Rivals in the Gulf
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Rivals in the Gulf

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, and the Qatar-UAE Contest Over the Arab Spring and the Gulf Crisis

David H. Warren

  1. 120 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Rivals in the Gulf

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, and the Qatar-UAE Contest Over the Arab Spring and the Gulf Crisis

David H. Warren

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About This Book

Rivals in the Gulf: Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, and the Qatar-UAE Contest Over the Arab Spring and the Gulf Crisis details the relationships between the Egyptian Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Al Thani royal family in Qatar, and between the Mauritanian Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah and the Al Nahyans, the rulers of Abu Dhabi and senior royal family in the United Arab Emirates. These relationships stretch back decades, to the early 1960s and 1970s respectively.

Using this history as a foundation, the book examines the connections between Qaradawi's and Bin Bayyah's rival projects and the development of Qatar's and the UAE's competing state-brands and foreign policies. It raises questions about how to theorize the relationships between the Muslim scholarly-elite (the ulama ) and the nation-state. Over the course of the Arab Spring and the Gulf Crisis, Qaradawi and Bin Bayyah shaped the Al Thani's and Al Nahyan's competing ideologies in important ways.

Offering new ways for academics to think about Doha and Abu Dhabi as hegemonic centers of Islamic scholarly authority alongside historical centers of learning such as Cairo, Medina, or Qom, this book will appeal to those with an interest in modern Islamic authority, the ulama, Gulf politics, as well as the Arab Spring and its aftermath.

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Part 1
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Al Thanis, and Qatari foreign policy

Wahhabism and wasaṭiyya in Qatar

Qatari support for the MB is at the heart of the ongoing Gulf Crisis, and it was the clearest difference between Qatari and Emirati foreign policy during the Arab Spring and its aftermath. This support for the MB is not realpolitik, that is, simply part of the muscular power politics typical of the Gulf region. Instead, it results from an influx of primarily Egyptian ʿulamāʾ and intellectuals in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was a period when Qatar, like many of its near neighbors such as the UAE and Kuwait, was building a state-education system, and these émigrés came to Qatar to address a shortage of skilled laborers, particularly teachers. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who arrived in 1961, would become the most influential figure to come to Qatar during this period. Upon his arrival, Qaradawi was tasked with heading the new state-run Religious Institute (maʿhad dīnī) that trained Qatari imams and other Islamic functionaries, and he played the central role in building Qatar’s Islamic education system as a whole. This role brought him to the attention of the Qatari Amir Ahmad b. ʿAli Al Thani (r.1960–1972, d.1977), with whom he formed a close relationship.
In the beginning of the 20th century, education on the Qatari peninsula was limited to village kuttāb schools (known locally as mulās) that focused primarily on Qurʾanic memorization.1 In 1916, the then Amir ʿAbd Allah b. Qasim Al Thani (r.1913–1949, d.1957) invited Muhammad b. Maniʿ (d.1965) to establish a madrasa for Qataris seeking a more advanced Islamic education.2 Coincidentally, 1916 was the year the British took control of the Qatari Peninsula, supplanting the Ottomans who had arrived in 1871 and establishing Qatar’s first formal bureaucratic structures.3 Ibn Maniʿ was a Hanbali ʿālim from ʿUnayza in the Wahhabi heartlands of Najd. By the 1950s, his Qatari students had come to represent a local ʿulamāʾ establishment made up of scholarly families such as the Al Mahmuds, the Ansaris, and the Subayʿis. This ʿulamāʾ establishment adhered to the Hanbali school and the Salafi creed (ʿaqīdat al-salaf).4
Ibn Maniʿ was part of the Wahhabi ʿulamāʾ elite on the Arabian Peninsula. Though Wahhabism has commonly been stereotyped as parochial and backward, like many Wahhabi ʿulamāʾ of the early 20th century Ibn Maniʿ read and studied widely in Damascus, Baghdad, as well as at the Azhar in Cairo. Ibn Maniʿ’s student, ʿAbd Allah b. Turki al-Subayʿi (d.1968) was appointed Head of Islamic Sciences (shuʾūn dīniyya) in the new Ministry of Education (wizārat al-maʿārif). In 1957, he traveled to Cairo and the Azhar in search of qualified ʿulamāʾ to staff Qatar’s developing state-Islamic education system. It was in Cairo where Subayʿi first met Qaradawi, whom he eventually persuaded to move to Qatar.
Subayʿi’s decision had profound ramifications both for Qaradawi and for Qatar. The history of Islamic education in Qatar both before and after Qaradawi’s arrival helps us appreciate his impact. This book is not the first to note the importance of Qaradawi’s move. Academics who study Qatari foreign policy have considered Qaradawi’s significance in terms of Qatar’s later support for the MB internationally.5 At the same time, academics attribute the failure of Qaradawi and his peers to recruit local Qataris to join the MB to the “strictures” of local Wahhabism.6 However, while Qaradawi and his peers played a key role in introducing the MB to the Gulf region, when he traveled to Qatar he was not traveling there in his capacity as an affiliate of the MB. Rather, Qaradawi went to Qatar to join the Azhar Mission (al-baʿtha al-azhariyya) that had recently opened in Doha. It was not difficult for Qaradawi and his Azhari-educated peers to join, and eventually eclispe, the local Wahhabi scholarly establishment. The Azhar Missions were exporting the Azhar curriculum and outlook well before the official opening of the University of Medina in 1961, the institution usually credited with pioneering the notion of exporting a particular Islamic outlook worldwide through its Wahhabi mission. Consequently, credit for transforming Qatar’s Islamic-scholarly milieu from one indebted to the Wahhabism of Ibn Maniʿ to Qaradawi’s wasaṭiyya goes not to the MB, but the Azhar.

