«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
Although some of these scholars were against European domination, others encouraged healthy cooperation with the West. More importantly, however, is the fact that they rejected full acceptance of classical interpretations of Islam and held that Muslims must reinterpret the sources of law through ijtihād. Similarly, ijtihād, which, in this context, refers to the reinterpretation of Islamic law and theology, is widely accepted by modern reformers to be a fundamental tool of reform. As a prerequisite for moving to the
subsequent phase of ijtihād, religious texts are often bifurcated into two different sets:
Firstly, those that concern fundamental praxes that are unchangeable (such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage) and secondly, those that concern social legislation that may be rearticulated in light of current social and cultural realities (such as marriage and gender rights).
This reformist thinking has given birth to the much-discussed concept of ‘EuroIslam’, a fundamental theme in this thesis, and one that – albeit expressed in many variants by many scholars – purportedly shows promise in the making of an unobtrusive European Islam. The concept was, as self-claimed by its creator, first introduced by Bassam Tibi in his paper ‘Les Conditions d’un Euro-Islam’ at Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in 1992, who has since developed and discussed this concept in many of his writings in German and English. The concept was further developed by Tariq Ramadan who has also made the topic of Muslim minorities in Europe as the main theme of most of his academic research. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, considered one of the most influential Islamic theologians in the Muslim world, is also often acknowledged for developing
West, the most notable of which was the introduction of fiqh al-aqalliyyat (Jurisprudence of Minorities). Emphasized in this jurisprudence is the concept of taysīr (literally translated as ‘facility’ in English) that temporarily exempts Muslims in the West from strict observance of the Islamic law.
As can be seen from the afore-mentioned problems, scholars are now faced with the challenge of tackling intrinsic problems presented by the prima facie clash between the foundational ideologies of Islam and the West. This is, of course, in addition to the efforts made by experts in the study of social science and politics in analyzing ‘external’ issues of ‘Euro-Islam’, such as the effective integration of Muslims into European society, involvement of Muslims in politics, participation in local and national government, education, unbiased representation in the media, dietary needs, family law, Muslim burial restrictions, and so on. Modern reformers such as Ramadan and Tibi have generated theories and proposals in their attempt at establishing a common thread that feasibly connects the liberal democracy of the West and – as commonly expressed by traditional scholars - the dogmatic underpinnings of Islam. Here naturally lies the challenge of re-articulating in Islamic terms characteristics of liberal democracy such as equality (often implying strands such as gender, sexual orientation and pluralism) and freedom (often implying freedom of speech, lifestyle and religion), especially when they are constantly pitted against what many Muslims tend to perceive as normative Islamic dogmas, such as prohibitions against blasphemy, apostasy, hedonism, and sexual ‘perversions’, and commandments for embracing traditional gender roles and adopting Sharia and all the categories of law that it implies, including the controversial ḥudūd. Noticeably, the idea of ‘re-articulating liberal democracy in Islamic terms’
borrow Ramadan’s perspective, reform is, on the other hand, an attempt at seeing modernity and all of its inherent values with a new eye that is influenced by both the expediency of the current situation and the essence of Islam. Unfortunately, reformers are often challenged by the idea of reform itself, as the right to ijtihād (as opposed to the adherence to taqlīd) continues to be a subject of debate. Herein resides the problem of conserving the Islamic, but also the national and cultural, identity of Muslims in Western Europe, an element that remains central in all debates on ‘Euro-Islam’.
3.1 Yusuf al-Qaradawi Yusuf bin Abdullah al-Qaradawi, better known by the mononym “al-Qaradawi”, is a Sunni-Muslim, Qatari scholar of Egyptian origin born on September 9, 1926.
Donning the roles of Islamic jurist, preacher, and activist, al-Qaradawi holds distinctive precedence in the Arab-speaking world as the most recognized, influential, and outspoken figure in the 21st century, and as one of a very few Muslim scholars who claim to strive to marry classical Islamic jurisprudence with contemporary thinking. His work and contributions to the Muslim umma have extended beyond the sheltered world of academia into the wider realms of politics and digital media, the latter of which, in the 90s, catapulted his career to new heights and himself to international prominence.
