Qaradawi on Jihad (3 of 3)

Read part 1 and part 2

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.

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6 Responses

  1. Islamic Law defines ‘jihad’ as “warfare to establish the religion” is obligatory for all Muslims and is required until the entire world is brought under the rule of Islamic Law. The concept that the individual requirement of jihad was “pioneered by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj” is nonsense. Jihad as a requirement comes from all Muslims by Allah in the Qur’an and supported by Hadith by Bukhari. This is why Jihad is the 6th Right of Pure Worship in Islam. There is nothing controversial about it in Islam – only to us in the West.

  2. The primacy of the State in Qardawi’s jihad is such, then, that it may create a statist jihad. That is, if you take out the moralist side of it (that is: war minus jihad), you arrive certainly at a realist position. Should he take the next step — and access and accept unwillingly, but “realistically,” the international system distribution of material capabilities, he’d be very gloomy about a glorious, mighty future for the Muslim States. Of course Qardawi does not make predictions, and not even prescriptions. It seems, and that is valid for most “men of religion” in the world, that he has (or at least claims to have) a voice that should be taken in consideration (or not?). But even taking into consideration what he has to say, that doesn’t make him a political advisor at all. Fuqaha’ have never and will never be that, no matter how loud they cry and boast that they’re entitled to rule on “jihad” (which is, after all, THEIR analytical, abstract, moralistic, and utopian concept). That is, “intellectuals” like himself should accomodate themselves to their positions from where they cannot do much. Sure they could move a crowd (or crowds around the globe), or an underground useless (from a territorial, statist point of view) terrorist organization, but that is decidedly not Qardawi’s intent, of course. By accepting realism, Qardawi ultimately endorses the thesis that he, and other like himself, who have no real power, are irrelevant in world politics.

  3. “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])…”

    As David Meyers above notes, this is a curious claim. One would like to see “Nelly Lahoud” (what a name!) substantiate the crux of that claim: namely, that as a “pioneered” idea, it did not thus exist for centuries before right back to Mohammed, the Sunnah, and the Koran.

    The only stipulation for the Fard ‘Ein is that the Muslims perceive themseves to be “invaded” by Unbeliever enemies — and this has proven to be pliable with the loophole that the promotion of fitna/fasad/shirk is tantamount to aggression against Muslims — particularly when we have a globalist world in which Kuffar are dominant in economics, pop culture, and geopolitics.

    I.e., supposed moderate Muslims don’t have a leg to stand on to refute their more earnest brethren.

  4. I think the conversation in the comments on this post and the previous two speaks to the need for an English translation of this book so us non-Arabic speakers can see exactly what Qaradawi says for ourselves.

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