Shariah, Law and ‘Financial Jihad’: How Should America Respond? Rep. Chicago: The McCormick Foundation, 2008.
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Sheikh Qaradawi is an Egyptian Islamic scholar and one of the most prominent Islamists of the past few decades. A well-known Muslim Brotherhood member, a television preacher and a theoretician of jihad, he is considered a top spiritual authority by most Sunni Islamist organizations and movements. He is particularly influential among Islamists in the Western world as chairman of the European Council on Fatwas and Research and the International Association of Muslim Scholars.
Qaradawi was born September 9, 1926 in Egypt. He became a follower of Hassan al-Banna and also joined the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth, and was arrested several times by Egyptian government authorities between 1949 and 1961 because of his activity in the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi moved to Qatar in 1964 and has been residing there ever since. He was banned from the United States in 1999 and from the United Kingdom in 2008.
Qaradawi’s religious education is extensive. He received his PhD. from Al Azhar University in Cairo in 1973. His dissertation was about “Zakat and its influence in the Solution of Social Problems.” He attended the Al-Azhar Theological Seminary. He obtained the High Preliminary Study (equivalent to MA degree from the department of the Sciences of Qur’an and Hadith at the Faculty of Theology) in 1960. Previously, he had received the ‘Ijaza of teaching from the Faculty of Arabic language in 1954, attended Al-Azhar Institutes for his primary and secondary stages, and joined the Faculty of Theology and got the ‘Aliyya certificate (equivalent to BA degree at present) in 1952-53.
His professional experience includes work as a Professor at the University of Qatar, as Shariah Faculty Teacher (khatib) and Writer at Al-Awqaf and Al-Azhar, and as Grand Mufti of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Qaradawi’s affiliations with Islamist Organizations are often in leadership positions:
Member—Muslim BrotherhoodPresident—The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR),Dublin, Ireland
President—Union of Good (an umbrella group of 56 Muslim charities accused of funding Hamas terrorism), Saudi Arabia
Founder and President—IslamOnline.com (perhaps the most popular Islamist web site on the Internet)
Chairman (in absentia)—Board of Trustees of Islamic American University
Faculty member—Islamic American University (IAU)
Founder and president—International Association of Muslim Scholars (IAMS), Dublin, Ireland
Host—”Shariah and Life” television program, Al Jazeera Television, Qatar
Trustee/Teacher—Muslim American Society (MAS)
Trustee/Teacher—Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Board of Advisors—Institute for Islamic Political Thought in the UK
Dean—Islamic Department at the Faculties of Shariah and Education in Qatar
Chairman—Islamic Scientific Councils of Algerian Universities and Institutions Affiliations with Shariah Finance
Chairman—Shariah Advisory board of Bank Al-Taqwa, a Nassau- Bahamas registered Islamic bank which was declared a designated terrorist entity by the US Department of the Treasury in 2001 and closed down
Chairman—Shariah Advisory Board, Qatar Islamic Bank
Chairman—Shariah Advisory Board, Qatar International Islamic Bank
Member—Shariah Advisory Board, First Islamic Investment Bank of Bahrain.
Ideology and Views
Sheikh Qaradawi has issued hundreds of fatwas and opinions known for their advocacy of Jihad and support of suicide bombing and terrorism. Below is just a small sampling of his views:
“If everyone who defends his land and dies defending his sacred symbols is considered a terrorist, then I wish to be at the forefront of the terrorists. And I pray to Allah if that is terrorism, then O Allah make me live as a terrorist, die as a terrorist, and be raised up with the terrorists.”
On Suicide Bombings/Martyrdom
“[Palestinian suicide bombings] are not in any way included in the framework of prohibited terrorism, even if the victims include civilians because Israeli society is of a colonialist, occupational, racist and [plundering] nature.”
“Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do. [Suicide bombings] are weapons to which the weak resort in order to upset the balance because the powerful have all the weapons that the weak are denied.”
