Who wholly expect Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious authority and political orator, to vent his anger regarding what is taking place in Egypt these days.
The octogenarian cleric is angry and frustrated. He must have thought, leaning on his walking stick in Tahrir Square on the eve of what became known as the January 25 revolution, that the decisive moment for the Brotherhood—often predicted and discussed by his hero, Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna—had finally arrived, especially given the rise to power of Rachid Ghannouchi’s group in Tunisia—and Ghannouchi had been Qaradawi’s student—and others in Libya.
The sheikh was stunned. Was all this just an illusion, especially in Egypt? The Brotherhood’s sandcastle quickly collapsed on the heads of its leaders, putting to bed the hopes of Brotherhood devotees and supporters the world over.
This is why we should not blame the sheikh, now in his twilight years, for raging and refusing to acknowledge reality—or for relying on his own influential weapon: issuing fatwas and stirring up religious controversy. After all, our sheikh possesses no tanks or aircraft. As the saying goes, “May words help where action is not possible.”
Qaradawi does not want presidential elections to be held in Egypt, because the Brotherhood are not in the game anymore. So he has now issued a fatwa barring participation in the Egyptian elections. He came to this conclusion by resorting to religious considerations, his opinion now carrying “the signature [of approval] of the Lord of all the worlds.”
Qaradawi is highly adept at this language and discourse, as is his student and protégé, Rachid Ghannouchi, who has mastered the language of politics and the media. The Tunisian leader chimed in on Facebook, supporting Qaradawi’s fatwa. “The [Egyptian] presidential elections are a farce,” he wrote.
These are people with emotional reactions who refuse to acknowledge the reality of the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Some express these reactions through fatwas like Qaradawi, and others with political analyses, like Ghannouchi.
Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowments, Sheikh Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, may have hit the nail on the head—and he is, after all, privy to the ways of the religious cleric—when he responded to Qaradawi’s fatwa by saying that he strongly supported Al-Azhar’s statement regarding it. (The venerable Islamic learning institution had called the fatwa “misguided and misguiding.”) Gomaa promptly demanded that Qaradawi be referred to Al-Azhar’s Ethics Committee—and that he book himself an appointment with a psychiatrist. “Qaradawi has lost his mind,” Gomaa said. “The Brotherhood’s losing power in Egypt has lost him his senses, and he is now issuing fatwas supporting terrorism, and calling for destruction and harm everywhere.”
The end of Brotherhood rule is not the only current source of discomfort for Qaradawi. Aside from calls for his expulsion from Al-Azhar’s Association of Islamic Scholars, some of his funds in Egypt have now been frozen by the authorities following an order from a special committee formed to audit and retrieve Brotherhood funds after the group was declared illegal by the Egyptian government in December.
At moments of breakdown and shock over the loss of a loved one, or even the loss of a dream or in the event of a sudden onset of wealth or authority, what we need most is someone to wake us up—even if it is slowly and gradually—to the reality of the situation, bringing us back to earth and preventing us from harming ourselves or others.
This the sheikh cannot be blamed. He is a human being who has feelings—like all of us do—of strength and weakness, happiness and sadness, hope and pain, anger and joy, as well as passion.