How Qaradawi’s choice of successor reveals disputes among the Muslim Brotherhood

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Before talking about Dr. Ahmad al-Raysuni, the Moroccan Professor of Islamic Jurist and the successor of Yusuf al-Qaradawi for the presidency of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and considering the reasons why he was considered as an option to implement the union’s strategies, one has to refer back to the paper written by the Leader of the Brotherhood in Kuwait Ismail al-Shatti entitled: “Moderate Islamists in the wake of new strategies”.

The correlation here lies first in the time and occasion of Shatti’s paper’s declamation at a workshop in London in 2005; and the date and objectives of the establishment of the IUMS, of which Raysuni was one of the founding members and a participant in the first General Assembly of the Union; which was also established in London in July 2004 after being legally registered in Dublin, before he took over from Doha as its main venue for its management and meetings in March 2011.

Second, it is important to note the linkage of this development with Ismail al-Shatti’s manifesto — one of the important texts of political Islam which he wrote about in his book: “Islamists and the rule of the modern state”, in which he suggested the proposed model for the Islamic State rule, with the mandate of Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian Ennahdha Party.

However, the electoral nomination came about with only one candidate running for the presidency of the IUMS, in the absence any competing names, namely the Moroccan jurist Raysuni, son of the Moroccan Brotherhood movement and the pupil of the Ghannouchian school of political Islam.

The beginning of political Islam

From London, the Political Islam as a movement began positioning to take its role in the Greater Middle East project and investing in the events following 9/11. So it began establishing IUMS, whose ostensible objective was to pander Western interests by adopting moderation and countering radicalism and extremism. This was their appropriate propaganda against all official religious institutions, in particular from Saudi Arabia, after focusing its arrows on the "Wahhabi Salafism" and accusing it of extremism and terrorism, especially later by Raysuni and his companions in the Political Islam movement.

In his book, Ismail al-Shatti sheds more light on the campaign of marketing of the project of Sunni political Islam in Western circles. He wrote: “Westerners have shown attempts to feel the pulse with many Sunni Islamist groups, either through meetings with their diplomats or by transforming the subject into a public debates in the press, through some allied regimes, or by advocating seminars, conferences or panel discussions”.

He adds: Perhaps the most prominent contacts that the West made with the Sunni Islamists are those that took place with Hamas (the military wing of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood) and the Islamic Jihad. A delegation from the United States met with a delegation from Hamas, Hezbollah and the el Gama'a El Islamiyya in March 2005 and agreed upon the continuation of relationship and discussion among them, as published by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Arab (page 229-228); stressing on the accuracy of his reading of the political scene published by the leftist Washington Post’s article under the title: “In Search Of Friends Among The Foes”, which was published on September 11, 2004, the fourth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, (of course the date was not a coincidence).

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Here, Ismail Al-Shatti says: “The authors devoted their entire talk to the Muslim Brotherhood. They discussed in detail the extent of cooperation and its usefulness” adding that “the article explicitly explained that the goal of meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood was to activate the peaceful wave in the Islamic movement to offset the jihadist mindset, in cooperation with the Yemeni Brothers in the field of political training. This article was a reference to the Brotherhood about the West's interest in conversing with them, and they felt their readiness to do so”. This was a literal quote from Al-Shatti's words on page 229 of his book, “The Islamists’ and the ‘Rule of the Modern State”.

Propaganda letter

Against the background of the meetings that brought together Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah with the American and European delegations, the IUMS took the first step in expressing goodwill by issuing a fatwa by the Moroccan jurist Ahmad al-Raysuni, who permitted for the recognition of the state of Israel in an online article published by Al Jazeera on May 25, 2006, entitled: “The Question of Palestine Today: A Doctrinal Vision of Politics”.

Al-Raysuni wrote: “There is no doubt that the most important thing that distinguishes the Palestinian cause today is the electoral victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, then its formation of the current Palestinian government, and then the consequences and implications that result from it. This new reality filled the world and people in the arena. What is preventing this idea from turning into a peace agreement, which may also be long-term, may be short-lived and may never be achieved? The idea of this peace agreement is conditional on simultaneous recognition by the parties of all UN resolutions on Palestine, and their full implementation as a reference basis for peace and coexistence”.

Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yusuf al-Qaradawi (R) speaks during a news conference in Doha June 23, 2014. (Reuters)
Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yusuf al-Qaradawi (R) speaks during a news conference in Doha June 23, 2014. (Reuters)

This fatwa came back to haunt the circle of luminaries immediately after the “electoral” victory of Al-Raysuni to the presidency of the IUMS, which exposed the state of internal division between the groups of political Islam, with Faisal bin Jassem al-Thani, the liaison officer between the Qatari regime and the symbols of the al-Sahwa sector, especially those who followed the Sururi division, after an objection by Hakem al-Mutairi, the head of the Hizb al-Umma (Umma Party), because Al-Thani responded to a tweet by Hasan Dogim, a member of the Syrian Islamic Council, in which he said: “Since the election of Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Al- Raysuni as head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, the Umma Party, headed by Dr. Al-Mutairi, is waging a relentless battle over the character of Al-Raysuni without missing any chance to do so, then they talk to you about nation and unity”.

Al-Mutairi then responded: “May God bless you, my brother Faisal, there is no battle against Al-Raysuni’s character, but just the rejection of his ideas from the denial of an Islamic regime and his satisfaction with what happened in Egypt as a struggle for power and not a coup against the will of the people, ending with the call to recognize Israel as a state. As we rejected the siege of Qatar, we reject the siege of Islam and offering it as a scapegoat for America”.

Faisal bin Jassem Al-Thani, the Qatari leader, then chimed in, saying: “God bless you brother, Hakem. I have at least one of the best scholars of the modern nation.There is no doubt that Al-Raysuni is one of the finest modern scholars of the nation, and no one is better than God, and that what he said is the result of diligence and consideration from his side, and you have the right to disagree with him, but the fall of the likes of Al- Raysuni with what they cannot tolerate is an unacceptable and hurtful matter and does not serve the unity of the nation”.

This dispute also led Hashem Al-Sheikh Ahmad, the former leader of Ahrar Al-Sham, to declare his support for Hakem Al-Mutairi, saying: “There is no battle against the person of Al- Raysuni, but just rejection of his ideas, starting with his denial of an Islamic regime and his satisfaction with what happened in Egypt as a struggle for power, not a coup against the will of the people and ending with the call to recognize Israel as a state”.

This charged atmosphere prompted the Al-Raysuni, in his first meeting after his designation, to deliberately use the punitive method to avoid embarrassment from his previous fatwa in an answer to his position, responding: “Who has accelerated the normalization with the Israeli occupation in recent days, especially in the Gulf region?

Al-Raysuni said: “We have a position that is necessary and we do not depart from it. It is that there is no leniency with the Israeli occupation and the ensuing rape of the land and injustices of the Palestinian people and the neighboring peoples of Palestine”.

The New Union

Ahmed Al-Raysuni, described by his own followers as the jurisprudent of the revolution and its visionary and scientific and intellectual originator, has appeared on the scene since his appointment as first deputy to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, then head of the union in September 2013. On the one hand, he was a critic of the experience of the Brotherhood in Egypt, after they ascended to power, and on the other hand he adopted all the political positions of Qatar and Turkey in exchange for intensifying his efforts to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE, after having stayed there for a decade.

Two articles comes to mind, one entitled “Saudi Islam: From Prosperity to Suicide” and “Signs of the Hour in the Arabian Peninsula”, which was adequately replied to by one of his colleagues, the cleric Mohammed Saidi, during his long stay in Saudi Arabia.

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Before elaborating on Al-Raysuni and the reasons for his selection, we point out that according to related sources who spoke to Al Arabiya English said that during the course of his work on a project on the jurisprudential parameters which was funded by the Zayed Charity Foundation, and under the auspices of the International Fiqh Academy, Al-Raysuni underwent an investigation by a specialized committee commissioned by the UAE to investigate the reasons for the high costs incurred on the project, which amounted to nearly AED 20 million. The project was delayed and so a committee was hired to monitor the project until its completion. He then departed from Saudi Arabia and was prevented from entering the UAE.

