Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi is the radical Muslim leader whose support for the new mosque in Boston was touted in their Arabic literature, but not in their English material. Today in Asia Times (thanks to Ali Dashti), Yukiko Ohashi explains his baneful influence on the contemporary understanding of Islamic law among Muslims in Malaysia and elsewhere.
Muslims in Malaysia, not unlike those in the Middle East, have resorted to appreciating Islam through the narrow prism of al Halal wal Haram fil Islam – which means abiding by the “lawful and prohibited acts in Islam”, and which is detailed in a book of the same name by Yusuf Qaradawi.
In this philosophy, submission to God is reduced to a series of dos and don’ts – a binary moral code. This approach was systematized by Qaradawi, dean of Islamic law at Qatar University, and the methodology gained currency in the Middle East, and subsequently in Southeast Asia.
Since 1960, when Qaradawi wrote his book in Arabic, his narrow approach toward Islam has predominated. In Malaysia, his influence is deep, even among the governing Muslim elites. When former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was the president of the International Islamic University, Malaysia, he spent considerable time with Qaradawi, expressing his support for the latter’s fiqh al aliyyah (introducing Islamic law according to priorities).
In his governmental post of deputy to prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar was able to bring some of Qaradawi’s ideas into public policy. Eventually Anwar was dumped from the government and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption; however, the thoughts and practice of Qaradawi have not been totally excluded from government policy, including the reductionist elements.
Islamic scholars and thinkers in Malaysia continue to look to Qaradawi for various Islamic interpretations and verdicts, such as on the legality of suicide terrorism. More important, the inspiration of Qaradawi is integral to the conceptual blueprint for an Islamic state as held by the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which controls the Kelantan state government.
PAS’s Islamic state is based on the permissible and the prohibited as outlined by Qaradawi. Observe the “Islamic state document” produced by PAS last year, the first of its kind in the history of the party, after much demand from Malaysians as to what a PAS-style Islamic state would actually represent.
In this document, it was clearly stated that PAS would implement “the Shariah [Islamic law] to achieve the five imperatives of the Shariah; therein to protect a Muslim’s beliefs, life, intellect, dignity and property”.
In seeking to fulfill these five imperatives, the document read: “In implementing the Shariah all vices and crimes that pertain to the above stated aspects would be controlled. Man-made laws have been [proved] a failure in securing the security and dignity of the human race.”