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September 15, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8933

Muslim Clerics: Fatwa Issued By Grand Mufti Of Palestine Prohibiting Emiratis From Visiting Al-Aqsa Has No Basis In Shari'a

September 15, 2020
Palestine, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 8933

On August 18, 2020, several days following the announcement of the normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, which inter alia stated that all Muslims are permitted to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to pray there,[1] the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, issued a fatwa (opinion on a point of Islamic law) which indicates that residents of the UAE are forbidden to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that Palestinians should boycott and shun them.

According to the fatwa, normalization with Israel and support for the Deal of the Century are forbidden according to Muslim shari'a law. Similar to a fatwa issued by Hussein in 2014,[2] this new ruling states that Muslims are permitted to visit the holy places in Jerusalem as long as they abide by several conditions, which include coordinating with Palestinian or Jordanian bodies and avoiding normalization with Israel.

Hussein's fatwa sparked criticism among Muslim clerics across the Arab and Muslim world who claimed that it is not based on shari'a principles. They wrote that there is no basis in Islamic law for forbidding the members of any nation from praying at a specific mosque due to the political positions adopted by their country, and therefore that the fatwa constitutes a forbidden act of politicizing the religion. Some even called the fatwa insolence toward Allah, since mosques belong to Him alone and no one may ban people from visiting them.

It should be noted that, since 2012, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas has been urging Arabs and Muslims to visit Jerusalem, with no conditions, and stating clearly that this is not considered normalization.[3]In the past this call by 'Abbas in fact caused controversy among Muslim clerics. While some, such as Palestinian Minister for Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash,[4]  supported 'Abbas's call and viewed it as a way to support and strengthen the Palestinian people, others, among them Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi,[5]opposed this call and forbade anyone who was not Palestinian from visiting Jerusalem, maintaining that such visits are an expression of normalization with the Israeli occupation.

This report reviews Hussein's fatwa and the responses it evoked:

Palestinian Mufti: Muslims Who Normalize Relations With Israel Are Banned From Praying At Al-Aqsa

As mentioned, on August 18, 2020 the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, issued a fatwa stating that Muslims who normalize relations with Israel are banned from visiting Al-Aqsa. The fatwa stated: "I firmly reiterate my previous fatwa, from March 14, 2014, on visiting the Palestinian lands and the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque while they remain under Israeli occupation. That fatwa stated that one of the prominent duties of the Islamic nation is to make every effort to liberate Palestine and its blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque until [Palestine] is open to [anyone] who journeys there to win Allah's favor.

"Clearly, journeying to Al-Aqsa while it is under occupation is different from [making the journey] in circumstances of freedom and security. As long as the Muslims understand the extent of their responsibility for and duty toward the Palestinian land and Jerusalem and its holy sites, there is no religious basis for preventing [them] from visiting there, providing they abide by the following religious rules:

  1. [They must] oppose the perpetuation of the occupation of Palestinian land, of Jerusalem and of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.

  2. [They must] avoid any action that serves the normalizing of the Muslims' relations with the occupation, which has captured our land, our people, our Jerusalem and our Al-Aqsa.

  3. The visit must be coordinated with the Palestinian authorities in charge of visits to the occupied lands.

  4. Visits to the Palestinian lands must [be aimed at] demonstrating the Arab and Islamic identity [of these lands and the visitor's] opposition to the occupation, and at helping the murabitoun[6] there to stand fast until liberation is achieved.

"I stress that praying at the Al-Aqsa mosque is permitted to everyone who enters [the country] in the legal  Palestinian manner or [is granted access] by the government of our sister [country] Jordan, which is the custodian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, but not to those who normalize relations [with Israel] and use this to cooperate with the criminal 'Deal of the Century.' Normalization [with Israel] is one of the manifestations of this deal, and anything that follows from this deal is forbidden, and is null and void according to the shari'a, for it is aimed at abandoning Jerusalem, which the Deal of the Century regards as the capital of the Zionist entity, including the holy sites, of course.

"Allah the Almighty forbade following the evildoers, when He said [in Quran 11:113]: 'And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire.' This requires us to forbid cooperation with the arbitrary Deal of the Century and its horrible implications, which are replete with faults, heinous racist crimes and insolence.

"In conclusion, let me say that the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs exclusively to the Muslims, and that nobody will be suffered to harm even a single crumb of the soil on which it stands. [Let me also] stress that no Palestinian must welcome those who normalize [relations with Israel] or hold ties with them.

