«Mark Gardner and Dave Rich The arguments over Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi are well-trodden ground. Since his visit to London in 2004, his views on ...»
Fatawa on Palestine
by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Al-Falah Foundation, 2007, 92 pp.
Mark Gardner and Dave Rich
The arguments over Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi are well-trodden ground. Since
his visit to London in 2004, his views on suicide bombing, women and gays – in
soundbite form at least – have been committed to memory by those who oppose the
alliance between parts of the left and radical Islamism. Ken Livingstone’s physical
and political embrace of Qaradawi, and his wider strategy of courting Islamist groups from amongst London’s Muslim population, did him much damage in the eyes of many Londoners, particularly on the political left, and may well have played a role in his removal as London’s mayor. Despite the fact that Qaradawi is currently excluded from entering the United Kingdom, he still has the potential to influence attitudes via his writings, his website and other media. If only for this reason, it is important to fully understand the broader vision behind Qaradawi’s views.
A new book, published for the first time in English and distributed in Britain for British Muslim readers, allows us to do just this with Qaradawi’s views on Israel, Palestine, Jews and Zionism. It is a book that promises a battle ‘between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews’ (p.
77), which will hasten the end of days for mankind. This is no political analysis of the Israel/Palestine conflict, or even a faith-based lament for the Palestinian people; it is a passionate apocalyptic vision of division, war and final triumph.
Originally published in Arabic as Fatawa Min Ajl Falastin (Wahba Library, Cairo 2003 ), and now translated into English, it is a compilation of fourteen rulings by Qaradawi on various aspects of the conflict, including ‘Peace with Israel,’ ‘The Legitimacy of Martyrdom Operations in Occupied Palestine,’ ‘Ruling on Accepting Compensation for the Land of Palestine,’ ‘Hadith: “The Judgment Day Will Not Occur Unless You Fight Jews”’ and ‘Discussing the Verses on Banu Israel and Their Mischief.’ Some of the rulings are answers by Qaradawi to members of the public who have asked for his opinion on a particular question. Al-Falah Foundation has published many books by leading figures in the Muslim Brotherhood and this is intended to be a faithful and sympathetic translation. In the preface, the General Director of Al-Falah, Sheikh Muhammad ‘Abdu, summarises the central message
of the book:
| 156 | Gardner & rich | The Thought of Qaradawi In this book, the eminent contemporary scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi gives clear answers to the reasons and removes the ambiguities to whoever seeks the truth and justice concerning the Palestinian issue. These answers acquaint Muslims with the dimensions of the issue with the Zionists who usurped this pearlof ours. The battle between them and us is not a battle of borders but a battle of existence. It is the battle that will end and the Muslims that will be victorious. This victory will raise the Adhan [call to prayer] on the voiceless minaret and will return monotheism to the voiceless pulpit. (p. V) Qaradawi makes it clear at the beginning of the book that Israel should be removed entirely from what he sees as Muslim land. He discusses his hypothetical reaction to any future peace accord that would leave Israel in control of its pre-1967 territory
in the opening chapter:
[T]he so-called peace accords involved recognizing the Jews’ right to the usurped lands which means that Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, al-Ladd, Ramallah, Beir Sheba and even Jerusalem will be considered as Israeli lands. Such cities that have been part of the Muslim world for more than thirteen hundred years will become part of the Zionist Jewish state. Hence, we will never be able to claim them back and, after being taken by force, such places will be legitimately given to the enemy.