The scholar draws considerable prestige mainly from his extensive proficiency in all branches of the Islamic sciences - a specialty that apparently no other contemporary scholars can (yet) match - and his traditional schooling at al-Azhar University.
Generally, the course of al-Qaradawi’s life can be seen as falling into two distinctive stages: First, a smaller part of his life that had been spent in Egypt prior to his migration to Qatar in 1961, and second, a greater part of his life that has been spent in Qatar where he is currently based. While it was during the first of the two stages that the scholar developed his multifaceted knowledge of the Islamic sciences, honed his oratory skills, and joined the Muslim Brothers, most of the pivotal moments in his career as a globally-recognized scholar have occurred during the latter stage in Qatar.
This demarcation is particularly useful for the purpose of examining al-Qaradawi’s
influenced his intellectual formation.
3.1.1 Education and Experience Al-Qaradawi’s passion in the study of Islam seems to have been a natural progression from his childhood experiences and interests. Raised in a devout Muslim family in Egypt, he had had the Qur’an memorized before the age of ten. His first experience with the Azhari education system began in 1940 when he joined its affiliated institute in the Egyptian city of Tanta at around fourteen years of age. Existing biographies of the scholar cite that he was an exemplary student, excelling in academics while actively leading the institute’s student representative council (Gräf and Skovgaard-Petersen, 2009). It was during this period in Tanta that al-Qaradawi first joined the Muslim Brothers after having been inspired by a speech delivered by its founder, the late Hasan al-Banna, at an event hosted by the movement (Gräf and Skovgaard-Petersen, 2009). The scholar is cited to have written very highly of al-Banna in his memoir, complimenting the latter’s vision, persona, and eloquence and alluding to the fact that such admiration had had a profound impact on his intellectual and spiritual development (Gräf and Skovgaard-Petersen, 2009). In addition, the scholar professes to having a deep admiration for the renowned, classical sufi and theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali and his ideas in his celebrated Ihyā ‘Ulūm al-Dīn (Revival of Religious Sciences). It is believed that these two figures serve as major role models for al-Qaradawi (Gräf and Skovgaard-Petersen, 2009).
The scholar’s consistent balance of academics and organizational experiences in Tanta was to be repeated later in his tertiary years at the main al-Azhar University,
academic performance, he was active in managing events for students as head of the student council at his faculty and was involved in preaching missions, political coups, and activist work with the Muslim Brothers. It was his engagement with the movement that led to his imprisonment several times from the late 40s to the early 50s.
Notwithstanding this and the extent of his non-academic obligations, al-Qaradawi achieved a remarkable feat by graduating top of his class – which was reportedly a size of 500 students - at the end of his four-year degree course in 1954 (Gräf and SkovgaardPetersen, 2009). Three years later, he pursued a graduate program in Quran and Hadith at al-Azhar and completed it in 1960. Between the year 1954 and 1957, al-Qaradawi obtained a Diploma in Language and Literature from the Institute of Higher Arabic Language Studies. Following his graduation and prior to his migration to Qatar in the early 60s’, the scholar had had a short career in Egypt as a writer and publications advisor at the Department of Islamic Culture at al-Azhar, an imam and a lecturer in several mosques, and a supervisor of the Institute of Imams of the Ministry of Religious endowments (a post that he would continue to hold until 1990).
