• September 15, 2006
  • 26 minutes read

An interview with Ayman Al Zawahri’s uncle

An interview with Ayman Al Zawahri’s uncle

State Security’s successive actions implicitly compelled him to carry the weapon and escape outside; many facts appear about the main causes concerning the emergence of Jihadi current- with which we definitely disagree- in the contemporary Islamic movement. All indications proved that Arab governments and their suppressive policies are the real reasons. But we have to know that the western support to these regimes is a principal motive for hatred and violence against the west.
Ikhwanweb publishes this important interview with eyewitness.

Mahfouz Azzam, is a famous name which gain distinguished ground in the public works arena in Egypt, he has a bright and extended history in patriotic work goes back to before July 1952 revolution.
He was a member of the National Democratic Party (NDP) .
As for his family, he is the son of the Egyptian deep-rooted al-`Azamiya family, and after it joined another famous family called Al Zawahiri family; the family of Ayman Al Zawahiri – one of the most famous names in the world.

M. A. trusted us and decided to unveil his secrets to addustour newspaper. Many reporters in different mass media are keen on having an interview with him, so he speaks accurately due to Zawahri’s famous and important name, which became an informational commodity, which is quite important for many reporters, this is the interview text:

– describe the secret atmospheres where Ayman al Zawahiri flourished?

First, I want to say that I’m older than him by more than thirty years; he was born in 1952 and I have been a lawyer since 1949, and I was living in Helwan, whereas he was in Esma’ilia, moved to Misr al Jadida, and then al-Ma’adi and despite the difference and age, I was his mother’s uncle.

– Ayman al Zawahiri paternal grand father was the Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, his maternal grand father- Abdul- Wahhab Azzam, the Arts faculty Dean and the chief of Cairo University, then the Egyptian Ambassador to Pakistan, then Saudi Arabia and the Yemen, in addition, he graduated from Legal Judiciary, and received the Doctorate of state from London in the field of Oriental Studies. When he returned to the university, he established the Oriental Studies Department and gradually became a chief of department then a dean and a chancellor. He was chosen as an ambassador to Pakistan because of his good relations with the Indian scholars and thinkers, and because he spoke Urdu, Persian, turkey and other languages. He was one of the masters of his generation who led the field of thought and literature. His friends were Sheikh Abdul Wahhab Khallaf, Muhammad Abu Zahra and Ali al Khafeef; this is the environment which influenced the mind and style of Dr. al Zawahiri.

– Is there a long age between Dr Ayman and Dr. Abdul Wahhab, or do you think that Dr. Ayman was influenced by what is reported to him?

Dr. Abdul Wahab and his generation resisted the English occupation and participated in the 1919’s revolution. This generation fought to achieve the independence and freedom by all ways; it also faced the despotism. Dr Ayman was influenced by his grand father who used to play with him. Dr. Ayman possessed an extraordinary talent and ability in reading and all fields of knowledge. He joined the military secondary school at al Ma’adi after the national al Ma’adi School, where some of the teachers learned at foreign institutions, but Ayman surpassed his teachers in the English language.
An editor from akher Sa’a newspaper traced the matter, went to al Ma’adi School and managed to meet the teachers of Dr. Ayman and interviewed them, and published the interview in the newspaper. The second thing was that the students during this young age were interested in violent sports, like boxing, but Ayman did not practice it and when students differed, they used to go for him to settle the matter.

– Does he have a charisma?

Yes, he is charismatic, in addition to modesty, simplicity, and he never sought fame or leadership. He was in the faculty of medicine with Abdul Mon’em Abul- fotouh and others who nominated them selves, but did not join though he was not far from it.

– Before being six year, he was joined a Jihadi cell. How did that happen, though his deep-rooted family?

First, his home was near Hussein Sidqi mosque at al Ma’adi, and there were no Jihadi groups at this period, but Salafis, Sufis and various trends. Ayman did not incline to any one, but he was not only interested in reading and understanding, but also he was a poet and author; his poems were very good, and he used to send his poems to his mother while being in prison or abroad.

– Who was the first one to implant the Jihadi thought in his mind?

We can not say that any one compelled him to this trend, he had his friends, and more importantly is to consider the sufferings of our country during the past time from military defeat and despotism; as well as he was recruited as a reserve officer, and within the army he saw things that- in his opinion- had to be changed.

– Did al Zawahiri was influenced by Sayed Qutub or did he differ with his ideas?

Indeed, he was influenced by different writers, but not by a specific one.

– At that time, the Jihadi ideas were new and the first to tackle with was Sayed Qutub?

