- November 30, 2006
Aboul-Fotouh: Reform According To Hassan Al Banna
You are predestined, Muslim Brothers, to be shouldered with this heavy legacy, and that Allah prepares you for raising high His word, spreading His Sharia and reestablishing His state :” Verily Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty”, (Al-Hajj, from verse 40).
These words were said by martyr Imam, Hassan Al-Banna, to the Muslim Brotherhood members in particular and to the nation in general, during a conference during which he was clarifying the truth of the call of the Muslim Brotherhood. Anyone who reads the messages and lectures of Al Banna will find that most of them revolve around this meaning that points to the nation”s reality with its components (the heavy legacy) as he called it, while stressing on the reformist role for which Allah prepared them, giving them a wide hope and a complete certainty that Allah will back them.
Al-Banna- may Allah be pleased him- based his concept for reform on his deep belief in the comprehensiveness of Islam in tackling all universal topics; the comprehensive Islam that regulates everything regarding human affairs. It is the creed through which the Muslims” view towards the universe and their position in this universe are determined.
It is the sharia through which the Muslims” view towards society, and their position in this society as well as the scale of right and duty are determined.
It is a conduct that determine the Muslim”s view towards other individuals and groups and how to deal with them, a full concept of reform in terms of social, political, economic, intellectual and educational dimensions; his call was reformist in the full comprehensive meaning of the word.
However, while speaking about the reformist dimension according to Imam Al Banna, it is very important to talk about two ingenious trends that Al Banna was very interested in; they are actually a clear qualitative contribution of the Martyred Imam when he succeeded, in the field of reform, sheikh Rasheed Reda who succeeded, in turn, sheikh imam Muhammad Abdou and his professor Gamaluddin Al Afghani .
The first trend: is the succinct and accurate wording of the writings and literature of the Da’wa (call); they are read by intellectuals who can find-in their content-ideas full of vivid meanings, and ordinary laymen read them to have their hearts filled with affection and their minds filled with knowledge.
The second trend: is targeting the good-natured simple people to revive their faith and to correct their understanding in order to participate with clerics and intellectuals in bearing the burden of the heavy legacy towards reform and improvement; Allah helped him have a great contribution regarding this, something whose results are still enjoyed by the Islamic movement all over the Islamic nation.
Reform in the Religious Field
It is taken for granted, while understanding and implementing Imam Al-Banna’s reformist notion that he propounded and for which he spent his life stirring the nation, that he was so concerned with avoiding juristic and doctrinal disagreements and targeting the core and essence of religion in order to unify hearts and powers for action and production; He was always quoting the saying of Zaid- may Allah be pleased with him- “it is enough for people to unite on what makes the Muslim a Muslim”. He considered that the heaviest disaster that afflicted the Islamic world was disagreement and schism, while accepting the fact of disagreement as a necessity of the human existence and as a natural result of the differences of their mindsets, environments and education.
Thus, a consensus on one single matter in one of the branches of religion is unattainable; this proves the greatness of religion and its ability to conform with reality throughout ages; the culture of (giving full excuses) to those differing in some minor matters was the culture that dominated Al Banna”s method during his leadership of the movement among people and his students and followers were educated on it; he was always advising the Muslim Brothers to be the most tolerant people with those differing with them, assuming that every call has its right and wrong, and to use affection and love in their treatment to avoid fanaticism and schism. At the same time, he was keen to make the Muslim Brothers have their upbringing and their creed which their hearts accept, with which their souls are content, about which they are convinced without any doubt: He wrote for the Muslim Brothers and all the nation the message of Al-“Aqaa”id (Islamic Creed) in which he points out “that Islam does not restrict ideas or imprison the mind, but rather guides it to work within its proper limits. It informs human beings of how little they know and calls on them to increase their knowledge. Allah (SWT) says: ‘Of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!).’ (Surat-al-Israa’ (17), ayah 85) And He also says:‘…but say “O my Lord! advance me in knowledge.”’ (Surat-Taha (20), ayah 114), and he explained the main sections of the Islamic creed: (Ilaahiyaat (Theology), Nubuaat (Prophethood, Rawhaniyaat (The Soul), and Sam’iyaat (Eschatology)( those related to the grave, resurrection and reckoning .
He did not neglect the Western ideas; he supported his opinion through quoting Descartes, Newton and Herbert Spencer and others .. With a deep understanding of the bases on which the Western civilization was founded.
He was- may Allah be pleased with him- keen to, in his call to people and his upbringing to his students- make them always understand their role and mission in life; he was pressing for understanding these verses: “O ye who believe! Bow down and prostrate yourselves, and worship your Lord, and do good, that haply ye may prosper. And strive for Allah with the endeavour which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid upon you in religion any hardship; the faith of your father Abraham (is yours). He hath named you Muslims of old time and in this (Scripture), that the messenger may be a witness against you, and that ye may be witnesses against mankind. So establish worship, pay the poor-due, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protecting friend. A blessed Patron and a blessed Helper!”, (Al-Hajj, pilgrimage).
This is because the one may- amid the daily activities of his life- forget his duties and what he should know and do so that he doesn”t get confused or lost; and that (the ideal example) remains vivid inside the true Muslim till his character adopts the spiritual beauty and gives his soul its predestined share of human perfection; thus, remembrance of Allah, prayers, praising Allah, are key pillars in educating the member inside the group.
He clarified and defined the vast difference between the Muslims and the West in the issue of the so called (clergy) in the West; since there is nothing called (cleric) in Islam, because all Muslims, teens and elderly people, are (clerics); this is the very point that made the European West keep away from religion and fight it, leading to excluding religion as a whole from their life; some linked between this stance towards religion and the renaissance that prevailed in Europe since the 16th century, and they wanted to establish this understanding in our nations and homelands, although the contrary is right: that the nation kept away from its religion led to its backwardness and defeat .
