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Intellectual and Organization in Islamic Movement, A Tense Relation
Intellectual and Organization in Islamic Movement, A Tense Relation
Intellectuals play a key role in Islamic groups and movements. Groups are mostly founded by men of thinking, of moderate or extremist thinking, of disciplined or reckless thinking. Thinkers are playing the role of captains who steer ships.
Friday, July 11,2008 10:45
by Essam Teleima IkhwanWeb

Intellectuals play a key role in Islamic groups and movements. Groups are mostly founded by men of thinking, of moderate or extremist thinking, of disciplined or reckless thinking. Thinkers are playing the role of captains who steer ships.


However, some problems may emerge to end the relation between the intellectual and the organization. This may include: If the intellectual gets dissatisfied with the organization, or that the organization is fed up with the intellectual"s views. This isn"t a general view. Some members of the organization may not accept what the intellectual writes, accusing him of rebelling against constants of their work, or that a leading official in the organization may feel that he is more loyal than the intellectual who is at odds with what he believes in, or invented a new method of work.


The tense relation between the intellectual and the organization


There are reasons that may definitely lead to a clash between the intellectual and the organization. They may include:


1 ـ Mixing between the civilian and military organization:

This emerges from misunderstanding the nature of the religious organizational work. The organized religious work is supposed to be: A civil organization which is controlled by laws, ethics and nature of the civil work. It isn"t a military organization with its rough nature which lacks using the mind.


The danger here lies in adopting the literature and methods of running a military organization to use them in running a civil religious organization. This leads to a deadlock in the relation between the intellectual and the organization, and to turn members of the religious work to mere puppets who obey orders, which is sometimes a grave mistake in running the religious work.


It is well known that the military organization gives a priority to the principle of obedience, obedience without any discussion. Too much discussion may block the success of any military organization. What is required in a military organization isn’t many heads that think, what is rather required are faithful soldiers who rush to obey orders.


Any military organization requires: less-or even lack of –objection, in contrast to the religious work which is a civil organization in which every individual must discuss what he is doing and he must believe in its ideas and that he does his job out of a complete conviction. Obedience must be a conscious obedience, not a blind obedience. In this civil organization, anyone who tries to impose his own view must be denied any responsibility in the religious organization. This is because he leads the religious work to the course of the military underground work, which is rejected in this religious work.


The fallacy of mixing between the military and missionary sides led also to adopting writings in a stage that give a priority to the military work due to its nature in terms of suppression and ordeals, or through adopting writings which were dedicated to a special category and were later generalized mistakenly. This includes: What we read in the "Teachings Message" of Imam Hassan Al Banna, which includes sections that clearly address soldiers in a military work. They were surely taught to members of the "Special Apparatus" in the Muslim Brotherhood. What concerns the public mission in this message is the principle of Understanding, and other principles. As for the principles of Obedience and Trust, they should be cleared of words related to the military education. This was actually noticed by Dr. Abdul Aziz Kamel, the Education Section official in the Muslim Brotherhood group in the lifetime of Imam Hassan Al Banna. He strongly objected to this (according to what he said in his memoirs: In the Course of Life).


2 –Unawareness of the intellectual"s important and great role in the movement:


Some may not properly estimate the value of the intellectual. The intellectual"s role includes giving references to the work and anticipating its future, something which is unintentionally underestimated by some, may be due to wrongly understating a saying of Imam Hassan Al Banna in his message: (We are a Pragmatic Organisation.) Undoubtedly, There is no contrast between thought, work the knowledge. Some may think that the intellectual is only sitting to do a fruitless debate, a wrong understanding which we respond through affirming that work which is not based on right knowledge is meaningless. Writers of the sayings of the prophet dedicated full chapters for the importance and value of knowledge and that it precedes work.


3 -Boredom with criticism, blocking it


The reasons for a possible tense relation between the intellectual and the organization include also being angry with criticism and blocking all ways leading to criticism out of ending argument. There is a difference between argument and discussion and talking. The intellectual can"t live without thinking; reviewing the movement"s past attitudes while he is working and while he is planning for the future. This may require criticizing and correcting the past and present to set up a future view that copes with the movement"s targets. At that time, viewpoints vary towards accepting or rejecting this criticism. When it is accepted, the relation continues between the intellectual and the organization, but when it is fully rejected or showing dissatisfaction at it, the relation gets soar, especially when some think that criticism is a way to violate constants of the group.


