• Arts
  • September 20, 2006
  • 10 minutes read

The Journey of Muslim Brotherhood With Art

The Journey of Muslim Brotherhood With Art

The relationship of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – and all the Islamists- with art, is not restricted to their intellectual and juristic output in art issues and problems.

The MB relation with art was different; the early rectified activities of MB with art and its nature don”t relate to the current worrying and apprehensive situation which the group reached after half century. Ambiguous and weak intellectual and juristic opinions of MB is far different from practice, which was different from theorization and was brave enough to solve the problems hindering the MB jurists, intellectuals and callers.
Beginning with constructive art
In 1928, when Hassan Al Banna founded his group- MB- art was one of the most important fields which identified his group as a comprehensive reformist one. A number of thoughts and conditions allowed Al Banna and his group to have a pivotal role concerning art, among which are;

-Al Banna”s upbringing as a Sufi, which helped him broadens his Salafi and Sunni horizons and understanding.

– The nature of his comprehensive reformist project, which introduces Islam as a way of life, unlike the traditional way of the scholars. So, recreation and fun did exist in his vison of art.

– The particularity of this phase in which Egypt- in spite of the British occupation brutality- led a real liberal era that flourished freedom and movement, which were reflected in intellectual and political trends including the Islamic ones.

Al Banna spent a lot of time changing the negative idea implanted in the religious” minds about art; he left the theoretical approach aside, preferring the practical one i.e. the constructive useful art. Art became a message, not a target.

Al Banna included several religious songs and sketches in his group formation programs to be presented in journeys and parties, even in the group”s private religious meetings. 

“oh, ye brothers” a song wrote by Sheikh Hassan Albaquri, was the most prominent among enthusiastic religious songs which help shore up the bases and mobilize them in a revolutionary rhythm with attractive words:

Oh, ye brothers don”t hesitate
over your prophet”s water basin(in the day of judgment)
The paradise is calling you, so reply
With Islam you can live joyfully

The MB Theater

The most distinguished development during this period concerning MB and art, was the foundation of MB theater by Abdurrahman Al Banna. It was the first Islamic theater named “the MB theater”, and It was surprising that it began with romantic and emotional play, named “Jamilu Bithaina”, a famous historical and romantic story!

It”s worthy saying that the MB theater ignored the traditional questions-–they do exist till now- about women participation in artistic works, and the concerned intellectual issues. Women participated in this theater, among them were prominent actresses in the Egyptian cinema, such as Fatima Rushdie. They played on famous theaters, like the Opera.

The administration of the theater was from the MB members and outsiders, even non-Muslims; the head of advertisement department was Christian!

The theater achieved a big success- according to the then criteria- it was a popular theater, going from one place to another- not just for the nobles in Cairo, but spread to many villages and cities of Egypt where MB enjoyed a strong presence. The theater contributed to the emergence of prominent actors, such as Muhammad Alsab”, Abdulbadi” Alarabi, Mahmoud Almeligi,Serag Munir, Ibrahim Alshami and Abdulmoe”m Madbouli who become a distinguished figure in one of the famous Arab comedy schools known as (Madboulism)

It is said that, Hassan Al Banna tried to enter this field by the help of some religious actors, such as Hussein Sedqi, who dissociated himself from art and burned some of his films negatives. It is also said that Sedqi was affected- during his last days- by his intellectual and personal relation with late Sayed Qutub. But the relationship between Al Banna and Sedqi-not historically asserted- was fruitless.

The clash with the 1952 revolution, and the influence of Wahhabism 

After the “Free Officers” Revolution”, in1952, a new phase began. The leaders of the revolution clashed with the MB in1954, which led to complete and violent liquidation and persecution of MBs, eventually the group was legally banned. Banning the MB had led to the begining of secret work, under the ground and in prisons. So, it was not logical to speak about art and theater, except for recreational sketches. Then, a strict trend commenced within the MB banning everything; the first thing to be banned was art, because it was the weakest thing in Islamic Ijtehad (to exert one”s opinion).

In the 70s, extremist trend derived from Wahhabism, strengthened and financed by Saudi Wahhabis after the rise of oil price. Art became- from the Islamists point of view- close to prohibition and sometimes banned. Bad and rotten commercial cinemas, inferior art, deterioration, corruption and moral scandals contributed to escalating this extremist trend. 

The fresh Islamic movement stayed simple and spontaneous lacking a specific intellectual framework during this decade -1970s- until the Muslim Brotherhood managed to lead it and associate it with the principal Islamic movement.

Once this happened, art regain its presence among Islamists but with new regulations imposed by the recent developments.

It became a pure art limited to enthusiastic themes that are related to jihad, after it had included many aspects such as romantic art.      

Actually, enthusiastic religious songs which call for jihad, sacrifice, and endurance in the cause of religion have flourished.

It became present in various ceremonies and occasions including political demonstrations, rallies, excursions, especially wedding celebrations.
The enthusiasm and sacrifice spirit had a great imprint on   religious songs of that period to the extent that the song starting with (Here I am, Islam of heroism) was an anthem more than a song for Islamists. They used to repeat it everywhere and in every occasion.

 Moreover, the reminiscences of tribulations and ordeals MB faced in Abdul Nasser Prisons led to a great development in art represented in series of articles, diaries, books and great  artistic literature.

Among such works came the more renowned series, Adab al-ghurabaa “Literature of Strangers”; and the most famous song was that Sayed Qutb started saying,

Though in bonds, my brother, be free
Though behind barriers, my brother, be free

The wonder is that those songs, besides being so touching that they attracted many thousands to Islamic Movement, they represented a source of pleasure and religious disciplining and refinement in the same time.

Because the nature of this disciplining was military in somewhat, we find most of these songs call the followers of Islamic movement to be ready and prepare themselves for the final battle with powers of injustice.    

Pure recreation and pleasure 

During 1980s and 1990s the situation changed due to the more involvement of MB in political and public activities which resulted in more closeness to Egyptian people. This closeness enabled MB to discover the popular taste.
This led to a change in MB temperament and waning of Wahhabi spirit which had a great effect on MB cadres and those who advocated it in 1970s, even earlier generations. Art represented the mirror which clearly showed such a change.
In the late 1980s, a number of Islamic bands emerged in line with the strong spread of Islamic trend throughout many life activities. In the 1990, the situation changed as for quantity and quality of these bands.
They moved from voluntarism to professionalism which depends on continuous development and is affected by market economy. Consequently, these bands returned to music instruments after their previous refusal to music. Moreover, they dealt with many professional musicians who were working with famous singers. Some Islamic bands used haunting melodies of widespread non-Islamic songs. This professionalism led them also to resort to some famous lyricists such as Bahir al-Hariry.
With new social developments, they sought after new words inconsistent with such developments, consequently, ceremony –specific songs came into existence after the enthusiastic songs became unsuitable for wedding ceremonies and celebrations.
Moreover, the new temperament necessitated a new way of handling and distributing songs to fit a new Islamist generation interested in life and its pleasure without feeling any fault. A quick comparison between the 1970s edition of a song such as Thuwwar (revolutionists) and the new distribution of the same song reveals how wan becomes the enthusiastic tone even in Islamic classics.
Now, there is a new form of Islamic songs with marked with a sense of recreation and amusement.

Now, the authorized Islamic bands in Egypt are more than 50, including 5 for women and girls (besides tens of unauthorized and non-professional bands).

The social and daily life songs are mostly prominent than the revolutionist and enthusiastic ones. The main umbrella is “the pure fun”; keeping away from co-existence (mixture) between the two sexes, and excitement, because the last kind of art in completely inhumane.