December 14, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 828

Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Resistance in Iraq is a Duty of Every Muslim

December 14, 2004
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 828

A November 18-19, 2004 conference in Beirut of the International Association of Muslim Scholars (IAMS), established in London in July 2004, issued a communiqué signed by IAMS leader Sheikh Dr. Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi [1] and Secretary-General Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-'Awwa. The communiqué, posted on, a website connected to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi, stated that resistance against coalition forces in Iraq is a personal duty of every Muslim who can carry it out, Iraqi or not.

Earlier this year, in August 2004, Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi, along with 93 other Muslim clerics and scholars from the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah, signed another communiqué calling to support the forces fighting the coalition in Iraq. [2]

It should be noted that several communiqués supporting the resistance in Iraq were issued by clerics in the Muslim world following the November 2004 fighting in Fallujah. One which aroused great interest was a November 5 communiqué addressed to the Iraqi people, signed by 26 Saudi clerics, which stated that "Jihad against the occupiers is a duty incumbent upon anyone who can [carry it out]." [3]

The following are excerpts from the communiqué issued by the IAMS conference, [4] as well as other recent statements by Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi about attacking coalition forces in Iraq:

November 18 Communiqué

The IAMS communiqué opened with a theological preface regarding how Muslims at war should generally act, without specifically addressing the situation in Iraq. It stated: "The IAMS … [maintains that] in light of the situation prevailing in the world in general and among the Muslims in particular, it must set before [the faithful] of the monotheistic religion [of Islam] several principles of religious law and moral [principles regarding] how Muslims must act, and must clarify to people the rules of behavior among Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims…

"When Allah permitted [the Muslims] to respond to aggression [by saying] ' Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed [Koran 22:39],' he laid down principles that would guarantee noble human behavior [on the part of the Muslims]. The Muslim responds only to someone who has attacked him, without deviation [as stated in the Koran 2:194]: ' And one who attack s you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you, ' [and also:] ' Fight for the sake of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities [Koran 2:190].'

"It is forbidden to attack noncombatants, even if they belong to the attacking countries. The soul of man is sacred and an attack on it is an attack on all humanity. [This is because it says in Koran 5:32:] 'W hoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men.'

"The Prophet [Muhammad] forbade the killing of women and children, saying 'Do not kill a small child' and 'Do not kill descendants and simple laborers,' [i.e.] anyone who hires him to carry out services that are not connected to fighting. Similarly, Islam has forbidden the murder of hostages and [priests] who dedicate themselves to God.

"Islam does not permit the capture or abduction of noncombatants. In the event that [noncombatants] are captured, Allah commanded [Muhammad] his Messenger to treat them well [as it says in Koran 76:8]: 'And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive' [and Muhammad said] 'Treat prisoners well.'

"It is forbidden to hold hostages and threaten the lives of noncombatants because of an action carried out or not carried out by others. [The hostages] are not to blame for this action, and they cannot prevent it. Allah said: ' N o bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another [Koran 6:164],' and the Prophet [Muhammad] said, 'A criminal will be punished only for his own deeds.'

"The Muslim fights oppression in all its forms… Furthermore, the Muslim defends human freedom, regardless of gender, religion, or affiliation, and fights for the sake of this freedom if necessary. [In Koran 4:75 it says:] ' And what reason have you that you should not fight in the cause of Allah and of the weak ?' [The Muslim] is never negligent in resisting the aggressor or occupier: ' And be not slack so as to cry for peace and you have the upper hand [Koran 47:35].'"

Resistance in Iraq is a Religious Duty

Following the theological preface on the proper behavior of Muslims at war, the communiqué addressed international developments, particularly the fighting in Iraq. It stated that the resistance in Iraq is an [individual] religious duty and that it constitutes Jihad in self-defense.

Despite an attempt to create the impression of distinguishing between combatants and civilians who must not be harmed, the communiqué in fact restricts the definition of 'civilian' when it explains in detail who falls into this category, saying "women, children, and the elderly." Thus, it excludes men, but it can be understood from the text that men who "take no hostile action, particularly those engaged in humanitarian or media activity" are protected. It can also be understood that anyone not falling into this category is considered an enemy and thus may be harmed (despite being a civilian).

