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One nation under God? Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s changing Fiqh of citizenship in the light of the Islamic legal tradition

Abstract

In the wake of the Arab Revolutions of 2011, countries in the Middle East are grappling with how Islamists might be included within a regime of democratic political pluralism and how their aspirations for an “Islamic state” could affect the citizenship status of non-Muslims. While Islamic jurisprudence on this issue has traditionally classified non-Muslims in Islamic society as protected peoples or dhimma, endowed with what the authors term “minority citizenship”, this article will examine how the transnational intellectual Wasaṭiyya or Centrist movement, of which Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the figurehead, have sought to develop a new fiqh of citizenship in which Muslims and non-Muslims have equal civil and political rights. This article will focus on Yusuf al-Qaradawi on the basis that his very recent shift in 2010 on the issue is yet to be studied in depth, as well as in view of the fact that the dilemma faced by reformist Islamic scholars—how to integrate modern concepts into a legal tradition while simultaneously arguing for that tradition’s continuing relevance and authority—is for him rendered particularly acute, given that this tradition is itself the very source of his own authority and relevance. It will therefore be argued that the legacy of the Islamic legal tradition structures his discourse in a very specific way, thereby having the potential to render it more persuasive to his audience, and worthy of a more detailed examination.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In total al-Qaradawi was imprisoned five times by various Egyptian regimes, the first in 1948 in Hykestep prison where he wrote A Scholar and A Tyrant (‘Ālim wa-Taghiyya), a highly political play that was first performed in prison. It was during his second period of imprisonment under torture that was the most formative, however, and was the inspiration for his famous poem My Cell (Zinzānatī), which Husam Tamaam (2008: 9) refers to as among “the most important poem[s] of the Islamist movements”.

  2. 2.

    Despite its apparent significance to outside observers, in a recent interview al-Qaradawi did not appear to view his appointment to Sharia and Life as a matter of particular significance, though he highlighted that it was at his suggestion that it included a question and answer segment, which was a key reason for its early popularity (al-Qaradawi and Warren, personal communication, February 6, 2013).

  3. 3.

    The al-Qaradawi Center for Research in Moderate Thought was founded in 2009 and focuses primarily on the dissemination of al-Qaradawi’s wasaṭī approach both internationally and in Qatar itself, though it is often remarked that al-Qaradawi has had little influence on local Qatari context not only does the Center organise lectures and seminars for foreign ‘ulamā’ based in countries ranging from Azerbaijan, to Germany, to China it also has an agreement with the Qatari Supreme Council for Education whereby it organises teacher-training courses for teachers of Islamic studies in Qatari secondary schools. In those contexts, Dr Muhammad Khalifa Hasan, the director of the Center, defines wasaṭiyya primarily in relation to counter-extremism efforts and the promotion of inter-religious dialogue, and so “of course al-Qaradawi’s [work] comes through”. The Center is currently preparing an edition of al-Qaradawi’s complete works and its other main research project (it has four members of research staff) is publishing a series of works on “the pioneers of wasaṭiyya (ruwād al-wasaṭiyya)” ranging from Ibn Taymiyya to al-Qaradawi (Hasan and Warren, personal communication, January 28, 2013).

  4. 4.

    The translation is from Yusuf Ali.

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Warren, D.H., Gilmore, C. One nation under God? Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s changing Fiqh of citizenship in the light of the Islamic legal tradition. Cont Islam 8, 217–237 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-013-0277-4

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Keywords

  • Qaradawi
  • Islamic law
  • Non-Muslim minorities
  • Citizenship