For fundamentalist groups, sharia has only been a means to attain political goals. The primary goal is to thus employ sharia in order to achieve the state of their dreams.
This practice has not been introduced by fundamentalists recently, but has been going on since a schism emerged within the nation state and since the rise of hostility against traditional Islam.
The revolutionary sense finds in religious texts what strengthens its hopes and dreams. Meanwhile, political Islam groups twisted these texts to legitimize divisions. The same approach was taken by Marxist movements as discussed by Husayn Muruwwa's book Materialist Trends in Arabic-Islamic Philosophy. The same can be said about other movements that found what they want in these texts to use them as it suits their own projects and interests.
Al-Banna’s political pilgrimage
From the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood was clear that its theoretical project was founded on the primacy of Hakimiyyah (divine rule) on sharia. According to the Muslim Brotherhood, the right doctrine is linked to the ruler’s political legitimacy as all that is worldly and spiritual is purely a political matter.
In this context, the Muslim Brotherhood became active during the Hajj season and took it as an opportunity to convince Muslims of its project. Hassan al-Banna performed pilgrimage several times, went to Medina and met young people whom he managed to recruit for his project.
Fatwas cannot be subject to frivolity and haste and cannot be based on the notion of serving one’s own aims or his group’s goals.Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
In his book “Diagnosing the Sahwa”, Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Tawfiq al-Sudairi wrote: “Al-Banna exploited Hajj at the beginning in order to strengthen his ties with the elites of Makkah, Medina and Jeddah, among whom several individuals were inclined to his ideas. Through these individuals, he succeeded in reinforcing his connections with officials within the state. According to my follow-up of the Brotherhood's beginnings in Saudi Arabia, I claim that the first organizational work of the group was in Medina."
After the famous meeting between King Abdul Aziz and Hassan al-Banna in 1946 and after the king’s refusal to open a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, al-Banna after his departure from the kingdom stated that Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, have become a burden on the Muslim Brotherhood and this requires further effort in order to breathe life into them.
It is well known that after increasing his political activity, al-Banna was required by the Saudi government to abide by the rules if he was to undertake Hajj. In this context, it is said that al-Banna said: “Do you know that the Saudi government only permitted me to perform Hajj this year after I have pledged to not speak or give lectures in politics?”
Since then, the Muslim Brotherhood has been interested in the subject of guidance during the Hajj season and has been able to infiltrate it over time and to adapt itself depending on the changes in politics and the balance of power in the region. In this year's Hajj season, the Brotherhood had no presence on the levels of fatwa, preaching, guidance, or public speaking. This development ignited their anger and caused them to utter vehement accusations leading one of the top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to issue a fatwa about the Hajj. The fatwa’s basic premise is a reaction to the success of Saudi Arabia in excluding all currents within the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps for the first time in the history of Hajj, and to the organization’s failure in infiltrating religious institutions that were once accessible but are not so now.
Qaradawi's fatwa on the insignificance of Hajj is based on weak political and ideological grounds in Fiqh (jurisprudence). It is commonly the case with the Muslim Brotherhood’s scholars who are often overcome by a sentimental vision while neglecting to further educate themselves or seek knowledge in Fiqh in order to improve the reasoning behind any fatwa.
Qaradawi knows that the Hajj season is greater than his person, his position and his audiences. He is not a mufti of societies, but a guide to the masses. Therefore, he lacks the social consideration among Muslims, which in turn makes the fatwa void. His fatwas are thus only popular among certain circles or groups of “political Islam”. This is proven by the fact that those who voiced anger against his recent fatwa related to Hajj were not only Saudis as Muslims around the world also slammed it and strongly defended the fifth pillar of Islam which all Islamic sects with all their differences agree on its holiness.
Such fatwas are the outcome of a monopoly on what is viewed as rightful and are made by individuals that are driven by their passions and sentiments. The discipline of issuing fatwas is quite complex and has certain rules and foundations. Its principles are taught in the faculties of sharia and Islamic studies. Thus, fatwas cannot be subject to frivolity and haste and cannot be based on the notion of serving one’s own aims or his group’s goals.
Despite all the disadvantages caused by this ill doctrine, it has actually revealed the dangerous approach followed by that mufti and exposed the reality behind the institutions to which he belongs, heads and sponsors. Countries represented in their religious institutions are thus required to protect the sanctity of fatwas from being misused and violated by unqualified figures. Imam Abu Hanifa once said: “Legal restrictions must be placed on three, the discourteous mufti, the ignorant doctor and the bankrupt leaser.”
The article is also available in Arabic.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.