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Obituary notes on the death of Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradāwi

- Dr RIFAI. Naleemi -

Prominent Islamic scholar Yusul al-Qaradawi has peacefully passed away today ( 26/09/2022) in Doha, Qatar. Sheikh al-Qaradawi is a globally renowned Egyptian Islamic scholar. Volumes can be written on his contribution to Islam and Muslims, yet I will pen down some lines in this obituary. He was born in 1926 in Egypt and lost his parent in his childhood and yet, he was well looked after by one of his uncles and he memorised the Holy Qur’an when he was 9 years old.  He excelled in his secondary education and entered the famous al-Azhar university and graduated with a first-class degree in Islamic studies since then, he dedicated his life to teaching Islamic sciences and he has taught in many Arabic universities in Middle Eastern countries. 

        He has written more than 120 books and hundreds of academic articles on Islam. He has worked as an imam in some mosques in Egypt and Qatar. He has given hundreds of lectures and talks on Islam. He was a founder member of many regional and international Islamic organizations. He was awarded many prestigious awards. He has worked with Islamic groups and contributed to Islamic Da’wa work since his adulthood. He has dedicated entire his life to Islamic Da’wa works. He has influenced and inspired millions of Muslim youths across the world and his contribution to the Islamic awakening and renaissance is immense. He has participated in hundreds of international conferences on Islam, and he initiated many interfaith dialogues. 

        No doubt his legacy will be remembered by the entire Muslim world in Islamic history. He has imprinted his fingerprint and legacy in the minds and hearts of millions of Muslim youths with his logical, and rational interpretation and explanation of Islamic principles and doctrines. How does he differ from all other traditional Muslim scholars of modern time? He greatly succeeded in relating Islamic teachings and principles to the modern world.  He made reconciliation between the divine texts and the social realities of the modern world.

        We are living in this modern digital world. Modern technological and scientific developments have made a lot of social changes in the fields of finance, banking, business, politics, international relations, and social changes. Our social context and challenges are different from medieval social settings and social challenges. Although the primary sources of Islam have contained some broader universal theological,  legal, and socio-political divine guidelines, modern social changes and challenges demand new interpretations and explanations of some Islamic teachings in the light of general primary sources of Islam. Sheikh al- Qaradāwi has greatly succeeded in explaining the suitability of Islamic teaching to all ages and all places. The flexibility and applicability of Islamic teaching to all times and all ages are so beautifully and logically explained in his writing. He does this in his classification of different types of Islamic jurisprudence. 

 a) fiqh Sharī‘ah: i.e. understanding the letter and spirit of the Sharī’ah.

 b)  fiqh al-wāqi’ī:i.e. a branch of law that deals with realities of life, which are not regulated by the text or any legal precedent. 

c)  fiqh al-muwāzatāt i.e. the law of equivalence compares the benefit and harm of any given issue in Islamic law.

d) fiqh al-awlawiyāt i.e. the laws of priority which examines legal issues in order of prominence. (al-Qaradāwi,2000 pp.45.).

             He argues that we should read modern development in the light of these 4 types of Islamic jurisprudence.  I will select some of the fascinating arguments of  Sheikh Qaradāwi to reveal the lucid and cohesive nature of his Islamic interpretation and explanation. For instance, he argues that the obligatory nature of commandments and prohibitions of divine rulings are not the same in merit. The value and legal ranking of obligations differ. Consequently, the reward for religious duties varies (Ibid, 9-12). Thus, certain duties get more merit at certain times. Sometimes, the fundamental obligatory duties are neglected at the expense of optional obligations. For instance, millions of Muslims go to Hajj annually, but only 15% of all pilgrims are first-time pilgrims. The rest of the pilgrims perform this duty voluntarily for the second time. This type of hajj performance is observed to attain spiritual enlightenment. al-Qaradāwi argues that rich Muslims should spend this huge amount of money on something more important such as establishing institutes of learning or helping the poor. He does not cast any doubt on the obligatory nature of hajj, but optional hajj is performed at the expense of some important duties. Like this, People build extra- mosques hoping to gain greater rewards from God. The money spent on the construction of extra mosques can be used for creating educational and social projects that are more beneficial than building additional mosques. (Ibid, p.18). He does not deny the obligatory nature of these duties, but he argues that optional obligations should not be given precedence over the most important duties.

              Muslim minorities are subjected to ethnic cleansing, genocide, severe famine, poverty, and economic problems. Yet, Muslims are involved in optional religious duties such as optional hajj and umrah. They spend billions at the expense of their most urgent social obligations. The general philosophy of Islamic law demands that the most urgent obligations should be given priority over the less urgent ones. The lack of understanding of the laws of priority has created chaotic situations all over the Muslim world. (Ibid, pp.117-118.). Immediate duties should be given priority over duties which can be fulfilled later in time.  fard Kifāyah is neglected by Muslims. The technological, scientific, and industrial developments do not get religious impressions in the minds of Muslims, although these become part and parcel of Islamic duties. Modern technological and scientific development should have the most prominent place in the order of priorities. |Thus, understanding the higher objectives of Islamic law and a contextual understanding of the legal issues in order of priorities constitutes a significant place in the legal thinking of al-Qaradāwi. Modernity and modern civilization pose a great threat not only to the Muslim world but also to the entire world. He exposed all his threats in his writings in a logical manner appealing to Muslims and non-Muslims. It would be beyond the scope of this short obituary note to write the legacy of this great Islamic scholar, but I have highlighted a glimpse of his thought here.

 His religious verdicts generated some controversies among some Muslim and non-Muslim sectors, for instance, he says that suicide bombings in the occupied land of Palestine are permitted in Islamic law according to his understanding. Moreover, he has condemned the destruction of  Buddhist statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Yet, most of the Sunni Muslim world has accepted his religious verdict as the most appropriate and viable. His influence goes beyond the Arab world to encompass the entire Muslim world and beyond.  A lot of non-Muslim academics have read and studied his books. He has managed to present Islam in a simple way but in an appealing manner. Unlike all other literal Islamic scholars, we went beyond the letters of the religious text to discover and reveal the inner meanings and the higher objective of Islamic text. He has extensively written on the general philosophy of Islamic law. 

  Unlike many other modern Islamic scholars who are seeking political favours from politicians and rulers did not kneel in front of any rulers. He did not compromise his ideology for sake of worldly pleasure and materialistic gains.  He could have received many prestigious posts and favours in his own native country if only he had compromised some of his principles in his life and yet, did not want to please anyone except Allah alone. 

 May Allah accept all his good deeds and reward him Jennath al-Firdaus. 

Some Reference 

Al-Qaradāwi, Yūsuf. 

……..., (2000).  Kaifa nata‘āmalu ma‘a al-Qurān  al-‘azīm, 2st Edition, Coiro: Dār al-Shurūq,

……..., ( 2000) Yūsuf. Fī fiqh al-Awlawiyyāt, 4th edition, Coiro: Maktabat al-Madani

……… (2002), Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the coming phase, e.d by al-Banaa. H.  U.K: Awakening Publication

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