Yusuf al-Qaradawi is an Egyptian Islamic theologian based in Doha, Qatar, and chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. His influences include Hassan al-Banna, Abul A’la Maududi and Naeem Siddiqui. He is best known for his programme, al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayāh (“Sharia and Life”), broadcast on Al Jazeera, which has an estimated audience of 40-60 million worldwide. He is also known for IslamOnline, a website he helped to found in 1997 and for which he serves as chief religious scholar.
Al-Qaradawi was born in Egypt but lives in Qatar. He has three sons and four daughters three of whom hold doctorates from British Universities. His daughter, Ilham Yousef Al-Qaradawi, is an internationally recognised nuclear scientist. His son, Abdurrahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, is a poet and a political activist in Egypt.
Al-Qaradawi has published more than 120 books, including The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam and Islam: The Future Civilization. He has also received eight international prizes for his contributions to Islamic scholarship, and is considered one of the most influential such scholars living today. Al-Qaradawi has long had a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political organization, although he has repeatedly stated that he is no longer a member and twice (in 1976 and 2004) turned down offers for the official role in the organization.
Some of al-Qaradawi’s views, such as his condoning of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis, have caused reactions from governments in the West: he was refused an entry visa to the United Kingdom in 2008, and barred from entering France in 2012.
Al-Qaradawi has written on the danger of extremist groups of Islam, in his dissertation on the subject Islamic Awakening between Rejection and Extremism. In it he warns of the dangers of blind obedience, bigotry and intolerance; rigidity—which deprives people of clarity of vision and the opportunity for dialogue with others; commitment to excessiveness, including the excessive application of minor or controversial Islamic issues to people in non-Muslim countries or to people who have only recently converted to Islam; harshness in the treatment of people, roughness in the manner of approach, and crudeness in calling people to Islam, all which are contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
On the other hand, Al-Qaradawi himself has advocated extremism and anti-semitism, denouncing Jews for their “corruption” and describing Adolf Hitler as having put Jews “in their place”, while others believe Al-Qaradawi is merely “not afraid to state firmly that ‘Palestinian martyr operations are a weapon of the weak'”.
In October 2004, according to Saudi Arabia’s newspaper “The Arab News” based in New York and Jeddah, over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries signed a petition addressed to the United Nations to raise awareness on the use of religion for incitement to violence. Al-Qaradawi was mentioned among “the sheikhs of death,” as the signatories defined those who manipulate religion to incite violence, for “providing a religious cover for terrorism.”
The sheikh has been banned from entering the U.S. since 1999. In 2008, the UK Home Office stated that al-Qaradawi was denied a visa to enter Britain for medical treatment because of fears that his preaching “could foster inter-community violence.” In March 2012, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared his decision to block the entry of extremists in the country after the Toulouse attacks, and specifically mentioned al-Qaradawi as one of those barred from entering France.
Qaradawi chairs the Union of Good, a coalition of Islamic charities supporting Hamas’ infrastructure, an organisation on the US State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations. In December 2014 the International Union of Muslim Scholars led by al-Qaradawi was expelled from the Cairo-based International Islamic Council for Da’wah and Relief based on the allegation that the group mixed religion and politics and supported terrorism.
The Consortium Against Terrorist Finance reports that, in 2010, Qaradawi was listed as the chairman of the Sharia supervisory board of Qatar Islamic Bank, one of the Qatari sharia-compliant giants which has allegedly a long history of cooperation with controversial financial entities. He is also a former Sharia adviser and shareholder to Bank al-Taqwa, once listed by the U.S and the UN as a terrorist financier associated with al-Qaeda but delisted in 2010.