Other factors acted upon him like the slaughtering of Islamic leaders for the sake of despotism, military judge and fascism under the name of the freedom and democracy. In addition to other events that affected any open and clear- minded to think in the rescue or reform.
Did Dr. Muhammad Rab’ee al Zawahiri have a religious trend?
He was a professor at Medicine faculty in Cairo University. He was very simple, modest and had no any political trend.

– Was Dr. Ayman’s father democratic and to what extent, and did he reject his Jihadi thought?

Ayman was not the only son and Dr. Rabe’, moreover he did not notice in his character what needed rectifying. I remember Dr. Rabe’ saying to Ayman’s teacher one day “one day, you will be proud of teaching Ayman al Zawahri.”
Dr. Ayman was not involved in any activity until 1984, and he was sentenced for 3 years because of what was said that he possessed weapon without license?
Ayman was not involved and was a genius sergeant like his all family. When Dr. Muhammad al Zawahri- the famous dermatology professor-died, his obituary included 50 among his family; all of them were doctors, so they expected every to join faculty of Medicine. In 1980, Dr. Ayman was a successful sergeant and opened a clinic at al Maadi, and then the Islamic Medical Association urged him to travel to Bisharo because the Red Crescent hospital of Kuwait in Bisharo was in a need for sergeant. He traveled and stayed 3 months, then returned, but he traveled again because they asked him to join again. In this period, he was a famous person close to all Afghani Jihad groups and all leaders contacted with him like Rabbani, Hikmatyar, Yunus Khalis, Sayaaf and all who involved in Afghani Jihad, they all knew him because there was nothing in Bisharo except hospitals, so the relation was excellent.
In 21 October, after the Menassa (the place of assassinating late President Sadat) event, he was in a car driven by his brother, in his way to the air port, after visiting his aunt he found State Security surrounded him and was arrested. He was able to travel before 21 October if he committed a crime, but he had a relation with `Essam al Qamari and the State Security had a problem with capturing him, so when they wanted to captured him waited until `Essam speaks in telephone. They broke into Ayman’s house and destroyed walls in order to find any clues, and when he said to them in the telephone:” tell Ayman we will meet after Salat al Maghreb (sunset prayer) in the mosque near Ket-Kat; they knew him as Essam al Qamri. If it were not for that call, all security forces will not catch him because `Essam was a professional fighter, and he traveled to Russia.
After jailing him, they did the great Jihad issue and judged in the case of al Sadaat assassins. The second issue was the Jihad organization; they gathered 304 persons in Nasr city within the international exhibitions and fairs grounds, and made very huge docks, then divided them into groups, one of Karam Zouhdi (Upper Egypt), Omar Abdurrahman (Delta) because he was an inhabitant in al-Fayom, Abood and Tariq (al Harm), Kamal Habeeb (Embaba), al Ma’adi and south Cairo related to Ayman for he was the prominent oneand this group consisted of 45 persons. Comical things took place, like the accusation of Ayman’s brother, who was then working in Saudi Arabia- that he financed them, also another one close to be his grand father and worked as an ambassador also accused him of financing them, though he did not enter Egypt since 6 or 7 years. The court judged that there was no organization, that was nonsense and they involved names of important characters and vindicated them in absentia.

Ayman left the prison in 1984, and did not commit any violence, do you think that the prison, in addition to his material and physical suffering were the causes that forced him to go outside and become extremist?

I will you a story, after Menassa event, the accident of Asuit and the attack on Security department, Ayman went to Abboud al Zumor and said to him: “what did you do? For whom what you did that? It is not for the sake of anyone”. Torture in prison escalated to the extant that made one called Abdul- Aziz al Jamal say to Ayman “say any thing”, Ayman replied” Do you want me to confess to something I did not do to be executed”; the other answered ” the execution is more merciful than what we suffer”! Imagine that one may confess to crime he did not commit to escape from torture. As for the judgment of Security State Court against Dr. Ayman; he said that it did not occur during the middle ages. After his release, he opened his clinic and lodged a communiqués to doctors’ syndicate and the prosecution against doctors who tortured the prisoners, but they did not respond. He traveled to Saudi Arabia then Bisharo. When the Soviet Union (SU) was defeated, he joined Mujahdeen. After the end of their role, Saudi Arabia and others were pressured not to give them passports because these groups managed to resist SU and were able to face any other force. They also did not find resorts, then America exerted pressure on Pakistan to dismiss them and they found no places except Yemen, Syria and the Sudan. Syria was not suitable for them due to its relation with SU. In the Yemen they felt with strong pressures; then they resorted to the Sudan. In the Sudan, Bin Laden invested 300 million dollars but the Sudan surrendered to the external pressures and dismissed them, so they had to turn to Taliban.