Bearing this in mind, we can realize that what happened was not a peace accord being signed; rather, it is an utter recognition of Israel having rights and sovereignty in our Arab Muslim lands. Therefore, we sign a witnessed agreement to lose such lands forever. (pp. 3-4) Nor, significantly, does Qaradawi feel that the Palestinians have the authority to
make such a peace agreement with Israel:
I have always stressed that Palestine is a Muslim land belonging to all generations of the Muslim nation. Therefore, if any of these generations fail to defend and protect this land, it is for the following generations to stand up for this task. If Palestinians neglect their duty of defending this land, the whole Muslim nation is required to take this responsibility and defend the land either by force or word. (p. 5) Hamas, as the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, has for many years
looked to Qaradawi as a religious authority and relied upon his rulings. The idea that any peace deal made by the Palestinian leadership with Israel should be treated as null and void by successive generations of Palestinians, appears to be echoed in the refusal of the current Hamas government to recognise past agreements made with Israel by its predecessors. There are common principles and ideological positions that run through the policies of Hamas, the writings of Qaradawi and the wider vision of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qaradawi underlines the need for Muslims all over the world to involve themselves
in the Israel/Palestine conflict when he goes on to discuss the question of Jerusalem:
The Palestinians do not have the competence to decide on the fate of Jerusalem without resorting to the Muslims all over the world. This, consequently, makes it obligatory upon every Muslim wherever he is to defend Jerusalem, and al-Aqsa Mosque. This is an obligation upon all Muslims to participate in defending Jerusalem with their souls, money, and all that they possess, otherwise a punishment from Allah shall descend on the whole nation... (p.
24) Qaradawi compares this call for action with what he sees as the collective Jewish
participation in the oppression of the Palestinians:
The conquerors [of Palestine] are those with the greatest enmity toward the believers, and they are supported by the strongest state on earth – the USA, and by the world Jewish community. (p. 38) If every Jew in the world thinks himself a soldier, and supports Israel as much as he can, surely every Muslim should be a soldier using his very soul and wealth to liberate al-Aqsa. The least the Muslim can do is to boycott the enemies’ goods. (p. 42) The negative impact that overseas conflicts can have on community cohesion in Britain has been well documented. Sharp rises in physical, verbal and written antisemitic attacks on British Jews were reported during, for example, the war in Lebanon in 2006; after the assassination of Sheikh Yassin of Hamas in March 2004;
in the run up to the war in Iraq in March 2003; and after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in October 2000. This dynamic has a damaging impact on the lives of ordinary British Jews and is something that any moderate religious leader ought to | 158 | Gardner & rich | The Thought of Qaradawi deplore. Yet Qaradawi’s message, that ordinary Jews and Muslims all over the world are participants in the conflict, can only encourage suspicion and hostility between communities. This seems deliberate: Qaradawi warns that Muslims should not be friends with ‘Jews, in general, and Israelis, in particular’ (p. 51), because of the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine, and recognises that friendly relations would
diminish the appetite for fighting:
Receiving enemies in our own countries and visiting them in the occupied lands would remove such a psychological barrier that keeps us away from them, and would bridge the gap that keeps the desire for Jihad against them kindled in the hearts of the Ummah. (p. 47) Qaradawi’s classification of ‘every Jew in the world’ (p. 42) as an enemy may refer to contemporary events for its justification, but it has a deep theological purpose. A chapter of the book is devoted to a discussion of the hadith [a record of a saying or
deed of Muhammad] that reads:
‘The last day will not come unless you fight Jews. A Jew will hide himself behind stones and trees and stones and trees will say, “O servant of Allah – or O Muslim – there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”’ This hadith is used by many radical Islamist groups to incite conflict between Muslims and Jews. It is quoted in article seven of the Hamas Covenant and its use in the literature of Hizb ut-Tahrir was one of the reasons why that organisation was banned by the National Union of Students. Qaradawi refers to the hadith as ‘one of the miracles of our Prophet’ (p. 76) and then goes on to describe how this battle between Muslims and Jews is one of the preconditions that needs to be fulfilled before the Day of Judgement can come. He carefully explains, though, that the current fighting between Israel and the Palestinians is a start, but is not sufficient to
fulfil the requirements of the hadith:
[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews. (p. 77) | 159 | democratiya 13 | Summer 2008 However, although Jews ‘[take] power from the teachings of the Torah and the rulings of the Talmud’ (p. 77), Qaradawi bemoans Muslims for having ‘kept Islam outside the battlefield.’ (p. 78) The victory promised in the hadith cannot come about, he explains, until Muslims truly dispense with ‘their own desires and inclinations’ (p. 78) and instead fight ‘under the banner of Islam’ (p. 78).