“I support the Palestinian cause. I support the resistance and the jihad, I support Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. I oppose the peace that Israel and America wish to dictate. This peace is an illusion. I support the martyrdom operations.”
“We must plant the love of death and the love of martyrdom in the Islamic Nation.”
On War in Iraq
“All of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and one should fight them, since the American civilians came to Iraq in order to serve the occupation. The abduction and killings of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately.”
“It is the duty of every Muslim to support this resistance against the Israeli enemy.”
“It is incumbent on Muslims, wherever they may be, to shoulder their responsibility of defending Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is an obligation for them all. They are to jointly defend it, offering in the process their lives, their money and all they possess, or else they will be subject to Allah’s punishment.”
“You can say that what is happening in Palestine is done by Israel with the help of America, or by America with the help of Israel, and there is no difference between them…What is happening in Iraq is serving Zionism and Israel. The first to benefit from all of it is Israel…Look for Israel, look for the Zionism—all of it is behind these events. You will find their hidden fingers behind many of the events.”
On Financial Jihad
“I like to call it jihad with money, because God has ordered us to fight enemies with our lives and our money.” “We have our own economic philosophy and system which others do not have. The collapse of the capitalist system, which is based on usury and
securities rather than commodities in markets, shows us that it is undergoing a crisis and that our integrated Islamic philosophy, if properly understood and applied, can replace the Western capitalism.”
“We have our own economic philosophy and system which others do not have. The collapse of the capitalist system, which is based on usury and
On Women and Jihad
“Women’s participation in the martyrdom [suicide] operations carried out in Palestine given the status of the land as an occupied territory, in addition to a lot of sacrilegious acts perpetrated by the Jews against the sanctuaries is one of the most praised acts of worship.”
“Also, the act is a form of martyrdom for the cause of Allah, and it entitles them, inshallah, to the same reward earned by their male counterparts who also die in the cause of Allah.” He said Muslim jurists have unanimously agreed that when the enemy attacks part of the Muslim territories, jihad becomes the duty of every individual.
“This obligation reaches the extent that a woman should go out for jihad even without the permission of her husband, and the son without the consent of his parents,”
On Beating of Women
“Beating is not suitable for every wife; it is suitable for certain wives and for other wives it is not. There is a woman who cannot agree to being beaten, and sees this as humiliation, while some women enjoy the beating and for them, only beating to cause them sorrow is suitable…”
Sheikh Qaradawi is a prolific author with over 100 books published, many of which have been translated into several languages. Some of these books—for example, Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase (1990)—are widely viewed as action plans for the Islamist movement in its struggle against Israel and the West. Other popular books include Towards a Sound Awakening, The Status of Women in Islam, Islamic Awakening between Rejection and Extremism, The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam, Diversion and Arts in Islam etc.
Mufti Taqi Usmani is one of the most prominent living theoreticians of Sunni Islam and perhaps the best known current exponent of the Deobandi school of Islamism. He is also one of the half-a-dozen most authoritative and sought after Shariah experts in the world of Islamic finance today.
Taqi Usmani was born in 1943 in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, India. Taqi Usmani is the son of the late Mufti Muhammad Shafi, a prominent Deobandi scholar, founder of the leading Deobandi madrassa Darul Uloom Karachi (also known as Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi) and mufti of Pakistan. His older brother, Muhammad Rafi Usmani is the president of Darul Uloom Karachi and the chief Deobandi mufti in Pakistan currently, and a well-known Islamist in his own right. Taqi Usmani’s son, Muhammad Imran Ashraf Usmani, holds a PhD in Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic finance and also teaches at Darul Uloom Karachi. Like his father, the son sits on the Shariah boards of numerous Islamic banks.
Usmani obtained ‘Alimiyyah’ and ‘Takhassus’ (PhD-equivalent) religious degrees in Islamic Fiqh and Fatwa from Darul Uloom Karachi in 1961. For his secular education, he received a B.A. from Karachi University in 1964, a Law Degree (LLB) from Karachi University, 1967, and a Master’s degree in Arabic literature, Punjab University, 1970.
