Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, has recently spoken out against the terrorist attacks and guerilla war that Muslim Chechen separatists are waging against the Chechen government of President Ramzan Kadyrov, whom the separatists accuse of collaborating with Russia. In a recorded speech he sent to a June 2010 Islamic convention held in the Chechen capital, and in a September 2010 fatwa he issued in response to a request by Chechen Muslim scholars, Al-Qaradhawi called on the Chechen insurgents to abandon violence and take up diplomacy in order to further their cause, because, he explained, Islam is a peaceful religion that advocates fighting only against those who wage war on Islam or expel Muslims from their homes, and jihad is allowed solely for defense purposes.
Al-Qaradhawi's statements met with criticism from several Muslim clerics and organizations supportive of the Chechen insurgents' cause, which asked why the sheikh drew a distinction between the Palestinian struggle and that of the Chechens, and claimed that his religious ruling deviated from Islamic law. It should be noted that the Chechen jihadists do not consider Al-Qaradhawi a religious authority; however, in light of his prominent status in the Islamic world at large, his ruling could dissuade non-Chechen Muslims from joining the Chechen insurgency.
It is noteworthy that in the past Al-Qaradhawi has expressed opposite views, calling to support the Chechen jihad and its struggle for independence from Russia. Chechen Mufti Sultan Haji Mirzayev explained that Al-Qaradhawi had changed his position after Chechen Muslim clerics and President Kadyrov presented him with a clear picture of the situation on the ground, while in the past he had been given misleading reports on circumstances in Chechnya.
Following are excerpts from Al-Qaradhawi's recent statements and some reactions to them, as well as a number of statements he made in the past:
Al-Qaradhawi in Grozny, Chechnya: Jihad Is Strictly for Purposes of Defense
In June 2010, a convention titled "Islam – The Religion of Peace" was held in Grozny under the auspices of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, and attended by religious scholars of the three monotheistic religions and by experts on interfaith and intercultural dialogue. In a speech he recorded for the event, Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi called on the Chechens to uphold peace and consider themselves as an integral part of the Russian Federation.
Al-Qaradhawi opened the speech with praise for President Kadyrov's leadership: "The Chechen Republic has a [special] place in our hearts. It is an Islamic republic and we are proud of it and of its positions, especially under its new president, Ramzan Kadyrov, who comes from a proud Muslim family [guided by] religious wisdom..."
Al-Qaradhawi went on to cite Koranic verses and hadiths demonstrating that Islam is a religion of peace that seeks to avoid war at all costs, and said: "I salute this conference, titled 'Islam – The Religion of Peace.' This is an undeniable fact; no one disputes that Islam is a religion of peace, [but] perhaps there are some here who are unfamiliar with the essence of our merciful religion, and ask: If Islam is a religion of peace, why does it obligate [Muslims to wage] jihad?... Our answer is that Islam teaches Muslims jihad so that they will defend their lives and those things holy to them, and stand up to aggressors and tyrants. However, that which is most favored by Islam is peace..."
Al-Qaradhawi elaborated that Muslims are obligated to accept peace offers from their enemies, and that even in times of war they are obliged to make peace with their foes, so long as the latter do not wage religious war against them or expel them from their homes and lands: "Regarding polytheists, opponents, and enemies, [the Koran] says: 'If they withdraw from you and fight you not, and offer you peace, then Allah alloweth you no way against them [Koran 4:90].' That is to say, if they seek to make peace with us, and let us be, and extend a peaceful hand, we must extend to them an even more willing and generous hand. And even [in times of] war, if they are inclined toward peace, [we must heed] the Koran, [which] says: 'And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah [Koran 8:61]'...
Al-Qaradhawi added, however, that the Muslims do have to oppose those who wage religious war against them or try to expel them from their lands: "[The Koran says:] 'Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of religion, and drove you forth from your homes and helped to expel you, that you make friends with them [Koran 60:9].' That is to say, those worthy of hostile treatment and confrontation are those who fight us for [reasons of] religion, and those who expel us from our homes. Whoever turns to us in peace, we turn to him in peace, and whoever fights us, we fight him..."
Al-Qaradhawi recalled the treaty story of the Al-Hudaibiyya (628 AD), when the Prophet Muhammad, who had set out with a large army toward Mecca, encountered a delegation of Meccans who had been fighting against him but had decided to sign a truce. Al-Qaradhawi said: "When he called on [the Muslims to accept] the Al-Hudaibiya treaty, whose conditions were not in the Muslims' favor, our Lord [Muhammad revealed] a sura regarding this treaty, called the Victory Sura: 'Surely Wwe have given to you a clear victory [Koran 48:1].' The [Prophet's] Companions asked him: Is this a victory, Messenger of Allah? And he said: 'Yes, this is victory.' They had not imagined a victory without war, much less a clear victory. This is what Islam has taught us."
