This piece is translated from a 1040 page Arabic work dedicated to the celebration of Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī’s life’s work is various Islamic fields. It represents the collective praise of seventy contemporary scholars of the Muslim world.]
Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī, as I Have Known Him
By Muftī Taqī Uthmānī (may Allah preserve them both)
All praise is due to God, the Lord of the worlds; and prayers and peace be upon His noble Messenger, upon his family, and all his companions, and all those who follow him with excellence till the Day of Judgement.
I visited the two Holy Mosques in the year 1974, and I attended with my father, the erudite scholar (al-‘allāma), Shaykh, and Muftī, Muhammad Shafī‘, may God have mercy upon him, an international conference concerning the affairs of mosques, which the Muslim World League had convoked, and we were residing in the hotel of Mecca, next to the Holy Mosque. On one of these days, I was going down from my room to the Holy Mosque, and when I entered the elevator, I found there an dignified[-looking] individual upon whom were the marks of respectability and the self-possession [that is born of being] learned. He met me with his luminous face, and greeted me with salaam first—despite my youth—and when I returned the greeting, he began to ask me about my country, and my reason for being [in Mecca]. I was surprised by these questions because of what I had frequently seen from the respectable people among our Arab brethren, that they do not pay any attention to non-Arabs, let alone greeting them first with salaams, and asking about their states; but this noble personage was speaking to me without any hesitation, despite his being older than me and more senior.
Indeed just this thing [about him] made me incline to him and become friendly with him; and consider great his character, and greatly value what he possessed of a pure and elevated spirit (rūh), without even knowing his name, or learning of his scholarly rank, or his practical accomplishments. When I mentioned to him that I was attending this conference with my father the Shaykh and Muftī, Muhammad Shafī‘, he mentioned to me that he knew my father through some of his writings, and he mentioned among them, a paper by [my] respected father on ‘the distribution of wealth in the Islamic economy’, and that he had read it in the journal al-Ba‘th al-Islāmī, and that he was impressed by it, for it was a paper that contained unprecedented thoughts in a limpid style. From this it became clear to me that [this personage] was one of the scholars and lovers of knowledge, whose scholarly horizons transcend national and continental borders, and so I increased in my love for him, and asked him his noble name, and he replied, “Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī”!
This was my first meeting with the outstandingly erudite scholar, the great caller [to Islam], the Shaykh, Dr Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī, may God (Most High) preserve him with good health and perpetual comfort. I knew him before this through some of his valuable writings, and I began now to come to know his luminous personality, his pure Islamic character, and his elevated humility. This initial meeting did not take up more than a few minutes, [in which time] we had come to the ground [floor] and walked to the Holy Mosque, but this meeting became a pure beginning for following meetings after this, in which I was honoured [to meet him] in conferences, councils, and scholarly gatherings in various parts of the Islamic land, and in the course of his visiting Pakistan, and my visiting Qatar, which had become the base for his scholarly and Islamic activities, until we became, by the grace of some periodic gatherings in several councils, as though we were members of a single family. Thus I was honoured to come to know him in closeness and proximity, and this acquaintance did nothing but increase me in love for his personality, exaltation of his scholarly productions, esteem for his goodly activities, and amazement at his endeavours in reforming the affairs of the Islamic umma in numerous fields.
When some brothers asked me to write something about the personality of the erudite scholar, Dr Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī, so that it may be a part of a proposed book that would be published as an appreciation of his scholarly productions; effective participation in the fields of da‘wa, and scholarly study and research, I found this initiative commendable, except that accumulated preoccupations that had crowded around me at that time, prevented me from undertaking an analytic study of his writings—may God (Most High) preserve him—so I wished to come forward with some of my impressions in a brief form, instead of the analytic study (which I hope others will undertake), for indeed that which cannot be attained in its entirety should not[, therefore,] be left in its entirety.
Indeed the outstanding Dr al-Qaradāwī has enriched the Islamic literary legacy with his writings whose number is more than [one hundred] works, including short and long works, and perhaps it would not be an exaggeration if I were to say that there is not a single topic among the contemporary topics that concern Muslims today except that his outstanding self has discussed it in one of his works, or in his lectures and sermons, and this is a claim that is hard to believe except with regard to an extremely small number of contemporary writers, and callers [to Islam] (du‘āh).
The first book that read in its entirety of his works is his valuable book Fiqh al-Zakat, and I benefitted much from this great, encyclopaedic, rewarding work through which the author did a great service to the second of the pillars of Islam, in a way that the umma needs today, when it comes to the application of zakat at the level of the individual and the group. Indeed this work manifested the genius of its author, and his inventive methodology, not only in the clarification of issues pertaining to zakat and their compilation, but in stimulating research in contemporary topics that no one before him had touched upon, and basing them upon the principles fiqh and its jurisprudential theory (usūl).
