International Affairs Islamic Studies

Thoughts on the IslamOnline Tragedy and the Removal of Dr. Qaradawi

Today, we received news that Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi was removed from his position at the NGO that funds IslamOnline (IOL). For those of you who have not heard, IslamOnline is a website that is world-renowned for tackling issues in a moderate, balanced way, and is a forum for diverse views. In the past couple of weeks, there has been an increasing furor between the staff at the website and the organization in Qatar that funds the site, which has been pushing for a more conservative viewpoint to be reflected on the website. This culminated with the website being shut down, and today, news that Shaykh Qaradawi was fired. You can read more information about why the IOL staff is is protesting here.

This  reminds me of the Michael Jordon/Abe Pollin incident – Jordan thought he finally had placed himself in a position to actually own an NBA team. (He does now by the way!) In order to do so, he came out of retirement, agreed to play for the Wizards with a promise that after playing for some time he would move to the front office and become part owner. After playing two years, contributing greatly to what was once an abandoned arena and sagging jersey sales, he retired and headed straight to Pollin’s office, hoping to finally take his seat at the table. Once inside, Pollin showed him the door and left him in the street for dead, telling him “I don’t want to work with you, Michael!” Commenting on this, former Georgetown coach John Thompson said: “They threw him back to the plantation.”

It seems that, in many ways, Qaradawi and his students were treated in the same way – when it actually came time to express their opinions and in the case of the shaykh, exercise power, they were thrown back to the plantation and – as many of us would say – “put back in their place” by “the man.”

It is unfortunate to see the true value of our community, its scholars, and its leaders, in the eyes of  some people who will place ideology over etiquette and power over “the right thing to do.” Firing Shaykh Qaradawi is one of the tragedies here, but perhaps even worse is the fact that these people are deaf to the roar of the Muslim community: parents, teens, women, children, other websites, organizations and converts. All of this leads to one conclusion – in a climate of utilitarian da`wah, some of our leaders are nothing short of plantation owners and they simply do not care about the Muslim community.

The solution is for students of knowledge and workers to seriously consider, as I’ve said before, a Wuu Tang type organization that functions independent of any group, community or Godfather. The first goal should be to generate enough capital through various means to insure the economic independence of scholars and students of knowledge. Real estate investments, the stock market and other securities should be utilized to create a scholarly “green zone” in order to preserve the integrity of the scholarship and its carrier’s stability. Secondly, it should work to serve the needs of the real community – the one not on the front of any newspaper: single mothers, converts who are struggling to pay the bills, new immigrants to the community, students of knowledge, etc.

Allah knows best.

[The creators of IslamOnline have now created].

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


  • Wa alaykumu salaam shaykh,

    its a sad story, i’v been following this for the past week. I didn’t believe it at first since the artical that the sister (Bibi-Aisha) was about the strick and the browing disputes that happened and as happening. I didn’t think for one moment that the site will be shut down, or even the Shaykh Qaradawi will be fired.
    I guess this is a WKE UP call as you said that we need for our tourch berriers to be independent of such low lifeness.

    Al Azhar has a new shaykh too and i need to see what this shaykh is like because my gut feels unease towards him. May Allah help me in understanding.

    This has been an event full week subhanAllah.

    PS. I’m thinking of moving to California inhsaAllah shaykh after two years. I was wondering will you be moving back to the states permeniently by that time? Am asking this because i desire so much to benefit from you and others in the area. Am in Oregon state by the way……talkin about GREEN COUNTRY 🙂

    • Abdifatah – I too have been following this tragic story. I loved visiting this website and learning from the articles, counseling, and the convert stories, etc. This is a wake-up call as you say. Just wanted to say, if you leave Oregon, we’ll miss you! I’m an Oregonian myself, but I am currently studying in Europe. Don’t go! 🙁

      • I intend on just moving because i want to learn the deen with people i trust and feel comfortable with. I like the state considering i came from London 6 years ago and i so badly wanted to go to Zaytuna to study Arabic and Maliki Fiqh, I want to comeback though cause we need people who are like Imam Suhaib and if it means trying to gain something from him and going abroad inshaAllah.
        We need people brother that are learned and are inspiring….am not talking about Engineers 🙂 although i could be one inshaAllah 🙂