Islamic education in Qatar before Qaradawi: Ibn Maniʿ and his students

In 1916, Amir ʿAbd Allah Al Thani invited Ibn Maniʿ to establish a madrasa in Qatar to provide an Islamic education more advanced than the local kuttābs. In the early 20th century, Amirs inviting prominent Arabian ʿulamāʾ to found madrasas in their locales was typical, and it was also occurring in the Shaykhdoms that would later make up the UAE.7 Ibn Maniʿ traveled to Qatar from Bahrain, and he would spend much of the remainder of his life there. After living in Qatar for a period of 24 years, Ibn Maniʿ returned to his native Saudi Arabia in 1939 to serve as an advisor to King ʿAbd al-ʿAziz b. ʿAbd al-Rahman Al Saʿud (d.1953), the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, before going on to take over the Directorate of Education in Mecca.8 During these years in Saudi Arabia, Ibn Maniʿ played a major role in the establishment of Islamic education and Saudi Arabian state-building in the recently occupied Hijaz.9 He then returned to Qatar in 1957, again at the request of the Amir, where he remained until his passing in 1965.10
Ibn Maniʿ was among the most prominent Wahhabi ʿulamāʾ on the Arabian Peninsula in the first half of the 20th century, and his Qatari madrasa drew students from as far afield as Kuwait and Iran.11 It is little surprise that the Amir ʿAbd Allah Al Thani had invited a prominent Wahhabi ʿālim to establish this madrasa, since modern Qatar’s founding Amir, Jassim b. Muhammad Al Thani (d.1913), had allied himself with the Saudi Wahhabi tribes after they had re-emerged as major forces on the Arabian Peninsula in 1902. With that alliance, Jassim Al Thani embraced Wahhabism “by conviction,” a conviction that Qatar officially holds to this day.12 During the early 20th century there were no clear boundaries between the categories of Wahhabism and Salafism. In the 1920s the term Salafism (salafiyya) referred to a developing hermeneutic rooted in an adherence to the Hanbali legal school and a Neo-Hanbali (Wahhabi) theology.13 Yet, ʿulamāʾ who were part of this milieu refrained from referring to their theology as either Han-bali or Wahhabi.14 Hence, Ibn Maniʿ defined himself as “Hanbali in law and Salafi in creed” (al-ḥanbalī madhhaban wa-l-salafī iʿtiqādan).15 That being said, Ibn Maniʿ’s peers in Saudi Arabia certainly claimed him as Wahhabi.16 However, establishing categorical distinctions between Hanbali, Wahhabi, and Salafi ʿulamāʾ can be somewhat arbitrary at this time, given that Ibn Maniʿ traveled and studied widely with a range of ʿulamāʾ in Baghdad, Damascus, and at the Azhar, which was not unusual.17 Ibn Maniʿ claimed to be the Arabian Peninsula’s first Azhar-educated ʿālim, something he took great pride in.18 His students formed the nucleus of a local Qatari ʿulamāʾ establishment that was predominantly Hanbali in terms of its legal school and Neo-Hanbali (Wahhabi) in its theology. Given Ibn Maniʿ’s pedigree and the founding Amir Jassim Al Thani’s Wahhabi conviction, this ʿulamāʾ establishment can therefore be termed Wahhabi.
