Egyptian Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qardawi is a major Muslim television voice.
Your eminence, you are considered one of the most influential contemporary Muslim scholars, but even your word is not unconditional. Does Islam need an uncontested spiritual leader -- a Muslim pope?Qaradawi: Most Muslims would like such a central authority, to avoid constant debate over contradictory and extremist scholarly opinions. But we don't have a pope; we have the Ulama, the association of scholars. To protect the unity of Islam, we urgently need to reach a consensus on the great questions of our time: terror, occupation, and resistance. We took a first step in July 2004, with the foundation of a world union of Muslim legal scholars. I was elected chairman, and my deputies are a Sunni, a Shiite, and an Ibadit (a branch of Islam found mainly in Oman). We thank God for this success. SPIEGEL: Yet no one in the Islamic world hinders men like Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- bin Laden's lieutenant in Iraq -- from setting themselves up as imams and preaching hate.
The Egyptian-born Qaradawi, 79, has lived since 1961 in Qatar where he heads the department of Islamic Law at the University of Doha. Through his Al-Jazeera talk show, "Sharia and Life," along with his Web site "Islam Online," he reaches millions of people throughout the Muslim world.
A person can't just call himself an imam or a mufti and hand out fatwas according to whim. For this position there are clear prerequisites regarding professional experience, academic background and character.SPIEGEL:
People like bin Laden or Al-Zarqawi don't tend to worry about that. Nevertheless they have a huge influence on Islam's image.Qaradawi:
The vast majority of Muslim scholars have condemned Bin Laden's deeds; only a small minority stand behind him. What helps his reputation even more than scholarly opinion is the injustice that befalls Muslims every day -- above all in Palestine. You underestimate this in the West: The one-sidedness of American support for Israel has devastating consequences.SPIEGEL:
Since 9/11, terrorists have killed thousands of people in the name of Allah. Islam claims to be a religion of mercy and kindness. Where is the outrage over these acts?Qaradawi:
I was the first who condemned the crimes of Sept. 11 -- even before it was clear to many that al-Qaida was behind the attacks. There is certainly a difference if violence is used in a blind terrorist act or if it is used in rebellion against a foreign occupying force.SPIEGEL:
What difference does it make to a child killed by a bomb in Iraq, Chechnya or Israel if the murderer was a terrorist or a resistance fighter?Qaradawi:
Just to avoid misunderstanding: In Islam, there are clear rules to protect civilians, even in a time of war. People who are not involved in the fighting are not allowed to be attacked. When the Prophet learned that during a battle, a woman was killed, he broke into a rage and issued instructions that are still followed today: Never kill women, never kill children, never desecrate the dead. From that edict, it is clear that it is a crime to transform airplanes full of people into rockets and use them to destroy buildings.SPIEGEL:
Why haven't any Muslim judges or laws officially expelled bin Laden and his followers from the faith?
Al-Jazeera headquarters in the Qatari capital of Doha.
We condemn their acts, but I am categorically opposed to the idea of expulsion. That would be committing the same sort of sin as these people themselves commit: They want to make us and their other critics out to be heretics. The day will come when they will have to stand in front of the Kadi (Islamic judge), but at this point, we are not so far along. First we have to decide who should be their judges. SPIEGEL:
Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran didn't spend much time deliberating such questions when he issued a fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie.Qaradawi:
Rushdie disgraced the honor of the Prophet and his family and defiled the values of Islam. SPIEGEL:
How about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who not only beheads defenseless victims, but also films the murders?Qaradawi:
He has brought the greatest shame imaginable on Islam. For us, he is a criminal. We cannot condemn him enough.SPIEGEL:
Is it not, in fact, the case that the orthodox Islamic clergymen have lost their authority? Qaradawi:
Not at all. There's a new spirit in Islam that is turning against the excesses of modernism but also against exaggerated radicalism. We, too, are modern and we, too, profit from the great inventions that have come out of the West, from the revolution of the information age and from global communication.SPIEGEL:
But despite the technological superiority of the West, you feel that you are morally superior. Qaradawi:
We condemn the excessive materialism of the West. We deplore the loss of solidarity and brotherliness, the decay of morals and the daily violations of human dignity. God has disappeared -- almost nobody in the West talks about Him anymore. One year ago, there was a demonstration against me in London because I spoke out against homosexuality. People seem to have forgotten that it wasn't me who came up with this mindset. It's part of God's order spoken of by Moses and even mentioned by Jesus.SPIEGEL:
In Berlin, a Muslim preacher was recently filmed saying that Christians don't have the right to go to heaven.Qaradawi:
That is totally absurd and unacceptable. All devotees to the revealed religions -- Muslims, Christians and Jews -- come into Paradise as long as they are righteous and believe in God. There is also nothing that says they can't live among each other or even intermarry. But that, of course, doesn't change the fact that Islam is a religion that offers salvation to all of humanity.SPIEGEL:
Do you share the radical Islamists' goal of creating a sweeping Islamic state for all Muslims?Qaradawi:
Islam is a single nation, there is only one Islamic law and we all pray to a single God. Eventually such a nation will also become political reality. But whether that will be a federation of already existing states, a monarchy or an Islamic republic remains to be seen.SPIEGEL:
Through your weekly shows on Al-Jazeera, you have become a leading figure for millions of Muslims in Europe. Should they obey the laws in the countries they live in without exception?Qaradawi:
In order to solve this problem, we founded the European Council for Fatwa and Research -- of which I am the head -- eight years ago in London. At each of our conferences, we call on the faithful to obey the laws of the countries they live in. They obligated themselves to do exactly that when they came to Europe. They are also obliged to respect the property of non-Muslims.SPIEGEL:
Is that controversial?Qaradawi:
Yes, because there are indeed extremists who believe they can freely take things belonging to non-Muslims. That is, of course, wrong. Wherever Muslims live, they are required to integrate themselves into the society -- and accept that society's requirements of them -- without giving up their belief.Interview conducted by Volkhard Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand