For the very few, the imagination claims, who have been paying attention to political developments within the Arab Republic of Egypt, we offer some lines in the hope of providing clarity and healing. For it is inconceivable and horrible how in the 21st century, an entire nation of some 75 million people can be denied their Inalienable Rights Endowed by the Lord of All, with complicity of a Western government which claims said Inalienable Rights as its Ethos. Let there be no mistake, there is another ‘Great Cry in all of Egypt’ and like the times of Pharoah, so many ignore the Truth. In towns like Mansoura, Daqahleya, Sharqiya, and Qalyubiya: government security forces are breaking into the private homes and businesses of candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd parties, beating, humiliating, and arresting said individuals for committing the crime of offering competition within the political framework of democractic-republicanism. Moreover, what pains me is that while the United States and Great Britain engaged in a seven-year war to engender similar type of political action within Iraq, and continues to do so within Afghanistan, it allies itself with a man and regime who I wish to named the Modern Pharoah of Egypt, in Hosni Mubarak. The United States sent so-called person of high interest and enemy combatants to Egypt via the CIA, in order that these people could be tortured, which includes beatings, electrocutions, sexual acts committed by dogs, during the Bush administration. And even our change President Obama invited Mubarak to the White House earlier this year, with full knowledge of his barring true democratic movements with the type of actions we see in Mansoura, Alexandria, and all other cities and towns within the Arab Republic of Egypt. Mubarak, the relic held over from the Nasserist era of Arab politics, beats, tortures, maims, kills, and so often radicalizes a people who are not afraid to bleed, in the words of Malcolm; and it is with shame and cowardice that I cite that so few American and British Muslims seem to care enough even to pay attention. One is content that The Most Merciful Allowed the death of Malcolm X, for after a life of struggle, calamity, and ultimately betrayal coupled with the sincere faith and hope he’d placed in Islam and in Muslims, he surely would have been heartbroken to learn, not only of the color-conscious racism that exist within the non-white Islamic world, but that in spite of being the fastest growing religion and creed throughout the globe, those whose ancestors have been Muslim for generations in historically Muslim homelands have chosen and prefer servitude to freedom. It is the moral coward who merely asks the question: why; without asking the all-vital question of what shall be done. The father of the modern Islamic Nationalism movement, Sayyid Qutb, provided us with a direction that must be traveled for the Muslim. Qutb wrote in his Milestones, Islam cannot fulfill its role except by taking concrete form in a society, rather, in a nation; for man does not listen, especially in this age, to an abstract theory which is not seen materialized in a living society…If Islam is again to play the role of the leader of mankind, then it is necessary that the Muslim community be restored to its original form.
Hamid Algar, who revised John Hardie’s translation of Qutb’s Social Justice in Islam, provides the most comprehensively accurate depiction of who Sayyid Qutb was, and what his life meant to the Islamic Nationalism movement. Algar tells us that Qutb was born in 1906, in the Upper Egyptian village of Qaha. As young man, Qutb had a passion for learning, education, and literary work. At just twenty-seven years of age, he published his first book, which was then followed by a plethora of other works, all of an artistic nature, which made him well known within Egypt’s literary scene. Qutb was mentored by a fellow Egyptian writer, Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad, who introduced Qutb to a political party that was critical of the Egyptian monarchy and its complicity in the larger context of British Neo-Colonialism. It is in 1947, according to Algar, that Qutb became the editor-in-chief of two political journals, The Arab World and New Thought. Qutb ‘lost his position with [The Arab World] as a result of editorial disagreements’ and New Thought ‘was proscribed after only six issues’. Qutb had been in the employ of Egypt’s Ministry of Education, while simultaneously engaging in political activities that were oppositional and highly critical of Egypt’s King. Algar writes:
In 1948, the ministry sent him on a study mission to the United States, doubtless with the assumption that direct acquaintance with America would incline him more favorably to official policies and to induce him to abandon the oppositional activities that were increasingly taking on an Islamic aspect. Sayyid Qutb’s impressions of America were, however, largely negative…while noting American achievements in production and social organization, [he] laid heavy emphasis on materialism, racism, and sexual permissiveness as dominant features of American life. His sojourn in the United States coincided, moreover, with the first Palestine war, and he noted with dismay the uncritical acceptance of Zionist theses by American public opinion and the ubiquity of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice.
