Sheikh Al-Qaradawi played a major role in the pioneering initiative of launching the Islamonline.net web site more than ten years ago, and his views and opinions are a source of inspiration for millions of Muslims around the world.
The interview, which was conducted in Qatar by Essam Tallema, a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), aimed at exploring Sheikh Al-Qaradawi's views on a number of priority issues for Muslims around the world, including the situation of Muslims in America following the controversy of the New York Islamic Center project, the situation of Muslims in Europe following the ban of the niqab in France and current issues related to Muslm-Christian relations and political change in Muslim countries.
The following is an English translation of part of this interview:
Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Praise be to Allah and peace and blessings be upon our leader, role model, beloved one, and teacher, the Messenger of Allah, and upon his family, companions, and those who follow his guidance.
First, let me congratulate you on the launch of the onislam website. I implore Almighty Allah to bless your efforts and grant success to this website and make it a beacon for guidance and benefit to all Muslims, and a fortress defending Islam.
Onislam (OI): The project of the Islamic center in New York sparked a lot of controversy and debate in the United States and elsewhere about the wisdom behind the choice of its location near Ground Zero. Is it wise, in your view, to provoke the public opinion in the US by choosing this location, or was it better to relocate the project?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: I do not believe that they were wrong to have chosen this location. I had previously thought that the mosque would be built on the exact location of the collapsed (twin) towers. But, I later found out that it would be built several blocks away. The American mindset reacted over-sensitively to this issue, despite the fact that Europe and the United States abound with mosques since a long time ago. There is nothing new about this planned project, except that the Zionist media machine has exercised its influence on the public opinion, turning them against Islamic manifestations. Now, their anti-Muslim feelings are rising day after day.
Even if the mosque were built on the location of the twin towers, why should this be a source of fear for them? A mosque is a source of peace and safety for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. A Muslim is taught in the mosque that "A Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue the Muslims are safe." (Bukhari) The mosque does not teach but goodness, virtue, justice, and brotherliness. It produces constructive, rather than destructive, persons. Why then the fear from building a mosque, wherever it may be?
OI: Does it perhaps have to do with the fact that some acts of violence that took place in Europe were committed by young people who were taught the culture of violence in some mosques?
|We have to measure matters with a delicate balance before taking similar steps, considering the reality in a discerning and fair manner|
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: This is untrue. The mosques are in the millions around the world. How many are the mosques that served as a base for such acts? One or two! Do people find in mosques what scares them? Our mosques are open to everyone who enters and sees with their own eyes what those sacred places have to offer to all people. They are not closed to anyone, Muslim or otherwise. A mosque is not a hidden depot where bombs and weapons are secretly stored, but an open place for all, men and women. Such a place should not scare anybody.
OI: How can we apply the fiqh of balances to such a thorny issue?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: We have to measure matters with a delicate balance before taking similar steps, considering the reality in a discerning and fair manner. We should not chastise ourselves, as some Muslims have such a strong inclination to always put the blame on us, when we truly have no intention to hurt anyone.
OI: Given the crisis facing Muslims in the United States since the emergence of the planned project, and the hate campaigns by some extremists and their call for burning copies of the Qur'an, which was done by some, is it permissible for Muslims to defend themselves and their faith by inviting those extremists to a public challenge (mubahala), as mentioned in Surat Aal-`Imran when Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) invited the Christian delegation of Najran to prove to them the distinction between truth and falsehood? Can they today do this in a bid to put an end to this nonsense?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: I do not support this idea, since such a mubahala should only be held with sensible people who abide by religion and fear the punishment of God and guard against His wrath. This was the case of the debate between Prophet Muhammad and the Christians of Najran, who adhered to their faith and were people of proper discussion and debate, and about whom the following verse was revealed:
(But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars) (Aal-`Imran 3:61)
So, I currently see no reasonable ground for such an invitation as it is unlikely to produce any positive result.
OI: Considering what we witness from anti-Muslim extremists and bigots, and their violations of Muslim sanctities, the most recent of which is the burning of copies of the Qur'an, do Muslims have the right to call for burning the Gospel or some of its pages in retaliation?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: We are not permitted to treat their sanctities as they did to ours. Responding to an assault is not by carrying out another assault, as this is discouraged in Islam. Almighty Allah says: (And if you take your turn, then retaliate with the like of that with which you were afflicted.) (An-Nahl 16:126) Then in the same verse, He says: (but if you are patient, it will certainly be best for those who are patient)
|If a person insults Jesus (peace be upon him), I, as a Muslim, should feel annoyed by this and act in his defense|
Hence, even when exacting retribution on a person who committed a certain crime, we are still required to abide by the morality of our religion. For example, it is not permissible to commit adultery with the wife of a man as a punishment for his committing this crime with another woman. Likewise, if a person murdered someone in an immoral manner, we are not allowed to murder him in the same way, as this contradicts the teachings of our religion. Moreover, we, as Muslims, are required to show respect to and believe in the divinely-revealed books and all preceding prophets. If a person insults Jesus (peace be upon him), I, as a Muslim, should feel annoyed by this and act in his defense. This is what happened upon the release of a film which attacked Jesus: Muslims living in the country where the film was shown reacted angrily in protest. We believe in and highly respect all prophets and messengers, including Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all).