The choice of the Moroccan Islamic jurist Ahmed Al-Raysuni and his other deputies from Turkey, Sudan, Oman and Indonesia is completely removed from its interpretation as a geographical embodiment of the union, but it can be said that it is a new attempt to resurrect the political Islam project, after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood suffered losses for furthering their movement during the so-called Arab Spring.

After decades of Egyptian domination of the Islamists, and considering itself as a pillar of the Islamic movement, its share in the organization of the international community is contracting and declining, as opposed to the rise of what is described as the Eastern Brotherhood stream in North Africa, presenting itself as an alternative option for the Brotherhood of Egypt, for it is more developed and has a political experience, with its establishment under secular or monarchical regimes giving it a measure of realistic political pragmatism.

Here, the sponsors of political Islam as a movement sought to revise their calculations and their legitimate and political discourse, as stressed by Al-Raysuni himself. Or we may say that the Islamic project attempts to re-categorize itself from the fundamentalist Egyptian Brotherhood in the Islamic Movement, as it previously did after the events of September 11, by disowning the image of al-Qaeda and violent groups, to maintain its weak legitimacy in front of the left-wing Western institutions, by a blatant adoption of secularism in exchange for the complete elimination of the slogan “Islam is the solution”.

Perhaps what explains this, and what reveals the religious recruitment in the political impasse, his opinion on the current reality of the Islamic groups in their totalitarian nature as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the possibility of smooth transition to active functional groups, according to a dialogue with on ida2at website in which he said: “Yes, this is absolutely true, we are in a time (O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates), and in time (and We caused springs to gush forth from the earth. So the waters met for a matter predestined), but the how’s answer is determined and renewed according to every time and place”.

Seven years after the so-called Arab Spring revolutions and what political Islam has suffered from the losses of both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, those tasked with analysis among the Brotherhood's international organization, including Al-Raysuni, still strongly reject the idea of accepting defeat or surrender. According to Raysuni's description of the reality of the results of the revolutions, he said: “There is nothing final in history. It has stampedes, rallies, tides, ambushes and explosions”.

As for the revolutionary movement witnessed by the Arab countries six years ago in the so-called Arab Spring, its ramifications are still active and moving in varying degrees and expressions. It is has flared in Syria, Libya and Yemen. It is in a state of great turmoil in Egypt. It is somewhat calm in Tunisia and Morocco, and is latent or delayed in other countries such as Algeria.

Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yusuf al-Qaradawi (3rd R) speaks during a news conference in Doha June 23, 2014. (Reuters)
Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yusuf al-Qaradawi (3rd R) speaks during a news conference in Doha June 23, 2014. (Reuters)

Thus, through the selection of Al-Raysuni, the leaders of the World Federation, to mobilize the Islamic project, seek to tone Morocco to the goals of Qatar and Turkey, which is clear from the assertion of Al-Raysuni on the management of the IUMS from Rabat, saying: “The best I can give to the union will be from Morocco and not from anywhere else, and I want to stress something that there is no problem in Morocco and no problem with Morocco, and also that the federation is not limited to Qatar, but a small administration, the federation extends across five continents”.

Adding in a previous interview: “For some time now, I have noticed that Morocco has been involved in what I call the eastern slimes, it flattered and went along, sending its forces here and there, taking hostile political positions with Iran, without a reason, only for their faces. But it seems to have felt for some time that this involvement should not have been and it hasn’t benefited it with anything”.

As for the dynamics of the new Islamic discourse, here Al-Raysuni intersects with the theorist of the Islamic movement, Ismail Al-Shatti, in promoting the form and model of the new Islamic government, in which Al-Shatti said: “The model of the rule of the Islamists of the modern state should not depart from the nature of the modern state and does not exceed the secular origin, with regard to citizenship (...) with the minimum manifestations and Islamic culture such as the presence of mosques and prayer, caring for Al-Waqf and taking leaves on Fridays, Islamists are committed to a democratic system of government... They are Islamists running a secular state, as Erdogan says, not Islamists who want to abolish secularism.…” Page 208-209.

The question remains: Can Al-Raysuni really, who has abnormal fatwas, including the permissibility Necrophilia after marriage and another fatwa forbidding fighting with ISIS, convince the West of their moral and secularist project?