I have done a thorough reading into the criticism in the lifetime of Imam Hassan Al Banna against him, his knowledge and his group. I found out that about forty criticism articles were published in the Muslim Brotherhood"s magazines. Al Banna even allocated a complete page in the bimonthly magazine of (Al-ikhwan Al-Muslimoun) entitled: The Section of Criticism which was mostly written by Sheikh Mohamed Al Hamed Al Hamawi in criticism to what is published in the magazine, and he even criticized two big iconic figures of the Muslim Brotherhood: Hassan Al Banna, and Mohammad Al-Ghazzali . One of those critics of Hassan Al Banna sent him a criticism in the form of a question image, wondering: O sheikh Hassan, you are teacher, and we know very well how much a teacher is paid, we know also that you do not get a salary for your missionary work, and in spite of this we see you elegantly well-dressed and have a good appearance, how have you attained this although you are simply a teacher?!


In spite of this, Hassan Al Banna published this question and the magazine promised to publish a reply to it in the next issue, and Hassan Al Banna gave the following reply:" It is true that I don"t get a salary for my missionary work. As for my good appearance and that my salary can"t afford this, it is true also. Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, was spending from his wife Khadija"s money, and I spend from the money of Khadija"s brother (he means his brother-in-law) and there are two other fellow brothers who always lend me money. I give you three solutions: either you visit me in the General Center of the Muslim Brotherhood to tell you the names these two fellow brothers, or you pay my debts to be indebted to only one person, or you become a third debtor and pray for me to pay back my debts. I have thought about how to improve my financial status and I will God willing issue the magazine of (Al-Shehab) whose license will be mine. I hope that it will be a means for improving my living conditions. May Allah reward you.

Your brother: Hassan Al Banna.


4-Overlblowing the administrative and organizational side at the expense of the intellectual one or that one side dominates over the other:


This may be due to over blowing the administrative side, and minimizing the intellectual one, or that the executive attempts to do both job: To be an executive and an intellectual at the same time, two jobs which are difficult to be jointly carried out by one person. The only who can do it-although it is rare-is mainly the intellectual.


To explain this point with an example from contemporary Islamic movement, members of the Islamic movement were released from prisons following the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The movement had then a huge amount of thought and culture. It didn"t need at that time the intellectual to lead. It rather needed an organizer to unify as this cultural heritage would be sufficient for some years to come. The movement was lead by those who can run it and who can pay attention to the organizational structure which was required in this period. Gradually, the role of the intellectual started to fade. Instead, there was the doctor or engineer, or any other one gives a brief and simple sermon. Then it further deepened, allowing the doctor and engineer and organizer or the executive to call for the mission and even speak in the name of and theorize the mission. There is a huge difference between the missionary sermon and intellectual theorization because the tools of each of them are different from the other.


The movement should understand that this stage for the non-intellectual is a temporary role. This is because myriads of ideological questions and attitudes will spontaneously impose themselves after the movement returns to its activities. Only the researcher or intellectual can confront academic and intellectual issues and questions. This mistake led to sidelining intellectual and the emergence of ideas which have no bases in the religious mission. This actually spawned a gap between the intellectual and the organization.


5 - Evaluating the intellectual according to his organizational performance


The intellectual is evaluated according to standards of the organizational work including the commitment to organizational duties and rights and administrative performance. This makes the executive see him as of a less role or no role at all. They forget that the prophet"s Companions didn"t have the same performance. A great Companion like Khaled Bin Al Walid wasn"t a narrator of Hadiths (sayings of the prophet)- he narrated only two Hadiths. We should never evaluate Khaled on the basis of knowledge and Hadith narration. Also, we can"t evaluate a companion like Abou Huraira according to military standards as he was a man who preserved for the nation the sayings of the messenger peace be upon him.


