Monday, 27 October 2014 00:00

“Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s Purposive Fiqh”

This is a chapter I contributed to a book that just came out, Maqasid al-Shari'a and Contemporary Muslim Reformist Thought: An Examination, edited by Adis Duderija. My piece is entitled, "Yusuf al-Qaradawi's Purposive Fiqh: Promoting or Demoting the Future Role of the Ulama?" The best (extended) abstract I can offer you are the two first paragraphs:

"This chapter is about a high-profile Muslim scholar who rather late in his career has turned to the now popular legal methodology of "the sharï'a's higher objectives," or maqasid al-sharï'a. Though I delve into some of the details of his legal theory, I am also interested in probing what is behind this strategy. A media figure of global proportions, Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has consistently seen himself as a leader of mainstream Sunni Islam with the God-given mission to lead it on the "middle" path (read "moderate," or wasatï), away from the ultra-conservatives, whether the literalists or Salafis on one side, or the liberal Muslims enamoured with Western values on the other. Yet Muslims cannot find this middle path and stay on it, Qaradawi holds, without strengthening the authority of Islam's legal experts, the ulama.

This essay argues that, besides his gradual intellectual attraction to this "purposive" methodology, Qaradawi's use of it in the 1990s and 2000s dovetailed nicely with his political posturing as an ϊlim of international standing both within the Muslim community and beyond it. Further, I contend that his adoption of this approach to legal theory did not in the least affect his long-held views expressed in his fatwas and other writings. So in light of the evident stirrings of change and even turmoil within Islamic legal circles today, I ask one important question in my last section: isn't this focus on the higher purposes of God's law more likely to undermine the authority of the traditional ulama class in the long run, and especially in a twenty-first century marked by a radically democratized public sphere?"