Usmani’s professional affiliations include experience as a Professor of Islamic Law, Fiqh and Hadith and vice president of Darul Uloom Karachi, 1980s to present. He was also a Judge, Shariah Appellate Bench, Supreme Court of Pakistan, 1982-2002, and also a Judge, Federal Shariah Court of Pakistan, 1980-1982.
Usmani’s affiliations with Islamist Organizations include Shariah- and Jihad-centered educational institutions:
Usmani is the Vice-President and professor of Islamic studies at Darul Uloom Karachi, one of the largest and best known Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan. It is a modern and financially well-endowed madrassa with some 4000 students teaching a Shariah-centered Islamist curriculum mixed with occasional secular subjects, such as science and computers. It is one of the few madrassas in Pakistan that prepare students in Islamic economics and banking, alongside the usual Islamic curriculum.
Darul Uloom also encourages and subsidizes students to go on proselytizing missions, such as those of Tablighi Jamaat. While it does not openly promote jihad and violence, the madrassa has produced and continues to produce thousands of Islamic jihadists active in Pakistan and elsewhere.
In the words of a recent study of madrassas in Karachi by the prestigious European human rights think tank, International Crisis Group: “While the madrassa, on the surface, appears a model for less educationally endowed seminaries, Darul Uloom also plays a role in promoting violent jihad. Both Usmani brothers have given practical help to jihadi organizations, which are allowed to preach and collect donations from the madrassa’s mosques and branches.” According to one of Darul Uloom’s teacher’s, “Students are not allowed to participate in jihad while they are studying, though they can do so after completing their studies.”
Other educational affiliations include Permanent Member and Deputy Chairman for the Islamic Fiqh Academy, Jedda, Saudi Arabia. He is also a Member, Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Muslim World League (MWL), Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Usmani’s affiliations with Islamist Organizations also include other political and legal institutions:
Member, European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), Dublin, Ireland
Member—Muttahida Majlis e-Amal (MMA) fatwa committee
Member—Delegation of Deobandi clerics to Taliban, Sept 2001. Mufti Usmani was a member of a small delegation of prominent Deobandi ulema (i.e., recognized Shariah authorities) known as sympathizers of the Taliban sent to meet with Mullah Omar under the auspices of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) shortly after September 11, 2001. The ostensible purpose of the visit, according to Pakistani government sources, was to encourage Mullah Omar to turn over Osama bin Laden to the Americans. Information leaked later by some of the clerics present, such as the jihadist Mufti Shamzai, indicates that the delegation may have, in fact, tried to stiffen the Taliban’s will to resist.
Member—Delegation of Deobandi clerics to Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa. Taqi Usmani was part of a group of senior Deobandi clerics that visited the besieged Lal Masjid in Islamabad hoping to persuade the jihadists to give up, after the Pakistani government threatened to end the violent standoff with the jihadists by force. Mufti Usmani was evidently a former teacher and spiritual and religious leader of the jihadist Lal Masjid imam Ghazi Abdul Aziz. The mission was unsuccessful and in the aftermath of the bloody suppression of the insurrection in July 2007, Usmani leveled heavy criticism against the government for its actions.
Editor—Taqi Usmani is the editor of two Islamist publications: Albalagh and Albalagh International, published by Darul Uloom Karachi. Both of them promote the Islamist agenda and are popular in South Asia and internationally. The U.S.-based Albalagh.net also functions as an online bookstore for Shariah and Jihad literature based in Garden Grove, California.
Usmani is a leader in the major Shariah Finance-Sponsoring Organizations:
Chairman—International Shariah Standards Council, Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), Bahrain.
Member—Commission for the Islamization of the Economy, government of Pakistan
Chairman—Shariah Board, Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB)
Chairman—Shariah Board, International Islamic Rating Agency (IIRA)
Chairman—Shariah Board, Bahrain Monetary Agency, Bahrain
Chairman—Center for Islamic Economics, Pakistan
Usmani typically runs most of the Shariah-Compliant Banks and Institutions with which he is affiliated:
Chairman—Shariah Supervisory Board, Dow Jones Islamic Fund, New York (recently resigned or terminated).
Chairman—Shariah Supervisory Board, HSBC Amanah Finance, Dubai
Chairman—Shariah Supervisory Board, Guidance Financial Group and Guidance Residential, USA
Chairman—Shariah Board, Abu Dhabi Islamic bank, UAE
Chairman—Shariah Board, Islamic House of Britain PLC. London
Chairman—Shariah Board, Meezan Bank, Pakistan
Chairman—Shariah Supervisory Board, Saudi American Bank, Jedda, Saudi Arabia
Chairman—Shariah Supervisory Board, Citi Islamic Investment Bank, Bahrain
Chairman—Shariah Board, Amana Investments LTD., Sri Lanka
Chairman—Shariah Supervisory Board, Bank Islami Pakistan Ltd., Pakistan
Chairman—Shariah Board, Robert Fleming Oasis Fund, Luxembourg
Member—Shariah Board, Islamic Corporation for Development of the Private Sector, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Jedda
Member—Shariah Supervisory Board, Dallah al-Barakah Group, Jedda, Saudi Arabia
Member—Shariah Supervisory Board, First Islamic Investment Bank, Bahrain
Member—Shariah Supervisory Board, Islamic Finance Unit, United Bank of Kuwait
Taqi Usmani is a prolific writer in Urdu, Arabic and English and has published several dozen books and countless articles. Most of his writing focuses on religious subjects, but there are a number of books that are clearly political in nature and characterized by the author’s Islamist Shariah-laden views. Among those available in English is a vitriolic attack on Christianity (“What is Christianity”), a broadside against the West and modernity (“Islam and Modernism”) and an exposition of the Islamist interpretation of the Muslim faith (“Discourse on Islamic Way of Life”). Usmani is also the author of two books in English on Islamic finance: “An Introduction to Islamic Finance” and “Historic Judgment on Interest.” Both are considered authoritative by advocates of Shariah-compliant finance.
Ideology and Views
On Jihad and Violence Against non-Muslims
Mufti Taqi Usmani is well-known for his uncompromising views on the mandatory nature of conducting offensive jihad against non-Muslims “in order to establish the supremacy of Islam” worldwide. His views on the subject are grounded in traditional and authoritative Shariah and he provides solid legal sources for his fatwas that offensive jihad is a necessity even when a non-Muslim land provides all the conditions for the free practice and spread of Islam.
According to Usmani, the key question is not whether a country allows the free preaching of Islam or not, but “whether aggressive battle is by itself commendable or not?” If it is, he answers, “why should the Muslims stop simply because territorial expansion in these days is regarded as bad? And if it is not commendable but deplorable, why did Islam not stop in the past?” The answer, Usmani argues, is rather obvious, “Even in those days…aggressive jihads were waged…because it was truly commendable for establishing the grandeur of the religion of Allah.”
Indeed, aggressive jihad against unbelievers is an Islamic obligation, according to Usmani and, as such, does not need any justification as evident from the following exchange with a Muslim inquirer:
Questioner: “Subjugating them (non-Muslims) to a Muslim government cannot achieve this change of heart and mind because in such a condition the subject people will be conscious of their subjugation and they will hardly have the inclination to hear about Islam with an attentive ear
Usmani: “I understand from what you have written that jihad is not necessary when a non-Muslim country permits Muslim missionary work to be conducted in it. If this is your opinion, I cannot agree with it. Obstacles in the way of missionary work are not only legal ones. For a non-Muslim state to have more pomp and glory than a Muslim state is itself an obstacle…. Therefore, to shatter this grandeur is among the greater objectives of jihad….
“Another point to consider is whether during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or of the companions there is any instance of a mission being sent after awaiting permission for it…. Was any missionary party sent to Rome before mounting an attack on that metropolis? As far as my knowledge goes, there is not a single instance throughout the entire history of Islam where the intention was announced that warfare would be stopped if the enemy conceded to this condition (permission to carry out peaceful missionary work).”
