”Islam is the religion of rational and critical minds. This is why one of its fundamental goals is to make man aware of the paramount significance of gradation, fortitude, and maturity. Haste is an inherent characteristic of man in general, and of the young in particular. Indeed, haste is an outstanding characteristic of our own age. It has made our youth eager to saw the seeds today and to harvest the next day. But Allah's will in His own creation does not allow that.” Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

This online-text is based on the second revised edition of "Islamic Awakening Between Rejection And Extremism," (1991) by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Extracts… quotes… Some parts of the text here have been updated with the help of the latest, the Third Edition (2006). This updated Second Edition is the pdf to the right here.

For the chapter "The Causes of Extremism" some quotes will be presented, which should be seen as an introduction into his way of dealing with the important problem of extremism in Islam, and which - at the same time - is an eminent proof of traditional Islam always being far from extremist view-points.

Concerning the Shaykh, we take from the learned and the scholars what we find to be true and what corresponds to the teachings of Islam and we leave what could be misunderstood, applying to the rule “take what you are sure of and leave what causes doubt.”

The whole pdf-text of the Second Edition_B is here for
[ download ].

The webtexts by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi are:
- Characteristics of Extremism (part 1, below)
- Main Causes of Extremism (part 2)
- Toward a Remedy for Extremism (part 3)
- Duties Of Young Muslims (part 4)

Quotes From:

Islamic Awakening between Rejection And Extremism

Characteristics of Extremism

by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Edited by OmarKN

Part 1

”It is still believed, that self-sacrifice and sadaqah are the highest of virtues without serious consideration of that which makes these so. Mere sacrifice cannot realize goals in the absence of its well-planned, well-thought strategies. This conception encourages young Muslims to sacrifice their lives and wealth yet fails to make them endeavor and persevere to study and to comprehend.
Another reason is that self-sacrifice could result from a momentary impulse; but the pursuit of knowledge demands unflinching perseverance, consciousness, critical analysis, and insight, all of which ensure continuity and enhance success. p.136

greenstar2sat(1) The Muslim Ummah Is A Nation Of Justice And Moderation

Why is this so?
”Because it witnesses every deviation from the 'straightforward path' in this life and in the Hereafter. Islamic texts call upon Muslims to excerise moderation and to reject and oppose all kinds of extremism: ghuluw (excessiveness), tanattu' (trangressing; meticulous religiosity) and tashdid (strictness; austerity).”
“Beware of excessiveness in religion. [People] before you have perished as a result of [such] excessiveness.”

The Qur'an addresses these people:
{ Say: O People of the Book! Exceed not in your religion the bounds [of what is proper], trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by who misled many, and strayed [themselves] from the even Way.}

Muslims have therefore been warned not to follow in their steps: he who learns from the mistakes of others indeed lives a happier life.

The reason behind the hadith (“Beware ...) is to alert us to the fact that ghuluw may crop up as an insignificant action which we then unwittingly allow to continue and develop into a menace.

After reaching Muzdalifah - during his last hajj - the Prophet MHMD requested Ibn 'Abbas to gather some stones for him. Ibn 'Abbas selected small stones. Upon seeing the stones, the Prophet MHMD approved of their size and said: "Yes, with such [stones do stone Satan]. Beware of excessiveness in religion". This clearly indicates that Muslims should not be so zealous as to believe that using larger stones is better, thus gradually allowing excessiveness to creep into their lives.
Al Imam Ibn Taymiyah argues that this warning against excessiveness applies to all forms of belief, worship, and transaction, and notes that since the Christians are more excessive in faith and in practice than any other sect, Allah (swt) admonishes them in the Qur'an.
{ Do not exceed the limits of your religion.}

greenstar2sat(2) First Indications of Extremism

The first indications of extremism include bigotry and intolerance, which make a person obstinately devoted to his own opinions and prejudices, as well as rigidity, which deprives him of clarity of vision regarding the interests of other human beings, the purposes of Shariah, or the circumstances of the age.