While studying in the United States, Qutb witnessed the American public’s elation at the news of the death of Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian political party, the Muslim Brotherhood in 1949. It is also in 1949 that Qutb’s Social Justice in Islam was published in Egypt. It was his first work dedicated to the Islamic Nationalist political theory, and upon returning to Egypt in 1951, he began to collaborate with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, formerly joining them in 1953. Algar quite correctly surmises that Qutb’s entry in the Muslim Brotherhood provided the organization with its first true ideologue, but we differ with him about Qutb’s political philosophy leading to ‘a radicalization of the whole Islamic movement in Egypt’. It was not Qutb or the Muslim Brotherhood that became more radical, but more so presented a greater threat to the power structure of the Arab Republic of Egypt under Nasser. Algar writes:
[What drew Qutb to the Muslim Brotherhood] as defenders of Islam was further strengthened after his return to Egypt when a British official, James Heyworth-Dunne, told him that [the Brotherhood] represented the only barrier to the establishment of ‘Western civilization’ in the Middle East…On July 23, 1952 the Egyptian monarchy had been overthrown in a coup d’état mounted by a group of soldiers who styled themselves the Free Officers; they were formally led by General Muhammad Najib, but it soon become apparent that Jamal Abd’al-Nasser was the driving force behind the group. Although the coup was widely popular and its authors grandiloquently dubbed it a revolution despite the absence of mass participation, the Free Officers lacked any organized political base of their own. They therefore turned to the [Muslim Brotherhood]…for the effective mobilization of popular support…Before long, however, differences arose between the [Muslim Brotherhood] and the military rulers of Egypt. As a prelude to eliminating the [Brotherhood] as an autonomous force capable of challenging him, Nasser sought to first co-opt the organization by offering cabinet posts to some of its leading members…Qutb refused all such offers, and most of his colleagues in the [Brotherhood] also had the good sense to resist full-scale absorption into the emerging structures of the Nasserist state…[The most shocking policy decision for the Brotherhood] was the intention of [Nasser’s] Revolutionary Council-carried out in July, 1954-to conclude a new treaty with Britain providing for the retention of a British garrison in the Suez Canal zone and posting of British troops elsewhere in Egypt whenever Britain deemed its interests in the Middle East to be under attack
The history Algar relays is truly tragic. Nasser and the Free Officers could not have ousted the Egyptian king, who owed his crown to the policies of the British government. The king was, for all purposes, a mere vassal-lord of an Arab land within the British Empire. Had it not been for the popular support and political organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is perfectly conceivable that Egypt would still be ruled by a king. Yet, the words of James Heyworth-Dunne and the reporting of William Blum in his Killing Hope provide a great deal of circumstantial evidence that perhaps, Nasser had assistance from forces other than the Brotherhood. Blum writes that Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA have traditionally been given credit for somehow engineering the Free Officers coup in 1952, though Blum admits he is uncertain about the truth of this claim. He challenges the claims made by Miles Copeland in his The Game of Nations, which goes into Kermit Roosevelt’s involvement in the overthrow of Egypt’s King Farouk. However, we submit that if the British government has lost some confidence in Farouk’s ability to curtail the activities and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the movement began to spread to Palestine, Jordan, and Syria, it inviting the American CIA to aid and assist in a military government takeover of Egypt would be plausible. Indeed, Blum makes it quite clear that the CIA was certainly involved in an attempted coup d’état of the Syrian government and thwarted one in Jordan. When we read what Heyworth-Dunne said to Qutb upon his return to Egypt, and Kermit Roosevelt’s involvement in the overthrow of the Mossadegh regime in Iran at the behest of the British government, we can certainly deduce that the Muslim Brotherhood posed a threat to a vision of the Middle East held by individuals in London and Washington. Furthermore, this would provide some insight into the dastardly decisions made by Nasser’s Revolutionary Council who had previously succeeded in overthrowing the ‘British puppet-king’ Farouk, only to enter into an agreement that so favored British interests in Egypt after the coup. God Knows Best, but one fact remains that Nasser used the Brotherhood, and despite the lives risked and lost in securing the coup d’état, Nasser would permit the very colonial master Qutb and the Brotherhood believed they were to rid from Egypt, to control the geo-politically important Suez Canal. Moreover, since the rise of the Nasser regime, Algar tells us that ‘the exhortations of the [Brotherhood were] either to return to civilian rule based on elections or to call a constitutional referendum’.
For the Islamic Nationalist this must serve as a stark example of our true, modern tradition. It is in 1952 and 1953 that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood-the founders of the Islamic Nationalist movement-called for what they believed to be their transition government to engage in the political principles of democratic-republicanism; thereby allowing the Egyptian people to chose their destiny in their nation. As previously alluded, there are sound, circumstantial reasons as to why the Egyptian people were never afforded that opportunity, which would end in Nasser banning the Brotherhood as a party and throwing its leading members, including Qutb into prison. However, it is now we must examine the relationship between democracy, more specifically democratic-republicanism, and Islamic Political Theory and Philosophy.
