Sheikh Qaradawi and the Concept of Jihad

I am not a fan of Sheikh Qaradawi. I think his response to violence in the name of Islam was extremely disappointing in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and I have not seen him as helpful to a peaceful and just settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict nor toward the development of a more tolerant form of Islam. He has consistently refused so far many overtures from a variety of Jewish rabbis to engage him. Put bluntly, he only seems to have rejected suicide terrorism as illegitimate when thousands of Muslims were dying at the hands of other  Muslims. In other words, he found his moral compass on jihad when it was affecting his own group.

That having been said, the fact is there are many parallels in the Jewish world to rabbinic leaders who refuse to engage Christians and whose Halakhic interpretations are entirely intolerant. They too will often only care about the moral implications of violence or abuse when it hits their own.  In some ways, this is the defining characteristic of religious militancy.

That is why I find this latest work from Qaradawi interesting. It is a subtle analysis of the concept of jihad in all its aspects, and I think it aids in the process of defining jihad in more precise terms that will undermine extremist uses of the concept for the sake of political ideology and simple criminal behavior. This is something to be encouraged for fundamentalist leaders. The same would be helpful from Jewish fundamentalist leaders, for example. Tell me what you think.

Sheikh Qaradawi and the Concept of Jihad
By Nour Scardina


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 Quran, “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 Quran 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.”

Read the rest of this article from The Palestinian Telegraph here.

© Marc Gopin