For Taqi Usmani, offensive jihad can be postponed for a time only in cases when the Muslims in question are not strong enough to battle or otherwise challenge the infidels. And so, he advises the Muslims to live peacefully in countries like Britain, for instance, but only until they gain enough power to carry out jihad.
On Martyrdom and Suicide Bombing
Although Mufti Usmani does not openly condone suicide bombing (at least in the available English language publications), most of his relevant writings reveal a strong endorsement of the philosophy of martyrdom, which is the theological underpinning of both jihadism and suicide bombing. This of course is not surprising since it is grounded in traditional and authoritative Shariah. For instance, in an article apparently written shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Usmani bitterly attacks his fellow-Muslims for their ostensible passivity while “Pharaoh is roaming around without any fear.” “No one is found having any desire of Shahadah” (martyrdom), he laments, and compares today’s Muslims to a mythical Islamic nation of the past “where every single person preferred death to life.” “How many mothers are there,” he continues, “who want to sacrifice their sons for the cause of Islam?” “How many sisters are there who want to say goodbye to their brothers departing to wage jihad against non-believers.”
On America and the West
Mufti Usmani’s writings are characterized by an animus toward the West and, more specifically, the United States, so strong as to turn his anti-Western polemics into sedition. Thus, for instance, Americans and their allies in Iraq are called by the mufti “stinking atheists” and the “the worst ever butchers and vultures of the world” who are “clawing off the flesh of bodies of innocent Iraqi Muslims.” In the same vein, America stands accused by Usmani of the “murder of unarmed and distressed Afghans” and the “simultaneous murder of values and universally accepted fundamental human principles” and of turning the whole world “into a perpetual inferno of violence and chaos.” These hateful descriptions, understood in context of Islamic law, are the necessary descriptors which allow Usmani to rule authoritatively that western Muslims are obligated to engage in Jihad against their host countries.
While Taqi Usmani’s anti-Westernism appears to have been inflamed to near hysterical levels by recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has been a constant feature of his world-view and intellectual output for a very long time. Much of it appears to be generated by his deeply-held belief that Muslims who do not share his traditional Shariah-based views of what Islam is or should be have been corrupted by Western influence and modernism. This is especially true, in his view, of influential Muslim thinkers and scholars who have fallen under the sway of Western culture and are in turn corrupting Islam by trying to make it compatible with modernism. What Usmani really despises is the fact that this process, if allowed to take place, would rid Islam of its obscurantist legacy and violent jihadist traditions in which he and his fellow-Islamists firmly believe.
A good example of this attitude is contained in a 1995 Usmani diatribe against the prominent Islamic scholar, Prof. Fazlur Rahman, director of the Institute of Islamic Research in Pakistan and later professor at the University of Chicago. In it, Usmani accuses Prof. Rahman of having fallen under the influence of the “unholy ways of the West” and enumerates a litany of Western innovations that are said to be destroying the West and would also destroy Islam if accepted. These include a banking system based on interest and insurance, family planning, banning polygamy, co-education, doing away with the hijab, refusing to believe in miracles etc. All this, the mufti concludes, leads to changing the “established commandments of Islam” and “converting the entire Quran into a poetic and metaphorical book.”
Taqi Usmani is far from being just an intellectual opponent of the West, however. In his capacity as a prominent educator and executive of a Deobandi madrassa, a respected issuer of fatwas and his various political incarnations, he has been and is in the position of giving a forceful practical expression to his anti-Western and Shariah-driven Islamist views. Apart from being instrumental in the training and indoctrination of thousands of potential Islamic jihadists at Darul Uloom Karachi, he has directly provided material support to international terrorism through his numerous fatwas, interviews and writings all intended as legal dictates to the Shariah faithful worldwide.