The second characteristic of extremism manifests itself in a perpetual commitment to excessiveness, and in attempts to force others to do likewise, despite the existence of good reasons for facilitation and the fact that Allah (swt) has not ordained it.

Such an attitude is not in keeping with the teachings of the Qura'an or Sunnah as is clear from the following verse: { Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties.}
The Prophet MHMD also said in ahadith already quoted: "Facilitate [matters to people] and do not make [things] difficult."
He also said: “Allah loves that His dispensations [to make things easier] be accepted, as He dislikes [to see people] committing disobedience.”
It is also reported that "whenever the Prophet MHMD was given a choice between two options, he always chose the easiest unless it was a sin."

greenstar2sat(3) Lack Of Knowledge Or Semi-Knowledge - One Of The Main Causes Of Extremism

One of the main causes of extremism is a lack of knowledge of - and insight into - the purposes, spirit, and essence of dīn. However, such a lack, which does not imply total ignorance, does not lead to extremism or excessiveness, but rather to their opposites, i.e. degeneration and laxity. It implies, however, semi-knowledge.

Aware of the danger of such semi-knowledge, Abu Ishaq al Shatibi' (ra`a) discussed it in his book al l'tisam. He argued that self-presumption and conceit are the root causes of bid'ah as well as the disunity of the Umma, and could lead to internal schism and gradual disintegration.

He wrote: 'When a person unduly presumes himself or is presumed to be knowledgeable in religious matters and capable of exercising ijtihad, and when he acts accordingly, claiming that he has the right to present different opinions and interpretations, whether the verdicts and opinions pertain to minor aspect or to major aspect of dīn, thus he cites major aspects, to pull down major ones; he is indeed a mubtadi'.

In the following hadith, the Prophet MHMD warned against such a person:

“Allah does not take away the knowledge by taking it away from [the hearts of] the people, but takes it away when none of the `ulama remain, and people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.”
Some of the learned infer from the above hadith that people are never led astray by genuine 'ulama: but in the absence of the latter people turn to semi `ulama who lead them astray by giving incorrect advice. Thus it has been said that a trustworthy person never betrays a trust, but the traitorous one does.

We add to this: a genuine 'alim never innovates, but a semi’alim does. Anas ibn Malik (ra`a) narrated: "Rabiah was once seen weeping bitterly. When he was asked whether a calamity had befallen him, he replied, 'No, but people are seeking fatwa from persons who possess no knowledge.'"

The fact is that semi-knowledge, coupled with vanity and pride, is more dangerous and subversive than an admitted total ignorance, because the former is the ignorance of a person who is not aware of his limitations. Such ignorance manifests itself in various ways, the most important of which is sticking rigidly to the literal meanings of the texts in total disregard for their essence and purposes.

greenstar2sat(4) The Need For Facilitation: Making Things Easy For The Muslims, Not Difficult.

It is also strict, excessive and overburdening to require people to observe superetogatories in the same way as they would observe the obligatories, or hold them accountable for the things which are makruhat as if these were muharramat. In fact, we should demand that people observe only what Allah (swt) has categorically commanded. The extra and additional forms of ibadah are optional.

If a Muslim in this age observes the wajibat and eschews the most heinous of the muharramat, he should be accommodated in the fold of Islam and regarded as one of its advocates so long as his loyalty is to Allah (swt) and His Messenger MHMD. Even if he commits some minor muharramat, the merits gained by his observance of the five daily salawat, salat al jumuah (Friday prayers), siyam, etc. will expiate his small faults.

