The Muslim Brotherhood’s International Union for Muslim Scholars

By J. Millard Burr and Rachel Ehrenfeld*
Sunday, December 21st, 2014 @ 4:31AM

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On December 5, 2014, Interpol issued a “Red Notice” alert, seeking the arrest of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, at the request of the Egyptian government, on charges including, “Agreement, incitement and assistance to commit intentional murder, helping…prisoners to escape, arson, vandalism and theft.” Qaradawi’s support of terrorism led the United States to ban him from entering the country in 1999. Britain barred his entry in 2008, and France in 2012.

Ten days after the Interpol alert was issued, 300 Muslim scholars, members of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, announced: “We reject all the false accusations against Qaradawi.” The Doha-based organization, which is headed by Qaradawi himself, urged Interpol to “rapidly” remove Qaradawi from its most-wanted list, because the warrant is an “insult to Islam and Muslims.”

After a half-century of activity in Europe, the most intriguing recent event involving the Muslim Brotherhood occurred in 2003, when Qaradawi, the Egyptian exile and Ikhwan “spiritual guide” and Chairman of the Sunna and Sira Council, in the new home he found in Qatar, proposed the founding of the World Council of Muslim Clerics.

Qaradawi was already head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, a Dublin-based private foundation founded in London in March 1997 on the initiative of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe. The Federation is the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Europe.

Beginning in the new millennium, Sheikh Qaradawi had indicated that he had new developments in store for the European Continent. In December 2002, he produced a Fatwa calling on Muslims to enter into the conquest of Europe: “Islam will return to Europe as conqueror and a victor after being expelled from it twice [from the south and east].”  He urged Muslims forward to the re-conquest of Andalusia (Spain), southern Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Mediterranean islands.  Qaradawi’s Fatwa, which was published in the widely circulated London based Hamas children’s magazine, Al-Fateh (Issue 66), retells the history of Seville and urges children to free it and reinstitute Muslim rule in Spain.

Qardawi’s plans for the World Council of Muslim Clerics (WCMC), were not entirely clear in 2003. He announced that the World Council would be headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, at the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Dublin Mosque & Islamic Centre, which was also home to the Islamic Foundation of Ireland.  In retrospect, the move seemed both historically and geographically strange because the site chosen was located on the periphery of Europe itself.  Observers wondered why Dublin was chosen rather than Geneva, or Munich, or Milan — all hotbeds of Muslim activity.  The choice was never explained.

In 2004 top national security advisers have just hosted Sheikh Abdulla bin Bayyah at the White House. As vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) in 2004, bin Bayyah endorsed a fatwa calling for the killing of American troops and other personnel serving in Iraq.

In July 2004 Qaradawi arrived in London in to preside over what was reported to be the first meeting of the WCMC board of Directors.  Prior to that meeting, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had asked Qaradawi, already the Ikhwan’s spiritual guide, to become the leader (Murshid) of the international Muslim Brotherhood.  But Qaradawi, who for decades had been labeled the Ikhwan’s spiritual leader, refused the offer.  Certainly, he had good reason to fear that his freedom could be jeopardized if he returned to Egypt, where the organization was based. It was also true that accepting the demands of the office would have interfered with the many irons he had in the fire in Europe.  (It was not the first time that the Egyptian exile and noted cleric had refused the offer.)

Nothing earth shattering seemed to result from the first WCMC meeting.  Nonetheless, the presence of Qaradawi in London was sufficient to elicit widespread press interest in the mysterious doings of the Ikhwan in Europe and in what was called the “New Platform of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Qaradawi’s announcement that he was a major player in what was called the first “Arab and Islamic Conference in Europe”, planned for Berlin in October 2004, received extra media coverage. Sponsored by a WCMC that had yet to publicly name a board of directors, the object of the Berlin meeting was to send a message of “solidarity to those forgotten people under occupation in Palestine and Iraq.”

Unfortunately for Qaradawi and his friends in the Ikhwan, they had endured a long and often unhappy history in Germany. It was no surprise that German Minister of Interior, Otto Schily, applied pressure and the Ikhwan meeting was banned by the Berlin city legislature. Frustrated in Europe, the WCMC next called for a meeting of Islamist intellectuals, which convened in Beirut on 18-19 November 2004.  A fourteen point edict was issued that, inter alia, supported the jihadists in Iraq, opposed the United States presence in the Middle East, demanded the continued struggle against Israel, and urged the use of Muslim law (the sharia) as “an inspiring element” in the reformation of Muslim political, social and economic systems, and endorsed Qaradawi’s fatwa that called urged Muslims to kill American troops and civilians in Iraq.