First and foremost, it is necessary to have an accurate and clear definition of what democratic-republicanism is on a purely theoretical basis. The Muslim world has a tendency to confuse the theory of democratic –republicanism with the practices of the United States and the Western world in general. There is no doubt that America is my homeland, and it is my countrymen who created this new system of government in the eighteenth century. Yet, that which is equally true is there is a stark demarcation between the theory of America and the practice of America. Nonetheless, the theory and principles of democratic-republicanism are not only sound, but also were called for by the first Islamic Nationalists in our contemporary times. Millions of Muslims yearn for the restoration of the Caliphate, but unwisely look to the seventh century model for the methodology of its administration. These same countless millions ignore the most simple of prophetic traditions, when our beloved Muhammad (SAAW) told us to take what is good and leave what is bad, and verily the political theory of the United States of America is good and worthwhile in its duplication, so long as said duplication is done within an Islamic framework. Although, admittedly Qutb would disagree with this claim, another Muslim scholar, al-Sayed would concur. If Aristotle is correct, which we believe he is, that man is a political animal then in actuality democratic-republicanism is simply another method by which he organizes himself without monarchy.
The greatest political theorist, the primary author of the United States Constitution, and the nation’s fourth President wrote in the tenth Federalist Paper:
It may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole…hence it is, that such democracies have even been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions. A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking…The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic, are first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater the number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended. The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice, will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.
After deposing the British-supported King of Egypt, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood called for elections to ascertain the views of the public as to who was best able to discern the true interest of their country. Unlike the Taliban and its al-Qaeda cohorts in Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood did not trample on the rights of their sisters in Islam, compelling pseudo-Islamic practices under the threat of death by the AK-47. Nor did Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood call for the destruction of the ancient statues of Ramses and the Pyramids of Giza, or destroy the Valley of Kings. Nor did Qutb call for brothers to slaughter zoo animals for human consumption. Twelve and thirteen year old girls were not wed to men thirty and forty years their senior, nor were boys of equal age convinced that killing themselves was an acceptable tactic of a mujahid. Qutb being the chief political ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in 1952 and 1953 did not call for the establishment of a caliph, but elections within the democratic-republican process. This is a human sign for those who reflect. Sayyid Qutb has unfairly and erroneously been characterized as the ideological father of al-Qaeda and the entire Islamic extremist movement. Despite what many of my countrymen believe, a Qutb to 9/11 direct culmination is pure idiocy. It is just as preposterous as direct culmination from William F. Buckley, Jr. to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings. Qutb was the greatest voice for Islamic Nationalism in the twentieth century, who in a period of social transition in the Middle East would not remain silent. It is because he used the voice of a citizen that he is demonized, and referred to with the undeserving term of radical. Islam is both religion/creed and politics. It was Created in such a fashion by The One True and Living God, and as Allah is Eternal, so is His Law. Al-Qaeda and all extremists are violators, criminals, before His Laws. The evidence of their guilt lies, both prior and after, September 11, 2001. Yet none of their actions can be used to indict Sayyid Qutb. Indeed, it is the state initiated murder of scholars and oppression of masses that creates the climate for extremists. History has revealed that any line of culmination to al-Qaeda ironically must begin with Jamal Abd’ al-Nasser. It was after all, Nasser who disbanded and outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood from the arena of Egyptian politics. He ordered the arrest and subsequent torture of its leading members, including Qutb, his brother, and two sisters. It is with Nasser that Qutb’s life as a political prisoner begins in 1954 and ends with his execution in 1966. Imprisoned, tortured, and living under the constant fear of his death, Qutb being the writer he had been created, educated, and trained to be, used the pen with which to strike back to regime who labeled him a criminal, a radical, and a terrorist.
Social Justice in Islam was written during better, and certainly freer, days in Qutb’s life. The work is of vital importance to the Islamic Nationalist for it portrays our mission and ultimate goal within the modern, contemporary context of our lives. While it does provide some areas of debate, Qutb was the first to challenge us to think and to govern for ourselves, using our Deen wa Dawalt as The Criterion, because we are Muslims. He reminds us of Allah’s Message, of which, we have been entrusted. He reminds us of we are. Qutb writes:
Such was the birth of Islam and such its task; so it was not liable to be isolated in human idealism far removed from practical worldly life; nor was it compelled to narrow the circle of its action out of fear of an empire or a monarch. For the center of its being and the field of its action is human life in its entirety, spiritual and material, religious and worldly. Such a religion cannot continue to exist in isolation from society, nor can its adherents be true Muslims unless they practice their faith in their social, legal, and economic relationships. And a society cannot be Islamic if it expels the civil and religious Laws of Islam from its codes and customs, so that nothing of Islam is left except rites and ceremonials.
