During his May 2013 visit to Gaza, prominent cleric Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS),expressed his support for jihad and martyrdom, saying that he prays to die as a martyr. Also during this visit, Ibrahim Al-Madhoun, a columnist for Hamas's mouthpiece Al-Risala, published an article in which he discussed an introduction written by Al-Qaradhawi in 1997 for a biography of 'the Engineer' Yahya 'Ayyash – the Hamas bomb maker who was responsible for several large-scale terrorist attacks in 1994-1995. In this introduction Al-Qaradhawi heaped praise upon 'Ayyash, calling him a paragon of faith and an emblem of heroism. Al-Madhoun wrote that this introduction reflects Al-Qaradhawi's important role as a supporter of the jihad in Palestine.
The following are excerpts from Al-Qaradhawi's introduction to the 'Ayyash biography, from Al-Madhoun's article about this introduction, and from Al-Qaradhawi's recent statements in Gaza.
Al-Qaradhawi (right) and 'Ayyash, from an article on the Al-Qassam Brigades website about Al-Qaradhawi's introduction to the 'Ayyash biography (image: alqassam.ps)
Al-Qaradhawi In Introduction To 'Ayyash Biography: He Did Not Die; He Lives On In His Brethren
The biography, called "The Engineer and Martyr Yahya 'Ayyash – An Emblem of Jihad and Resistance in Palestine", by Ghassan Daw'ar, was published in 1997 by the publishing house of Hamas's magazine Filastin Al-Muslima.
Al-Qaradhawi begins the introduction by explaining that people fall into several categories: those who are chiefly concerned with their own physical needs, those who are motivated by a lust for power, those who hunger for wealth, and those who have no goal whatsoever. However, he adds, "there is also a select group of people who do not make this world their chief concern or the ultimate [subject] of their learning. They do not care for themselves, their desires and personal interests. Instead, they live for the sake of a greater purpose: an important mission to which they dedicate their lives, in which they invest all their efforts and abilities, and for the sake of which they [even] sacrifice their souls... They pursue [this mission] day and night, and it is constantly in their thoughts... It is about such people that Allah said: 'And of the people is he who sells himself, seeking means to the approval of Allah. And Allah is kind to [His] servants' [Koran 2:207]; 'Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow [to the death], and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration. That Allah may reward the truthful for their truth [Koran 33:23-24].'"
Al-Qaradhawi continues: "I believe that among those who gave up their souls to please Allah, and made a true pledge to Allah, was the gifted engineer and martyred mujahid Yahya 'Ayyash, who dedicated his life, talents, time and efforts, and everything he had, for the sake of a grand and important [goal] that is the Muslim's foremost cause: [namely Palestine,] the Land of Prophecy where Allah gave his blessing to all the people, the land of the [Prophet's] Night Journey and ascension to Paradise, the land of Al-Aqsa, whose precincts Allah blessed. ['Ayyash] dedicated [himself to this cause] from his youth, at an age when many devote their time to games and pleasures. But our beloved brother Yahya had other role models, [such as the Prophet's companions] Mus'ab bin 'Umayr and Osama bin Zayd, and other [great] sons of this nation.
"His brethren called him 'the Engineer of the Ages,' because he dedicated his ability and expertise in engineering and planning to [the goal of enabling] heroic martyrdom operations against the violence and tyranny of the Zionist entity – those operations that caused Israel to lose sleep and troubled its days, making it sleep in dread and wake up full of worry and apprehension. He was one of those young men who gave up their souls for Allah and disregarded all harm for His sake. [As Koran 9:120 says:] 'They are not afflicted by thirst or fatigue or hunger in the cause of Allah, nor do they tread on any ground that enrages the disbelievers or inflict upon an enemy any infliction without adding a righteous deed to their record. Indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of the doers of good.'
"Knowing that ['Ayyash] was the mastermind behind these operations, Israel harnessed all its military and material might, and all its cunning, in order to take vengeance upon him. Eventually it achieved its goal, and he [thereby] achieved his own goal – namely martyrdom, which he knew would be his fate one day, sooner or later. 'Those who are killed in the cause of Allah - never will He waste their deeds. He will guide them and amend their condition And admit them to Paradise, which He has made known to them' [Koran, 47:4-6].
"Yahya was one of those people of whom Allah said that they [are like a good crop that] 'delights the sowers and by means of which Allah may enrage the disbelievers' [Koran 48:29]. He enraged the Jews in his lifetime, and his blood enraged them and will continue to enrage them after his death.
"This biography of the martyr Yahya 'Ayyash, which tells the tales of his exceptional heroism, shows that the outcome of a proper upbringing and correct guidance from an early age produces [young men like] Yahya, who was a believing [Muslim] and later a stalwart jihad fighter that strove, with rare dedication, to achieve one of the two best [goals] – either victory or martyrdom...