The turning point for his career path and fortunes began in 1961 when he was sent to Qatar as an emissary for al-Azhar to serve as a principal in a secondary-level institute of religious studies in the city of Doha. It did not take long after he had settled in for his influence to seep into the fabric of the Qatari society; his work as a preacher and a religious instructor during the months of Ramadan endeared him to many, and most particularly to the former emir of Qatar, Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, who offered the scholar a Qatari citizenship in 1968 (Gräf and Skovgaard-Petersen, 2009). The period from the 60s to the 70s saw al-Qaradawi playing a central role in shaping Doha’s
Muslim scholars and activists to meet and engage in discussions. In 1973, he was appointed as Head of the Department of Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Education at what was to become the present-day University of Qatar. This was also the year when he earned a distinction on his Ph.D thesis (titled “Zakat and its Impact in Solving Social Problems") at the same faculty at al-Azhar University where he had previously attained his first and graduate degree. In 1977, he established the Faculty of Sharia and Islamic Studies and the Centre of Seerah and Sunna Research, serving as the former’s dean until 1990 and the latter’s director until the present time (this remains true at the time of this writing).
The 90s was particularly momentous for the scholar. The advent of the Internet, social media, and satellite-based television helped bring him out to a larger spectrum of Muslim audience within and beyond the Arab-speaking world. The success of his own television program, Sharī’a wa al-Ḥayā (Sharia and Life), which was founded in 1996 on the Qatari channel al-Jazeera, quickly established him as a popular Muslim preacher and granted him a reliable platform for his particular da’wa (proselytization) beliefs and needs. Naturally, the wide-reaching power of the media also meant that differences between al-Qaradawi’s beliefs and other Muslim ideologies became more significantly visible, resulting in a growing chorus of criticisms of his thinking from all corners of the world.
Since then, the scholar has continued to expand his horizons; in 1997, he founded a website in his own name (www.qaradawi.net) and another Islamic website now known as “OnIslam” (formerly “IslamOnline”), the latter serving as an extensive resource for Muslims seeking scholarly opinions on issues relevant to Islam, current
Qur’anic texts, and Hadith collections. In the same year, he was made President of the Dublin-based European Centre for Fatwa and Research (hereinafter ECFR) established in London. In 2004, the scholar founded the International Union of Muslim Scholars (hereinafter IUMS) in Ireland, a non-state organization run by “moderate-thinking” ‘ulamā from various Muslim branches (e.g., Sunni, Salafi, Sufi, and Shi’ite) with the intention to lead the Muslim umma and achieve its unity. Through the Union (and his own website), al-Qaradawi and his co-‘ulamā have lobbied internationally for various Muslim causes and called for a series of boycotts against Western companies and products deemed to have made blasphemous attacks against Allah, Prophet Muhammad, and Islam in general. In 2006 alone, the scholar made international headlines for, first, lambasting the Danish government over the publication of the cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad and calling on all Muslims to boycott Danish products and stage peaceful political demonstrations, and second, criticizing Pope Benedict over a speech he made in Germany, in which he quoted Manuel II Palaeologus, a fourteenth-century Byzantine Christian emperor, who once said that Prophet Muhammad had introduced to the world only evil and inhumanity (Gräf and Skovgaard-Petersen, 2009).
As a man of exceptional forte, al-Qaradawi has managed to pen over a hundred books, booklets, articles, and research papers dealing with various aspects of Islam such as jurisprudence, fundamentals of religion, Islamic economy, Qur’an, Sunna, creed, proselytization, education, Islamic revival, and Islamic thought - many of which have been translated into Albanian, Bosnian, Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, and Turkish. Among his most popular books are The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam and Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase. Though distinctly
a positive reception from the general Muslim populace, with a disproportionately low share of criticisms (albeit harsh) from orthodox-thinking and secular-oriented intellectuals. Much of his appeal and commanding authority seem to have been aided in the first place by the fact that he is perceived as an independent scholar, unbound by any state, political organization, or ideological group.
3.1.2 An Extremist, an Innovator, and a Moderate Scholar With the exception of his own admission that he belongs to the reformist school of thought of Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida and to a “moderate” wing of Islam, al-Qaradawi’s thinking is not easy to situate within the folds of Muslim theological trends. This is often attributed to the fact that the scholar has continued to modify - and backtrack on - some of his opinions over time, but an overlooked factor in this obscurity is that his terms of “moderate-thinking” can have surprisingly divergent meanings.