In conclusion, Al-Qaradhawi emphasized that Islam loves even its enemies, and called on the Chechens to participate in the development of Russia, as an integral part of the Russian Federation: "Islam is a religion of peace and love. It despises enmity and animosity... It wishes for souls to be filled with love, friendship, and peace. Thus is the great [religion of] Islam, a religion of love even for the enemy, who tomorrow may become a friend. That is why there is no permanent enmity...
"The Muslims in Russia are no weak minority; they are more than 26 million in number. This is not an insignificant number, and it continues to grow. They can engage in Islamic da'wa [i.e. spreading Islam] if they devote themselves to peace and constructive work, and try to reconcile with their brothers. I believe that this will be beneficial to Islam and to Muslims [in general]..."
Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa: Violence Contradicts the Precepts of Islam
In September 2010, at the behest of Chechen Muslim scholars, Al-Qaradhawi issued a fatwa in which he reiterated his appeal to the Chechen rebels to abandon violence, on the grounds that it gained nothing and only made matters worse. He asked that they stop demonstrating religious ignorance and treating anyone who disagreed with them as a heretic. Following are excerpts from the fatwa:
"A delegation of Chechen clerics came to see me: the Chairman of the Chechen Council of Scholars, Sheikh Khoja Ahmed Kadyrov; the honorable Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Muhammad Sodiq, the greatest [Muslim] scholar in Russia; and the honorable brother Turko Daudov, representative of the Religious Administration of Chechen Muslims in the Gulf. They asked that I address the sons of Chechnya who use violence, mass murder, and bloodshed to achieve their aims, without consideration for judgment, balance, priorities, or consequences... Islam, in fact, forbids responding to an attack with a similar attack, let alone with a greater attack [that targets] innocent civilian victims, Muslims and non-Muslims..."
Al-Qaradhawi stressed in the fatwa that violence against Muslims and tourists is religiously unwarranted as well as futile: "[This violence] is not based on religious rulings... [Furthermore], has it changed any problematic situation or established any just government? Has it achieved [even] one of the great goals of the ummah?..." He urged to engage in politics and education rather than violence, and to stop targeting innocent civilians, as is done by those he called "groups of violence", including Islamic Jihad, Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, and Jama'at Al-Takfir in Egypt, the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya, the Salafi jihadi movement, and Al-Qaeda. These groups, he said, "have declared war on the established governments and have chosen the path of armed conflict. They were not satisfied with persuasion, education, guidance, [regime] change through peaceful means, and popular struggle in the universities, organizations, and mosques. [Nor were they satisfied] with political struggle through participating in elections and parliaments, in order to fight legislation which conflicts with Islamic [law], or with the freedoms and interests of the people. And since their power was no match for that of the government, or even close to it, they turned to methods that matched their capabilities, such as assassination and the sabotage of government facilities – most of which involved harming innocent civilians... including children, women, and the elderly, while in some cases the [actual] target of the attack went unharmed... If it is forbidden to kill those who do not take part in the war between Muslims and heretics, how can they kill Muslims?... Not to mention that destroying government facilities is destroying the property of the people.
"Another one of their methods is harming tourists, who are entitled to safe passage according to Islamic law. They are granted this safe passage by the country that grants them permission to enter [its territory], and it is therefore compulsory to honor their safety and not violate the security they were guaranteed. It is forbidden to harm them, physically or financially..."
Al-Qaradhawi concluded by saying that armed resistance does more harm than good: "Those who study and follow the acts of violence and armed resistance understand that these are not achieving their aims. They do not topple governments or even weaken them. The only thing a violence group sometimes achieves is the killing of a country's president, prime minister, minister, security official, and the like. This, of course, does not solve [any] problems, and in many cases, the person [killed] is succeeded by someone worse: tougher and harsher toward the Muslims..."
As mentioned, Al-Qaradhawi also addressed the issue of takfir [accusing other Muslims of heresy], claiming that those who are overly zealous in declaring takfir do so mainly because of "their poor proficiency... in Islamic law and its fundamental principles, and their meager knowledge of Islamic scholarship and the [Arabic] language..." He called on the Chechens to follow the example of other "groups of violence" that have recognized the error of their ways: "Every sensible person can understand how mistaken and dangerous are the brothers who exaggerate in takfir to the point where they begin declaring it against all people and societies... They claim that any of the ummah's scholars and imams who do not agree with them, past and at present, are in the wrong. This is destructive conceit, dangerous arrogance, harmful exaggeration; and its sole source is ignorance about Allah, people, and the [human] soul.
"But despite all of this, we have no desire... to declare takfir against them as they do to others... I know that some of these fellows have seen the light and returned to it, as in the case of [Islamic] Jihad and Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya in Egypt, the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya, and many leaders of groups of violence worldwide. They have returned to the straight and narrow... abandoning the path of violence they took in the past... We call on our brothers in Chechnya to similarly rethink [their ways], lay down [their] arms, and participate in building up their land and advancing their ummah..." 
Cleric: Palestinians Are Allowed to Fight, But Not Chechens?