When al-Farabi writes of Plato and Aristotle in Attainment of Happiness inquiring as to the certainty of the noble, virtuous, beautiful life that is derived from the human, voluntary science-the science specific to mankind alone- it is Qutb that answers with one word: Islam. Furthermore, it is Islam that is within his natural, fitra, possession. Simply stated: man knows that God, indeed, Exist. Qutb was a political theoretician who rejected all of al-Farabi’s notions and respect for the philosophy of the Greeks. Yet nonetheless, Qutb answer is simple, direct, and true for the Muslim who seeks to build a society and practice Islam beyond the Five Pillars. Qutb, again adds to the argument of the democratic-republican necessity of modern Islamic Nationalism, and unwittingly makes al-Farabi, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle relevant for us. He states:
Furthermore, in Islam, there is no priesthood, and no intermediary between the creature and The Creator; but every Muslim from the ends of earth or in the paths of the sea has the ability of himself to approach his Lord without priest or minister. Nor again can the Muslim administrator derive his authority from any papacy, or from Heaven; but he derives it solely from the Muslim community. Similarly, he derives his principles of administration from the religious law, which is universal in its understanding and application and before which all men come everywhere as equals. So, the man of religion has no right to oppress Muslims; nor has the administrator any power other than that of implementing the law, which derives its authority from the faith.
The government of the Ummah derives its authority from the Muslim People, but unlike the American model of a democratic-republic, Allah is The Sovereign. There exist Laws Commanded by Allah (SWT) and His messenger (SAAW) that cannot be altered, negotiated, or ignored. It is from These Holy, Sacred Laws that individual human beings, both Muslims and non-Muslims derive their Inalienable and Islamic Political Rights. In his all-important text, Western Muslims and The Future of Islam, Tariq Ramadan has enumerated a list of seven of these rights, to which we have added another eight, which are essential to a viable, Islamic state and society. We will examine each of these rights at a later point, but highlight them now to juxtapose the actions and societal norms of the nation of Muslims who will received our highest criticism. It is this house that currently engages in the basest, degeneration within our Ummah. We submit their laws have degenerated a vast number of our brothers and sisters to an animalistic level, based on the denial of The Fifteen Rights Granted by The One True and Living God. However so there is no confusion, this house is not unique in the treatment of its citizens; yet for who these people are, the language they speak, and the sites inside of their borders makes them deserving of our highest criticism.
Ramadan identifies these seven rights that must be present within an Islamic State, to which we add the remaining: (1) The right to life and the minimum necessary to sustain it; (2) The right to family; (3) The right to housing; (4) The right to education; (5) The right to work; (6) The right to justice; (7) The right to solidarity; (8) The right to free speech; (9) The right to free press and media; (10) The right to vote; (11) The right of the citizen to petition and criticize his government, without fear of retaliation or reprisal; (12) The right to privacy; (13) The right to individual ownership of property; (14) The right of a woman to enjoy her rights as Granted and Derived from The One True and Living God; (15) In accordance with The Laws of The Holy Qur’an and Sunna of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), The right of the free exercise of one’s conscience in religion and creed.
The Fifteen Rights of the Citizen of an Islamic Democratic-Republic represent the practical application of Islamic Theories of social justice. They are, paraphrasing the prophet (SAAW), the middle of the road between two bipolar extremes of American Liberalism/Laissez-Faire Capitalism and the literalism/violent determinism of the ultra-right wing Wahhabi/Salafi/Sahwah movement that has led countless millions of our brothers and sisters to their doom in this world and in the Next. Moreover, all Muslims throughout the Ummah who live under the tyranny and oppression of dictators and hereditary monarchs beseech their Guardian Lord for these Fifteen Rights and Liberty; for it is Liberty that is derived from Allah (SWT). In all places, on all continents, the Muslim is compelled to pay homage, and often to bow both literally and figuratively, to his fellow man. In Riyadh, in Amman, Casablanca, Kuwait City, and Muscat: his life, his ability to sustain it, and his dignity is all due to the whims, fancies, religious temperament of a fellow Muslim and that Muslim’s respective family. Whether al-Saud or al-Sabah, he must pay homage or risk political persecution, imprisonment, and ruin. He does not belong to himself, but to the family that controls his, and his nation’s, destiny. In Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli, Tehran, Damascus, and Islamabad, he must never speak of his oppression, do that which is expected of him, and be thankful for that which he has been given, or risk imprisonment, torture of himself and that of his family, or death. While several Muslim governments receive wide-ranging support from the West, in particular the United States and Great Britain, the deprivation of the Muslims’ their Inalienable Rights, derived from their Creator, The Lord of The Worlds, is a heinous sin and disease of the Ummah itself. No Muslim can lay blame on the West for the denial of his Fifteen Rights, for it is his governments sin, his people’s disease, and ultimately only his efforts that can, indeed, must discover the appropriate remedy.
There is a Great Cry in Egypt, and it shames me that falls on deaf ears. Ya Rab!