"Allah speaks truth and guides [you] to the path of righteousness."[7]

Muslim Clerics Reject Palestinian Mufti's Fatwa

As stated, the Palestinian Mufti's fatwa met with criticism and rejection from clerics across the Arab and Muslim world, who claimed that it lacks any religious basis.

Senior Al-Azhar Sheikh: There Is No Religious Basis For Banning Any Muslim From Praying At Any Mosque

The former deputy-sheikh of Al-Azhar, 'Abbas Shouman, claimed that the Palestinian Mufti's fatwa is not based on any principle of shari'a and therefore lacks any religious validity, and also noted that the Mufti was employing a double standard, since he did not ban the citizens of Qatar or Turkey from worshipping at Al-Aqsa, although their countries have relations with Israel.  He said: "I am surprised by this fatwa. Although I support the Palestinian cause, like any Muslim and Arab, and defend it in my writings and in the conferences I attend in this country [Egypt] and abroad,   and although I oppose anything that is detrimental to the Palestinian cause and recognize the Palestinians' right to reject or accept positions and decisions regarding Palestine… I am against issuing fatwas that are not based on any shari'a principles or foundations…   

"As an expert on Islamic jurisprudence, I see no justification for a fatwa which negates [the right of] all the people of a [particular] Muslim state from praying at a particular mosque based on a political position adopted by their country. Without defending the UAE or interfering in the policies of its leaders, the fatwa that was issued by the honorable Mufti of Jerusalem is selective and is not considered valid…

"Turkey is known to have ties with Israel since 1949 and for being the first Muslim country to recognize Israel. These ties hold to this day and have developed into economic and military cooperation, which is much more than [mere] normalization. Despite this, we have not heard of any Palestinian fatwa banning Turks from praying at Al-Aqsa, nor do we want to hear [of one]. Qatar, too, has trade relations with Israel, yet we have not heard of Qataris being banned from praying at Al-Aqsa, nor do we want to hear [of such a thing]… Although I oppose the behavior of Turkey and Qatar and regard them as [two] of the most wicked states in our region, my position on a fatwa banning Turks or Qataris from praying [at Al-Aqsa] would be similar to my position on the banning of the Emiratis. I would have the same position on any fatwa banning any Muslim from praying at Al-Aqsa, no matter what the positions of his state and how disputed they are…

"This fatwa is incompatible with the heavy pressure [that we saw] from Palestinian leaders to issue fatwas obligating all Muslims to visit Al-Aqsa and pray there. Al-Azhar refused to involve itself in this matter [at the time], maintaining that this was not a religious matter requiring a fatwa by Al-Azhar, but rather a matter to be determined by the politicians based on the Palestinians' economic and political interests… I supported this position of Al-Azhar, and so did most of the Muslim clerics who attended the Al-Azhar conference on Jerusalem, at which the Mufti of Jerusalem was present as well.  

"Shari'a experts know that fatwas must not be issued to ban something specific, unless there is valid evidence to justify this, and there is no basis for banning or permitting [specific] political positions, no matter how controversial. To my knowledge, not a single fatwa has ever been issued in all of Islamic history banning any individual or group from praying at any Muslim mosque… Just as no Arab may disparage or relinquish the Palestinians' rights, [no Muslim] can accept the politization of fatwas or [the act of] saddling our Islamic jurisprudence with [issues] it cannot address." [8]

Member Of UAE Fatwa Council: The Mufti's Fatwa Is Insolence Toward Allah, Violates Prophet's Directive

Members of the UAE's Fatwa Council likewise condemned the fatwa, claiming that it constituted insolence toward Allah, to whom all mosques belong, and contravenes the Prophet's directive to visit Al-Aqsa. Fatwa Council member Dr. 'Omar Habtoor Al-Dar'i said: "The [fatwa] issued by the Mufti of Jerusalem banning Emiratis from visiting Al-Aqsa is one of the strangest and most puzzling fatwas [ever issued]! It contains insolence toward Allah, clearly and bewilderingly. How can [a cleric], who has undertaken to speak for Allah, spew nonsense in the name of Allah at his own discretion, and attribute to the religion [notions] that Allah did not permit[?] This harms the protected sphere of jurisprudence, its sanctity and its principles, and violates the laws of Islamic jurisprudence... in order to manipulate the law regarding mosques! Allah said [in Quran 72:18] that 'the mosques belong to Allah,' and therefore forbade to trade in the laws regarding them or exploit their sanctity for personal gain on the pretext of promoting the collective good of the Muslims. What makes it worse is that the Mufti spoke of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Allah blessed, the [destination] of the Prophet's Night Journey. The Prophet Muhammad instructed us to undertake the journey [to Al-Aqsa], so visiting it and praying in it is permitted, and nobody may ban what Allah permitted and even enjoined…"[9]  

