By Islamic Horizon Staff
Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who died in Qatar on Sept. 26 aged 96, was a giant among contemporary Islamic scholars. Rising from a humble birth in the Egyptian Nile Delta village of Saft Turab, no one questions his status as one of the 20th century’s most influential Islamic scholars — some say the Renewer of Islam (al-mujaddid). His father died before his son’s birth, and his mother died when he was just one year old.
Having memorized the Quran before he was 10, he enrolled in al-Azhar University and, in 1953 obtained an undergraduate degree from its Faculty of the Principal Sources of Islam (usul al-din).
A year later he earned a graduate degree — first in his class — from its prestigious Faculty of Arabic Language. He then joined Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments, where he worked under the renowned Islamic scholar and public intellectual Shaykh Mohammed al-Ghazali (d.1996), and later at al-Azhar’s Department of Islamic Culture.
Under al-Ghazali’s tutelage, Qaradawi began what would become an incredibly prolific life as a writer and public scholar of Islam. Most of his 50+ books and countless articles sought to help contemporary Muslims live according to the Quran, the Sunna and within the Sharia’s guidelines by drawing on 14 centuries of Islamic scholarly explanation and comment.
In 1960, Qaradawi published what many consider to be his best-known popular book, “The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam.” It was translated and published in every major language.
In 1961, al-Azhar sent him to Qatar, under a scholar’s exchange program, as head of Qatar’s Religious Institute. While there, he established the University of Qatar’s Department of Islamic Research in 1973 and earned his takhassus min darajat ustadh specialty at the level of professor (today, Ph.D.) from al-Azhar. His dissertation, “Zakat and Its Efficacy in Resolving Social Problems,” became his magisterial “Fiqh az-Zakat,” one of the most important Sharia works of our time. It was published six years later, after he finished revising it.
In 1989, he founded Qatar University’s Research Center of Sunna and Sira and remained its director until his death.
In 1997, he established and headed the European Council on Fatwa and Research, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, because Arab countries refused to permit its establishment on their soil. This body is dedicated to answering questions and addressing issues to help Muslims understand and live according to the Sharia in the socioeconomic context of Western-style modernity.
In 2002, he followed this by founding — for the same reason — the Dublin-based International Union of Muslim Scholars. The union has issued important international fatwas nullifying and voiding the “Daesh” (ISIS/ISIL) and declaring its founders Islamically “unfit” to make such a declaration or assume any such positions.
Among the world’s most widely read and known Muslim scholars, his weekly television show — via Al Jazeera – “Al-Shari‘ah Wa’l-Haya” (“The Sharia and Life”) caused his global celebrity and esteem to skyrocket among Muslims. An interactive program, Muslims would call in and ask questions or seek guidance. At least 40 million viewers tuned in every week.
Known for his rigorous and consistent condemnation of extremist groups and responses within the Muslim community, he also took a strong stand for the rights of oppressed Muslims, highlighting the lethal persecution and dispossession of the Palestinians and the Muslims’ sacred obligation regarding al-Aqsa Mosque and its divinely blessed surroundings.
Prof. Ihsan Bagby (associate professor, Department of Islamic Studies, University of Kentucky) reminisces, “He was the main scholar I always looked to for answers and insight. He was my shaikh. His Arabic book ‘Al-Halal Wal-Haram Fil-Islam’ (trans. As “The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam,” Plainfield, Ind., 1962) is still a must read.
“I heard him speak at MSA conferences way back, and I had the good fortune to hear him give the Eid khutba in Cairo on Aug. 2, 1981 — an hour-long sermon attended by some 250,000 Egyptians, which was the first major non-government Eid allowed. Here, he mentioned that he had just returned from the U.S. and reported that many Americans are becoming Muslim. (At that moment, I raised my hand.) He commented that it’s good that they met Islam in its ideal form before they met Muslims.”
He is survived by his wives, Aisha Mofenn and Issaad Abdul-Gawad; daughters Ilham, Siham, Ola and Asma, and sons Muhammad, Abdul-Rahman and Osama.