        • I understand brother. It’s a wise reason and I support you. Wow, you came from London ma’sha’allah. I agree, I would not give up the chance to learn from someone like Imam Webb and others like him. Do keep in touch with the site and insha’allah, I will learn from your contributions. Thanks for stopping by my little blog. I also live in Portland by the way. I wish you all the best in your journey in Imaan. – Sincerely, Br. Ahmed

  • AAWRWB Imam Suhaib,

    This is sad, sad, sad. Unfortunately, the problem is that trying to collect the funds to create independent platforms for scholars and activists is a task in itself. Take for example here in the DC area. We have the “Muslim Link” which is a very popular and integral source of information for the muslim community. However, when fundraiser time comes, everyone forgets about that…

    I remember you saying (in your talk about your blog in Cali) that most muslim converts are looking for that Malcomesque type figure. This was an idea that you felt was unrealistic.

    I actually “do” think that if we had powerful and charasmatic leadership, we could rally and bring people together. I think a good modern example of that is Louis Farrakhan. Although I completely disagree with his theology, he has given the Nation of Islam a platform. He is also “one” of the most outspoken and freely spoken individuals in America.

    Allah knows best.

    • AA Imam Suhaib,

      Here is a very recent thought provoking talk that I heard by Minister Farrakhan at the renowned round table discussion “The Black Agenda” hosted by Tavis Smiley. It further emphasizes the point about his ability to speak freely, independently, and consciously.

      The unfortunate thing is that most of our Muslim organizations and leadership wouldn’t have the fortitude to speak in such terms. The interesting thing is that he did exactly what you referred to as the “Wuu Tang” type of organization. He revived the nation (NOI) from the ground up to the point that it has become a self-sustaining movement. More importantly, it has gained “legitimacy/popularity” amongst most of us african-americans because Farrakhan speaks to relevant issues that we face amongst other things and he stands by his convictions.

      Obviously our community represents more than just the needs of one community (African-American) and sometimes I wonder whether Muslims (in terms of grassroots) here would be able to solidify our ranks and “really” work together towards a common effort.

      I’m convinced we need a Farrakhan “type” figure.

      Allah knows best.

  • Salam,

    I just find it laughable that they are trying to put a “conservative” spin on Islamonline. Qatar has been leading the way to “modernization” and has lost its muslim identity along the way. Yet they try and give the impression that they are true to their religion by controlling the image that is broadcast about them. It’s like Al-jazeera being critical of all governments except that of Qatar.
    Anyways, I have a history there so forgive me if I sound a little bitter.

    They are doing all of this while Sh. Qaradawi is in their midst. May Allah have mercy on their souls, what are they going to do when he is no longer there?


  • Excellent post ma sha Allah. This firing sounds very unjust. I like what you say about having a zone where scholars, teachers, and students can function independently, with integrity and stability. This zone should function close to the people.

  • Salaamu alaykum

    Thank you immensely for all your work and efforts in giving voice, through your blog, to a diverse set of people and thoughts within the Islamic/Muslim spectrum. Im hesitant to say the following out of fear that it will be misunderstood but I pray that Allah makes my words clear and unoffensive.

    I see this siutation as an opportunity for the Muslim community to learn and eventually free ourselves of the modern shackles we have placed on ourselves. You are correct, in my humble opinion, about the need for a neutral zone of scholarship that is brought about through economic independance. But I ask how is this possible when the Muslims have adopted the failed model of sponsored scholarship. In other words, the professionalization of Islamic scholarship. Within the very little knoweldge I have, and please correct me if I am wrong, it became apparent that the great scholars of past were all working men that dedicated themselve to earning a living first and on top of all that they sincerely and whole-heartedly dedicated themselves to learning and teaching the deen. If my understanding is correct, then how can we succeed when we move away from the successful model of those before us. Just as a sidenote on this same issue, I think the high concentration of scholars and students of knowledge within certain geographic areas that are also centers of financial support is indicitave of my above stated thesis.

