The journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology has devoted its forthcoming issue to the Muslim Brotherhood, and some articles have already been released. They are available here. Of particular interest is this piece by Jihadica alumnus Jean Pierre Filiu.
What does Youssef al-Qaradawi say about Jihad as an individual duty (fard ‘ayn), i.e., the kind of jihad that allows all Muslims, including women and minors, to take up jihad without seeking anyone’s permission?
This aspect is of particular interest for those of us interested in jihadi ideology. Jihadi ideologues believe that the classical defensive legal doctrine of jihad, i.e., jihad as an individual duty, applies today. In their minds, Muslims are being oppressed not just by ‘unbelievers’ but also by their own ‘apostate’ Muslim rulers. It is the Muslims’ duty (and right), they hold, to defend themselves against both.
That jihad today is an individual duty was pioneered by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj in his book al-Farida al-Gha’iba (The Neglected Duty [of Jihad]), it was later developed into a transnational agenda by ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam to mobilize Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and eventually translated into a global agenda by the leadership of al-Qa‘ida, most notably by Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri.
What is al-Qaradawi’s take on jihad as an individual duty?
According to the classical defensive legal doctrine of jihad, al-Qaradawi explains, if one part of the territory of Islam is invaded, all the inhabitants of this territory are bound to defend it. If they could not repel the invaders on their own, the duty falls on their neighboring Muslims; if the latter can’t repel the invaders, then the duty falls on the closest to them and so on, even if this eventually requires the support of fellow Muslims from the farthest corners of the earth.
Al-Qaradawi poses some sobering questions as to how this individual duty could be applied today: ‘should we make it incumbent upon Muslims from across the globe to move to the occupied territory?’, ‘how could all the merchants abandon their businesses?’, ‘how could life go on without all these people?’ If Muslims were to advocate such views, ‘we would effectively be seeking to interrupt life across all parts of the Islamic world … virtually advocating that most people should die so that the few may live.’ Such a suicidal attitude, he believes, is not in accordance with Islamic law or with rationality.
What’s to be done?
Al-Qaradawi believes that jihad as an individual duty entails that the responsibility of repelling the invaders is to be shouldered first and foremost by the inhabitants of the country that is invaded. They must do so following the authority of the state; in the event that the state is absent, then they must follow the authority of the group (jama‘a) to be chosen by influential and learned people (ahl al-hall wa-al-‘aqd). If the inhabitants of the invaded territory cannot on their own repel the attackers, the duty of the umma at large would be to assist them with all possible means. These include lending them financial and military aid, and if they are asked, sending them military personnel, especially military experts. Never, he asserts, should jihad be carried out under chaotic and unsupervised circumstances. Islam, he reminds his readers, commands Muslims to organize themselves at all times and to appoint leaders to oversee their affairs.
Notwithstanding the synthesis that al-Qaradawi offers his modern readers, some deeper issues remain unaddressed. Since al-Qaradawi appears to accept the legitimacy of the modern nation-state and international institutions such as the United Nations, what is the role of the faqih like himself when it comes to questions concerning war and peace? Should the faqih assume the role of a public intellectual whose duty is to offer advice to those in power but remain outside it, as many jurists did during the classical era?
Equally important, what is the role of other fuqaha’ on these issues? As it stands, al-Qaradawi appears to be implying that fiqh al-jihad, c’est moi. Surely, he doesn’t believe that he has the last word to say about jihad. At this stage though, he is not indicating how a deliberative process among jurists about contentious issues such as war and peace could come about.
More precisely, it would be useful to envisage a process that would allow jurists who espouse different and differing opinions, including those who sympathize with the jihadis, to advance their views independent of the state, have them debated with the aim of reaching consensus (ijma‘). Since such mechanisms are not in place, al-Qaradawi’s interpretation of jihad may not necessarily stem the tide of individualized jihad.
Read part 1
What does Youssef al-Qaradawi say about waging war against non-Muslims at least once a year as part of fard kifaya, a task some classical jurists believed was incumbent upon the ruler? Al-Qaradawi does not believe that the classical jurists reached a consensus on this matter.
Instead, he believes that their opinions were dictated by the circumstances of their time, namely ‘the relationship between the Islamic state and its neighbors that were constantly threatening it, especially Byzantium.’ Muslims then had to ‘engage in skirmishes along their borders every once and a while, to ensure the security of their borders and assert their presence.’
This, he believes is akin to ‘what scholars today call “preemptive war”, which they consider to be justifiable and lawful.’ (issue 7) Preemptive war is more controversial in international law than al-Qaradawi implies. Some Israeli and US military strategists though might agree with al-Qaradawi that preemptive war is lawful.
