Qatar’s DOHA (AP) — According to his official website, Youssef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian theologian who was regarded as the spiritual head of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, passed away on Monday at the age of 96.
He passed away in Qatar, a Gulf Arab country, where he had been living in exile since the military toppled Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013. In Egypt, Al-Qaradawi had been convicted and given a death sentence while he was away.
He hosted a well-liked talk program on the Al-Jazeera network in Qatar for many years while residing in exile, and he frequently commented on contentious political issues.
He expressed sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel, as well as the Iraqi insurgency that broke out after Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003 by a U.S.-led invasion.
Yet he also supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s adoption of democratic elections, and he was a fervent opponent of more extreme organizations like the Islamic State. Additionally, he issued a religious decree that forbade the widespread practice of female circumcision in Egypt.
He had strongly criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, calling on all Muslim nations at the time to prepare to fight the Americans there “if the Iraqis fail to drive them out.”
“By opening our ports, our airports and our land, we are participating in the war,” al-Qaradawi said in a pointed critique of U.S.-allied Arab governments. “We will be cursed by history because we have helped the Americans.”
Qatar, which hosted him for decades, also hosts American troops and now serves as the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command.
Following the overthrow of long-reigning autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was established in Egypt nearly a century ago and has affiliates throughout the region, came to power in Egypt’s first democratic elections. The Muslim Brotherhood played a significant role in the 2011 uprisings that shook the Middle East.
In February 2011, Al-Qaradawi triumphantly visited Egypt for the first time at decades. He addressed tens of thousands of followers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of the pro-democracy protest that led to Mubarak’s overthrow.
However, President Mohammed Morsi, a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, only ruled Egypt for a year before the military deposed him in 2013, sparking widespread unrest. 2019 saw Morsi’s passing after passing out in court.
Al-Qaradawi continued to be an outspoken opponent of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who is credited with orchestrating the ouster of the Brotherhood and, in the eyes of rights organizations, with establishing an even more autocratic regime than that of Hosni Mubarak.Egypt views the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and many of its members have been detained. Al-Qaradawi was dubbed “the biggest inciter of terrorism” by renowned pro-government TV broadcaster Ahmed Mussa, who also claimed responsibility for assaults inside of Egypt.
Al-Qaradawi was listed on a list of hundreds of organizations and people that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates sanctioned for alleged terrorism in 2017 as part of a diplomatic dispute with Qatar, which refuted the charges.
Al-Qaradawi was charged in 2009 by Israel’s Shin Bet internal security organization with transferring $21 million to a charity supported by the Islamic militant group Hamas in order to establish militant infrastructure in Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip’s current government, Hamas, which was once founded as a division of the Muslim Brotherhood, refuted the accusations.
On September 9, 1926, in a little town in the Nile Delta of Egypt, Al-Qaradawi was born. According to his official biography, he learned the Quran before becoming 10 years old. He continued his education at the preeminent center for Sunni Muslim knowledge, Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
When Egypt’s then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser, an Arab nationalist, was waging a harsh crackdown on the Brotherhood because he saw it as a danger to his power, he escaped to Qatar in the early 1960s.According to a 2005 U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks, Qatar gave al-Qaradawi “significant properties, including villas, which he leases,” and that he earned a “considerable” income. Qatar is a fervent supporter of the Brotherhood.In Qatar, Al-Qaradawi served as the host of the popular television program “Shariah and Life.” He took calls from Muslims all around the Muslim world, rendered doctrinal rulings, and offered guidance on a range of topics, from important global challenges to minor daily issues.