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"We say to the murderous Zionists: Yahya is not dead. He lives on in his brethren who follow in his footsteps and act to achieve his goal. Each one of them is [another] Yahya 'Ayyash, Allah willing.
"The factory that produced the hero Yahya continues to produce more heroes... This [factory] is Islam, with its beliefs, its shari'a, its supreme values, its Koran, its sunna and the biographies of its pure-[hearted] heroes. Whenever one of these stars faded, another star, or several, have appeared... May Allah have mercy upon our beloved martyr Yahya, and accept him as one of his cherished servants, and grant victory to his brethren who follow in his footsteps. Amen."
Article In Hamas Mouthpiece: Al-Qaradhawi Has Major Role In Supporting Jihad
In his article, published in Al-Risala during Al-Qaradhawi's visit to Gaza, columnist Ibrahim Al-Madhoun claimed that the above text reflects Al-Qaradhawi's important contribution to the jihad in Palestine and his impact on this jihad. He wrote: "In his introduction to a biography of 'the Engineer,' Yahya 'Ayyash, may Allah have mercy upon his soul, Sheikh Yusouf Al-Qaradhawi encouraged [acts of] fighting and sacrifice. He wrote like one who is well-versed in the details, who [follows] the operations closely, and who is an integral part of the jihad enterprise. Sadly, only few know about Al-Qaradhawi's jihad, his support of jihad, and his direct and profound involvement in this [domain].
"[Al-Qaradhawi] is one of the prominent religious scholars of the [Muslim] nation who are concerned with this nation's causes... He has a real and significant role in supporting the Palestinians' jihad and their burgeoning revolution. He has devoted his knowledge and contacts to reviving [the Palestinian cause] in the heart of the [Muslim] nation, and has committed himself morally to Palestine and its jihad...
"Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi has written over 120 essays and books, and [has issued] many fatwas. He has recorded many religious [television] shows... He is an unparalleled trove of knowledge, and can render complex issues easy and simple. I hope his visit to Gaza will be an opportunity to revive his ideology and knowledge [there], and that he will be given the reception he deserves by the public, the officials and the scholars. I suggest founding a shari'a institute named after him that will teach his methods, spread his thought, disseminate his books and inculcate his ideology and views. The nation needs Al-Qaradhawi's correct and moderate ideas, in this age when going astray, extremism, hyperbole, division and lack of vision are prevalent.
"There are some who oppose Al-Qaradhawi's visit, either out of ignorance about him or out of unobjective political considerations. Others have been influenced by the negative propaganda that attempted to distort his image, detract from his greatness, or blind people to his true worth. Sadly, most [of his critics] have never read [his writings] or listened [to his ideas], but base [their opinion] on excerpts quoted here or there.
"[Viewing him] as a politician, one can agree with Al-Qaradhawi's views completely or have some reservations about them. But [when it comes to his status] as a jurisprudent and a great religious scholar, one can only sit down and spend nights reading his writings and delving into his unique doctrine.
"Al-Qaradhawi's visit will be a significant turning point for the Palestinians, lending a new dimension to our cause and a new role to Gaza, which is an emblem of defiance and victory in light of its defiance against the Zionist enterprise in the region."
Al-Qaradhawi In Gaza: 'I Pray That Allah Grant Me [The Opportunity] To Sacrifice My Soul For His Sake'
Al-Qaradhawi's support for jihad and martyrdom was also apparent in statements he made during his Gaza visit. In one of his speeches, he said: "I know full well that victory is our ally. We shall be victorious or die." Speaking in front of the house of Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin, he said: "I expected Israel to hit me with a missile, thus [allowing me] to achieve martyrdom for the sake of Allah... I pray that Allah grant me [the opportunity] to sacrifice my soul for His sake." 
It should be noted that Al-Qaradhawi's visit to Gaza enraged the Palestinian Authority (PA), which regards visits by public figures to Gaza as undermining its role as the Palestinians' sole legitimate representative. PA spokesmen accused him of hypocrisy because he forbade Muslims to visit Jerusalem on the grounds that this "legitimizes the occupation," yet he himself visited Gaza "with the occupation's consent."
 Daw'ar has written several biographies of martyrs and operatives in Hamas and its military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din-Al-Qassam Brigades.
 Al-Risala (Gaza), May 9, 2013.
 Al-Risala (Gaza), May 9, 2013.
 Al-Risala (Gaza), May 10, 2013. For further excerpts from Al-Qaradhawi's statements during his Gaza visit, see MEMRI TV clip No. 3841, Leading Sunni Scholar Al-Qaradhawi in Visit to Gaza Calls for Jihad, Prays to Become Martyr, May 8-11, 2013.
 Amad.ps, May 10, 2013.