Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, visited Gaza on May 7-10 at head of an entourage of 45, including senior officials of the organization. In the past, Qaradawi was a candidate for leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, and over the years he has acquired the status of spiritual leader of this movement and of its Palestinian branch, Hamas.
Qaradawi received a warm welcome, especially from the Hamas leadership. They saw the visit as an important affirmation, by the longstanding and supreme religious authority of the Sunni Muslim world, of Hamas’ rule in Gaza. The visit affirmed Hamas as a faithful exponent of the Palestinian people and the jihadist enterprise, aimed at conquering the State of Israel and making it part of the Islamic state of Palestine – eventually to be one of the provinces of the Islamic caliphate whose capital will be Jerusalem.
Qaradawi’s visit was extensively covered in the Hamas government’s media, which again highlighted the “sheikh of jihad’s” (as Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called him) backing for this Palestinian movement.
On May 10, the headline of the official Hamas daily Falastin was worded in that spirit: “Qaradawi calls for liberating the soil of Palestine.” The subhead was a quotation of the most important statement he made: “We will never concede Palestine and we will never recognize Israel.”
During the visit, Qaradawi set forth his political outlook, thereby offering a sort of vision for the future (as well as a sort of last will and testament, given his advanced age (86) and his own recent remark that his days are numbered). The following are the main tenets of that outlook:
Qaradawi’s Vision for the Future
- The Palestinians have a right to the soil of Palestine: “We join hands with the Palestinians and support the most just cause on the face of the earth, since the Palestinians were driven by the Jews from their homes by force of arms.” Qaradawi denies any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, regarding the Jews who have settled in it as foreigners who forcefully seized land that did not belong to them. “We are here, and here we will remain, we will not leave our land and starting from today there will be no emigration. We will die on our land or we will triumph.”
- The Palestinians have no right to concede Palestine. Qaradawi asserted that the Palestinians hold the deed to Palestine, but also emphasized that not one of them has the right or the authorization to give up his right and receive financial compensation in lieu of the soil of the homeland. “Islam and Sharia do not allow selling part of the homeland, and this, our homeland, belongs to us, and so it will remain and we will return to it.” Qaradawi further stated: “We will never concede the right [to Palestine] and we will never recognize ‘Israel.’”
- Qaradawi thereby assigns to the Palestinians the religious responsibility for liberating Palestine in the name of the Islamic ummah (“The people of Palestine and Gaza represent the entire Arab and Islamic ummah”). He severely forbids them to take positions that entail recognition of any foreign rule, Jewish or other, over the soil of Palestine. One implication is the denial of any possibility of political compromise or recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
- Unity is the key to the liberation of Palestine. Qaradawi spoke of the huge importance he ascribes to unity as a force multiplier that can enable the Muslims to overcome, as he sees it, even those with nuclear and chemical weapons. Unity must prevail in the internal Palestinian sphere and in the Arab-Islamic arena as well, thereby preparing the ground for an Islamic conquest of the entire State of Israel. “We want to see a united ummah that will forcefully assert its rights to the land, and at the forefront of those rights – Palestine.”
- Jihad is fundamental to the liberation of Palestine. The only strategy to liberate it, Qaradawi asserted, is “jihad in the way of Allah.” This requires rejecting political dialogue and compromise while adhering to armed struggle in the spirit of Islam. He praised the residents of Palestine and Gaza for raising the flag of jihad and refusing to lower it despite the difficulties they have encountered. “I am proud to be a Gazan, since Gaza maintains its role in the jihad, in the struggle, and in the defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he stated.
- The ultimate goal is an Islamic state. Qaradawi called on Muslims to fulfill divine justice, establish a Muslim society, and subsequently a Muslim ummah. Regaining rights in Palestine is, in his view, an aspect of striving to regain the Muslim lands of the early Islamic era, in keeping with the mission of the Prophet Muhammad and those who came after him.
Dr. Marwan Abu Ras, president of the Palestinian Islamic Scholars Association, which is identified with Hamas, said in a speech honoring Qaradawi at the Islamic University that the Palestinians see themselves as continuing his path. “We are students of Qaradawi. We learned from him the true path [Wasatiyyah – the middle road], and [the way of] force regarding [the restoration of] rights, and [the way of] power regarding the prohibition on visiting Al-Aqsa [Mosque] when it is under occupation and [conditional] on its permission. We learned from him the [importance] of force in supporting the Palestinian resistance and in the actions of self-sacrifice [suicide].”
During the Second Intifada, Qaradawi published a religious ruling (fatwa) that permits suicide bombings and the killing of Israeli civilians. He headed the Union of Good organization, which raised millions of dollars for institutions connected to Hamas. A considerable part of these funds went to support Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel, for the families of terrorists who were killed including those who had carried out suicide bombings, and for Hamas’ dawah activity, which inculcates the values of jihad in Palestinian society.
The visit of Qaradawi, the premier religious scholar of the Sunni Muslim world, is of great significance for Hamas, which wins further, major legitimacy for its rule. The visit also indicates that Hamas’ jihad approach is preferable to that of political negotiations, which the “president of Palestine,” Mahmoud Abbas, represents.
The tailwind provided by Qaradawi is also vital for Hamas in the long-term battle it is waging against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. This campaign aims at the eventual complete takeover of the PA and PLO institutions, while winning internationally recognized status for Hamas as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
In the West, including some who are close to the Obama administration, Qaradawi has been portrayed as representing moderate, political Islam (Wasatiyyah). This notion helped legitimize the Muslim Brotherhood as an ally for the United States in place of longstanding regimes that fell in the revolts known as the “Arab Spring.”
Qaradawi’s words in Gaza reflect the real nature of Wasatiyyah (the true path): a clear-cut, organized approach to implementing Islamic religious rule in all the Muslim states, while adopting jihad as the means of realizing its political-religious objectives. This approach is similar to that of al-Qaeda, differing only in terms of the phases of implementation.
Moreover, Qaradawi, while focusing on the liberation of Palestine, also hinted at the Islamic obligation to liberate Spain from Christian occupation; the rule that no one has the authority to concede Islamic land applies to Spain as well (and to the other lands leading to the gates of Vienna). About a decade ago, Qaradawi issued a fatwa on the gradual conquest of the entire continent of Europe via Islamic exhortation (dawah) and the demographic factor, leading to the fulfillment of Muhammad’s prophecy on the conquest of the cities of Constantinople (Istanbul), Jerusalem, and Romiyyah (Rome) as a condition for the emergence of the Mahdi, the Muslim messiah.
Finally, it should be noted that Qaradawi and his entourage entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing in Egyptian Sinai. Haniyeh, who welcomed him, boasted that there was and is no need for Israeli permission and that Qaradawi was coming to Gaza as had the “victorious conquerors” in the days of the Muslim conquests. Qaradawi’s visit, like that of the high-ranking Bahraini delegation that concurrently arrived in Gaza, and hundreds of other delegations and visitors from abroad, indicates the simple fact that the Gaza-Egypt border is actually open and there is no “blockade” of Gaza.