As a former member of the Shariah Appellate Bench and the Federal Shariah Court of Pakistan and a leading member of the politically powerful Deobandi establishment, Mufti Taqi Usmani has played and continues to play an important political role. Invariably, he has promoted Shariah-based Islamist solutions in Pakistani politics and has contributed in no small measure to the progressive Islamization of the country since the late 1970s.
His earliest involvement in politics dates to the early 1970s when he became a key member of a group of Islamic authorities who pressured president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to declare the Ahmadi Muslims infidels. A law to that effect formulated mostly by Usmani was passed on September 21, 1974, ushering in a period of vicious persecution for the moderate and peaceful Ahmadis that has continued to this day. What is their crime? They reject traditional and authoritative Shariah. Usmani was one of the clerics who continued to argue for much tougher measures against the Ahmadis and was instrumental in drafting a new harshly discriminatory anti-Ahmadi measure passed by military dictator Zia ul-Haq in 1984. It prohibited the Ahmadis from calling their places of worship mosques, and even to address each other with the traditional Muslim greeting salam.
Under General Zia ul-Haq, (1977-1988), himself a zealous advocate of Shariah, Usmani played a key role also in the introduction of the Shariahbased punishment code known as the Huddud Ordinance, as well as blasphemy laws and other Shariah injunctions, to the huge detriment of Pakistani justice and civil liberties. More recently, Usmani vigorously opposed proposed amendments to Shariah statutes that blatantly discriminated against women.
Beginning in 1980, Mufti Usmani also was one of the driving forces behind the effort to Islamize the Pakistani economy and drafted many of the regulations designed to transform banking into a shariah-compliant system. He is also the author of fatwas and various clerics’ statements designed to steer Pakistan in a pro-Islamist and anti-Western direction.
He has also called Americans and their allies in Iraq: “stinking atheists” and the worse ever butchers and vultures of the world.
He also accuses Americans of the “simultaneous murder of values and universally accepted fundamental human principles” and of turning the whole world “into a perpetual inferno of violence and chaos.”
Sheikh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo
Sheikh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo is considered the leading authority on Shariah finance in the United States and one of the half-dozen best-known Shariah advisors internationally. Although he has carefully avoided making public statements in support of Jihad, his religious background, professional affiliations, his high praise of fellow Shariah authorities such as Usmani, and his experience prove beyond much doubt that he subscribes fully to the Islamist agenda.
DeLorenzo was born in 1948 in Northfield, Massachusetts. Sheikh Talal DeLorenzo is the grandson of Italian immigrants from Sicily. He currently resides in Ashburn, Northern Virginia with his Pakistani wife and three children.
DeLorenzo attended the secular Northfield-Mount Hernon Preparatory School in Northfield, Massachusetts. He then enrolled in the undergraduate program at Cornell University but dropped out. He studied Islamic sciences under prominent Deobandi scholars at madrassa Jamia Uloom Islamia, Binori Town, Karachi, Pakistan (see details below).
DeLorenzo completed three years of doctoral studies on the Legal Rulingsof the Quran at Bahawalpur University, Pakistan, and allegedly studied in Egypt.
DeLorenzo’s professional experience and affiliations include teaching courses on “The Principles of Islamic Investment,” Dow Jones University. He is also the Director for the Master’s Program for Imams, Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS), Leesburg, Virginia. He has served as Director of Education for the Islamic Saudi Academy, Fairfax, Virginia, as Guest Scholar at the American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM), Canton, Michigan and as an Advisor on Islamic affairs and education to the President of Pakistan, 1981-1984.
DeLorenzo has many affiliations with Islamist Organizations:
Secretary—Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)
Member of the Board—International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)
Director—Graduate School of Islamic and Social Science
Director of Education—Islamic Saudi Academy
DeLorenzo is affiliated with a Shariah Finance Sponsoring Organization:
Special Consultant—Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB). Appointed to the position by the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah
De Lorenzo is affiliated with a wide range of Shariah-Compliant Banks and Institutions:
Chief Shariah Officer—Shariah Capital Inc. Greenwich, Connecticut and Dubai
Member—Shariah board, Dow Jones Islamic Market Index
Member—Shariah board, Guidance International Inc.