What I shall mention here in particular of the special characteristics of the book are two things: the first is that the outstanding author—may God (Most High) preserve him—is the first [author] to discuss contemporary applications of zakat extensively and thoroughly, such that it is almost impossible to imagine an modern issue except that it is present in the book with its rulings derived from the Book and the sunna, or from the applications of the pious predecessors, and the mujtahid Imams. The second is that this book, even if it pertains only to the subject of zakat, has lit the path for all those after him who wish to embark on writing on one of the topics of contemporary fiqh, for indeed the book has set a goodly example for researchers of fiqh, and has practically explained for them how to derive the desired pearls from the vast ocean of Islamic Fiqh; and how to seek contemporary solutions from their ancient sources; and how one may benefit in new issues from similar ones hidden in the hearts of traditional books.
I have mentioned above that the outstanding Dr al-Qaradāwī—may God (Most High) preserve him—is among the most prolific among contemporary authors, and simple prolificacy is something that many other people may share with him, but what is mentioned of him of good is that he has not taken, for the most part, the trodden paths, for what is the benefit in writing on old topics in which the author does not bring anything new, apart from having his name included among the authors [of a given topic]? Indeed [what is] beneficial is that an author takes part, with his writing, in [something] new that fills a palpable gap [in our knowledge]; or through which unclear aspects of an old topic are enlightened; or by means of which a new door in thought is opened; or which increases the knowledge of the reader in some way or other; and we find in the works of Dr al-Qaradāwī that they do not lack examples of new benefits. Frequently he chooses for his writings novel topics towards which no [previous] author has directed their attention. See for instance his unprecedented work, On the Fiqh of Priorities, for in it he has indeed discussed an important Islamic principle that many people have ignored, even the scholars and callers [to Islam], and ignoring it has caused great tribulation (fitan) among Muslims, and despite that, no author had dedicated an independent work to it. When a person reads the like of these books, he feels as though the author—God preserve him—is expressing thoughts that have remained hidden in [scholars’] minds for long periods of time, [until] the author came and gave them an eloquent tongue, and brought them out into the realm of exactitude and compilation in a way that generalised its benefit and made it more comprehensive.
Many a time, [Shaykh al-Qaradāwī] has taken an old subject, but has looked at it from new angles, and studied it in unprecedented ways. See, for instance, his valuable book, The Sunna: a Source of Knowledge and Civilisation, for indeed he has gathered in it jewels of the Prophetic sunnas, and drawn from various chapters and books [of sunna], and arranged them under novel titles, in a way that clarifies for us [the fact] that the Prophetic Sunna—upon its source be peace—is our example in all matters that concern us, even in relation to issues pertaining to modern civilisation.
There is no doubt that I—as the lowest student of Islamic Fiqh—with my benefitting from the books of the outstanding Dr al-Qaradāwī to a very large extent, and my supreme wonderment at the majority of [his works], have found myself, in some particular issues, not in agreement with him in the results the he has arrived at, but these sorts of differences (ikhtilāf) in views based on juristic judgement (ijtihādī) are natural, and cannot be the [sole] basis for judging [their author] so long as the people of knowledge do not deem [the bearers of such opinions] to be weak intellectually, or in religion, and [in any case] the importance of these books and their value in scholarship and da‘wa are not affected by this to even the slightest, most insignificant degree. The truth is that the outstanding Dr al-Qaradāwī has enriched the Islamic literary legacy with that which quenches the burning thirst of researchers, and fulfils the need of callers [to Islam] and students [of knowledge], and opens new horizons for thinkers, so may God (Most High) recompense him with good, and liberally bestow rewards upon him.
[Having said] this, I cannot but say here that indeed I have been affected by the personality of the outstanding Dr al-Qaradāwī to a far greater extent than the aforementioned affect of his books and works upon me. What we see today, very unfortunately, is that the one who brings forward elevated ideas in his writings, and lofty theories in his speech and his sermons, often does not rise, in his practical life, above the level of the layman, in fact he may clearly be considerably lower than them. As for the outstanding, erudite scholar, Dr Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī, may God (Most High) preserve him, God (Most High) has indeed made me fortunate enough to accompany him in travels and in residence, and sit with him and closely associate with him in long and repeated meetings. [From this] I found him manifest in his personality exemplary Islamic qualities, for he is a human being before he is a Muslim, and a devoted Muslim before he is a caller to Islam (dā‘iya), and a caller to Islam before he is a scholar and jurist.
May God (Most High) prolong his pure life, and keep him a valuable treasure for Islam and the Muslims, and bless with his emanations [His] servants and lands; and all praise is due to God in the beginning and in the end.
Muhammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī
Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi 14