March 2, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3636

Criticism of Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa Permitting Killing of Libyan Leader Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi

March 2, 2011
Libya | Special Dispatch No. 3636

Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, recently issued a fatwa on Al-Jazeera TV permitting the killing of Libyan ruler Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi.[1]

In response to this fatwa, the website, which is close to Al-Qaradhawi, published a critical article by Muhammad Isma'il Shel, the editor of the site's section on ethics, moral education, and religious law. In the criticism, Shel stressed that Al-Qaradhawi's statements were an expression of an opinion, not a fatwa, because they included no proofs from religious sources. He also expressed apprehension that this opinion could pave the way for other clerics in permitting the killing of other leaders and prominent figures.

The following are excerpts from the article:[2]

"Damage Can be Expected from this Rashness of [Issuing a Fatwa] that Permits Killing [Directly] to the General Public"

"... I see [Al-Qaradhawi's statements] as mere opinion, not on the level of a fatwa, which [should] include proof and details... It would be best to think of the sheikh's statement as an expression of opinion, and to view it in the context which it was expressed. This requires me to determine several important rules for dealing with the sheikh's opinion, which he expressed on Al-Jazeera TV...

"1) In the opinion, the sheikh does not note the full proof from the [religious] sources. The opinion is written in the form of a fatwa, [but] lacks [the required] proof and details, even though it concerns the dangerous issue of bloodshed.

"2) It is necessary to present several principles, so that the fatwa will not be taken out of context and used as justification by some people for rashness in the [matter of] killing and bloodshed...

"3) The Libyan people should be permitted the freedom to decide [for itself] the means by which it will rise up against the ruler, based on the facts on the ground. The sheikh could have issued a fatwa regarding the need to oppose oppression, without specifically permitting the killing of Al-Qadhafi, even if it did [ultimately] lead to his killing.

"4) An urgent meeting of authorized scholars from the Muslim world – and there are many of them – and Libyan clerics should be convened, perhaps under the aegis of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, to discuss the matter from the religious point of view and in this framework to issue a fatwa expressing a joint and agreed-upon position, based on all the evidence, and based on the facts as they exist in Libya.

"5) Damage can be expected from this rashness of [issuing a fatwa] that permits killing [directly] to the general public – without [letting] the experts discuss the [religious] proofs and release authorized statements.

"6) My fear is that the fatwa will be taken out of context... We are in a difficult time and a turbulent reality of instability and tension... This could be used as a model for imitation – and some [clerics] may permit the killing of oppressors in any institution or ministry...

"7) It is certain that we can expect change in several other countries where it has not yet taken place. I fear that an unjustified analogy will be drawn from [this] fatwa – and then all the Arab leaders will be placed in the same [category], even though every country is unique, as is every people and every leader."

"Principles of the Civil State… Require a Just and Open Trial" of Al-Qadhafi

"8) Sheikh [Al-Qaradhawi] should not be held responsible if there are any mistakes in the commentary on this fatwa... I only want this fatwa not to be used as a pretext for bloodshed.

"9) I know that the sheikh would not issue a ruling without proofs. He certainly has the proofs, and he will clarify them soon... But it would have been better to present the proofs and the principles [for implementing the fatwa] at the same time as it was issued...

"10) [In the case of] a fatwa that permits killing, there is a crucial difference between a fatwa given in response to a query regarding a particular figure and under particular circumstances, and a general fatwa issued to the public at large.

"11) The fatwa [did not rely] on sources of religious or secular authority that are anchored in the principles of the civil state and that stress the principles of democracy, law, and justice. For these [principles] require a just and open trial, after which it will be possible to assess what punishment [is suitable] for Al-Qadhafi and his ilk..."


[1] For Al-Qaradhawi's fatwa, see MEMRI-TV Clip No. 2819, "Leading Sunni Scholar Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi Issues Fatwa to Army to Kill Libyan Leader Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi," February 21, 2011,

[2], February 25, 2011.

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