Abstract: This is a review of a book on al-Quds written by a prominent scholar of the ahlus-sunnah school of law based in Qatar. The book deals with issues connected to Palestine in general. Issues dealt with by the scholar include the place of al-Quds in the Qur’an, the relevance and importance of al-Quds to Muslims. On the political side he deals with the enemy i.e. the Zionist, and their project of destroying al-Quds and installing the temple of Solomon on its ruins. He discusses at length the nature of the enemy utilizing various sources in Arabic and Hebrew. He points towards the support the Americans had given towards Israel in fulfilling their Zionist project of the expansion of Israel. He ends the book by outlining some recommendations for the Muslims in the face of this encroachment towards al-Quds.
Qardhawi is known mainly in the field of fiqh and usul al fiqh. His popularity stems from his new and fresh approach towards Shari’ah in which he would expose the reader to the various positions of the scholars from all the different schools of law and in the end he would formulate his own view, sometimes criticizing the positions of old authorities. He tackles modern issues such as abortion, IVF treatment, organ transplant, etc. His field of influence has gone beyond the Arab countries into North America, South-East Asia and Europe. He is not afraid to voice his opinions. In regards to the issue of Palestine, his most controversial fatwa must be the legality of suicide bombers and their actions in occupied territories. Apart from the controversy, Qardhawi is also a believer in unity amongst Muslims. Back in June 2005, he was present in a gathering at Amman to denounce terrorism amongst Muslims. The conference held by King Abdullah had brought together all schools of law most significantly the shii or the Ja’fari school.
The book we are reviewing addresses us who are outside of the occupied territories in educating us in regards to the issue of Palestine. The title is al-Quds due to the importance of Palestine to the Muslims. It is the tenth treatise in his collection of treatises for guidance towards an Islamic awakening.
We can roughly divide Qardhawi’s approach into two: from an Islamic angle and from the political side of the issue. Issues connected with the Islamic angle deal mainly with issues such as the importance of al-Quds within the Muslim consciousness, why are Muslims against Israel? Is it because they are Jews? Is it because they are Semites?
The usual discussion on why Muslims and Arabs in general are weak is also dealt within this discussion. According to Qardhawi the weakness of the Arabs is due to few factors, the main factor being disunity. Qardhawi is not mentioning anything new here. However what is unique in his approach refers to his reading of Arab contemporary history. To him disunity had occurred during and after the Camp David Accords. He also pointed out to the second Gulf War as a lost opportunity for the Arabs to unite; instead they were divided in the worse possible manner.
This story of the weakening of the Arabs is developed further by tying it to the weakness of the Muslim Ummah in general. Here Qardhawi connects what he sees as the factors contributing towards the weakness together. They are the coming of the Tatars or Mongols, the Crusades and of course colonization of the Muslim lands. Describing it in general terms Qardhawi does not delve into the details; instead he points out how at each possible challenge God had sent a saviour who is ironically a non-Arab such as the Kurd, Salahuddin al-Ayyubi, the Turk Imad al-din al-Zanki and his son Nur al-Din Mahmud, and other figures are Saif al-Din Qutz and the Mamluk Zahir. The weakness of the Muslims is attributed theologically to the saying of the Holy Prophet of Islam based on a report narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawud from Thawban. The Prophet is reported to have said that the weakness of the Muslims is due to their love of the world and being afraid of death.
This, according to al-Qardhawi, is the reason and cause for the weakness of Muslims. Of course he ties the love of the world to rampant materialism which every well intentioned youth should be aware of.
What would be the interest of the present reviewer is Qardhawi’s political discussion concerning al-Quds. As the issues of al-Quds are connected towards the issue of Palestine in general thus he sees that there are 4 main problems connected with Palestine:
- The problem of al-Quds
- The problem of settlements
- The problem of refugees
- The problem of borders
The problem of al-Quds is connected to what is mentioned by Yitzak Rabin at Oslo that Jerusalem (al-Quds) belongs historically and eternally to the Israelis.
There is also the problem of settlements which is a problem which should be dealt with immediately. This is a continuous problem asserts Qardhawi and we cannot allow this to grow further and to expand into al-Quds as the Israelis are destroying the houses and places of residence of the rightful owners of the land. The Israelis are forcing a Judaization of al-Quds through all of their actions at the cost of the marginalization and displacement of the Muslim and Christian communities. It is due to this process, which in turn give rise to oppression, that we find the youth of Palestine getting involved in suicide bombings. Qardhawi supports the intifadhah as the only way towards a solution for al-Quds.
Many other political issues are dealt with in this book such as the claims of the Israelis on al-Quds and Palestine: why did Israel rush towards an agreement? What are the historical connections between America and Israel?, etc.
Muslims’ role is roughly discussed in the last section conveniently called recommendations (tawsiyat). Within these so called recommendations is an economic boycott of Israeli products and companies. This responsibility lies upon Muslim individuals as well as their governments. The other relevant recommendation would be to abandon disunity and differences in religion (sunnah and shi’ah), along racial lines (Arab and non-Arab) as well as ideological differences (left-wing and right-wing). For Qardhawi, the battle with the state of Israel is a repetition of the battle of Khandaq during the time of the Prophet of Islam and Muslims should unite in order to emerge victorious.
Although Qardhawi has shown through the writing of this book his ability to utilize various sources, his reliance on sources still depends on the Arabic translations or secondary writings written by fellow Arab scholars. His understanding of events is also through Western news agencies. Apart from the usual rhetoric from someone of his stature, the aim of educating the Muslim youth in regards to al-Quds al-Sharif and issues connected to it deserves praise as it does point out various points of importance which are; the enemy are not Jews in general but Zionism which is an ideology of a few Jews, the relations between America and Israel, the encouragement upon those involved in the Islamic awakening and Islamic movements to read books written by the Zionist and other scholars beyond the Arab world to gain knowledge of the situation more clearly, a clarification that the suicide bombers are a result of the oppression upon the community and not an exhortation of religion, a recommendation towards peace.