Qaradawi on Jihad (2 of 3)

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)

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2 Responses

  1. A good piece of analysis. Touches on a numer of important points. I like the European philosophical reference points – themselves products of interaction with the Islamic philosphers.

    Qaradawi’s fit into the realist school is precisley what is called for by the classical understanding of Islamic state and its functions of security. No security = no economic development (trade) = no rule of law = injustice and oppression. This is very important to get across to the masses in the Arab world.

    Keep it up…

  2. Readings the previous post and this one, I struggled to find a substantial difference between offensive and defensive jihad in Qardawi’s writings. It seems, at first sight, that by offensive he means ”preemptive”, but that ommits half of the picture. Surely Muslim conquests in the first centuries were not seen by Muslim rulers as ”preemptive”, though that might explain some (later) skirmishes along the frontier with Byzantium. Though it shows, to some extent, that the discourse on jihad, though intermingled with that of war (which is clear in Qardawi’s argument), is for the most part “moral” — that is, they attacked us in the first place, we are the good guys, so they deserve to be defeated and, eventually, conquered. Of course Qardawi ommitted the argument that infidels deserve to be conquered “for their own good”, that is, because they’re “evil” or “barbaric” in the first place. That is, in a way, an imperialistic or colonialist position, to quote Patricia Crone, a “mission civilisatrice”, an ideology that drove the first Muslim conquests.

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