Supporters of the Chechen insurgents reacted angrily to Al-Qaradhawi's statements, claiming that his rulings were unreliable and that there was no difference between the Chechen rebellion, which he was opposed, and the Palestinian struggle, which he supported. Following are several reactions:
The jihadi Chechen website Kavkazcenter.com responded to Al-Qaradhawi's fatwa in a posting titled "In His New Fatwa, Al-Qaradhawi Supports the Occupation and Praises Kadyrov," which describes the Chechen president as "leader of the Chechen agents [working for Russia]." By way of refuting the fatwa's claims, the article cited statements from two prominent Muslim clerics – Albanian Sheikh Muhammad Nasser Al-Din Al-Albani, a non-jihadist Salafi scholar, and Saudi Sheikh 'Abdallah Ibn Jibrin – who have accused Al-Qaradhawi of issuing fatwas contradicting Islamic law in order to make life easier for Muslims and win their favor. The website went on to describe Al-Qaradhawi's statements as "delusions."
In response to a query submitted by a forum member on the website Salafvoice.com, Egyptian Salafi Sheikh Yasser Burhami wrote that Al-Qaradhawi's fatwa was invalid because there was no difference between the situation in Chechnya and that in Palestine: "Al-Qaradhawi's fatwa is completely obscene and groundless, because what is the difference between Caucasus and Palestine?! Why doesn't he rule that the Palestinians are part of the Hebrew state?..."
Sheikh Hani Al-Siba'i, director of the Al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies in London, likewise attacked the fatwa. A summary of one of his Friday sermons, posted on his website, stated the following: "Sheikh [Al-Siba'i] devoted his second sermon to [addressing] Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's speech to the convention held by the [Russian] agent Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen president appointed by Moscow, and to [Al-Qaradhawi's] plea to the Chechen people and mujahideen to rally around the lawful leadership, namely the agent Ramzan Kadyrov... and to keep within the framework of the infidel Russian Federation.
"Sheikh [Al-Siba'i] poured out his wrath on Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi, rebutting his pleas [to the Chechen mujahideen]. He pointed to several catastrophic [statements] and fatwas [by Al-Qaradhawi] which deviated from Islam, calling on him to retract these fatwas before he dies. He said that if Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi did not do so publicly – just as he committed crimes against Islam publicly, by issuing fatwas that lead simple Muslims astray and misinform them – it would be forbidden to pray for him at his funeral, since he will have shown no pity for the murabitoun [Muslims on the front] and for the monotheists, wherever they are..."
Al-Qaradhawi in Past Statements: Support Chechnya’s Jihad
As mentioned previously, Al-Qaradhawi’s views as expressed in his recent statements contradict those he has voiced in the past, when he supported Chechen jihad and independence. Following are some of his previous statements on the matter.
In a 2001 Friday sermon, Al-Qaradhawi condemned Russia’s continued rule of the Caucasus: "Russia considers the Caucasus a part of its territory, [but] it is not a part of [Russia]. It was annexed with iron and fire in the time of the Tsars. [the People of the Caucasus] rebelled before and after this [annexation], and they are rebelling now, and will continue to do so in order to achieve their independence. They are not Russians...
"The Russians want to take revenge on [the Chechens], on the groundless pretext of fighting terrorists in Chechnya... This is a false claim, as evident from the fact that they forbid young children under ten and adults over 60 from entering Chechnya. A ten-year-old child is a terrorist warrior who frightens the Russians?... Can these [people] be terrorists? It is the Russians who are terrorists intimidating this peaceful people, which [only] wants [to realize] its rights..."
In another sermon from the same period, Al-Qaradhawi condemned terrorist attacks against mosques, calling on Muslims to focus their efforts on fighting the enemies of Islam, mentioning Palestine and Chechnya as examples: "Go fight the enemies of Islam. Go to Chechnya, or Bosnia, or the West Bank, if you can manage to get there... But to kill Muslims?..." Al-Qaradhawi concluded the sermon with a plea: "O Allah, support our brothers in Palestine, Lebanon, Kashmir and Chechnya. Help our brothers the mujahideen wherever [they may be]..."
Speaking on his weekly Al-Jazeera TV show, "Al-Shari'a Wal-Hayat" ("Shari'a and Life"), in January 2003, Al-Qaradhawi mentioned a debate held that day at a conference on terrorism convened in Qatar by the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy, affiliated with the Organization of the Islamic Conference: "Everyone who spoke today [at the conference] agreed on [one thing, namely] that defense of the homeland and of the holy sites is not terrorism. All the factions defending Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Iraq – they are not terrorists, but mujahideen. We call this 'defensive jihad'... Defensive jihad is when the enemy enters your land and you repel him, i.e., the one occupying your land, like the Jews in occupied Palestine... This is a fard 'ayn [personal duty] incumbent upon every single Muslim. All Muslims are obligated to aid [those engaged in defensive jihad]; each is required to support this jihad according to his ability..."
 Al-Anba (Kuwait), June 9, 2010.