At 86 years old, ghost-like, hard of hearing and dependent on eye drops to blink, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi is an unlikely revolutionary. But his physical frailty belies his astonishing influence. As Islamist parties vie for political power in the wake of the Arab Spring, the elderly sheik plays a pivotal role as their unofficial spiritual guide.
In the twilight of his life, the fundamentalist movement Sheik Qaradawi nurtured in the shadows is at its zenith. Many of the secular Arab leaders he denounced are exiled, jailed or dead. Meanwhile, his old comrades in the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots are poised to seize political power and turn to him for advice, which he also doles out for the masses from a televised pulpit – a weekly show broadcast on Al Jazeera where he promotes his vision of how Islam can co-exist with democracy.
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