A few days later, in a meeting was held at an undisclosed site in the United Arab Emirates, major Ikhwan personages, including the newly elected Ikhwan Murshid (leader) Muhammad Mahdi Akef, were in attendance. Also present were Qaradawi and Mahmad Izzat, the Secretary of the Brotherhood.  Both Akef and Izzat had received approval from Mubarak’s government to attend the event.  At that time Mubarak had little to fear from the Egyptian Ikhwan, and he must have been satisfied to learn that its Cairo center would not soon be revived as the nexus of Ikhwan power.

Akef was a noted Brother and like most Ikhwan leaders had spent time in jail.  After being freed from prison in 1976, he had assumed the role of leader of Egypt’s Ikhwan youth activity.  From the mid-nineteen eighties he next spent time in Germany and in 1993 he moved to the United States.  In March 2004 he had succeeded the Egyptian Judge Mamoun el Hodeibi, and immediately made news by issuing a number of statements calling suicide bombings in Palestine and Iraq a religious obligation. Eyeing the larger world canvas he noted, “I have complete faith that Islam will invade Europe and America, because Islam has logic and a mission.”

Unfortunately for the Egyptian Ikhwan, Akef seemed powerless to influence the election of a new head of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood chapter in Gaza.  Following the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March 2004, an obituary published in a Cairo newspaper revealed he was “the secret leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza” — a secret to very few familiar with the region’s personalities and organizations.  In the months following Yassin’s death it became quite apparent that the Egyptian center under Murshid Mahdi Akef had little influence over events in Gaza.

Reportedly, the UAE meeting was held to discuss a number of important issues:  Gaza was, of course, one of them. There was also the issue of financing the Ikhwan in the wake of the disastrous Al Taqwa (Fear of God), banking scandal, The Brotherhood’s Swiss/ Bahamian based financial network whose assets were frozen by the U.S. in November 2001 because it funded terrorism. And there were other problems with the United States where a number of questionable Muslim Brotherhood funding activities had been uncovered.

Investigations into Islamic charities located in Falls Church and Herndon, Virginia, showed links between Qaradawi and Al-Taqwa.  An affidavit identified Qaradawi as one of the largest shareholders and a board member of Al Taqwa. Given their support of Al Qaeda, its Ikhwan administrators were given terrorist designations by both the United States and United Nations.

During the meeting, Qaradawi, the Ikhwan, Saudi and Gulf clerics adopted resolutions against the United States and its war in Iraq. It was leaked that Abdullah al-Motawah, the head of the Kuwait branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and a cleric who despised the United States, supported a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Saddam going into exile.

The participants agreed to call the war to be fought against the United States “jihad of self-defense,” adding that this was a general duty of all Muslims and did not require a “universal leadership.”

There was also the question whether to agree to dismantle or reorganize the Muslim Brotherhood’s shadowy and apparently ineffective International Council. At that time, it was reported that the Council — an entity that Soviet intelligence claimed had been created by the Egyptian center in 1982 — had been dissolved.  Only after the passage of time did it become clear that the Council had been replaced by Qaradawi’s WCMC.  And it is clear that, at the UAE meeting, Qaradawi put the finishing touches on that organization and obtained the dinars needed to fund such an ambitious undertaking.

The International Union Of Muslim Scholars

In the aftermath of the UAE meeting it was generally understood that despite the presence of the Egyptian leadership, the Gulf conference had been a Qaradawi show.  In effect, and whether the Egyptians liked it or not, Qaradawi had taken charge of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The center of operations was thus transposed from the claustrophobia of Cairo to Qaradawi’s home in Doha, Qatar.  And without explanation, what first emerged as the World Council of Muslim Clerics soon became the International Association of Muslim Scholars.  Naturally, its headquarters was sited at Doha, Qatar.

Certainly, there was substantial confusion that followed in the wake of the 2004 meetings.  It does seem that with respect to Europe itself, the center of Islamist intellectual ferment had been moved from Dublin to Doha.  And while the Western media claimed that radicals had taken charge of the Ikhwan, and despite a Newsweek story that headlined, “The End of the Muslim Brotherhood,” the patient’s heartbeat was still strong.  (Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, “The End of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Newsweek, 24 November 2004.)

IUMS Organization

Reletlace efforts over a decade made the IUMS a truly international organization.  It has managed to incorporate most of the Muslim World’s paramount scholars.  Most are graduates of major Islamic universities and have degrees in Islamic Studies. But there is also the occasional scholar without an impressive academic pedigree.

In expanding, the IUMS evolved from its European roots and its Middle East location to represent all factions of Islam. It is no longer exclusively Sunni, and it is no longer exclusively Arab.  It is no longer exclusively Ikhwan, although the Muslim Brotherhood does dominate its activity.  The octogenarian Qaradawi remains both a powerful figure and fundraiser.  In May 2012, a Qaradawi charity dinner in Qatar raised the equivalent of US$6.5 million to support IUMS projects.

Scholars who are currently IUMS members include:

*Yusuf al-Qaradawi, President and Chairman, Executive Committee

*Abdullah bin Bayyah, Mauritania/Saudi Arabia, Vice President

*Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalili, Grand Mufti of Oman, Vice President

*Mohammed Wa‘id-Zadeh, Iran, Vice President

*Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri, Iran, Vice President

*Mohammad Salim Al-Awa, Egypt, Secretary General

*Rachid al-Ghannouchi, Tunisia, Assistant Secretary General (Issues)

*Dr. Salman Al-Oada, Saudi Arabia, Assistant Under Secretary (Media)

*Essam Al-Bashir, Sudan, Assistant Under Secretary (Society Relations)

Other notable figures in the IUMS:

*Jamal Badawi (Egypt/Canada)

*Ali Qaradaghi (Qatar)

*Mustafa Ceric (Grand Mufti Bosnia).

IUMS Dagestan Fatwa, 2012 (The fatwa as published by, is featured below)**

On May 30, 2012, shortly after the Tsarnaev brothers perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing highlighting Dagestan’s Islamist activities, IUMS approved Qaradawi’s a fatwa saying that “jihad in the North Caucasus contradicted Islamic norms.” On November 17, 2012, an IUMS conference in Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala, declared Dagestan the land of Dar al Islam (the Territory of Peace and Islam). On May 13, 2013, IUMS went on to declare the Stavropol region also a Territory of Peace. This was followed my IUMS’s delegation March 7, 2014, visit again to Dagestan to support the local Muslim spiritual leaders.

Qaradawi visited Russia again at the end of October 2014, heading an IUMS conference in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, which discussed “interdenominational cooperation and peace.”

Qaradawi’s and other members’ of IUMS frequent visits to Russia, which is not known for its tolerance of Muslims, Sunnis in particular, have raised some eyebrows. Observers concluded that Moscow uses Qaradawi and IUMS in an effort to curb Islamist separatists’ terrorism in the North Caucasus. Judging by the level of Islamist radicalization in the region, and Qaradawi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s track record, it will not be long before Moscow realizes its mistake.

* J. Millard Burr is a Senior Fellow with the American Center for Democracy (ACD). Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is President of ACD.


** Dagestan – Dar al-Salam — fatwa by Shaykh Ali al-Qaradaghi

….”Having considered the authoritative arguments from Quran, the Sunnah, the unanimous opinion of the jurists, reasoning by analogy and also faqih’s assertions, we arrived at the following conclusion:

1. Terms dar al-Islam (territory of Islam), dar al-harb (territory of war) and dar al-`ahd (territory of the agreement) are among the terms of fiqh: they are not mentioned in Scripture nor in the reliable Sunnah. In the book “Explanation for the people”, published by Al-Azhar University, it is stated: “The separation of the countries into the territory of unbelief and territory of Islam is the result of ijtihad, reflecting the circumstances and situations of imams-mujtahids’ era. There is nothing about it in Qur’an and Sunnah.” This means that there was no single opinion about those terms between fuqaha. Most of them were satisfied with the terms: territory of war and territory of the peace. Some of them added to it the term: territory of agreement, meaning the area, in which people signed a contract with the Muslims or with some of them, as the Messenger, peace be upon him, said “their desire to protect their loved ones.” Accordingly, all the countries which have embassies or which have diplomatic relations are part of the territory of the agreement.