The day after the communiqué's release, Al-Qaradhawi further refined the distinction between combatants and civilians by stating that foreign engineers, laborers, or technicians working in Iraq are not considered civilians, and therefore killing them is permitted. In an interview on Al-Jazeera TV, Al-Qaradhawi said: "I have forbidden the murder of Americans. When asked [on this matter], I said that it was forbidden to kill civilians. I said that it was permitted to kill only combatants. Islam forbids killing women, children, and so on. I said this openly, but [at the same time] set the question of 'who is a civilian?' Are engineers, laborers, and technicians entering [Iraq] with the American military considered civilians? Is a combatant only someone inside a tank, or is it also someone who provides a service to the military? I am talking about the interpretation of the word 'civilian.' If it turns out that a person is a civilian, then it is forbidden to kill him. Yesterday, we of the IAMS issued a communiqué stating that the resistance in Iraq must obey the Shari'a laws: It is forbidden to kill a civilian, only a combatant." [5]

As posted on, the IAMS communiqué says: "… The IAMS cannot observe [from the sidelines] the oppression and aggression against the weak that is occurring everywhere in the world, and the massacres taking place here and there, particularly in the Muslim countries. [These acts are occurring] in order to ignite the fire of destructive wars for no reason but to slake the lust of the minority that profits from these wars – the merchants of the weapons of death and destruction and others whose interests are linked to wars and upheaval. Thus … the IAMS wishes to clarify the following:

"1. The Jihad -waging Iraqi people's resistance to the foreign occupation, which is aimed at liberating the [Iraqi] land and restoring its national sovereignty, is a Shari'a duty incumbent upon anyone belonging to the Muslim nation, within and outside Iraq, who is capable of carrying it out. Allah has permitted this by saying: ' Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed [Koran 22:39],' and He said to the Muslims: ' Fight for the sake of Allah against those who fight against you [Koran 2:190].'

"This fighting is Jihad for the purpose of defense, which does not require [a declaration of Jihad by] a general leadership, but is carried out according to the ability [of each Muslim individual]. [Similarly], it is known that resistance to occupation is a legitimate right confirmed by international and U.N. conventions.

"2. The acts [carried out by] by the foreign armies invading Iraq, i.e. the unprecedented atrocities; the extensive use of weapons of mass destruction, while their invasion of Iraq is ostensibly aimed at preventing the use of such weapons, but reality has proven that [the claim regarding] these [weapons'] existence was a lie; the blatant violation of the Geneva Convention and other conventions relating to [treatment] of civilians during war and [treatment] of providers of medical services and prisoners of war; the use of weapons forbidden by international law; the destruction of homes, buildings, mosques, churches, and other houses of worship and of infrastructure; the deaths of wounded in the mosques and the prevention of [access for] emergency help and rescue [services] for those wounded in the disasters; the blowing up of hospitals and the prevention of the medical staff from carrying out their humanitarian duty towards the wounded – all these are a mark of shame on the foreheads of the countries that carry out [these deeds].

"The IAMS calls on the governments of these countries, without exception, to return to the path of righteousness, to return to their humanity, and to immediately withdraw from Iraq after the regime is temporarily handed over to a recognized international body to oversee the free and clean elections, after which the Iraqi people will conduct the affairs of their country by themselves.

"3. It is forbidden for any Muslim to offer support to the occupiers against the Iraqi people and against its noble resistance. This is because such support would be support of their crimes and aggression against the oppressed Muslim people. If conditions require some Iraqis to work in the military or the police, they must try to avoid causing harm to their [Iraqi] civilians. The resistance must not harm them as long as they are not [actually] fighting their people and are not allies of their enemy.

"4. The honorable members of the resistance must adhere to the laws of Shari'a during their Jihad against the occupiers, and refrain from harming noncombatant civilians – 'women, children, and the elderly' – even if they hold the citizenship of the invading forces, [as long as] they take no hostile action, and particularly if they are engaging in humanitarian or media activity. This is because Allah has commanded us to fight against those who are fighting us, and has forbidden us to act aggressively. If some of the enemy are captured, they must be treated kindly throughout their captivity, and must be brought to just trial in order to release the innocents among them.

"It is forbidden to hold hostages and to threaten to kill them in order to apply pressure during interrogation for the sake of a particular aim. This is because in [Koran 6:164] it says: 'N o bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another,' [and Muhammad said] 'A criminal will be punished only for his own deeds.' If someone is detained in such a way, he is a prisoner of war, and he must not be killed or harmed. Moreover, he will certainly be released, since Allah said, 'Either generosity or ransom [Koran 47:4].'

"5. The honorable members of the resistance must pay attention to the existence of the many fifth-column [groups] seeking to harm Islam and Muslims and to carry out activities that appear to be resistance; however, [such activities] are actually a continuation of the aggression and distortion of the image of the noble resistance. It may be that these fifth-column [groups] are linked to the Zionist and global intelligence apparatuses. The noble [Iraqi] resistance must condemn the deeds [of these groups] and expose their collaboration [with the foreign intelligence elements] and their infiltration [into Iraq]. This is especially because many of the crimes perpetrated [by these groups] occur following the exposure of the barbaric behavior of the occupation forces, and thus they commit even more barbaric crimes to cover up the behavior of the occupiers and to make the world forget their atrocities.

"6. Today there is a dangerous conspiracy against Iraq, the aim of which is to rend its social fabric … by means of encouraging hostility based on religion or nationality, and also by means of stressing points of contention. All Iraqis must feel that they are one people united by Islam as a religion and by Arabism as a language and culture. [They must realize] that it is their religious and national duty to cease and desist from disputes and to stand as one so as to expel the occupation and build a united Iraq, for all its residents…"

Other Statements by Al-Qaradhawi on the Iraqi Resistance

Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi has expressed his support of the resistance operations in Iraq on other occasions. In September 2004, he issued a fatwa permitting the abduction and murder of American civilians in Iraq in order to pressure the American military into withdrawing its forces. At an August 2004 conference on "Pluralism in Islam," held in Cairo by the Egyptian Journalists' Union, he said: "All Americans in Iraq are combatants. There is no difference between civilian and soldier, and they should be fought because the American civilian comes to Iraq to serve the occupation. Abducting and killing Americans in Iraq is a [religious] duty in order to [make them] leave immediately. [However], mutilating the corpses of the dead is forbidden in Islam." [6]

Isam Talima, director of Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's office, confirmed that Al-Qaradhawi did indeed issue a fatwa stating that it is a duty to fight against American civilians in Iraq since they are considered invaders. [7]

Ten days after the publication of his fatwa, Al-Qaradhawi sent a fax to the office of the London daily Al-Hayat disclaiming "that which was said in my name in the media on the subject of the killing of American civilians in Iraq." According to Al-Qaradhawi, "some media outlets have claimed that I published a fatwa to the effect that it is a duty to kill American civilians in Iraq. These claims are unfounded. I did not publish a fatwa on this issue. At the Egyptian Journalists' Union a few days ago I was asked about the permissibility of fighting against the occupation in Iraq, and I answered that it is permitted. Afterwards I was asked about American civilians in Iraq, and I merely responded with the question, 'Are there American civilians in Iraq?' It is a matter of common knowledge that in fatwa s such as these I do not use the word 'killing' but rather the word 'struggle,' which is a more comprehensive term than 'killing' and its meaning is not necessarily to kill. In addition, I have condemned the taking of hostages on a number of occasions and have demanded their release and [demanded] that their lives not be threatened." [8]

On a later occasion, Al-Qaradhawi explained that a civilian in Iraq is "someone who is a noncombatant and not aiding the occupying combatants. [In contrast], someone who helps the occupiers – his sentence is like theirs. The occupation is fighting the Muslims, and anyone who helps [the occupation] – his sentence is like that of military personnel." He clarified that the same was true for Muslim [i.e., not only foreign] civilians in Iraq. [9]

[1] Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi is also the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research.

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 23, 2004. For more on the communiqué, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 794, October 6, 2004, Reactions to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq.

[3] The full text of the communiqué can be found at

Although it does not appear explicitly in the communiqué, Sheikh Dr. Nasser bin Suleiman Al-'Umar, who oversees the www.almoslim.netsite and is a signatory to the communiqué, noted that "the communiqué is addressed only to the Iraqi people" and that "the position of the prominent signatories to the communiqué is clear – according to it, they are calling upon non-Iraqi youth not to go and wage Jihad in Iraq." Al-Ra'i Al-'Aam (Kuwait), November 24, 2004.


[5] Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar), November 20, 2004.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 2, 2004.

[7] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), September 3, 2004.

[8] Al-Hayat (London), September 9, 2004.

[9] Al-Hayat (London), September 23, 2004.

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