The noble Qur'an even goes further and forbids us from cursing the pagans' idols, saying: (And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance.) (Al-An`am 6:108) Thus, a true Muslim does not respond to an offence against the things he deems sacred by a similar offence. I am against this call that has no basis in the teachings and moral values of our religion. Indeed, this is an essential point of distinction between Islam and other religions.
OI: But those who made this call argue that the Gospel, unlike the Qur'an, has suffered from man-made changes and therefore is not as sacred as the Qur'an. So, they say, if we burn it, we will be burning a distorted book. What do you say about this?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: It is true and doubtless that the Torah and the Gospel, and what is called "the Bible", underwent man-made changes and alterations. But they are not wholly distorted, and they contain lessons and wisdom, as well as the mention of God. We, Muslims, are instructed to believe in the original, sound Gospel. However, if it (the surviving Gospel) is not sacred for us, it is still sacred for them, and Islam ensures the freedom of belief and the protection of the sanctities of others.
Niqab in Europe and the Fiqh of Muslim Minorities
OI: The issue of banning the niqab in France and other European countries is likely to escalate following the recent approval by the French Parliament of the ban on wearing the niqab in public places. What is the way out of this crisis facing Muslims, in your opinion? Is there a clear fiqhi solution to it within the framework of the fiqh of Muslim minorities?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: My opinion about the niqab is well-known, which is that the niqab is not obligatory; however, I respect the opinion saying it is. And I do not agree with some sheikhs who regard it as an innovation or tradition that has no basis in Islam. This talk is both groundless and inaccurate. It is true that the majority of scholars agree that the face is not `awrah (something to be veiled in the presence of members of the other sex). But there is a school of fiqh holding the view that it is `awrah and that niqab is obligatory, a view espoused in some Muslim countries, such as in the Gulf region, especially those among them who follow the Hanbali School of fiqh. Moreover, Muslims in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan also adopt this opinion, even though they follow the Hanafi School. There is a book by Abul A`la Al-Maududi titled "the Hijab" in which he says that niqab is mandatory. So, I certainly do not agree with those who say it is only a tradition or not part of Islam. Tackling matters in such a shallow and simplistic approach leads us away from the truth.
|Necessities make what is forbidden permissible. The need can be regarded as a necessity|
If a Muslim woman is convinced that wearing the niqab is obligatory and the face is `awrah, we have to respect her choice and avoid being an obstacle to her religious commitment. We should not force her into a situation contrary to her conviction. I call on European countries to respect the personal and religious freedoms of people, of which they are advocates. These freedoms are regarded as sacred in the West. Ironically, they restrict the freedom of Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or hijab, whereas they allow other women to freely dress in a revealing and provocative manner!
OI: What should a Muslim woman do if the country where she lives bans the niqab, while she believes that it is obligatory?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: I previously answered a similar question from Muslim sisters in France when a ban on wearing the hijab was imposed in schools. I told them to wear hijab outside the school and to put it off when they arrive at the school gate to enter. Such a case is governed by two rules:
The first rule: Necessities make what is forbidden permissible. The need can be regarded as a necessity. Accordingly, if wearing the niqab is confronted with the necessity of education or the necessity of work, while the woman needs it, in this case she is permitted to give up the niqab.
The second rule: Necessities should be weighed accurately and honestly. In other words, once a Muslim woman leaves work or school, where the hijab is banned, she has to put it on again; and the same applies to the niqab.
OI: Some sheikhs issued a fatwa allowing them to wear a wig as a head cover, arguing it is not their real hair. Do you agree with this fatwa?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: Certainly not. I do not agree with this fatwa, as wearing a wig is in itself impermissible. Moreover, a wig is not a veil or cover. Contrarily, it may fall under the category of forbidden adornments. Truly, it does not serve the purpose of hijab whatsoever. Wearing a wig is even implicitly prohibited in the hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) reportedly said, "Allah has cursed al-wasilah (the woman who adds artificial hair to hers or to someone else’s) and al-mustawsilah (the one who asks for it)." (Bukhari)
OI: The phenomenon of banning the niqab has moved from European governments to the land of Islam, where some Muslim countries have banned the niqab in schools and hospitals. Does a Muslim ruler have the right to ban the niqab?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: No Muslim ruler or official has the right to ban the niqab. If there is no ban on those who are indecently dressed, how come we prevent a woman from donning the niqab! There is an exception, however, in certain circumstances when it is needed to identify the girl or woman, such as taking a photo of her for an ID card or passport, or when there is an exam and it is feared that a girl may secretly replace another. In such cases, she has to show her face for identification.