6 –The intellectual"s underestimation of consultation-based serious organizational decisions:


This mistake is committed by the intellectual who wants his view to be followed even if the other view is approved after consultation. The correct is that: When consultation is carried out and issues have been well discussed, concluding with a specific view which was reached by a majority, every one must abide by the agreed views. Any one convinced of something may remain as is for himself as it was a debated view which was raised when the door of discussion was opened.



Suggestions to prevent possible clashes


To end this clash which may quickly make the intellectual or researcher fed up with the organization or that the organization is fed up with the intellectual, there should be several measures and principles to be taken to relieve both parties and preserve their positions. These are:


1 –Giving space for the intellectual to express views, write:


The intellectual should be given the opportunity to anatomize the condition of the nation and the movement and those working for Islam. The intellectual or writer should never be obliged to blindly obey or not to be obliged to stop debating, especially when the intellectual is representing himself and not a spokesman in the name of the organization or group.


The intellectual needs a wide space to move in unrestricted by any limits except for the constants of Islam.


The intellectual and organization are similar to this freedom of movement in the former and a restricted movement in the latter. The intellectual"s freedom of movement allows him to be a precedent with his ideas and to be later followed by the organization. Uncalculated ideas or experiences may be accepted from the intellectual, not the organization. The former rides a plane while the latter rides a car and may ride a plane like the predecessor, but there should be an adventurer who kicks off the experience. The adventurer here is the intellectual, not the organization because the risk isn"t to the benefit of the organization lest the experience fails and causes heavy losses, which is unacceptable in all pro change movements throughout history.


Let us take the example of Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. If we evaluate his views according to the logic of the organization, he will be considered as violating the group to which he is affiliated and he may face an administrative disciplinary action. When he was an active member in the Muslim Brotherhood, and after he demanded to be relieved of this responsibility, the books of Sheikh Al Qaradawi along with Sheikh Mohamed Al-Ghazali, and Sheikh Sayed Sabiq were the top reference books in the movement.


2 - Separating between the intellectual"s territory and the organization"s territory:


Every intellectual and preacher has a territory which the organization should never enter. This territory is the field of writing, expressing intellectual attitudes and academic research, in which no ceiling or limit should be put to the researcher. He should be left free to write whatever he wants till research and evidence lead him to what he is convinced with, not to results put in advance.


Hassan Al-Banna refused to invite Sheikh Al Ghazali to the "Special Apparatus". When he was asked why, he replied:" The Special Apparatus" is a military system that requires complete obedience, while sheikh Al Ghazali objects to orders that don"t appeal to him asking: What is your proof? He doesn"t keep secrets. If he is dissatisfied, his anger appears on his face while full secrecy is the basis of this system! Let him write, preach and spread the Islamic mission in the field he can manage.


3 -The intellectual"s academic independence:

Intellectuals should be- to the interest of the mission and the group- independents, not having a full subordination. The iconic intellectual should never be publicly affiliated to it because listing him isn"t to its benefit. For example, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi took the initiative of speaking with Libyan president Muammar Al-Qadhafi over jailed Muslim Brotherhood members and leaders in Libya, some of them were sentenced to death. He asked the Lybian president to issue a presidential amnesty for them and they were released. Al Qaradawi has undoubtedly addressed him in his capacity as a symbol of the nation and chairman of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, not a previous member of the Muslim Brotherhood.


4 –Allowing the intellectual to work beyond organizational borders:


The intellectual and researcher who may have a promising future in the nation should never be confined to the organizational framework. They should be given facilities to work beyond the organization"s borders but within the movement"s ideological objectives. This was what Hassan Al Banna did with many scholars. He actually wanted to prepare people who can protect the group in times of ordeal, people whose testimonies aren’t discredited when they support them in time of ordeals and accusations. When Sheikh Mohamed Al-Ghazali and sheikh Sayed Sabiq wanted draw late writer Khaled Mohamed Khaled to join the group- both of them were dear friends to him- Al Banna said: Spare Khaled, he is doing better in his current field. Al Banna did the same with scholars in Al-Jam"iyya Al-Shar"iyah whith whom he forged strong relations like Sheikh Mahmoud Abdul Wahab Fayed, sheikh Hassan Eissa Ashour, and there were very good supporters to his group in the ordeal that it faced in the Nasserites era.


