Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi dies at 96

Yusuf Al Qardawi at the Third Annual Doha Educational Conference in Doha in February 2006. Credit: Nmkuttiady

One of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has died at the age of 96 in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The official account of the scholar announced the news on Twitter, followed by the same announcement on the Twitter account of the International Union of Muslim Scholars which said: “The Islamic nation has lost one of its most sincere and virtuous scholars.”

Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian by birth, was the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and also a spiritual leader for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Born in 1926, Qaradawi grew up in Egypt which was still under British rule and in his youth he combined religious education with anti-colonial activism – which led to his repeated arrests at the hands of the Egyptian government.

And following independence, his association with the Muslim Brotherhood also led to his arrest by the Arab nationalist President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1950s.

He eventually left Egypt for Qatar in the early 1960s, when he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Shariah at Qatar University and granted Qatari citizenship in 1968.

While living in Qatar, he rose to fame as a scholar and wrote dozens of books. He also benefited greatly from the establishment of Al Jazeera TV channel. His weekly show, Shariah wal-Hayat (Islamic Law and Life), made him a household name across the Arab world.

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On the other hand, in the West his defence of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel in the Second Intifada won him infamy. He was also the subject of an Interpol wanted notice – subsequently rescinded by the international policing organisation on the grounds that it was assessed to be politically motivated.

In the early days of the Arab Spring in 2011, his sermon in Cairo’s Tahrir Square proved to be a false dawn and by 2013 the Egyptian counter-revolution was under way, with Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi imprisoned and replaced by Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi.

The Brotherhood was outlawed once more and in 2018 Al-Qaradawi was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by an Egyptian military court.

During the Syrian Civil War, he apologised for his previous defences of Iran and suggested the conflict was an existential one between Sunnism and Shi’ism.

Tributes have been flowing in from scholars and activists across the world.

In the UK Dr Yusuf Shabbir said: “Very saddened to hear of the demise of Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi. A formidable author, scholar and jurist. Inspired millions worldwide. Championed the cause of the oppressed and spoke out against oppressive Arab rulers. Allah Almighty grant him Jannatul Firdaus.”

In the U.S, Shaykh Yasir Qadhi said: “May Allah forgive his sins, exalt his ranks, accept his good deeds, and preserve his legacy as a means of blessings for him and the benefit of all of us!”

More to follow…

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