The Islamic Awakening, the Brotherhood, and the Arab Spring
The “Islamic awakening” had been experiencing a state of retreat, as expressed by my friend Dr. Ziyad al-Darees in his article published in the London-based “Al-Hayat” newspaper last Wednesday. However the “Islamic awakening” woke up once more with the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions. The seeds of these revolutions were sowed by the Arab public discontent over despotism and dictatorship; however the fruit of these revolutions were and continue to be reaped by Islamist trends. I agree with Dr. Ziyad that the book “Awakening Islam: The politics of religious dissent in contemporary Saudi Arabia” by French researcher Stephane Lacriox, will provoke further controversy and debate. I believe this book will remind us of the debate provoked by the unique book “Saudi Arabia: The biography of a state and society” by renowned Saudi writer Abdul-Aziz al-Khedr.
Is the Islamic awakening the legitimate child of the Muslim Brotherhood?
This appears to be the basis upon which the French researcher builds his book. In my opinion, basing your book on this hypothesis represents a dreadful mistake which will inevitably lead to wrong conclusions. When looking at the broader context, the Islamic awakening is a call for a return to the practice of Islam. This call has spread widely across the Arab and Islamic world in response to the westernization brought about by colonialism, which was later adopted by consecutive despotic governments in a number of Arab and Muslim states. The Islamic awakening is therefore an immense human effort undertaken by a variety of Islamist factions, from governments to clerics to individuals to liberation movements. In brief, the Islamic awakening, just like the Arab Spring revolutions, is the result of joint collaboration on a wide-scale; therefore nobody can claim a monopoly on this.
In my assessment, we would be distorting the facts if we considered this huge Islamic awakening that is taking place in the world today to be something limited to the narrow confines of partisan politics. This Islamic awakening cannot be attributed to any specific political party or faction; not the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists or anybody else. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that this Islamic awakening – which is wide awake today – prevailed in the Indian subcontinent and was adopted by such figures as Abul Ala Maududi and Muhammad Iqbal and others; however the Muslim Brotherhood does not have any presence in that region, even if these figures and the Brotherhood share some similar views and ideas. This also applies to the Islamic awakening that is prevailing in a number of other Islamic countries around the world.
Therefore, we could say that the Islamic awakening is a “cocktail” combining a number of old Islamic reformative schools of thought with new schools of thought, liberation movements and government efforts. This is something that can be seen in the calls made by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahab, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Mohamed Abduh, Rashid Rida, Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, Hassan al-Banna, Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani, Abd al-Aziz ibn Abdullah ibn Baz and others. The above list has been ordered according to the date of the clerics’ death, not the extent of their influence. In addition to this list, we have the Senussi movement, the Algerian Jurist Society, the Sudanese al-Mahdi movement, the jihadist movements as well as the peaceful Islamist movements, whether we are talking about the Muslim Brotherhood, the Tablighi Jamaat, and official and public Islamist groups and movements across the Islamic word. These are all components within the Islamic awakening “recipe”. Indeed the figures and organizations named above are but a limited example of this. However since the Islamic awakening is a major human effort it has undergone a number of fractures and divisions resulting in a number of hard-line ideologies. We might say that these hard-line ideologies harm our Islamic awakening, but only if we believe that the Kharijites [a term embracing various Muslims who initially supported the authority of the fourth caliph Ali Ibn Abi Talib, only to later reject him] harmed the companions of the prophet, whose era witnessed the spread of their views. As God Almighty said, “nor does any bearer of burden bear the burden of another.” [Surat al-Anaam; Verse 164]
The danger of limiting this Islamic awakening to Islamist political trends is that this represents a form of opposing or resisting the move towards religion that is currently prevailing in the Arab and Islamic world, which itself is a response and rejection of moral and intellectual westernization. Let us take, for example, Islamic Sharia law and the prohibition of riba [usury]; which is something that no single Islamist jurist can deny. The westernized Arabs cannot reject this religious ordinance directly otherwise they would be viewed as opponents of Islam, therefore they claim that this prohibition against riba is an outcome of the Islamic awakening and Islamism, or they attribute this to the narrow-minded Talabani school of thought, and this is a trick that has worked with many people. In short, we need to wake up to a genuine view about the Islamic awakening!