– Do you think that the crises increased because of the Arab regimes, including Egypt, did not give them the permission of return?

Yes. Egypt did not permit them, though being Islamist patriotic. But the predominant principle was “To support the oppressed people is a crime requires being killed or exiled” as Saudi Arabia previously declared.

– What do say about Ayman’s attitude towards MB group, he did not join them, unlike the leaders of Islamic Group and Jihad, his book titled (the sharp siege) in which he criticized them is  clear evidence?

In 1970s, MB suffering ended after two ruthless experiments; the massacre of both 54 and of 65, when Sayed Qutub was executed. At this time, MB leaders published essays regarding their situations, but Ayman did not prefer their attitude. Personally, I do not blame them, because they were just rescued from Abdul- Nasser severe trial, he boasted that he imprisoned 30,000 of MB in 3 hours.
After the killing of Kamal al Sananeeri in the prison – he was killed by dreadful way- they claimed that he committed suicide and other nonsense like that, I said we should resort to the court, they replied: we did not resort to such tribunals? The same took place after the Turah  carnage;  in military jail  when Sayed Qutob’s brother was killed, I said to them: we are like who is beaten on head and keeps silent; I think it was a wrong attitude but MB’s attitude did not change. I will give you an example, every time some of them were being arrested and then they said we seek the reward of it from Allah, but Dr. Ayman did not accept this principle.

– Now, we find that MB’s attitude has changed; they trust in the judiciary?

In the past, there were military courts and not the civil ones.

– Do you think that Dr. Ayman was influenced by Omayma Abuul Wahab Azzam, one of the most important Egyptian figures in the field of literature before the revolution?

She was a simple learned woman and never wore the Neqab (to be completely veiled), she only wears Hejab (headscarf), and inhabits in al Ma’adi co- exists with the others and not isolated.
– He is the descendant of aristocratic family; does this refute the claims that attributed the emergence of Islamic armed groups to social and economic causes?

Yes, of course, Ayman was genius sergeant and had a clinic at al Ma’adi and another at Helwan and I think if he stayed, he would be a millionaire.  Because he believed in an idea and went out for it, and about to die for it, i. e. his travel to treat the wounded and wasn’t interested in gathering money. I will tell you something, Ahmad Nabil al Hilali was leftist and his father was a minister, he possessed a villa at al Ma’adi but neither stayed in, nor entered. Do you think that anyone has money can reject it for an idea?! I think he was influenced by the thought, religion, values and manners. Communists and secularists say that the Islamic groups emerged because social and economic conditions. The military system empowered them in Egypt and enabled them to use media, culture and universities, since 1952 to use them as weapon against the Islamic trend.

– If Ayman and his companions adopted the MB’s idea, namely the peaceful organized work, would they add- from your view- to the peaceful Islamic movement?

I want to say that the regime dominated since 1952 by suppression, opportunism and exploitation, if MB successes, all this will fade away, but the regime will not allow them go on whether they became members of parliament or not.

– I think you have a pessimistic view concerning the future?
To what extent we will suffer? And if we said that, they say you will be considered a terrorist.

There were dictatorial countries and because of peaceful opposition, it managed to be free and becomes democratic.
These are backed by the Christian world, but when it comes to the Muslims do you think that the West will allow any Islamic government to stand?
America keeps silent concerning Honsi Mubark because he always repeats that the Islamists will immediately come, if he goes, but the west does not want the Islamists; what happens towards Hamas government is very clear, although it came on a democratic basis, America besieges Palestine for it is Islamic government.

– Islamic Jihadi groups took their famous initiative concerning violence settle and issued the concepts correction series, which included the rejection of violence based on the legal evidences, do you think that Ayman do the same one day?
This series took place in prison and under pressure; is it not honoring?!

