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RECOMMENDED READING: "Dawa and the Islamist Revival in the West"


In article titled “Dawa and the Islamist Revival in the West” scholar Nina Wiedl explores global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi’s views on the role of Muslims in Europe. For a short description of Qaradawi’s background she describes Qaradawi’s position that Muslim settlement in the West is necessary for the conduct of “dawa”:

For Qaradawi, Muslim settlement in the West isn’t simply religiously permissible. It is, he argues, a religious necessity and an obligation for the worldwide Islamic revival movement. The Muslim presence in the West is necessary because it enables the conduct of dawa, which in Qaradawi’s view serves multiple purposes—from proselytization to Europeans, to creating Islamic enclaves and an Islamic environment for Muslim immigrants and European converts, to influencing the the social and political climate towards Islam and the Muslim Nation (umma) within Western societies.[43] Moreover, he claims that “persuading the West of the necessity of the emergence of Islam as a guiding and leading force” will eventually mean that Western governments will bring pressure to bear on Muslim rulers to adopt more lenient policies toward the Islamic Movement in their own countries. In Qaradawi’s eyes, this will “certainly be a great benefit” for the global Islamic movement.[44]Qaradawi ultimately believes that Islam will be established as the dominant religious and political force in Europe through dawa. As he has written, “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor after being expelled from it twice … the conquest this time will not be by the sword but by preaching and ideology.”[45]

The author continues by explaining that Qaradawi views Jihad in Europe as suspended “under present circumstances” and that Islam can be spread there currently by peaceful means:

Like Murad, he rejects offensive jihad as a legitimate method for the establishment of Islam in Europe. He also criticizes the claims of more radical Islamists like Said Qutb and Mawdudi that the ‘verse of the sword’ has abrogated more than a hundred more pacific Quranic verses, that Muslims are ordered to fight the unbelievers if they are able to do so, and that this fight serves to spread Islam.[46] A critic of the concept of naskh (abrogation), Qaradawi claims that previous verses were not cancelled but rather further clarified by later ones and each verse has to be understood in its specific context.[47]In contrast to Murad, Qaradawi’s rejection of jihad in Europe is neither permanent nor unconditional. In fact, he limits his rejection of jihad to present circumstances. As he argues, because Muslims who reside in the West presently have the freedom to conduct dawa and are able to spread Islam peacefully, because they still “depend on others [non-Muslims] for military power,”[48] and also because what he describes as the ‘compulsory defensive jihad’ in lands like Palestine is not fulfilled yet, then offensive jihad to spread Islam is currently not an option. Further to this, in his workplan for the Islamic movement, written in 1992, he claims that a discussion of this question of offensive jihad by religious scholars is not necessary at the present time, because offensive jihad is neither practicable nor necessary.[49] (In his recently published book Fiqh al-Jihad, Qaradawi’s pronouncements become more concrete, and he claims that there is no obligation for Muslims to attack non-Muslim lands in order to spread Islam. He further claims that jihad does not necessarily mean fighting and that it can be performed also by peaceful means, such as charitable work or dawa).[50]

Following a description of Qaradawi’s writings on Islamic law, the author concludes that Qaradawi sees Muslims in the West as able to create a “pro-Islamic environment” to counter what he sees as Jewish influence:

This juristic reasoning clears the way for new methods of dawa and dialogue and for influencing the society from within. Using all forms of media for dawa purposes had already been encouraged by Banna,[61] but Qaradawi additionally encourages Muslims to study and strive for important positions in media, the arts, and the human sciences and social sciences in order to influence European society from “above.” He calls this process an “Islamization” of these arts.[62] In addition to Qaradawi’s call to Islamize the arts and sciences, he also attempts to Islamize the understandings of Western political concepts such as feminism, democracy and civil and human rights. For instance, in a fatwa on the status of women in Islam, he declares that Muslim women are not inferior to Muslim men, but he adds that this is based on the Islamic comprehension of equality before Allah, but not on the Western comprehension of gender equality.[63]Over the long-range, Qaradawi believes these diverse intellectual and media-based activities will ultimately create a pro-Islamic environment within Europe that will counter what he describes (citing a widespread stereotype) the monopolization of these areas by Jews.[64]

Finally, the author describes Qaradawi’s views on freedom, suggesting that they are inconsistent with liberal ideals:

The application of the fiqh of balances allows Qaradawi to issue fatwas that permit Muslims to participate in European society to a greater degree than classical Islamic law permits—but only under the condition that this serves the interests of the Islamic Movement. Qaradawi explains that, for example, working in a non-Islamic bank is not forbidden if the work and the knowledge gained from it substantially benefit the movement.[67] Under the same conditions he also declares that it is permissible for Muslims to publish in non-Islamic journals, to become involved in non-Islamic governmental and civic institutions, to engage in media of all kinds, and to form alliances with non-Islamic movements, parties and other groups. Taken as a whole, he calls this participation “the divine duty of the call (dawa),” because it makes “our word [of Islam] reach them [non-Muslims].”[68]Qaradawi’s desire to improve the image of Islam, especially with regard to violence, women’s rights or democracy, remains considerably proscribed by his adherence to traditional frameworks, as well as to salafist revivalist ideology. For example, in a fatwa entitled “Freedom of expression from an Islamic perspective,”[69] Qaradawi guarantees this freedom only on condition “that religion should not be toyed with;” freedom “to such extent that it commands Muslims to struggle and fight in (the) cause (of Islam).” In other words, freedom of expression is valid only within the framework of the sharia, and reinterpreted in the context of a duty to struggle for Islam. Here, Qaradawi follows the opinion of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which issued the “Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam” in 1990. Article 22 subordinates freedom of expression to sharia law, and the duty of “enjoining right and forbidding wrong.” It states, “Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shariah.”[70] Needless to say, Qaradawi’s conception of Islamic freedom remains deeply antithetical to liberal conceptions of freedom—a fact that suggests that his dawa will likely continue to be a source of cultural and political friction within the West.

It should be noted that Youssef Qaradawi is the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the theological body of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), the umbrella group for the European Muslim Brotherhood.

Youssef Qaradawi is often referred to here as the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, an acknowledgement of his role as the de facto spiritual leader of the movement. In 2004, Qaradawi turned down the offer to lead the Egyptian Brotherhood after the death of the Supreme Guide. Based in Qatar, Sheikh Qaradawi has reportedly amassed substantial wealth through his role as Shari’ah adviser to many important Islamic banks and funds. He is also considered to be the “spiritual guide” for Hamas and his fatwas in support of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens were instrumental in the development of the phenomenon. Qaradawi has written that all Jews and all Muslims will fight each other in a final battle in which Muslims will emerge victorious. Qaradawi has also written that Israel plots against the Al-Aqsa mosque are harbingers of this coming conflict.

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