    Regardless, I thank you and all those who strive to learn so that you may teach the rest. May Allah (SWT) guide, forgive, and grant us all the success that matters. Ameen.


    Your brother in Islam, Yusuf

  • Asalaamu alaykum Shaykh Webb,

    Jazakallahu khair.

    You mentioned at the end of the article about financial independance, I couldn’t agree more!

    To help those who share the vision of Islamic organisations, mosques and scholary institutions of all varieties with financial freedom – could you please give us a 101 on Waqf – the ins, the outs, and the simple fiqh of it all.

    Lets start the Waqf-revolution insha’Allah!

  • without the wellspring of scholarly patronage that existed throughout history we probably would not have seen works like hafiz’s divan, al-idrissi’s world map or ibn-rushd’s tahafut-al-tahafut which formed the civilizational groundwork for transcultural dialogue. Many early muslims lived in traditionally non-muslim lands and they belonged to a community of scholarship that included many non-muslim patrons. Cynicism was not an ideal they resorted to despite the conflicting nature of their world. Cynicism was a philosophical ideology that developed in early greece which professed an ascetic living defying all accepted norms of civic behaviour. Semantically a cynic is one who lived like a ‘kuon’ or dog. Diogenes the earliest known cynic was to have lived in a barrel and told Alexander to move from his sight because he was blocking the sun. Tutored by the master orator Aristotle, Alexander tolerated a naked cynic but his intolerance to a fabled persian city, Persepolis caused its famous libarary to be burned down to ground. The library which must have housed scholarly publications of countless previous ages, works of many unknown scribes and philosopher forever to be erased from that point on.

    The book-burners of today are more subtle in their approach to cynicism. They delegitimize the scholarship that question their progress. Those that offer Scholarship have access to seed money, those that cultivate that seed are share-croppers. Research publications have high-entry barriers, dars has no research value. There are transdiciplinary assumptions whose contexts are not clear, there are problems that need to be particularized rather than grounded in theories. The scholars of today work with geographically incoherent and linguistically insular experiences that needs some moving forward, looking backward and sometimes standing still. The patrons of knowledge see knowledge as replicable and versatile as currency, possessing a value that can be exchanged for something more durable such as a priceless porcelean cup. The partnership between scholars, readers and patrons is conditioned by the agency and power that is inherent in the institution, audience and the state. independent scholarship does not get automatic promotion, nor is a promoted ideology infallible. The audience gives hope to the scholar that his work would ultimately keep the economic motive of the state from investing in destroying what has been read.

  • Asalam alaikum Sheikh,
    Please, what do you mean by utilitarian dawah? Practical rather than attractive? Good phrase – examples please.

  • Very sad news. This site definitely gonna loses its pluralism characteristics. How about the fatwa bank? Do they gonna remove all the previous one?

  • AsSalamu Alaikum,

    SubhanAllah, this exact situation is occurring in mosques at the local level. We complain when this happens in big organizations, but however the exact same situation has repeated it self in masajid in my community. It goes to prove the validity of the Quran, that Allah doesn’t change the situation of a people until they change themselves. So we really have ourselves to blame for Qaradawi being fired. Until our masajid become refined and free from unnecessary politics, let’s not complain.

    Jazakum Allahu Khayer Sheikh Suhaib for the analysis, the point you made couldn’t be better said. However I can’t help but think, when the students of knowledge receive funding and are strong and resourceful, will they too allow politics to get in the middle of their organization?

    I think part of the tarbiya that students of knowledge should be receiving is learning how to stand up for what’s right in a respectful manner and please Allah first and foremost. The perfect example of this, is Sheikh Sharawi of Egypt. He was appointed as the official Sheikh of the country, once he realized that the government was full of corruption and his position played to his ego, he resigned immediately. This a huge move for someone to do, may Allah give him the highest level of Jannah. He realized his mistake and pleased Allah.

    Today practicing Muslims in organizations are afraid to lose their positions, and instead sacrifice the betterment of the organization to secure their title. May Allah protect us from ever getting to that state where we are blinded by our world position.

  • Assalamuilikum

    As I was reading I was feeling very sad because of this. It is very tragic. I cannot believe that muslims I mean our own muslim people would do something like that. You know our muslim people do not understand what being a muslim is about. Muslims themselves take it for granted. Allah has given us the perfect religion in the world and yet we do stupid and idotic things like that. I just cannot understand if someone calls themselves a muslim then how can we act like we are not. Our actions speak louder than our words.Being a muslim is about following Allah completely and entering islam completely. We have to make sure all our actions are according to islam. Sometimes we need to leave our opinions to make the world better. Allah sbwt will not take excuses, He will only judge according to our deeds. And whoever is behind this tragic incident on islamonline they will be responsible for hurting so many people and for making people suffer. Allah says O you who believe! enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitan; surely he is your open enemy.

  • I love IslamOnline and have been a reader for many years. It’s a wonderful resource, and I hope that will not be lost, Insha’Allah.

    But let’s face it, the owners of the website have a right to do as they wish with it. All the writers and employees should have realized that they were working for some obscure Qatari group that held true control, and that something like this could happen at any time. It’s sad, but it’s fully within the owners’ rights.

    And from one viewpoint, it could be said that the owners are doing the right thing, because they must act according to their own consciences and their own understanding of Islam. If they feel the website is not presenting Islam properly then the conscientious thing would be to do as they did. I’m not saying I agree with their viewpoint (as I said, I think IslamOnline has been an invaluable resource) but I understand it.

    Bro K said, “Unfortunately, the problem is that trying to collect the funds to create independent platforms for scholars and activists is a task in itself.”

    I don’t understand that. A literate person could create a $10 per month hosting account and create a WordPress website with no more than a few hours’ study (or pay a programmer to do it). After that, all you have to do is create quality content, put up a Facebook page, and join a few Muslim social networks. All that is free. If the content is good, the website will quickly build a following.

    Anyone who is really concerned about editorial control can create their own website quite easily.

    • Just wanted to add that Suhaib’s website here is a good example of how an independent scholar can get his voice out.

      The internet is the great equalizer. Someone who wants to spread a message no longer has to spend huge sums of money and take a big financial risk to create and distribute a newspaper or magazine. Independent bloggers have changed the face of journalism.

      If those fired IslamOnline writers start a new website, I’m sure the readership will follow them Insha’Allah.

    • Bro. Wael,

      Let me qualify that and say collect funds and create something on the same scale as “Islam online”. Imam Suhaib’s blog is a “GREAT” resource and a step in the right direction, but we’re talking large scale. Islam online had the resources available to provide a plethora of resources.

      Secondly, I was speaking specifically to the Imam’s point that, “The first goal should be to generate enough capital through various means to insure the economic independence of scholars and students of knowledge. Real estate investments, the stock market and other securities should be utilized to create a scholarly “green zone” in order to preserve the integrity of the scholarship and its carrier’s stability.”

      Based on my experience and observation “here” in the “DC Area”, efforts such as this have proved difficult.

      You may have a point.

      Allah knows best.

  • Wael makes a good point about owner’s rights. For me, though, this – and Br. Suhaib’s comparison to the Michael Jordan/Abe Pollin incident – highlights the fact that islamic endeavors are often run on the most rigid, cut-throat of western corporate models.

    Even had they used a western higher education model, Dr. Qaradawi would have been better off — surely his world-renowned scholarship would have earned him the equivalent of a tenured position with deep job security and immense academic independence.

    Or a judicial model, in which judges can claim independence and exert influence apart from other powerful branches of society.

    I’ve also been thinking about whether this incident is really all that shocking. Yes, it is because of Dr. Qaradawi’s stature. Beyond that, in my experience, it is par for the course to have boards and powerful players in islamic institutions (notably the masjid) fire people, or not let in people (attempts at board election rigging come to mind), or instigate whispering campaigns against people — because members of the board – and the money guys – *claim* those people want to move the masjid into a more conservative/liberal/progressive/(insert appropriate label) direction. Power – how to get it and keep it. That’s what is comes down to.

    Also, another not-so-shocking element – after reading more about the original dispute linked to – is that the owners would not take well to their employees going on strike. Remember Reagan firing all those air traffic controllers who went on strike? Then put in the setting in the Middle East where failure to obey leadership is up there with crimes against humanity — that strike tactic was a recipe for escalation of the conflict, not its resolution. Dig down for the causes of the dispute, and it seems to be based on a lot of rumors and what-ifs.