The Qur'an says: { Good deeds remove those that are evil}, and in another verse: { If you [but] eschew the most heinous of the things which are forbidden, We shall expel out of you all the evil in you and admit you to a state of great honor.}

The following incident shows that this was also the Prophet's opinion. A bedouin once asked the Prophet MHMD about the obligatory prescriptions required of him. The Prophet MHMD mentioned only three: salah, zakah, and siyam. When the bedouin asked if there was anything else which he must do, the Prophet MHMD replied in the negative, adding that the bedouin could volunteer to do more if he so wished. As the bedouin was leaving, he swore never to increase or decrease what the Prophet MHMD had asked him to do. When the Prophet MHMD heard this he said, “If he is saying the truth, he will succeed or [said] 'he will be granted jannah.”

In view of the above evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah, how could we expel a Muslim from the fold of Islam merely because of his commitment to certain controversial matters which we are not sure are halal or haram, or because of his failure to observe something which we are not certain is wajib or mandub? This is why I object to the tendency of some pious people to adopt and cling to hard-line opinions, not only in their own personal practice, but also in influencing others to do the same. I also object to the charges levered by such people against any Muslim 'alim who disagrees with their line of thought and opts for facilitation in the light of the Qur'an and Sunnah in order to relieve people of distress and undue restrictions in their religious practice. p.23

greenstar2sat(5) Uncalled For Austerity - Religious Excessiveness And Overburdening Of Others

The third characteristic of extremism is the out-of-time and out-of-place religious excessiveness and overburdening of others, i.e. when applying Islamic principles to people in non-Muslim countries or to people who have only recently converted to Islam, as well as to newly committed Muslims. With all these, emphasis should not be put on either minor or controversial issues, but on fundamentals.

Endeavors should be made to correct their concepts and understanding of Islam before anything else. Once the correct beliefs are firmly established, then one can begin to explain the five pillars of Islam and gradually to emphasize those aspects which make a Muslim's belief and practice compatible, and his entire life an embodiment of what is pleasing to Allah (swt).

This fact was recognized by the Prophet Muhammad MHMD himself when he sent Muadh (ra`a) to Yemen. He told him: You are going to [meet] people of a [divine] scripture, and when you reach them call them to witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five salawat to be performed every day and night. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined upon them sadaqah [zakah] to be taken from the rich amongst them and given to the poor amongst them.

Notice the gradation in the Prophet's advice to Mu'adh (ra`a). I was shocked and dismayed during a tour of North America to find that devout young Muslims - who belong to some Muslim groups - have initiated a great controversy because Muslims sit on chairs during the Saturday and Sunday lectures in mosques instead of sitting on mats on the ground, and do not face the Ka'bah as Muslims do and also because those who attend wear shirts and trousers rather than loose outer coverings, and sit at dining tables to eat rather than on the ground.

greenstar2sat(6) Severity And Harshness - Calling With Wisdom and Amicability

(Another) characteristic of extremism manifests itself in harshness in the treatment of people, toughness in the manner of approach, and crudeness in calling people to Islam, all of which are contrary to the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Allah (swt) commands us to call to Islam and to His teachings with wisdom, not with foolishness, with amicability, not with harsh words:

{ Invite [all] to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.}

It also describes the Prophet MHMD, thus: { Now has come unto you a Messenger from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should perish, ardently anxious is he over you. To the believers he is kind and merciful.}

Firmness and harsh-heartedness are mentioned only in connection with two issues in the Qur'an.
First, in connection with war, when a successful military strategy necessitates fortitude and the shelving of leniency until the war comes to an end. {Fight the unbelievers who gird you about and let them find firmness in you.}(9:123). Second, in connection with the execution of punishment on the guilty in accordance with Shariah, there is no room for compassion in applying Allah's injunctions:
{ The man and woman guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a manner prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day.}

But in the field of dawah, there is no place for violence and harshness. This is evidenced in the following ahadith: "Allah loves kindness in all matters” and, "Kindness makes things beautiful, violence makes them defective," as well as in the following wisdom of our forebears: "Whoever desires to command the common good, let him do it gently."

