What is New about Al-Qaradawi’s Fiqh of Jihad?

What is New about Al-Qaradawi’s Fiqh of Jihad?

The importance of this topic is due to its focus on the most critical concept in contemporary Islamic thought - that of Jihad, which occupies an important position in Sheikh Rashid Al-Ghannoushi the edifice of Islam. Jihad is “the summit of Islam and its pinnacle” according to the hadith, and is the subject of widely divergent views and stances from within and outside Islam, views which have serious consequences for international relations, in view of Islam’s growing role internationally. Those views, moreover, have an effect on relations between Muslims themselves, with their governments, and with non-Muslims, in view of the awakening witnessed across the Muslim world, both at the level of faith and the level of practice. This has led to a greater connection between Islam as a religion (creed, rituals, morals) and an ideology of great influence on the thought and behaviour of Muslims, socially and politically, or what is known as “political Islam”, in which jihad occupies a central position in one way or another.

This paper owes its importance to the position of the figure whose views on this crucial concept it attempts to present - that is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who occupies an important position in contemporary Islam, as testified by his role at various levels: at the intellectual level, his writings have exceeded 150 works, covering all aspects of Islamic thought. In addition to his membership of the major intellectual and juristic councils, he was elected President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, as well as being the chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research and a number of charity organisations, and a member of various Islamic Studies academic committees, including the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. As for “political Islam”, he grew up inside one of its groups, the “Muslim Brotherhood”, occupying leading positions within it. He is also a rising star in the world of modern media, through his patronage of the most important Muslim website Islam-online, and through his famous weekly programme on Aljazeera channel “Shari'ah and Life” which is followed weekly by over 60 million viewers.

Al-Qaradawi has developed a principal theory in contemporary Islam, from which all his views and stances emanate, and to which he tirelessly calls, widening its appeal and marginalising its opponents - that is the principle of Islamic Wasatiyya or moderation. This was inspired by the verse in the second chapter of the Qur'an, “And thus we made you into a middle (wasat) nation”. Thus, he presents Islam as the middle position between opposing and conflicting rigid positions; as the middle ground that brings all together, a middle position between materialism and spiritualism, between individualism and collectivism, between idealism and realism, etc. Starting from this wasati viewpoint, he presents all his ijtihads in all aspects of Islamic thought, including his ijtihad on the question of jihad, as revealed in his latest book “The Fiqh of Jihad: A Comparative Study of its Rulings and Philosophy in Light of the Qur'an and Sunnah”. This study was described by its author as one which “took several years of continuous work, and occupied his thought for decades”. The fruits of this work are presented in a momentous book of two volumes, in which he puts forward, from the wasati perspective, his views on this critical issue, elaborating his theory on jihad, which he hopes will contribute towards forming consensus on this grave matter. The book springs from the conviction that “it is dangerous and wrong to misunderstand jihad, to shed inviolate blood in its name, to violate property and lives and to taint Muslims and Islam with violence and terrorism, while Islam is completely innocent of such an accusation. However, our problem in such grave matters is that the truth gets lost between the two extremes of exaggeration and laxity.”

Our exposition of this momentous work will focus on clarifying the general view of jihad in Islam according to Sheikh Qaradawi based on the Qur'an and the Sunnah and their interaction with the tafsir and fiqh heritage as seen in the historical contexts in which it emerged, and through the current state of the Muslim Ummah as it is engaged in major conflicts with the forces of despotism or with external forces, under the current power balances, a modern culture that glorifies the value of freedom, and an international law that recognises state sovereignty and limits legitimate war to self-defence. Within these contexts, Al-Qaradawi’s view of jihad was formed. What we wish to explore is not its details, but the general picture - what is novel in it, particularly in relation to major questions, such as jihad’s relation to freedom, and to relations between Muslims and others, whether it is inside or outside Muslim societies. So, what are the foundations of this methodology? What is jihad? What are its forms? What are its goals? Defensive or preemptive? Between Dar al- Islam and Dar al-Kufr? What are the rulings regarding captives in Islam? Is there jihad within the Ummah? Where is jihad in the Ummah’s current causes?

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