3 min read
27 September 2022
Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, one of the world’s most influential scholars, died at age 96 yesterday. His son, Abdul Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, confirmed the news of his death on his Twitter account.
Speaking to Radio Islam International today, Shaykh Zaid Dantie, Secretary General of the Muslim Judicial Council, said we were fortunate to have an illustrious scholar among the Ummah in modern times to have benefited from his vast knowledge.
Born in Egypt in 1926, al-Qaradawi memorised the Qur’an by the age of ten, and by the age of 16, he was giving sermons. A student of the illustrious Al Azhar University, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan al Muslimeen, in his late teens, becoming one of its critical religious and theological thinkers.
In his youth, he combined religious education with anti-colonial activism, which led to repeated arrests by Egyptian authorities. In particular, his association with the Muslim Brotherhood-led to his arrest by Arab nationalist President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s. Qaradawi left Egypt for Qatar in the early 1960s when he was appointed dean of the faculty of Sharia at Qatar University. Being a part of the Brotherhood saw the scholar imprisoned several times, and by 1961 he decided to leave Egypt due to the oppressive regimes.
Qatar became his home, and it was here that his speeches were being listened to and soon, not just in Qatar but via his show, Religion on Life, broadcast via Al Jazeera, became one of the most popular shows in the Arabic-speaking world. He also authored more than 120 books, translated into various languages.
He was regarded as a moderate, with fatwas that included banning female genital mutilation and honour killings, and condemning the 9/11 attacks.
But Western governments were critical of Al Qaradawi due to his steadfast support for the Palestinians and their right to self-determination. A passionate opponent of Islamophobia, he criticised France’s banning of the hijab or headscarf in 2014. He called for a boycott of Danish goods after publishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Shaykh Dantie referred to Shaykh Igsaan Hendriks, who brought to light the Palestinian people’s struggles and plight in South Africa and how Shaykh Al Qaradawi’s dedication and work for them was his inspiration.
In 2011, he was one of the initial supporters of the Arab Spring, pointing out that it was against Islamic teachings for regimes to oppress people, and all had the right to freedom. And he was the first to give the Friday khutbah in Tahrir Square after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.
Following the 2013 coup in Egypt, Al Qadarawi was tried in absentia, his assets confiscated, and his daughter Ola imprisoned and placed into solitary confinement. The Al Sisi regime charged him with inciting terrorism.
He founded several institutions in his lifetime, including the European Fatwa Council and the International Union of Muslim Scholars, in 2004, an organisation based in Qatar that brought together many Muslim scholars worldwide.
In 2010, the Muslim community of South Africa hosted Shaykh al-Qaradawi in Cape Town, affording students and scholars a rare opportunity to engage with him. Development was important to Shaykh Al Qaradawi, and Shaykh Dantie remembered his engagement with young Ulama in South Africa and created a study group that would benefit from him.
His approach to Islamic law, combining scholarship and political activism, as well as his ability to communicate, earned him millions of followers. His legacy through his books, teachings, and institutions will live on; however, as Shaykh Dantie said, “a beautiful light, a very bright light had been extinguished.”
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By Annisa Essack