This apocalyptic prophecy is the context for Qaradawi’s fervour for jihad against Israel, his unshakeable belief in victory and his calls for all Muslims to join the effort. This is far from a local conflict over land, or even a religious struggle between Muslims and Jews; it is a messianic precursor that will foreshadow ultimate triumph
on earth. Indeed, Qaradawi sees signs that victory is on its way:
The questioner might have thought that gaining victory over the Jews will be delayed till before the Day of Judgement, but there is no clear evidence to say this. We hope – Insha’ Allah – that it shall happen soon. In fact, the introduction of such a victory has occurred and been embodied in the Islamic movement and the revolution of mosques against the oppressor and the occupier. It has also arisen in the activities of those children who carry stones in their hands to defend their lands, in the calls that are spreading everywhere telling Muslims that they have to return to Islam and apply it in every aspect of life. All this brings us nearer to victory and surely victory is near. (p. 79) Other Islamists share Qaradawi’s messianic interpretation of current events. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) advertised a recent meeting in
Manchester with the call:
If the leadership is entrusted to those unfit for it, expect the Hour. By Allah the signs of the end of times are all around us, a hundred million Zionists desire with all their hearts to plunge this world into the final battle, and all around the Muslims are betrayed and bewitched. Muslim Leaders in the Mosque concern themselves with the minor points of fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] while all around the Ummah cries in pain and fitna [division] and those with hatred in their hearts plan and plot.  Qaradawi personifies the combination of theological anti-Judaism, modern European anti-Semitism and conflict-driven Judeophobia that make up
contemporary Islamist attitudes to Jews. Thus Jews are ‘devourers of Riba (usury) and ill-gotten money … [T]he true examples of miserliness and stinginess’ (p. 53);
‘They have killed Prophet Zakariyya and Prophet Yahya and wove conspiracies against Jesus Christ’ (p. 81). Israel is ‘dreaming of a state that extends from the River Nile to the Euphrates and from the Cedar trees (i.e. southern Lebanon) to
the Palm trees (i.e. the Arabian Peninsula).’ (p. 51). As for Israelis themselves:
Mixing with those people (i.e. Israelis) without placing any conditions or bonds has a lot of hazards and dangers since it threatens Arab and Muslim societies and spreads vice and moral corruption and deviation amongst Muslims. Such people have been weaned on vice and perversion and so many diseases including AIDS have become widespread amongst them. They plan for achieving such a goal of exporting these ailments to the Muslim society while Muslims are totally unaware. Therefore, blocking the door leading to such temptation is considered a religious obligation and necessity. (p. 47) Israelis, Zionists and Jews are conflated and the terms freely mixed throughout the book. One chapter answers the question, ‘Is it permissible to buy items from Israeli sources, even though this money may be used to help the Jewish “war machine”?’ Qaradawi replies by ruling that ‘Every Muslim that buys “Israeli” or American goods, when there is an alternative from other countries is committing a prohibited act’ (p. 40), but then later writes that ‘[T]he consumer buying Jewish or American goods is committing a major sin’ (p. 43).
Fatawa on Palestine includes Qaradawi’s standard line on Palestinian suicide bombing, which is now well known. Suicide bombings are, in Qaradawi’s words, ‘[O]ne of the greatest types of Jihad … valid heroic martyrdom operations and very different from suicide.’ (p. 6) The suicide bomber ‘[H]as sold his soul to Allah and placed his heart on gaining martyrdom and purchasing Paradise.’ (p. 7) Women suicide bombers ‘[A]re doing a remarkable deed that is blessed by Almighty Allah and considered an act of Jihad for the sake of Allah.’ (p. 21) Qaradawi condemned the suicide bombings in London on 7/7, but it does not appear that this was based on a principled objection to the methods or goals of the global jihadist movement.