The Patient Preacher: Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s Long Game

“Don’t stop history! Nobody will be able to fight the divine decrees, nor delay the day when it rises. This world has changed and the world has evolved.”1 Only one week after President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was announced in 2011, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi delivered those words during a powerful speech blessing the Egyptian revolution. Sitting before millions gathered in Tahrir Square for Friday prayers, the 84-year-old Qatari-based Egyptian cleric praised the Egyptian people’s resilience and fortitude. “The youth who have triumphed in this revolution did not triumph over Mubarak only,” Qaradawi exclaimed. “They triumphed over Mubarak, they triumphed over injustice, they triumphed over falsehood. They triumphed over robbery and they triumphed over plundering. They triumphed over egoism and they initiated a new life by this revolution.” Indeed, this bespectacled cleric with the carefully cropped beard has long dichotomized the world as just and unjust. But as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi’s categories and belief in the centrality of Sharia law as the bedrock of Egyptian justice count as more than clerical abstraction. At the time, his impassioned speech seemed to mark the return of Egypt’s prodigal son.