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.