Hassan Al Banna did this in the ranks of his group and workers in the organization. One of the students of Al Banna said: In the mid 1940s, I was about to graduate from university and I was very irritated. Every day, my Muslim Brotherhood colleagues in the university were going to Hassan Al Banna to say: Muharram quarreled today with the communists. Muharram quarreled today with the Wafdists. I was involving the Muslim Brotherhood in a quarrel with others everyday. Once, Hassan Al Banna talked with me in private and said: Muharram, I want you to disappear from the movement. "Do you fire me?" I asked. "No, I want to put you in another work", he said asking me "You will graduate this year; in what field do you plan to work?" "In the field of education", I said.

"I want you to climb the job ladder in the Ministry of Education and reach the highest positions to serve your religion and your nation. I promised him to do so to begin my journey in the Ministry of Education till I became chief of staff of Minister Kamaluddin Hussein in the 1960s.


Then I was surprised to find another man who- I knew- had a an old relationship with Hassan Al Banna, working as an advisor to the minister, he was writer and author Mohamed Farid Abu Hadid, and I told him the truth to find that he was told to do the same. We weren"t unveiled until Dr. Nazmi Luka wrote his famous book" Mohamed, the Message and the Messenger", in which he said in the last page:" Damn it, this messenger said the truth. Damn it, this messenger has never deviated. Damn it, this messenger was honest and faithful. Peace be upon him for his guidance, peace be upon him as an immortal."


We ordered this book in the syllabus of the preparatory stage education in subject of texts, triggering huge objections. This led to unveiling the two persons sent by Hassan Al Banna to protect for Egypt its academic texts in a time in which secularists had the upper hand. Dr. Sayed Desouki detailed some of such incidents in his wonderful book: (Examples on the Cultural Education of Al Banna).


5-A principle: It is OK for those who can"t endure it:


Hassan Al Hudaibi, the second chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, said when the members and leaders of the group faced prisons and detentions: (Our mission is founded on men of strong resolution, but those who can"t endure it are free) he wanted through this to lift embarrassment.


6 – Freedom to criticize, personalization of the mission

Expanding the area of freedom to criticize in the movement:


It is unacceptable that every view issued by the intellectual in the organization is seen as a violation to its constants or accusing him of deviating from the mission, claiming that those who are silent and blindly obey are faithful. The issue of loyalty and faithfulness to the mission is related to the innermost of one"s soul and one- except for Allah- can judge it. We should stop short of judging intentions. Even claiming that some one loves the mission more than someone else is a grave fault.


The successful movement is the one that opens the door of discussion and creates persons who can formulate their views, not yes-men, creates people who can behave well and make decisions.


7 –Avoiding personalization of the mission:


The fatal mistakes that may quickly end the relation between the intellectual and the organization include: Personalization of the mission. If a criticism is directed to some one"s management of a file in the organization is outlandishly interpreted by some as an attack on the mission itself. This fatal mistake came to us from the regime"s protégée writers. If a writer attacks the regime, these state vetted writers accuse the writer of attacking Egypt, its civilization and its history, turning any criticism to the corruption of the ruling regime into an attack on the dear homeland which disavows such a clique of corrupt persons. This fatal mistake has seemingly moved to the missionary work and it must be eliminated through differentiating between individuals and the mission. The mission is so high while individuals are transient.


8-Differentiating between the mission and the organization:


The mission is open to every preacher who approves the movement ideas and targets, even if he disagrees in many of its details, while the organization-specially those moving from one stage to another-requires adhering to detailed and general objectives of the group. I think that Abul Aala Al Moudoudi offered a form of such a relation, especially in his book (A reminder to preachers of Islam) in his classification of those affiliated to the Islamic group and the degrees of affiliation.


The movement should reach a wording that combines both issues, so that the one convinced with the mission and has a certain position in it, his position must be appreciated and recognized, not just a position of making peace with him.


These are some reflections on the relation between the intellectual and the organization in the Islamic movement, how this relation can become stronger, and how both parties benefit from it. It is actually a mistake-prone personal analysis which I offer for discussion and debate benefiting from everyone who had any related experience or study.



*Islamic Researcher and Cleric

Posted in Political Islam Studies  
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