According to the definition of Jurists the territory of Islam is an area which is openly governed by the laws of Islam. (see: -Badaiu as-Sana’i’, 7/130, Ibn Abidin, 3/253, Al-Mudawwana, 2/22, Ad-Dasuki, 2/184; Hashiya al-Bujairami, 14/220, Al-Insaf, 4/121). Moreover, some jurists, particularly, the followers of Imam al-Shafi’i, believed that the territory of Islam is not transformed into a territory of war, even if disbelievers captured the area and established their own laws (Nihayat al-Muhtaj, 8/82; Asna al-Matalib, 4/204).

2. From the arguments and expressions of fuqaha it follows that the difference between the territory of Islam and the territory of war – in essence is the difference between safety and fear. If Muslims can practice their religious rituals and enjoy their religious freedom, such territory is the territory of Islam. If they do not have this opportunity, because of living in fear and agony, such territory is not considered a territory of peace and Islam. It was well mentioned by jurists of previous centuries, including Abu Hanifa and others (Badaiu as-Sana’i’, 7/130, Hashiya Ibn Abidin, 3/253). The same opinion is expressed by Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book “The Theory of War in Islam”, in which he supports the view of Abu Hanifah and his companions among jurists. His opinion is based on the fact that the root of it is the safety of Muslims: if he, as a Muslim, is safe, then it is the territory of Islam, and if not, it is a territory of war. “It is closer to the meaning of Islam, and in conformity with the essence of Islamic idea of wars, according to which war may be waged only for protection” Prominent Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (may Allah protect him) fundamentally examined this issue in his book “Fiqh of Jihad.” In it, he came to the same conclusion, namely, that these terms refer to the fiqh, and not to the sacred texts, and that the territory of Islam is the area where Muslims are safe and have religious freedom. In an interview with “Islam Online” website, he noted that the country where Muslims are the majority, is, (in his opinion), the territory of Islam, and therefore, there should be functioning the Islamic laws and its leaders must seek ways to implement Sharia. This opinion is shared by most modern scholars, including Sheikh Faisal Mawlawi (may Allah have mercy on him) and prominent Sheikh Abdallah bin Baya (may Allah protect him).

3. Considering the above mentioned views, our fatwa states the following: Republic of Dagestan, where the Muslims majority live in security, have religious freedom and perform the rituals of Islam, is not a territory of war, and according to Sharia it is an area of peace and Islam. The same ruling applies to the other republics and regions, where Muslims majority live in security and have religious freedom. Therefore, in those areas it is not allowed to declare war against the Muslims and mu`ahids (i.e., those who have concluded peace agreement with Muslims), because there is no Sharia basis allowing it. The responsibilities of Muslims are: right upbringing, the call to Islam, jihad by using words, wisdom, beautiful preaching and good dialogue – for the sake of implementing the Laws of God in their full entirety. Allah said:

أدْعُ إِلَى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ ضَلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِه وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ (النحل 125)

“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.” (sura An-Nahl 16-125).

Allah Allmighty is Best Aware, and we ask help from Him.

Written and confirmed by the man who is in need of Allah, Sheikh Dr. Ali Muhyi ad-Din al-Qaradaghi, General Secretary of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

This fatwa was accepted by all ulema, preachers and imams who were present at the conference in Dagestan (4 Muharram 1434’s/ November 17, 2012), and the delegation of IUMS which was also present there: Sheikh Abd al-Rahman ben Abdullah Al Mahmud, a member of the Board of Trustees, Treasurer; Rashid Omar Alawi, executive director of IUMS; Dr. Louay Yusef, coordinator of IUMS activities in Russia.

Ruling on the applicability of the term dar as-silm wal -Islam  (“the territory of the peace and Islam”) to Dagestan and similar territories is an integral part of the Dagestani Act on the issues of jihad, the concept of “dar al-harb” (territory of war) and killing of imams in Dagestan, adopted on 17 November 2012, in Makhachkala at the National theological conference “Dagestan – the territory of peace.”

27 November 2012″

Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, Ikhwan, Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi

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