Al- Banna was always warning of the phenomenon of extremism, citing the Hadith of the messenger of Allah – peace be upon him: “This religion is strong [solid]; so penetrate [apply yourself to] it gently, for the one cut off [from it?] has not traversed the land nor left behind a rear part” while not forgetting the one”s share of worldly matters without extravagance or extremism; despite the clear Sufi dimension in the personal and moral composition of Al Banna and his method of upbringing his students on meanings of refining the soul and good manners, he was keen not to describe the Muslim Brothers as (Dervishes group) who are concerned only with prayers, fasting, remembrance and praise to Allah.
This is because he was certain that Islam is a complete system that prevails on all aspects of life and organizes worldly matters and organizes the hereafter .
He rejected, in speech and deed, religious racism and sectarian divisions; He brought up the Muslim Brothers around him on good manners with all people; their fellow citizens top these people; it is well-known that Copts- as fellow citizens- were members in the politburo of the group because they have the right to lay down the policies and means with which everything is carried out: Mr. Wahib Dos and Mr. Youssef Akhnoukh (Copts) were key members with other brothers in this office. Imam Al Banna wanted to deny branding the Copts, the fellow citizens, as minority, and deny branding the Muslim Brotherhood as sectarian, something that Egypt”s Copts testify as true throughout eighty years of social and political presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egypt”s early and late 20th Century.
He considered Al-Azhar Al Sharif as the haven of Islam and that the call of reform that the Muslim Brothers call for is the call and purpose of Al-Azhar; the presence of Al-Azhar”s scholars, teachers, preachers and young men in the lines of the MB had a great effect on spreading, supporting and calling for it everywhere.
Reform in the Social Field
The social reform had the lion”s share in the interest of Martyr Imam Hassan Al- Banna; he defined clearly that the Muslim Brotherhood”s target is the Muslim individual in his thinking, manners, feelings, action and conduct, the individual who distinguishes between beauty and ugliness and knows what is right and wrong, who has strong will and is healthy; then there is also the Muslim family and the Muslim society; he said that improvement in its social field needs four factors: first: will, second: faithfulness, third: sacrifice; fourth: knowing the principles; these are the bases on which is founded the spiritual power that forms societies and renews life; the steps of the social reform of the Muslim Brothers were based on this method; they focused on the spiritual and moral faculties of the society; actually, this is the method of the great religion of Islam, and these are the lessons taken from history.
(By morality nations live; once devoid of it; no more they exist?) strong souls, fluttering hearts, feelings and ambitious people lean on ideals and sublime targets .
We read these ingenious words to have comprehensive understanding of the social reform in his thought and mind:” before we talk to people in this call about prayers, fasting, rule, worships, systems and dealings, we should talk to them first about the alive heart, the alive soul, and the deep belief in these three pillars: the belief in the greatness of message – boasting of embracing it- hoping that Allah support it) citing what Allah the Exalted the Majestic say in the Quran:” Therefor (O Muhammad) put thy trust in Allah, for thou (standest) on the plain Truth”; ( ants, verse 79).
An He say: “Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you”; al-Baqara the cow; and Allah say : To help believers is ever incumbent upon Us.; (Al-Rum, the Romans).
This side of revival and improvement was used by Imam Al Banna to realize the required development; the psychological motives and spiritual inspirations are, in fact, the core and foundation of the progress of the societies: he called it ( the propulsive soul and inner strength) with wich the real wakefulness materializes in the souls and feelings citing what Allah the Exalted the Majestic say: “Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts”; (Al-Ra”d-the thunder) .
The martyr Imam speaks here out of a deep understanding of the lessons of history in the emergence and collapse of civilizations, confirming that the Muslim Brotherhood follow, with their reformist call, the traces of the first call, trying to make their call a real reflection of it .
Regarding the status of women in the society, the martyr Imam considered that women must be improved, refined and preserved, because this is the most important social issue; the woman is half the society and is the one that raises and cares for the other half; in addition to a strong call for giving women a full education, he saw that educational methods of humanities like pedagogies, psychology and economy and the like, should be allocated to them to complete the components of he great role in life which is the educating motherhood, not the instinctive motherhood. This makes us realize the commitment to wisdom in the issue of women; he spoke about decency, rejecting all forms of immorality, leaving the problem of the Islamic dress open to all social and environmental concepts and options.
The idea of (public service institutions) was present in Al Banna”s social reform dimension, including building mosques, establishing and overseeing schools, establishing and directing clubs and mending rifts among people and (mediating between the negligent rich and the poor) and building hospitals and medical dispensaries; it was all based on a good organization and voluntary efforts and depending on experienced and efficient people; the Muslim Brotherhood”s local branch (Shu”ba) was similar to a (utopia) as it included a mosque, playground, library, lecture and training hall, a corner for entertainment and chat where the residents of the district, village or hamlet meet to get acquainted, study and love each other; these feelings and powers were immediately spread all over the society to revive ( the new soul) which he boded the nation.
There was a great emphasis on the Sharia”s ability to develop and progress according to necessities of every age with a wide flexibility through understanding its purposes, knowing the general rules and their definitive texts and then exercising diligence and giving juristic judgements in a way that copes with the variables and new developments of every age, citing What Allah the Exalted the Majestic say: ” Allah would not place a burden on you”; (Al-Maidah, food, verse 6) and Allah say:” Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you”; (Al-Baqarah, the cow, verse 185) and an emphasis on gradation and leniency in changing laws and legislations that contradict with the sharia principles and purposes .