Though the modern (political science) reader might be forgiven to assume that al-Qaradawi, in part, shares some of the political values of the Realist school of thought – the school that emphasizes the security of the state over ethical and moral concerns – al-Qaradawi is nevertheless keen to add a moral dimension to the concept of offensive jihad in Islam. ‘What is it that Muslims seek to obtain through offensive jihad?’ He asks. ‘Is it a thirst for blood on the Muslims’ part, and an overwhelming desire to attack others? In other words: is jihad [nourished by] an oppressive power common to all empires across history, those which sought to swallow up everything around them’ (issue 25)? The answer, he says, is a categorical ‘no’, and he devotes a section in which he argues that Islam and peace are one and the same.
However, al-Qaradawi laments that Islam ‘cannot prevent war’; that is why Islam commands its followers ‘to prepare for war’ so that they could be ready to fight their enemies when it is necessary for them to do so.The world has many Qabil(s) (Cain), he believes, and ‘is it possible’, he asks, ‘that all other people should take the same stand as his kind brother Habil (Abel)?’ That would not be sensible, in his mind. Instead ‘evil (sharr) must be repelled with evil’ (I suspect that al-Qaradawi inadvertently used the term ‘evil’ instead of ‘force’ (‘unf) in this context, for he must surely realize the implications of associating Islam and jihad with evil).
Thus, reminiscent of a Hobbesian view, al-Qaradawi believes that ‘reality reveals that life could not be made upright without a [coercive] power that would protect the truth, resist falsehood, impose justice, fight oppression and prevent the Cains from attacking the Abels of this world.’
In essence, the objective of war in Islam, he holds, is to repel attacks with force, whether such attacks are on the nation, its territory or its religion. Al-Qaradawi is keen to stress that it is the Muslims’ duty to repel attacks against the dhimmis (i.e., Christians and Jews), and also defend their rights to worship in their churches and synagogues. This, he believes, is because there is a mutual obligation between Muslims and dhimmis to defend each other (issue 27).
(to be continued)
(Editor’s note: I have the pleasure of introducing Nelly Lahoud, a political theorist working on Islamism. She has published several books and has a new one on jihadi ideology coming out next year. Nelly is on my wish list for guest bloggers, but she has not yet been able to join us for a more extended period of time. She has nevertheless taken the time to write the following piece for us. To my knowledge Nelly is the first scholar to have looked closely at the substance of Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s new book on Jihad).
Youssef al-Qaradawi’s recent book Fiqh al-Jihad (Jurisprudential Reasoning and Jihad), excerpts of which are available here, has received considerable attention in the Arabic press and for good reason. Al-Qaradawi commands significant influence among Sunni Muslims in the Arab world and beyond, not least because he reaches a wider audience through his television shows on al-Jazeera (“Huda al-Islam” and “al-Shari‘a wa-al-Hayat”) and his two websites, one dedicated to his work, the other, Islamonline, designed to serve as a news service about the Muslim world, a religious guide to Muslims and a window to the Islamic faith and civilization to non-Muslims.
Controversies have not escaped al-Qaradawi: among those he has offended are Palestinians, Jews and Shi‘ites. Sometimes his statements generated controversies because he was misunderstood or misread; on other occasions, he might have purposely left his statements ambiguous perhaps to invite controversy.
In Fiqh al-Jihad, al-Qaradawi presents not just a synthesis of the legal opinions expounded by classical Muslim jurists on the issue of jihad, but also places them in the context of today’s reality, using modern political vocabulary to illustrate his points. In addition to addressing the Muslim community at large, including moderate and extremist political groups, al-Qaradawi explicitly states that he is keen for his book to reach a non-Muslim audience. More specifically, he wants his book to be translated so that military experts in the Pentagon can read it, he is keen to reach Muslim and non-Muslim public intellectuals, historians and politicians, Orientalists and those who promote inter-religious dialogue.
What is jihad then according to al-Qaradawi?
Building on the classical legal doctrine of jihad, al-Qaradawi distinguishes between offensive jihad (jihad al-talab) and defensive jihad (jihad al-daf‘). In the former case, jihad is to be considered as a communal duty (fard kifaya). This means that not all Muslims are required to take up jihad if enough of them volunteered to fight thus providing the desired security. In modern political realities, the concept of fard kifaya, according to al-Qaradawi, translates into ‘the umma possessing a military capacity armed with all the modern weapons that it requires … weapons that would compete with and even excel those of the enemies.’ The Muslim army should also spread its forces across any possible gaps or openings (land and sea) that might threaten its territory and people to keep the enemies in check, lest they consider attacking the Muslims (Issue 7, September 12, 2008). This aspect, he explains, is intrinsic to the territorial sovereignty of the modern state and is a matter that all modern states agree upon.
(To be continued)