Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Yusuf al-Qaradawi was an Islamist theologian and the unofficial chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Doha-based cleric—known for his extremist rhetoric and militant fatwas (religious decrees)—was one of Sunni Islam’s most influential scholars. Qaradawi was banned from entering the United States,Paul Alster, “White House support of Muslim Brotherhood leaves some in Middle East puzzled,” Fox News, January 16, 2015, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/01/16/white-house-support-muslim-brotherhood-leaves-some-in-middle-east-puzzled/. the United Kingdom,Vikram Dodd, “Controversial Muslim cleric banned from Britain,” Guardian (London), February 7, 2008, http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/feb/07/religion.politics. France,“France bars entry to four Islamic scholars,” Al Jazeera, March 29, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2012/03/201232920819671322.html. and Tunisia“Tunisia bans Yusuf al-Qaradawi from entering the country,” Egypt Today, January 14, 2017, http://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/7688/Tunisia-bans-Yusuf-al-Qaradawi-from-entering-the-country. due to his reputation as a violence-inciting Islamist. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates also designated Qaradawi as a terrorist.Malek Harb and Jon Gambrell, “Arab nations add names to terror list amid Qatar dispute,” Associated Press, June 9, 2017, https://apnews.com/0f252c487b7b431682a3555f68703eeb. On September 26, 2022, Qaradawi died at age 96 in Qatar, according to his official Twitter account.“Influential cleric Qaradawi, supporter of Arab Spring uprisings, dies,” Reuters, September 26, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/influential-muslim-cleric-qaradawi-dies-twitter-2022-09-26/; Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Twitter post, September 26, 2022, 6:24 a.m., https://twitter.com/alqaradawy/status/1574344096843698177.

The Brotherhood twice offered Qaradawi leadership positions within the group, but he refused both times, stating he did not want to limit his reach by joining any organization that might “constrain [his] actions.”“Al-Qaradawi turns down top Brotherhood post,” Al Jazeera, January 12, 2004, http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2004/01/2008410145045889729.html. However, he continually cited Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna as his biggest influence.“Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Theologian of Terror,” Anti-Defamation League, March 15, 2011, http://archive.adl.org/nr/exeres/788c5421-70e3-4e4d-bff4-9be14e4a2e58,db7611a2-02cd-43af-8147-649e26813571,frameless.html.

Qaradawi’s rhetoric and fatwas demonstrated his support for terrorism. He urged Muslims who are unable to fight jihad to financially support the mujahedeen (holy warriors).Lamar Smith, “Terrorist Threats to the United States: Congressional Hearing,” Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 27. He has supported suicide bombings, lauding the “martyrdom operations in which a given Muslim fighter turns himself or herself into a human bomb that casts terror in the hearts of the enemy.”Lamar Smith, “Terrorist Threats to the United States: Congressional Hearing,” Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 27. In 2005, he called suicide bombings in Iraq and Israel a “duty” and wavering in support of this duty is akin to “joining the Zionists and Americans….”Antony Barnett, “Suicide bombs are a duty, says Islamic scholar,” Guardian (London), August 27, 2005, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/aug/28/uk.terrorism. In July 2015, Qaradawi partially reversed his previous ruling on suicide bombings, ruling that they are permissible only for those living under Israeli occupation.“Top Sunni Muslim Cleric Al-Qaradawi Does About-Face, Opposes Suicide Bombings,” Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2015, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Top-Sunni-Muslim-cleric-al-Qaradawi-does-about-face-opposes-suicide-bombings-410483. In 2016, he forbade all suicide bombings, declaring that the Palestinians had developed “other capabilities,” referring to rockets Hamas has fired at Israel.“Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi Retracts Fatwa Permitting Palestinian Suicide Bombings: No Need for Them Anymore,” MEMRI, November 17, 2016, https://www.memri.org/tv/sheikh-al-qaradhawi-retracts-fatwa-permitting-palestinian-suicide-bombings-no-need-them-anymore/transcript.

Qaradawi referred to Shiite Muslims as mubtadi’oun, or “heretics,” and warned of “[Shiite’s] attempts to invade the Sunni community with their money and cadres trained to do missionary work in the Sunni world.”“The politics of sects,” Al-Ahram, accessed May 6, 2016, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/Archive/2008/916/eg5.htm. Nonetheless, Qaradawi later claimed that all Muslims have a “duty” to support the Shiite terror group Hezbollah.“Qaradawi urges Muslims to support Hezbollah,” Gulf Times, July 30, 2006, https://web.archive.org/web/20070930210808/http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=99984&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16.