Member—Shariah board, Brown Brothers Harriman Islamic Global Equity Fund, New York
Member—Shariah board, Muslim E-Financials, Washington D.C.
Member—Shariah board, Ihilal.com, Dubai
Member—Shariah board, Thahabi Ijara Fund I, UAE
Member—Shariah board, Socially Acceptable Market Investments (SAMI), Toronto
Sole Shariah Advisor—Devon Islamic Ventures-Offshore, Ireland
Ideology and Views
Although Talal DeLorenzo has been very careful to avoid public statements advocating Jihad and the broad Islamist agenda, his religious background and professional and Islamic affiliations virtually without exception reveal a strong commitment to Shariah, its purposes and methods.
Much of his long religious training in Pakistan, for instance, took place in Jamia Uloom Islamia, Binori Town, Karachi—one of the largest and most Shariah-centered Deobandi madrassas in the country and one that has long supported and funded well known terrorist groups. According to a study of Karachi madrassas by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a human rights think tank based in Brussels, the Jamia Islamia is the “fountainhead of Deobandi militancy countrywide,” has “carried the mantle of Jihadi leadership since the days of the anti-Soviet Jihad” and “boasts close ties with the Taliban.” Moreover, the ICG report further claims, the madrassa “has played a major role in helping to establish and sustain,” as well as provide many of the recruits, for some of the most violent Pakistani jihadi and terrorist organizations, such as Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jaish -e Muhammad(JeM) and Sipah -e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).
Moreover, DeLorenzo’s spiritual guru in Binori Town was the Mufti of Pakistan, Wali Hassan, a classic Deobandi Shariah authority who predictably considers Shia Muslims to be infidels and issued fatwas to that effect.
Sheikh DeLorenzo is further reported to have worked between 1981 and 1984 as an advisor to the Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq on Islamic education. Zia was the military dictator and zealous Islamist who Islamized Pakistan from the top down, beginning in the late 1970s, and put into place the network jihadi madrassas that eventually produced the Taliban. It would appear that DeLorenzo may have assisted Zia in this process.
Most of the Islamic organizations with which DeLorenzo has been closely associated since his return to the United States have also proven Islamist credentials.
The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), a fatwa-issuing organization in which DeLorenzo served as Secretary, for example, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Several of its key officials have been implicated and at least one has been jailed for terrorism-supporting activities. One of its founders, Taha Jaber Al-Alwani, was declared an unindicted co-conspirator in the Sami al-Arian trial for reportedly funding the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). A FCNA trustee, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, is currently serving a 23-year sentence for terrorism related activities. After his sentencing, Alamoudi was found to have also provided large-scale financing to al Qaeda. Another individual identified by the U.S.
Department of Justice as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism trial is Muzamil Siddiqui, a FCNA president for a number of years.
In addition, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) of which DeLorenzo was a board member, has provided funds to convicted Islamist Sami al-Arian and to the designated terrorist entity Al-Haramayn. IIIT has also been tied to the notorious terrorism-enabler and apologist for suicidebombers, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
As director at the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS), DeLorenzo has also been involved with two of the aforementioned Shariah advocates, Taha Jaber al-Alwani and Abdurrahman Alamoudi. Incredibly, they worked together on a program run by GSISS to train and certify Muslim chaplains for the U.S. armed forces. In fact, the GSISS and another Alamoudi operation, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council were the only two Islamic educational institutions approved by the Department of Defense to provide this service to the United States government.
In the course of a 2003 Senate hearing examining these arrangements for securing Muslim chaplains for the military, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona observed as follows: “It is remarkable that people who have known connections to terrorism are the only people to approve these chaplains.” The GSISS was raided by U.S. law enforcement agents in March of 2002 as part of Operation Green Quest as part of an investigation into terrorism financing Islamic networks in America.