    The management should have been transparent with their workers and decreased fear and anxiety about job loss and change — which through the worker rumor mill obviously snowballed. Again the corporate model at work — there was a change of ownership, and there were layoffs handled in a bad way. There is a whole management theory about change in the workplace — it can be very traumatic.

    It is just disappointing when we hope for real community based on divine models of transaction and interaction, and the collective pursuit of the noblest goals — then we pull aside the curtain and it’s like we’re operating the religious community like a car manufacturing plant.

    As I noted before, I really like the sheikh’s suggestion about a different kind of organizational model. If we’re going to use other models, let’s take from the more interesting ones out there, not the cut-throat corporate models.

  • As salaam alaykum

    Dear brothers and sisters,
    Just because we have the freedom to discuss our difference, we have to be careful how we do so using the media. We as Muslims have real enemies, who look at our disagreements as a means to further divide us. Our disagreement should encourage to look to Allah and His Messenger for our answer, and should force us to look deeper into ourselves to see where we are in relations to the sunna.

    My dear brothers and sister what we as Muslims need is to learn how to love each other for Allah. WE live in a time where Muslims know very little about their religion, and are more concern with their rights than the diin al-Islam. I mean no disrespect. but how much do Shaykhs living in the middle east understand about life in the west. What we Muslims in the west need is Shaykhs who live and understand the west.

    So, we should develop what we need here in the West.

  • What a Friday for me. As I returned from the Masjid I was watching peace TV where Dr. Naik son Farik Zakir ( 13 years) made a small presentation which brought my eyes to tears. Silently my innerself said “Ya! Allah bless this little boy”. After my Isha prayer sat on my computer, I get the most painful and agonising news about the removal of Dr. Qaradawi. A scholar on Islam par excellence. Dr. not only knew Islam in all its aspects but how to apply them to the modern world with its myriads of problems faced by the Muslim Umma. Islamic histroy is replete with these types of incidents but such a thing happening today is unthinkable. I will not be surprised if there are hidden hands behind his removal. May Allah guide the Arab States.

  • Gonna have to disagree with the Jordan reference shaykh. As an avid basketball fan and DC area native, the Wizards did more for MJ than he did for them. He had zero experience and was given the position of president of basketball ops and part ownership two years after retiring from the NBA. What did he do with it? made a ton of terrible moves like drafting Kwame Brown with the #1 pick, signing bad free agents to huge contracts, and didnt have a single winning season, even when he played.

    He set the franchise back many years and giving him ownership after he retired again would’ve been foolish. Plus Thompson and Jordan are boys so he’s gotta get his back, hence the plantation quote.

    Allahu a’alem.

  • Assalamu alaykum

    Shaykh Suhaib, I love the way you ended this article. You ended this article with a proposition of activism, a propostion of what needs to be done, and this is honestly what we lack these days. We all know the problems. Everyone of us knows the problems that the community faces. Now what we need is action. We need to get ourselves off our butts and doing some real work inshallah.

    That ending was sooooo sick shaykh. For me, that was very motivating. Especially since I am inshallah going into the field of medicine. It gives me another reason why I should do it because I can make money and use it to fund the “green zone” for the ulema.

    Assalamu alaykum

  • Salaam,

    Beautifully written, brother.

    Quick question, though, what do you mean by “Wu Tang type organization?” And I understand and completely agree that scholars and students of knowledge need some sort of autonomy. May Allah grant such an ability, ameen.


  • Suddenly, the phrase “religious-industrial complex” seems very relevant to Islam…other grande examples include the online Islamic sex shop that has just opened up.

    This is why Muslims protest to mixing Islam and money, halal or haram aside, there is a wara’ that is needed in giving ‘izzah to the deen and honoring it- putting a dollar symbol above the Crescent speaks loads about lack of reliance on Allah in our ummah.

    IOL had a great thing coming, I suggest Sh. SDW try and recruit their some of their 180 ulema and muftis and launch something to compensate for the loss.

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