Qaradawi’s writings, speeches, and fatwas have called for the murder of American civilians and troops in Iraq, gay people, and Jews. He also expressed support for domestic violence against women.Melanie Phillips, The World Turned Upside Down, (New York: Encounter Books, 2010), 214; “Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Homosexuals Should Be Punished Like Fornicators But Their Harm Is Less When Not Done in Public,” MEMRI, June 5, 2006, http://www.memri.org/clip_transcript/en/1170.htm. Although Qaradawi condemned the September 11, 2001, attacks, he urged Muslims to abduct and murder Western civilians and troops in Iraq. In 2004, he issued a fatwa stating that “...all of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and one should fight them, since the American civilians came to Iraq in order to serve the occupation. The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately.”“Reactions to Sheikh Qaradhawi’s Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq,” MEMRI, October 6, 2004, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1231.htm. Qaradawi’s fatwa came a week after he signed onto a statement with 92 other Muslim clerics, including members of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, calling for support against U.S. forces in Iraq.“Reactions to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq,” MEMRI, October 6, 2004, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1231.htm.

Qaradawi gained eminence throughout the Muslim world by serving as the chairman of numerous Islamic organizations and operating on a variety of media platforms. He headed the Dublin-based European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), an influential European council that issues fatwas for European Muslims in an effort to enforce a parallel legal system of sharia (Islamic law).Soeren Kern, “Europe's Fatwa Factories,” Gatestone Institute, February 3, 2011, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/1857/europe-fatwa-factories;
“The European Council for Fatwa and Research: 24th ordinary session,” Islamireland.ie, accessed May 6, 2016, http://www.islamireland.ie/events/the-european-council-for-fatwa-and-research-twenty-fourth-ordinary-session/.
He also previously served as the president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), a Qatar-based organization of Muslim scholars created in 2004 by clerics reportedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.Ali Abdelaty and Aziz El Yaakoubi, “Islamist group rejects terrorism charge by states boycotting Qatar,” Reuters, December 1, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/gulf-qatar/islamist-group-rejects-terrorism-charge-by-states-boycotting-qatar-idUSL8N1O12V8. The United Arab Emirates first designated the IUMS as a terrorist organization in 2014.Zafarul-Islam Khan, “Qaradawi re-elected as President of International Union of Muslim Scholars,” Milli Gazette, September 10, 2014, http://www.milligazette.com/news/10890-qaradawi-re-elected-iums-president-International-Union-of-Muslim-Scholars; “Doha-based Qaradawi rejects UAE blacklisting,” Al Arabiya, November 17, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/11/17/Doha-based-Qardawi-rejects-UAE-terrorism-designation.html. In late 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain designated the IUMS.“Doha-based Muslim scholars group slams 'terror' claims,” Anadolu Agency, December 1, 2017, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/doha-based-muslim-scholars-group-slams-terror-claims/987063. Qaradawi stepped down as president in November 2018. Ahmad Al-Raysuni was elected as his successor.“International Union of Muslim scholars ‘rejects normalisation with Israel and calls for release of prisoners of conscience,’” Middle East Monitor, November 9, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181109-international-union-of-muslim-scholars-rejects-normalisation-with-israel-and-calls-for-release-of-prisoners-of-conscience/.

Qaradawi was well-known for his weekly television program called “Sharia and Life” (“al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayāh”), on which he analyzed numerous topics through the lens of Islamic thought. Al Jazeera hosted the program, which reached approximately 60 million viewers during its height before its end in 2013.Alexander Smoltczyk, “Islam's Spiritual 'Dear Abby': The Voice of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood,” Spiegel, February 15, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islam-s-spiritual-dear-abby-the-voice-of-egypt-s-muslim-brotherhood-a-745526.html; Raf Sanchez, “Qatar’s neighbours have hated Al-Jazeera for 20 years, now they see a chance to destroy it,” Telegraph (London), June 11, 2017, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/11/qatars-neighbours-have-hated-al-jazeera-20-years-now-see-chance/. Qaradawi was one of the first Islamic scholars to launch his own website.Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s personal website, http://www.qaradawi.net/new/Home/page, accessed May 6, 2016. He was also a co-founder of the popular Islamic website IslamOnline.net, which features a larger number of his fatwas.“Yusuf al-Qaradawi,” Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, accessed May 6, 2016, http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/people/yusuf-al-qaradawi. During his lifetime, he wrote over 120 books,Alexander Smoltczyk, “Islam's Spiritual 'Dear Abby': The Voice of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood,” Spiegel, February 15, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islam-s-spiritual-dear-abby-the-voice-of-egypt-s-muslim-brotherhood-a-745526.html. some of which are included in the Muslim Brotherhood’s educational curriculum.“Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Theologian of Terror,” Anti-Defamation league, March 15, 2011, http://archive.adl.org/nr/exeres/788c5421-70e3-4e4d-bff4-9be14e4a2e58,db7611a2-02cd-43af-8147-649e26813571,frameless.html.

