The influential Sunni Muslim scholar, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, has died today at the age of 96, representing the demise of one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leaders.
With the news announced today on his official Twitter account, the cleric – who was formerly the Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars – passed away in Qatar, where he lived in exile from his home country, Egypt.
Born under British colonial rule in Egypt in 1926, Qaradawi studied the religious sciences during his youth, in which he combined his Islamic education with anti-colonial activism. He was arrested several times throughout the 1950s as a result of his political activism, as well as his association with the Muslim Brotherhood movement. That eventually led him to move to Qatar in the 1960s, where he acquired the position of Dean of the Faculty of Shariah at Qatar University.
Over the years, he was named a “moderate Islamist” by some, due to his reinterpretations of matters relating to Muslims in the West and positive advocacy for democracy while, at the same time, being highly criticised by others for vocally supporting suicide bombings against Israeli military targets and opposing the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
He was also vocal on the conflict in Syria over the past decade, where the regime of Bashar Al-Assad brutally cracked down on peaceful protestors, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, detained and tortured to death tens of thousands, and forcibly disappeared over 135,000 individuals. In 2013, in particular, following one of the notorious chemical weapons attacks on civilians by the Assad regime, Qaradawi called “every Sunni Muslim with any military training to go and fight” against Syrian forces and their allies.
For events in his homeland of Egypt, too, Qaradawi openly condemned the 2013 military coup against the democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi – another key member of the Muslim Brotherhood – and opposed the new government under Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Following his condemnation, he was unable to return to Egypt for a second time, after his first exile prior to the 2011 revolution.