Some researches considered this initiative stemmed form personal satisfaction and not mere ideas put for going outside the prison.
They issued the legal opinion saying that there is no rule for the blind or prisoner? And who says that the Islamic Shari’a says No for facing the unjust regime? We must face the government if it strays.
Other organizations, like MB, say we should take into consideration the current circumstances and this may be political principle and not legal or ideological?
Personally, I inclined to MB and had a good relation with al Banna, I went to his house at al- Darb al Ahmar when I was a member of NDP and I had Islamic orientation, our slogan at the university was “the justice is that of Islam, the equality of Qur’an”. The alliance between MB and NDP instigated by al- Banna had a great effect in the Islamic orientation of the party. The MB’s Department of Contact with the World including Saleh Abu Raqeeq, Hassan Eshmawi, Abdul Hafeez al- Saifi; I had a good relation with them all. In 1953, Abdul Hafeez al Saifi- the rapporteur- came to me and asked to write an international brief regarding the dispute between Eritrea and Abyssinia after proposing the situation to the UN, which decided the formation of confederal union. Mamdouh Attiya said to me “what did you write, is there some thing called our God in the age of Stalin”; before fifteen days, Stalin died. About 18 hour before the assassination of Hassan al- Banna, I met him with Salem Azzam at his office, and he had a proposal for unifying NDP and MB; then the group will be concerned with the religious guidance and direction, whereas NDP will be concerned with politics. Sayed Qutub taught me the Arabic language subject in the primary third year and also taught me oratory and presented me a book. The situation continued until I worked as a lawyer and his authorization is still with me up to now.             
  When al-Ikhwan magazine was confiscated by the revolution council, we claimed a lawsuit, after the judgment, Jamal Abdul- Nasser met Sayed Qutub and said to him “Will you really be the editor in- chief of the magazine?” Sayed Qutub replied “Then I will be honored.” The magazine was reissued with Sayed Qutub as an editor in- chief, the editors were Muhammad Qutub, Muhammad al-Mu’alem, Salem Abdullah and I. Revolution Command Council decided to re- confiscate it in a way couldn’t be appealed! I have intimate relations with MB for a long time to the extent that all who live in south Cairo regard me as member of MB, but I am not, only excellent relations.

– you are the loved uncle of Ayman al- Zawahri, this may be due to defending him in the great case of Jihad, and mitigated the judgment for him and freed his brother?

Yes, I have an intimate relation with Ayman, and I duly proud of him, because he is the true example of the pious youth who believe in his principles and sacrifice oneself for them.

– Do you have a message to send him whenever you watch him on TV?

I always pray Allah to help him achieve his targets… because I am a Muslim, and his targets are Islamic?

– Do you love him?

Why not? He is a good example of a youth who give up the world for the sake of the hereafter; the world is in his hand not heart.

The articles and statements that are undersigned by the Muslim Brotherhood(MB) are only the ones that express the official opinion of the group.
Those which are not only express the views of their authors

Comment by Dr. Mohamed Habib, Deputy Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood

Many facts explaining the reasoning behind the emergence of violence groups in Arab and Muslim world come to light day after day. All indications show the main responsibility of dictatorial Arab government for this issue.

When revealing these phenomena, we do not justify the crimes of such groups with their different ideologies including al-Qaeda, Salafiyah Jihadiyah and takfeer groups. Rather, we mention such studies to emphasize the following important points:


1- The phenomenon of violence groups represented in al-Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden, Salafiyah Jihadiyah and takfeer groups is accidental in the Islamic history; the main reason behind the emergence of such groups lies in suppression practiced by dictatorial governments backed by some western powers that have imperialist interest in this region.

2- Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is totally different from such groups in terms of its ideologies and dynamic methodology, this difference amounts to an ideological separation.

3- MB always emphasizes in its formal papers and documents on adopting peaceful reformist approach and respecting the values of democracy, human rights, and the right of all nations for self determination and resisting occupation.

4-MB differentiates between the legitimate resistance and rejected terrorism.
Legitimate resistance and the right to resist against occupation are acknowledged by all international charters and pacts, while rejected terrorism denotes any form of terrorism committed against civilians and peaceful people.

5-Some decision makers in the West are responsible for the current congestion in Arab and Muslim world due to their unlimited support for Israel and their silent on occupation crimes in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, in addition to overlooking violations of human rights in Arab and Muslim countries.

6- Some US offices commit a grave historical mistake by standing against the Arab and Muslim people’s desire for change and reform. Supporting the Arab suppressive regimes, such offices back the wrong horse.

7- The MB papers and literature emphasize that we are advocates of peace and coexistence not judges as stated in one of the most MB recognized researches “Du‘ah la Qudah” (Preachers not Judges) written by the second MB chairman counselor Hassan al-Hudhaibi (1974-1951).
This research represented a refutation of Almawdoudy views and laid an emphasis on the mistakes of extremist groups in understanding and interpreting Qutb’s ideas; such extremist groups misinterpreted Qutb’s views and adopted ideas contradicting the basic principles of MB group laid down by Imam Hassan al-Banna who adopted an approach based on peaceful democratic change, developmental societal work and political reform.