Similar claims were made by another member of the UAE's Fatwa Council, Dr. Ahmad Al-Haddad, who is the UAE's most prominent jurisprudent and head of fatwas at the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities in Dubai. He said: "The statements we heard in the media from the Mufti of Jerusalem… are odd, because he is familiar with the [same] shari'a that all Muslims are familiar with, and if he ruled in a different manner [from the shari'a], then he directed the path of jurisprudence toward the slippery slope of politics, and this is something that nobody will accept… Visiting Al-Aqsa is permitted to all Muslims who can come and wish to worship there, and also to all others, [non-Muslims who wish to visit it] as tourists.  The most appropriate thing is for the people of Jerusalem, the murabitoun at the Al-Aqsa compound, to be encouraged by their Muslim brethren [who visit the mosque]. Where is the wisdom in these declarations that are un-Islamic and stray from the [correct] path of jurisprudence[?] Jurisprudence means relaying information on the laws of the shari'a, which jurisprudence is intended to [to preserve]!..."

Al-Haddad stressed that the UAE had fulfilled its religious duty, based on the shari'a principle of serving the greater Muslim good and in according to the intentions of the shari'a. The UAE's moves "provided the Palestinian people with an achievement that history will recognize even before the Palestinians themselves do," he said, and added: "Even if [the Palestinians] renounce the UAE today, it is not trying to please them but to please the human conscience, [fulfill] its shari'a and diplomatic duty and [promote] the good of all Muslims. Tomorrow they will praise the effort we made today. Tomorrow will not be long in coming."[10]

French Imam Hassen Chalgoumi: Al-Aqsa Belongs To All Muslims, Not To The Palestinians Alone

Imam Hassen Chalgoumi, head of the Conference of Imams of France and of the Union of People for Peace, condemned the Jerusalem Mufti's fatwa and told the UAE daily Al-Ittihad that "the Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to all Muslims and is not the exclusive property of any one nation." He added that no Muslim may be banned from entering the mosque because it is not anyone's private property, and called to refrain from politicizing it and allow it to remain a destination of pilgrimage for Muslims worldwide, especially after the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, which stresses the right of all Muslims to pray there.

Chalgoumi wondered why Muslims do not visit the mosque by the millions, which would boost the Palestinian morale and economy, and added: "By ratifying this agreement [with Israel] the UAE did the right thing, and other countries should do the same… The UAE is the chief defender and supporter of the Palestinian cause, and has provided billions in aid to the Palestinian people, and nobody can hurl political slogans at it or belittle the role it has played for decades." He called to listen to the voice of reason at this decisive historic moment, and said: "I applaud the people and leadership of the UAE for this historic agreement and salute them for their courage. We are proud of them, for they are [a source of] pride for us as Arabs and Muslims. The UAE has established the values of tolerance and peace in its society and all of its residents benefit from this." He explained that the agreement between the UAE and Israel can promote the dialogue and the peace process that have been stagnant for years, and that "the agreement is a bridge between nations, which at the same time blocks the path of the extremists who exploit the Palestinian cause for the sake of blackmail and for gaining personal profits and [promoting] personal interests…"[11] 

 

[1] Wam.ae/ar, August 13, 2020.

[2] Maannews.net, March 25, 2014.

[3] Gate.ahram.org.eg, January 17, 2014; Maannews.net, February 26, 2012.

[4] Aljazeera.net, February 28, 2012.

[5] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), April 19, 2012.

[6] The Arabic term murabitoun refers to warriors awaiting battle at the front. The terms murabitoun and murabitat also refer to Palestinian activists who stage vocal protests at the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, especially to prevent Jews from praying there.

[7] Darifta.ps, August 18, 2020.

[8] Akhbarelyom.com, August 18, 2020.

[9] Al-Bayan (UAE), August 19, 2020.

[10] Al-Bayan (UAE), August 19, 2020.

[11] Al-Ittihad (UAE), August 21, 2020.

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