By the 1950s, oil revenue was contributing to the Qatari treasury in increasing amounts, and the new Amir ʿAli b. ʿAbd Allah Al Thani (r.1949–1960, d.1974) used this revenue to expand the infrastructure of the state. In 1952, ʿAli Al Thani formed a committee to establish a state education system.19 Due to the poor quality of Qatar’s kuttāb-educated Islamic functionaries at the time, developing Islamic education was a priority. In Hamed A. Hamed’s dire portrayal, “Preachers in Qatar were not qualified to perform the duties expected of them.… The majority were only able to read and write and therefore lacked the ability to address topics pertaining to problems of Qatari society.… [For their Friday sermons], they depended solely on an old book of fifty-two sermons, equal to the number of weeks in the year.”20 Based on this situation, developing Islamic education was a priority for the committee, which was led by Ibn Maniʿ’s students. One of them, Jassim al-Darwish, was appointed Director of Education while Subayʿi, as Head of Islamic Sciences, was charged with developing Islamic education.21
However, the committee to establish a Qatari state-education system was not solely populated by Ibn Maniʿ’s students. Working alongside them were prominent intellectuals from the MB who had emigrated from Egypt such as ʿAbd al-Badiʿ Saqr (d.1986). Saqr had left Egypt for Doha in 1954 after his release from Egypt’s Tur prison, where Qaradawi had also been jailed at the same time.22 Given the presence of émigrés from Egypt on the education committee, and Ibn Maniʿ’s pride at being an Azhar graduate, it is not surprising that Subayʿi chose to travel to Cairo and the Azhar in search of qualified staff for Qatar’s new Islamic education system. Subayʿi’s most significant recruit was a young Qaradawi, whom he met one Friday in Cairo’s well-to-do district of Zamalek.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Qaradawi was born in 1926 and grew up in the village of Saft al-Turab in Egypt’s Nile Delta. Raised by his uncle after his father passed away while he was still very young, Qaradawi’s scholarly aptitude and bookishness were apparently recognized even at that time. His community end...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Rivals in the Gulf

APA 6 Citation

Warren, D. (2021). Rivals in the Gulf (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2096376/rivals-in-the-gulf-yusuf-alqaradawi-abdullah-bin-bayyah-and-the-qataruae-contest-over-the-arab-spring-and-the-gulf-crisis-pdf (Original work published 2021)

Chicago Citation

Warren, David. (2021) 2021. Rivals in the Gulf. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2096376/rivals-in-the-gulf-yusuf-alqaradawi-abdullah-bin-bayyah-and-the-qataruae-contest-over-the-arab-spring-and-the-gulf-crisis-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Warren, D. (2021) Rivals in the Gulf. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2096376/rivals-in-the-gulf-yusuf-alqaradawi-abdullah-bin-bayyah-and-the-qataruae-contest-over-the-arab-spring-and-the-gulf-crisis-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Warren, David. Rivals in the Gulf. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.