OI: You said that there is a difference of opinion on the niqab, though you are inclined to the view which says it is not obligatory. The seekers of islamic knowledge know that the ruler's adoption of an opinion removes the difference concerning it. So, does the adoption of the state, represented by a minister or the president, of the ban on niqab remove the difference over this issue?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: This principle applies to the ruler who knows the fiqh and its rules and takes it as reference. Otherwise, a ruler should refer to the scholars and jurists to learn the juristic ruling on any particular issue. Those who leave the Shari`ah behind their backs, allowing what is religiously unlawful and taking from the Shari`ah only that which is suitable with their desires, should not be referred to for judgment in such matters of religion. The said principle only applies to a ruler who is wholeheartedly committed to the Shari`ah and its application.
Political Reform in Muslim Countries
OI: On the situation in Arab and Muslim countries, for many years ruling regimes have faced great pressures from some of the world's major powers to conduct real democratic reforms. The response of most regimes, however, is seen by many as too weak. What do you think of the calls by some activists for civil disobedience as a means -which they deem the only one available now- to pressure governments? Are these calls juristically legal or not? And if they are, what are the relevant regulations in this case?
|If the likely interests outweigh the evils, participation in such case would be a duty|
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: I am yet to form an opinion regarding the issue of civil disobedience. It is an innovated matter which we need to study well, and we need to become more familiar with the experience of others in this regard, considering its effectiveness and its positive and negative sides. Thereafter, I can state my opinion on this. If civil disobedience proved beneficial and fruitful to the nations where it was carried out, it would then be welcomed; otherwise, it should be deferred until the time is ripe for it. When that time arrives, the ruling will be made according to the consequences this method will produce.
OI: Some activists -including Islamists- in Egypt and Jordan, where parliamentary elections are approaching, call for boycotting the elections. By contrast, others hold the view that participation is the more appropriate path to reform. In your opinion, which option is better and more useful: participation or boycott?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: I hold that the basic rule is that Islamists should participate in every election in pursuit of reform and to spread the word of Islam everywhere. But some obstacles may stand in their way, making their participation meaningless. Therefore, this issue should be measured by striking a balance between the expected interests and evils, as to which of the two is greater. If the likely interests outweigh the evils, participation in such case would be a duty; otherwise, they should not participate if it is apparent that the elections will likely be rigged and that members of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamic movement will greatly suffer. People, in not-so-small numbers, have been killed and injured in previous elections. Hence, the decision to participate or not should be made after conducting an in-depth objective study by experts, evaluating the reality on the ground and considering the potential interests and evils, not those based on mere suspicion or remote possibility. We should also draw a lesson from our past experience as well as the experience of others.
OI: Do you support the affiliation of scholars to political parties?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: Yes, I do support the affiliation of scholars to collective initiatives for supporting Islam and achieving its major objectives, which may be named group, association, union, party or other similar names. Each scholar should work in this field according to what suits his abilities and what he is capable of. If invited to stand for elections, he should not refuse if he is capable of assuming that responsibility, as the Muslim voice must be heard, and how could this happen if he works on his own? If he works on his own he would be weak, as an individual is weak on his own and strong with his group. "The relationship of a believer with another believer is like (the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other".
Big entities in today's age, like advanced countries, join forces for joint interests. For example, three major countries work together to manufacture a plane with certain specifications, and Europe, despite the world wars between its countries where millions of victims fell, found it was in their best interest to forget the past and establish a union between them called the European Union. The same for a scholar participating in elections, it is important for him to join a political party or a coalition which strengthens him, and at the same time the party or coalition would become stronger with his views and activities.
OI: Do you support the affiliation of Islamic movements to political parties, or should they establish new parties?
Sheikh Al-Qaradawi: Islamists are required to participate in politics, and Muslim scholars should stand in elections, as they are needed in this field. Islamic movements can go into alliance with existing political parties or establish a new party for themselves. All of these are means to take in order to reach the goal and fulfill the duty. There is a juristic rule that says: That without which a duty cannot be performed is itself a duty.
Thank you, Eminent Sheikh, and may Allah reward you.