Violence can do nothing more than distort dawah to the path of Allah (swt). Dawah seeks to penetrate the innermost recesses of man to transform him into a godly person in his conceptions, emotions, and behavior by altering his thoughts, feelings, and will as well as the whole of his being, thereby shaping him into a different person. It also shakes up the structure of the society and alters its inherited beliefs, well established traditions, moral conventions, and prevailing systems.

All this cannot be achieved without wisdom and amicability, and without taking into consideration human nature - man's obstinancy, resistance to change, and argumentativeness. These characteristics necessitate the exercise of kindness and gentleness when attempting to reach man's heart and mind so that his hardness can be softened, his rigidity abated and his pride checked.

This approach was described for us in the Quran as having been followed by earlier Prophets and sincere believers who called people to the ibadah of Allah (swt).

Examples can be found in Ibrahim’s call to his father and people, in Shu'aib's call to his people, in Musa’s call to Pharaoh, in the Believer's call to Pharaoh's people, in the Believer’s call - in Surat Yasin - as well as in the calls of others who directed people to the truth and righteousness.

Let us listen to and contemplate the spirit in which the Believer - a man who possesses iman from among Pharaoh's people - addresses Pharaoh:

{ O my People! Yours is the dominion this day: You have the upper hand in the land: but who will help us from the punishment of Allah should it fall upon us?}

He reminds them of earlier nations who refused to listen to the message of Allah (swt), then he describes the disaster which might befall them on the Day of Judgment, a day which they believe in, one way or another, and he continues his earnest beseeching in a manner dominated by gentleness and compassion; so he warns, but he also inspires with hope: { O my People! Follow me! I will lead you to the Right Path. O my People! This life of the present is nothing but [temporary] convenience. It is the Hereafter that is the home that will last..}

Then he ends his advice with the following words:
{ Soon will you remember what I say to you [now]. My [own] affair I commit to Allah, for Allah [ever] watches over His servants.}

This is the approach and manner which contemporary Muslim duah should emulate and adopt with the stubborn, and with people of other religions.

{ Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all bounds. But speak to him mildly, perchance he may take warning or fear [Allah].}

Musa (as) addressed Pharaoh accordingly: 79-18/19

No wonder, then, that experienced people in da'wah reject and disapprove of the young peoples' manner in arguing with those who hold different opinions! Rather than calling people to the Way of Allah (swt) with wisdom, they are quite often harsh, tough, and crude. No distinction is made between the old and the young; no special consideration is given to those whose age or status deserves special respect, that is, parents, teachers, the learned, or those who have precedence in da'wah and jihad...

Such lack of insight is still dominant in Muslim society, despite the fact that the early scholars of ahadith literature distinguished very clearly between the common innovators, who did not call others to their innovation and those who deliberately publicized and defended their bidah (condemned innovations). The reports of the former were accepted, while those of the latter were rejected.

greenstar2sat(7) Suspicion And Thinking Ill Of Others

Suspicion and distrust are also manifestations of extremism. An extremist readily accuses people and quickly passes judgement contrary to the generally accepted norm: "innocent until proven guilty." He considers a person guilty the moment he suspects him of something. He jumps to conclusions rather than looking for explanations. The slightest mistake is blown out of all proportions; a mistake becomes a sin, and a sin kufr. Such a reaction is a stark violation of the spirit and teachings of Islam which encourage Muslims to think well of other Muslims, to try to find an excuse for their misbehavior, and to help them improve their words and deeds.

The religious sincerity and integrity of those who disagree with such an extremist are always called into question. An extremist would depict people as being guilty of transgression, innovation, or disrespect for the Prophet's Sunnah even if their views are solidly based upon authentic Islamic texts.

One could cite many examples: If you argue that carrying a stick or eating while sitting on the ground has nothing to do with the Sunnah, you would be accused of disrespect for the Prophet MHMD himself. Not even learned Muslim scholars and `ulama are spared such accusations. If a faqih gives a fatwa which facilitates matters for Muslims, he is considered lax on religious issues; if a Muslim daiyah (caller) tries to call to Islam in a manner suitable to the spirit and the taste of the age, he is accused of succumbing to and patronizing Western civilization.

