The Muslim Brotherhood's leading religious voice thinks that shari'a law should be instituted in Egypt—but in a gradual fashion—according to a translation put out by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Yusuf al-Qaradawi was interviewed last Thursday on Egypt's Al-Nahar TV. During the segment, the Qatar-based scholar discussed the current political situation in Egypt and let his feelings known that no alternative exists to the complete implementation of shari'a.
But this change need not come all at once; instead, those in power "should do things gradually."
"We should prepare the people, teach them…[because] people do not understand the shari'a properly," Qaradawi said. The next five years should be transitional, meaning "there should be no chopping off of hands."
But fear not, shari'a seekers, this transitional phase is only meant to be temporary.
"This should be a period in which we teach people the true laws of shari'a," he said. When we find food for all the hungry, schools for all the pupils, hospitals for all the sick, homes for all those who want them, wives for all the bachelors, then we can discuss the punishment for theft."
The electorally driven, gradual nature of change advocated by Qaradawi keeps in line with well-established Brotherhood ideology, with the ultimate goal being the unification of all Muslims under the banner of the Caliphate—or universal Islamic state.
And it is certainly not a new notion for Qaradawi either. In November, the Brotherhood cleric made similar comments in a fatwa posted on OnIslam.net. In it, he noted "Gradualism in applying the Shari'ah is a wise requirement to follow. In doing so, we will be following Allah's Laws with regard to physical nature and teachings of Islam."
Previously, at a 1995 conference held by the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) in Toledo, Ohio, Qaradawi called for the conquest of Western regimes and the implementation of shari'a not through armed conflict, but through Da'wa (proselytization):
"What remains, then, is to conquer Rome. The second part of the omen. 'The city of Hiraq [once emperor of Constantinople] will be conquered first,' so what remains is to conquer Rome. This means that Islam will come back to Europe for the third time, after it was expelled from it twice… Conquest through Da'wa [proselytizing] that is what we hope for. We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword but through Da'wa."
Qaradawi's approach to putting sharia into practice is noticeably measured when compared to other vocal Brotherhood leaders. In December, one of the group's senior leaders, Sobhi Saleh, caused a stir when he stated publicly that the Brotherhood's political arm would apply Islamic law and "prohibit alcohol" if brought to power. "It was planned since 1928," he said. "But Islam is the solution."
Comments such as these can only serve to further alarm the country's liberal/secular activists, who have been vocal about their distrust and disapproval of the Brotherhood and its plan for Egypt.
Qaradawi's comments Thursday offer little to quell such fears.