into understanding, first, the complex jurisprudential processes in which classical jurists and scholars reached their particular verdicts on specific problems, and second, his own interaction with the classical Muslim literature, his personal jurisprudential methodology, and his resulting opinions.
Correspondingly, the scholar’s answers to questions asked by Muslims in the West (as featured in his book Fiqh of Muslim Minorities: Contentious Issues & Recommended Solutions) and Muslims in general are often long and descriptive, yet neither longwinded nor rambling. Furthermore, as observed by Hassan (2013), al-Qaradawi, in his effort to balance the integrity of the Text and that of the context, often avoids using the two authoritative ends of the Islamic judgment spectrum - wājib (obligatory) and ḥarām (unlawful) – in his arguments and resorts instead to “hedging” language, such as arguing that a certain verdict is ”permissible”, “not a must”, “advisable”, and the like. It may be safe to postulate that al-Qaradawi’s methodology and oratory idiosyncrasies seem to lend themselves to providing flexibility for Muslims who wish to “customize” their experience by choosing whether to abide by traditional Muslim conventions or adopt his “lighter” recommendations in time of necessity.
It is perhaps deducible from the expositions in the preceding main chapters that the notion of reconciling traditional Muslim thinking and modern sensibilities - a connotation commonly attached to the concept of European Islam – does not technically come within the underlying objectives of al-Qaradawi’s thinking on his “moderate” Islam. Rather, the scholar makes it clear that the traditional Muslim understanding of ethical concepts such as equality, universality, and freedom is intrinsically different from (and superior to) that of secular humanism (which the scholar often generalizes as “the West”), and that one of the aims of da’wa is to persuade the West through the power of “word and pen” into accepting Islamic principles as they are understood by Muslims in general. Thus, many of his ideas show the perpetuation of classical idealist perspectives on socio-cultural factors that are arguably susceptible to evolution over time (e.g., gender roles, power dynamics within the family structure, diversity of beliefs, moral norms, and models of egalitarianism), rendering some of his recommendations incompatible with the ideals of secular society and inconsistent with the growing global push for Muslims to rescind some of the classical Muslim prohibitions in support of a more “progressive” Islam.
To begin with, the first main weakness of al-Qaradawi’s position is the discrepancy between his religio-cultural conceptualization of the ideal Muslim woman, as discussed in Chapter 6.3.1, and the lived experiences of Muslim women in the West as well as the emerging wave of female empowerment across the globe. In the context of the West, the scholar’s approach overlooks the rise of competent and educated Muslim and formerly-Muslim women who have now taken a stand against what they believe to be a perpetual androcentric chain of oppressions against women, and are
feminist perspectives, each with their own particular ideology, methodology, and interests. Al-Qaradawi’s pigeonholing of women into specific nurturing roles and restricting them to a life within the boundaries of a particular culture will struggle to hold its own within the modernizing Western-Muslim thinking, given the fact that the cultural fabric of the West itself is bound up with efforts to realize women’s empowerment and gender equality and thus naturally supportive of liberating feminist Muslim ideologies.