The gravest shortcoming of the contemporary extremists is suspicion. Had they understood and comprehended the Quran and Sunnah, they would have discovered that both seek to foster in the mind of each and every Muslim the confidence and trust of other fellow Muslims. A Muslim is not even allowed to publicize the minor mistakes and faults of others or become blind to their merits; but some people are interested in criticizing others and in praising themselves:

{ Therefore, justify not yourselves: He knows best who it is that guards against evil.} Indeed, Islam strongly warns against two characteristics: despairing of Allah's mercy and suspecting fellow human beings. Allah (swt) says:
{ O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much [as possible]: for suspicion in some cases is a sin.}

The Prophet MHMD also says in this respect: “Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the false element in a talk.” Agreed upon hadith. The origins of all this include suspicion as well as arrogance and the despising of other people. These are the basis of the first act of disobedience - that of Satan; he refused Allah's command for him to prostrate himself to Adam, claiming: {I am better than he.} 38-76

It is worthwhile to heed the warning embodied in the following hadith: "If you hear a person saying that people are ruined, he himself will be ruined [for being vain and conceited.]" And in another version of this hadith: "he himself caused their ruin," i.e. by his suspicion and snobbery, and by causing them to despair of Allah's mercy.

Vanity is one of the human traits which causes degeneration and which our Muslim scholars call the "sins of the hearts." The Prophet MHMD warned us against these sins: "There are three deadly sins - unrestrained avarice, desire, and vanity." A true Muslim never takes pride in his work or actions, since he is never sure that Allah (swt) will accept them.

It is reported in hadith literature that this Qur'anic verse is about people who do righteous deeds but fear that Allah (swt) may not accept them. Ibn Ata said: "Allah may open up for you the gates of obedience, but He may not open up for you the gates of acceptance. He may ordain you a state of disobedience which may happen to lead you to the right path. The disobedience which teaches you humility is better than the piety which vests you with vanity and arrogance!" This derives from the following saying by Ali ibn Abu Talib (kaw): "A mishap that befalls a person is better in the sight of Allah, than a good action which initiates pride."

Ibn Mas'ud also said: "Ruin is caused by two traits - pride and despair. Happiness cannot be attained without effort and stuggle. A vain person does not make any effort because he believes that he is perfect; a despairing person does not make any effort because he believes it is useless."

greenstar2sat(8) Falling Into The Abyss Of Takfīr

Extremism reaches its utmost limit when a single group deprives all people of the right to safety and protection, and instead sanctions their killing and the confiscation of their lives and property. This, of course, occurs when an extremist holds all people - except those in his group - to be kuffar. This kind of extremism severs any bond between such a person and the rest of the Ummah. p.32

This is the trap into which the Khawarij fell during the dawn of Islam, although they were known for their strict observance of religious duties such as salah, siyam, and recitation of the Quran. However their thinking rather than their conscience was distorted and corrupt. Hence they were so infatuated with their belief and behavior that they, unintentionally, deviated from the right path.

The Prophet MHMD described the devotion of such people by saying: "One of you would hold insignificant his own salah compared with their [the Khawarij] salah, and his qiyam compared with their qiyam, his recitation [of the Qur'an] compared with their recitation." Nevertheless, he said of them: "They would recite the Qur'an, but it would not go beyond their throat, and they pass through religion without a mark." This means that they would slip out of religion as an arrow would slip out of its bow.
The Prophet MHMD also said of them that they regard it as their duty to "destroy adherents of Islam and save the idol-worshippers."

This is why when a Muslim fell into their hands and was asked about his identity, he replied that he was a mushrik curious to find out about Allah's message and book. On hearing this the Khawarij told the man that they would protect him and grant him safe passage. In support of their decision, they recited the following verse from the Qur'an: { If one amongst the pagans asks you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the Word of Allah; and then escort him to where he may be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.}

The irony is that if the man had admitted that he was a Muslim they would have killed him. Unfortunately, some Muslims have not yet learned this lesson. The Jamaat al Takfir wa al Hijrah group seems to be following in the footsteps of the Khawarij. They readily brand as kafir anybody who commits a sin and does not immediately repent. More condemned in their view are the rulers who do not apply Shariah, as well as the people who submit to such rulers.

Still more sinful in their view are the `ulama who do not openly condemned both as kuffar, as well as those who reject the group's beliefs and submit to the laws elaborated by the four great jurists of Islam on the basis of ijma: qiyas, maslahah mursalah, or istihsan. Moreover anyone who first pledges support for their cause and joins their group, then decides to leave it - for one reason or another - is considered a murtadd and must be put to death.

Indeed, they hold all the Islamic periods succeeding the fourth century A.H. as periods of ignorance and kufr, worshipping the idol of tradition rather than Allah (swt). In this way, the group became so excessive in accusing people of kufr that they spared neither the dead nor the living. The group thus have run into deep trouble, because accusing a Muslim of kufr is a very serious matter which entails very serious consequences - his killing and the confiscation of his property become lawful. As a kafir, he must be separated from his wife and children; there can be no bond between him and other Muslims; he must be deprived of his inheritance and cannot be inherited from; he must be denied the Islamic burial and the salah for the dead person; and he must not be buried in a Muslim graveyard.

The Prophet MHMD said: "When a Muslim calls another Muslim kafir, then surely one of them is such." This means that unless the accusation is validated and substantiated, it will fall back on the accuser, who will face great danger in this world and in the Hereafter.

Usamah ibn Zayd said: "If a man says, 'I witness that there is no god but Allah,' he has embraced Islam, and [consequently] his life and property should be granted safety. If he said so in fear or to protect himself from the sword, he will account for that before Allah. We should [judge] the apparent." p.34

The Prophet MHMD rebuked Usamah when he discovered that the latter had killed a man who had uttered the shahadah following a battle in which the man's tribe was defeated. When Usamah argued that he thought - at the time - that the man did so as a shelter and in fear, the Prophet MHMD said: "Did you look into his heart after he had confessed that there is no God but Allah?" Usamah relates: "He (the Prophet) went on repeating this to me till I wished I had not embraced Islam before that day."

Shari'ah teaches that those who embrace Islam with certainty of mind can only be expelled from its fold by proven and substantiated evidence. Even major muharramat such as murder, fornication, and drinking alcohol do not justify the accusation of kufr, provided that the person concerned does not show disrespect for, reject, or refuse to recognize the Shari'ah.

This is why the Qur'an established brotherly love between the person who commits a premeditated murder and the next of kin to the murdered as this verse shows: { And for him who is forgiven somewhat by his [injured] brother, prosecution according to usage and payment unto him in kindness.}

The Prophet MHMD also addressed a person who cursed an alcoholic who had already been punished several times for alcoholism:
”Do not curse him; he loves Allah and His Messenger.”

Further, the Shariah has prescribed different punishments for crimes such as murder, fornication, and drunkenness. Had all of these been kufr then they would have been punished in accordance with the law of riddah.

All the obscure and vague evidence on which the extremists base the accusations are refuted by fundamental and categorical texts in both Qur'an and Sunnah. This issue was settled by the Ummah centuries ago, it is futile to try to revive and renew it.

”Literally, extremism means being situated at the farthest possible point from the center. Figuratively, it indicates a similar remoteness in religion and thought, as well as behavior. One of the main consequences of extremism is exposure to danger and insecurity! Islam, therefore, recommends moderation and balance in everything: in belief, ibadah, conduct, and legislation.”

Go to part 2: The Causes of Extremism