The ulama are supposed to be inheritors of the Prophets but only if they adhere to the divine commands. When they fall for worldly temptations, they become a curse. This is what appears to have happened to Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a well-known alim, who has now joined the hate-spewing Saudis in spreading sectarianism.
‘Ulama are supposed to be successors to the Prophets (Å). Since no more prophets will come to guide humanity, the role of the ‘ulama has assumed great importance. If they adhere to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, they are a blessing for the Ummah; should they fall for temptations of the dunya, they become a curse. Who is unaware of the Pakistani politician Fazlur Rahman, a Deobandi maulana, whose antics and corruption are legendry? They have caused havoc in Pakistan. But in the hierarchy of ‘ulama, Fazlur Rahman is a minor figure. Much more serious is the role of figures like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian ‘alim who has a television program on the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera with a following of some 60 million people worldwide.
At a rally in Doha, Qatar on June 1, Shaykh al-Qaradawi called upon “Sunni” Muslims from around the Muslim East to go to Syria and fight against Hizbullah, which had joined the battle for Qusayr in support of Syrian government forces. Al-Qaradawi alleged that “the Shi‘is [meaning Iran and Hizbullah] wanted to exterminate the Sunnis.” He went on to denounce Hizbullah as the “Party of Shaytan [Satan].” Not surprisingly, the Saudi Grand Mufti, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal al-Shaykh welcomed al-Qaradawi’s call since Saudi Arabia is in the forefront of fomenting sectarianism in the Ummah. This is the only game they know and since the Saudi rulers and court ‘ulama cannot justify on the basis of Islamic principles their illegitimate rule over the Arabian Peninsula, they want to entangle Muslims in disputes that dissipate their mental and physical energies. One is constrained to ask, when did the Saudis or Shaykh al-Qaradawi ever call upon Muslims in the Muslim East or anywhere else to go to Occupied Palestine to help liberate their Palestinian brothers and sisters from decades of Zionist oppression and occupation? Iran, Hizbullah and Bashar al-Asad’s government are the only players that have confronted US-Zionist hegemony in the region.
While every Muslim, indeed every human being that cares for human rights and dignity must support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, the issue is no longer about their rights. Thousands of mercenaries from neighbouring countries backed and armed by the Saudi, Qatari, Jordanian, Turkish, American and Zionist regimes have flooded into Syria to advance the imperialist-Zionist Anglo-Wahhabi agenda. Their aim is to undermine the resistance front against imperialist-Zionist hegemony. When their direct military assault failed, they unleashed sectarianism to divide Muslims in a conflict that has already claimed thousands of lives in Syria. Shaykh al-Qaradawi has lent his considerable weight to this perfidious campaign. As Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President of the International Movement for a Just World, Malaysia, wrote, “He was among the earliest public figures to endorse NATO’s airstrikes over Libya. In the middle of last year he even opined that if the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came back today, he would support NATO. This earned him the derisive moniker ‘NATO Mufti’ among some Arab commentators.” Imagine a noted Muslim scholar maligning the noble Messenger (pbuh) in this manner! Contrast this with the joint appeal by former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in May calling for an end to sectarian fighting and killings.
Regrettably, Muslim history is replete with examples of some scholars standing against injustice while others endorse it. Soon after the Khilafah was subverted into monarchy, the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid rulers punished those scholars — Imams Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi‘i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal — who refused to endorse their illegitimate rule, but those who went along with the corruption were richly rewarded with worldly goods and positions (read that: hush money). Shaykh al-Qaradawi and many in the Arabian Peninsula have also succumbed to the lure of political partronage from those who prefer to make tawaf around the White House instead of the Ka‘bah. Living in palatial homes lined with carpets and plush sofas and a bevy of servants at their call, these scholars have forgotten the Islamic duty of al-amr bi-al-ma‘ruf wa-al-nahy ‘an al-munkar. Instead, they are actively promoting munkar.
Neither the Saudi nor Qatari rulers are legitimate; they have usurped power and authority in rebellion against Allah’s (swt) commands and are subservient to the power of global kufr. It is their shameless and treacherous behavior, and not the level of Islamic scholarship, that ought to determine how obedient ordinary Muslims should be to the errant recommendations of scholars who have never acquired a level of comfort with cogently analyzing things that matter. Muslims have paid a terrible price for such faulty thinking in the past and cannot afford any more disasters. Instigating hatred among Muslims to advance the illegitimate rulers’ agenda is not only shortsighted, it is also mean spirited and ultimately disastrous for the Ummah. The blood of innocent Muslims will be as much on the hands of these scholars as it is on those who pull the trigger.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought