February 9, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6776

Sudanese Cleric: Islamic Shari'a Permits Normalizing Relations With Israel

February 9, 2017
Sudan | Special Dispatch No. 6776

In a conference titled "On [Religious] Awakening and Dialogue," held in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on February 6, 2017, Sudanese oppositionist and cleric Yousuf Al-Koda, a former member of the Sudan Scholar Organization and currently the head of the Islamic Wasat Party, gave a talk on "The Relations with Israel – Religious Aspects." In his talk he called on Sudan to declare a truce with Israel and establish diplomatic relations with it, saying that there is no religious prohibition to prevent this. As evidence he mentioned the Hudaibiya agreement that the Prophet Muhammad signed with his infidel rivals.

Al-Koda added that boycotting Israel does not hurt Israel but rather Sudan, and that other countries in the region, such as Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and even the Palestinian Authority, maintain ties with Israel. He noted further that Sudan holds ties even with certain countries that occupy Sudanese land, without naming these countries.

The following are excerpts from media reports on Al-Koda's statements at the conference.

According to a report on the news website Sudanese Online, "Al-Koda said that, regardless of his opposition to any occupation of land, the occupation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque does not prevent establishing relations with Israel. As evidence he presented the Hudaibiya agreement[1] that the Prophet Muhammad signed with the infidels even though the infidels had taken over the Kaaba and even though most of the [agreements'] clauses were detrimental to the Prophet's companions. As further [evidence] he mentioned that the Palestinian Authority itself maintains ties and [security] coordination with Israel. [He added that] neighboring sister states are occupying land in northern and eastern Sudan, but this has not prevented [the Sudanese government] from maintaining close relations with them, and that some Arab and Muslim countries have relations with Israel."[2]

The website quoted Al-Koda as saying: "The fact that Jerusalem is in the hands of the Jews should not prevent us from maintaining ties with them, if the people want this. I am not saying we are obligated to maintain ties with them. My statements are not meant to [urge people] to go and establish ties [with Israel]. I merely want to clarify that this is perfectly permissible according to the Muslim shari'a and that there is nothing wrong with it."

He was also quoted as saying: "The boycott has not harmed Israel but rather Sudan, and despite all the time that has passed [since its imposition] there has been no discussion of the boycott, as though it is an end in itself or a religious duty." He wondered: "Why shouldn’t we propose reassessing this position and adopting a different one in its place?"

According to the report, Al-Koda said that "as an observer, he had noticed that Israel was now ready to hold ties with Sudan and with other countries and that he did not think this was a problem. He clarified that relations with Israel did not mean avoiding talking about the settlements or about Israeli violations."

Al-Koda delivering his address at the conference (Al-Jamahir, Sudan, February 6, 2017)

Al-Koda added: "The Prophet's biography tells not only of fighting but of warding off danger and of reconciliations, truces and alliances... Why then do we know only about the fighting and the jihad, as though they are the only option and there is no other option, in any form and under any circumstances?"[3]

According to a report in the newspaper Al-Jamahir, Al-Koda said in this context: "Why do we not declare something other than jihad and fighting? I prefer [to declare] a truce [with Israel]. A truce does not mean making concessions. Very powerful countries that are not major parties [in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], including Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt, have normalized [relations with Israel]."[4]

Speaking on Sudania 24 TV two days after the conference, on February 8,  Al-Koda repeated his statements, saying the shari'a does not prohibit normalization of ties with Israel, and stressing that normalization with any country – not just Israel but also the U.S. and Russia – would promote stability and peace. In response to the interviewer's comment that, even if Al-Koda advocates normalization of ties with Israel for the sake of promoting Sudan's interests, he should not use religion to justify this, Al-Koda replied: "Do you really think that religion has nothing to do with interests?  Religion is based entirely on interests." For a MEMRI TV clip of his statements, click on the player below.

According to the Sudanese newspaper Al-Jarida, Al-Koda claimed that people had threatened to kill him if he delivered the talk and "opened the gates of evil," but that he was willing to risk his life and even the lives of his children in order to express his opinion.[5] Another report in the same newspaper stated that Al-Koda's remarks elicited a response from 'Abd Al-Rahman 'Abdallah, the representative of the Al-Tahrir party at the conference. The latter "condemned [Al-Koda] for presenting [the fact that] that some [Muslim] countries do not boycott Israel and that even Palestinian President Abu Mazen maintains ties with it as evidence for his position, saying that 'people's behavior does not constitute evidence [that something is sanctioned by the Islamic shari'a].' ['Abd Al-Rahman 'Abdallah] also criticized the Sudanese government for normalizing relations with the U.S., seeing this as [a step] towards normalizing relations with Israel and adding that this was 'a twofold [act of] treason'... Al-Koda responded that 'even the Hamas leadership is funded by Qatar, which maintains normal [relations] with Israel, and noted that Sudan was unable to confront Israel [militarily]. The Al-Tahrir party representative interrupted him, saying: 'The Muslims are capable of defeating Israel,' to which Al-Koda replied: 'You cannot defeat Israel by sitting at home.'"

Al-Koda, said the report, "claimed that Sudan had lost a lot by declaring its hostility to Israel, and added: 'Sudan lost on the moral and material level when Israel breached its sovereignty by staging attacks on its soil, and [also] due to all the damage done to it by the U.S. because of its bad relations with Israel.' He denied that the [Sudanese] government was behind his initiative, saying that he still opposes the government. He explained that his call to reassess the position on Israel stemmed from a wish to stimulate public debate on this issue."[6]


[1] In the agreement, signed between the Prophet Muhammad and his Meccan rivals in 628 for a period of 10 years, the Prophet accepted the humiliating terms dictated by his rivals, recognizing his inferior strength. The agreement was violated two years later, with Muhammad's conquest of Mecca.

[2] Al-Koda said he did not wish to name the countries occupying Sudanese land. See Al-Jamahir (Sudan), February 6, 2017.

[3], February 6, 2017.

[4] Al-Jamahir (Sudan), February 6, 2017.

[5], February 7, 2017.

[6], February 7, 2017.


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