Finally, DeLorenzo has also served as Director of Education at the Saudi Islamic Academy in Fairfax, Virginia, an organization funded by the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. So egregious has been this school’s propagation of the Shariah-adherent and virulently intolerant Wahhabi creed that the congressionally mandated U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called on the Department of State in October 2007 to shut it down.
On Islamic Finance
As noted above, DeLorenzo’s statements in English appear calculated to obscure, rather than reflect, his actual views. They certainly seem intended to allay concerns about the SCF industry in which he plays a large role, rather than provide transparency about its true character and purposes.
DeLorenzo on benefits of SCF for Shariah more generally: “Adapting Islam to modern finance” could influence other areas of Shariah which has “essentially been in a coma for several centuries … and desperately needs reviving.” (Interestingly, this formulation belies the real dynamic at work in Shariah-compliant finance: Under the influence of Shariah advisors like DeLorenzo, modern finance is forced to adapt to Islam, not the other way around.)
DeLorenzo on Shariah investment in Israeli companies: In answering a question from a Dow Jones University student of Islamic investment on whether Israeli companies, or those that invest in Israel, should be excluded by Shariah screens like companies that deal with alcohol, pork, etc., DeLorenzo responds that there is no “Shariah dialogue involving investment prohibition” in such companies and reiterates that for the Dow Jones Islamic Index, considerations related to politics, culture, history, etc., are not relevant. And then he adds this:
“Having said all of this, though, it is important to note the difference between an index and a fund. The purpose of an index is to measure the market and provide a performance benchmark. A fund, however, is a different matter because it invests the money of Muslims and puts it to use. Funds have the ability to embargo companies, by screening them out of their portfolios, or to engage them, by investing in those companies and then using corporate democracy to leverage their point of view.”
DeLorenzo on avoiding the use of the term Shariah in SCF-related business: “In order to be more readily understandable to regulators in Muslim minority countries, such as the U.S. and Europe, there is nothing wrong in using another term, like Ethical Advisory Board.”
DeLorenzo on the benign role of Shariah advisors: “It is of primary importance to understand Shariah supervision as consumer advocacy.” And “by assuming responsibility for the Shariah compliance…, the Shariah supervisor places himself in a position of directly representing the religious interests of the investor.” The problem with this remark, of course, is that it contradicts what Shariah authorities and even non-Muslim Shariah scholars have said repeatedly.
DeLorenzo on Islamic finance as a modernizing force in Islam: “Islamicfinance is a modernist movement in Islamic communities. It has no political agenda—it’s about a new Islamic identity for moderate Muslims and an attempt to bring Muslims out of the mosque and into the market [as] they interact and trade with people.” The problem with this remark, of course, is that it contradicts what Shariah authorities and even non-Muslim Shariah scholars have said repeatedly.
Interestingly, DeLorenzo has been assailed for his public comments about Shariah-compliant hedge funds as “a thinly-veiled advertisement piece for the ‘Islamic hedge fund’ that retains his services” by Rice University professor of Islamic finance, Mahmoud El-Gamal. El-Gamal went on to denounce DeLorenzo’s conduct as “a case of willful fraudulent advertisement to unsophisticated investors, something that would not be tolerated in the developed world.”
Sheikh Talal DeLorenzo is the author of A Compendium of Legal Opinions on the Operations of Islamic Banks, a collection of fatwas and legal rulings on Islamic finance that is considered an authoritative reference work on the subject. He also wrote the introduction to Islamic Bonds. His articles have appeared in journals and newsletters and as chapters in books, including Euromoney Magazine’s Islamic Asset Management, Islamic Retail Finance and Islamic Finance: Innovation & Growth. He is the author of entries on the terminology of Islamic Finance in the Oxford Dictionary of Islam.
DeLorenzo is also a well-known translator from Arabic, Persian, and Urdu with some twenty translated books to his credit.
Sheik Yusef Talal DeLorenzo on Shariah Finance:
“Adapting Islam to modern finance” could influence other areas of Shariah which has “essentially been in a coma for several centuries… and desperately need reviving.”