In December 2014, Interpol issued a warrant for Qaradawi’s arrest, citing his involvement in a 2011 jailbreak during the uprising that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.“ALQARADAWI, YOUSF,” Interpol, accessed February 17, 2015, http://www.interpol.int/notice/search/wanted/2014-58772. In May 2015, the Egyptian government sentenced Qaradawi in absentia to death on the same grounds.Agence France-Presse, “Egypt sentences Morsy to death,” Daily Nation, May 16, 2015, http://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Egypt-sentences-deposed-Islamist-president-Morsy-to-death/-/1066/2718418/-/28d0sez/-/index.html. Interpol canceled the warrant in September 2017. In June 2017, days after severing diplomatic ties with Qatar because of its ties to terrorism, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates sanctioned Qaradawi as a terrorist because of his links to Qatar.Malek Harb and Jon Gambrell, “Arab nations add names to terror list amid Qatar dispute,” Associated Press, June 9, 2017, https://apnews.com/0f252c487b7b431682a3555f68703eeb. On January 17, 2018, an Egyptian military court sentenced Qaradawi in absentia to life in prison on charges of incitement to murder, spreading false news, and vandalizing public property in relation to the 2015 death of an Egyptian police officer.Andolu News Agency, “Yusuf al-Qaradawi sentenced to life in prison in Egypt,” Al Jazeera, January 18, 2018, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/yusuf-al-qaradawi-sentenced-life-prison-egypt-180118065805129.html.

Qaradawi maintained close relations with the leadership of Qatar, which refused international demands to extradite the cleric.“Qatar: We will not extradite Al-Qaradawi,” Middle East Monitor, September 28, 2017, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170928-qatar-we-will-not-extradite-al-qaradawi/. Qaradawi had also been a frequent guest of honor at celebrations hosted by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who repeatedly physically embraced Qaradawi and seated the cleric next to him in a place of honor.“Ramadan Religious Lesson By Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual Leader Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi, Published By Qatari Government Daily: The Jews Opposed Muhammad, Therefore Allah Cursed Them And Turned Them Into Apes And Pigs; The Christians Were Stricken With Ideological Blindness And Strayed,” MEMRI, May 21, 2019, https://www.memri.org/reports/ramadan-religious-lesson-muslim-brotherhood-spiritual-leader-sheikh-yousef-al-qaradawi; Ben Flanagan, “Hate preacher Al-Qaradawi gets ‘best seat in house’ at Qatar emir’s banquet,” Arab News, May 22, 2019, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1500771/middle-east; Ben Flanagan, “Qaradawi and Qatar: the hate preacher who became Doha’s spiritual guide,” Arab News, April 1, 2019, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1475626/middle-east.

Qaradawi largely retired from public life in 2018 and shifted his focus on compiling his works into a single 50-volume encyclopedia.“Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim scholar who influenced millions,” Al Jazeera, September 27, 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/27/yusuf-al-qaradawi-the-muslim-scholar-who-influenced-millions. On September 26, 2022, Qaradawi died at the age of 96 in Qatar.“Influential cleric Qaradawi, supporter of Arab Spring uprisings, dies,” Reuters, September 26, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/influential-muslim-cleric-qaradawi-dies-twitter-2022-09-26/. Qatari Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, his representative Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Khalid bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Minister of Endowments Ghanem bin Shaheen al-Ghanim attended Qaradawi’s September 27 funeral in Doha. Also in attendance were Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, as well as Turkey’s head of religious affairs, Ali Erbash. During the funeral, Haniyeh eulogized Qaradawi as “our sheikh and role model” who believed “jihad and resistance are the way to liberate” Palestine.“Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Hamas and Qatar officials attend funeral of Islamic cleric in Doha,” Middle East Eye, September 27, 2022, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/qatar-qaradawi-hamas-attend-funeral-egypt-cleric-doha. Despite Qaradawi’s death, the following month the Cairo Criminal Court added Qaradawi to Egypt’s terror list for a minimum of three years.“Egypt court includes late Sheikh Qaradawi on terror list despite his death,” Middle East Monitor, October 18, 2022, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20221018-egypt-court-includes-late-sheikh-qaradawi-on-terror-list-despite-his-death/.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Muslim Brotherhood
Type(s) of Organization:
Non-state actor, political, religious, social service provider, transnational
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, jihadist, pan-Islamist, Qutbist, Sunni, takfirist
Egyptian Qatar-based intellectual and spiritual leader (deceased)

The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational Sunni Islamist movement that seeks to implement sharia (Islamic law) under a global caliphate. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood is the country’s oldest Islamist organization and has branches throughout the world.

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United Arab Emirates

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