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HIZB. Occuring twice in the Qur’an with positive connotations in the compound term hizaballdh (party of God), the term hizb denotes factions or factionalism in the Qur’an, referring to a state of affairs that should be avoided. In modern usage, hizb refers to a political party in a clearly defined manner. This usage is the result of an attempt to find an Arabic word for a European phe

nomenon. In 19o6, Farah Antun (1874-1922), the Lebanese intellectual who spent most of his life in Egypt and the United States, defined the term in his journal, Al -jami’ah, as an organized group that is at loggerheads with other organized groups because of differences in views and interests. Soon after, in 1907, two parties were formed in Egypt: the Ummah party (Hizb alUmmah) and the National party (Hizb al-Watani). These were primarily secular nationalist parties, although the latter had a tinge of Pan-Islamism.

There has been a reluctance to accept the concept of political parties in Islamic countries because of the divisiveness which it implies. The first organized group with a clear Islamic ideology-and regarded as the mother of almost all major Islamic organizations–established in Isma’iliyah in 1928, was called by its founder, Hasan al-Banna’ (19o6-1949), the Society of Muslim Brothers (Jam’iyat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) rather than hizb or political party. Most offshoots of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers in other Islamic countries also avoided the use of the term hizb. In Sudan and Syria the groups have called themselves the Muslim Brothers. In Lebanon a similar organization was named al-Jama’ah alIslamiyah (The Islamic Group). In Tunisia the equivalent of the Muslim Brothers called themselves Harakat al-Ittijah al-Islami (Islamic Tendency Movement), and later the name was changed to Nahdah (Renaissance). In Algeria the major organization is called Jabhat alInqadh al-Islami (Islamic Salvation Front). The recent offshoots of the Jaimi`ah al-Islamiyah in the Gaza Strip are Hamas, the Arabic acronym of Harakat alMuqawamah al-Islamiyah (Islamic Resistance Movement) and the Jihad al-Islami (Islamic Holy War), and they keep the same tradition by not using the term hizb. Similarly, in Pakistan the leading Islamic organization is called Jama’at-i Islami (Islamic Assembly).

There has been an increase in the use of the term hizb in Islamic organizations. For instance, Hizb alTahrir al-Islam! (Islamic Liberation Party) in Jordan, the Islamic organization Refah Partisi (Welfare Party) in Turkey, the Sunni Pashtun-based Hizb-i Islami (the Islamic Party) in Afghanistan, and Hizbullah (Party of God), the Shi`i militant organization in Lebanon, formed under the influence of the ruling Iranian clergymen. Furthermore, Islamic organizations have been pushed willy-nilly to partake in parliamentary elections. Some elections were free, as in Pakistan in 1993, in which the Jama’at-i Islami participated and accepted the results, and as in the free elections of 1993 in Jordan, where Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami (Islamic Action Front) participated. Other elections were basically not free, as in Egypt in 1984 and 1987, where the Muslim Brothers participated, and in Lebanon in 1992, where both the Sunni Islamic Group and the Shi’i Hizbullah participated.

Although the Islamic political organizations have come a long way from Hasan al-Banna’s condemnation of al-hizbiyah (party politics), a strong ambivalence toward elections and competitive party politics still exists. Perhaps there is a greater acceptance of competition if parties or groups have a particular Islamic ideology, as has been the case in Iran since the revolution of 1979. The most prominent ideologue of Hizbullah in Lebanon, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, shows this intolerance toward non-Muslim and secular political parties, which by their nature do not subscribe to his Islamic ideology, by depicting them as the “parties of unbelief and atheism” (“ahzab al-kufr wa-la-ilhad”).

Another reason why political parties in the Islamic countries were not particularly interested in competitive party politics is that most of them had come into being during the struggle for independence from colonial rule. It is not surprising that they tended to concentrate on the unity of the nation rather than on competition among various political organizations. For instance, the mass-based Wafd, which came to being in 1g19, was not regarded by its leader Sa’d Zaghlul (1857-1927) as a hizb. The name used by Zaghlfll and later by his successor Mustafa Al-Nahhas (1879-1965) was the Egyptian Wafd (al-Wafd al-Misri). This emphasis on the anticolonial struggle made the leaders of these movements shy away from the use of the term hizb, because it might have implied that the national movement was not allinclusive in its support. Political organizations formed under the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) were called, for instance, al-Ittihad al-Qawmi (National Union), and al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki al-‘Arabi (Arab Socialist Union), rather than political parties.

The role of predominantly non-Islamic and secular parties in Islamic countries was a manifestation of socioeconomic forces, and ethnic and sectarian interests have been very extensive indeed. There was a proliferation of political parties in an open and mostly free political system in Egypt from 1923 to 1952 and in Lebanon from 1943 to 1975 In Turkey, Sudan, and Pakistan, whenever the military is not in power, political parties have played a major role. The future role of political parties in the Islamic countries will undoubtedly be one of paramount importance, as attested by greater political awareness throughout the Islamic world. These developments show clearly that political parties have become an integral part of the political life of Muslims, whether the parties are in power, in opposition in democratic or quasi-democratic polities, in opposition in exile, or as underground parties trying to topple dictators.

[Most of the political parties named above are the subject of independent entries.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Deeb, Marius K. Party Politics in Egypt. The Wafd and Its Rivals, 1919-1939. London, 1979.

Deeb, Marius K. “Continuity in Modern Egyptian History: The Wafd and the Muslim Brothers.” In Problems of the Middle East in Historical Perspective: Essays in Honour of Albert Hourani, edited by John P. Spagnolo, pp. 49-61. Reading, 1992.

Fadlallah, Muhammad Husayn. Al-Islam wa-mantiq al-quwah. 2d ed. Beirut, 1981.

Hamrush, Ahmad. Qissat Thawrat 23 Yuliyu, vol. 4, Shuhud Thawrat Yuliyu. Beirut, 1977.

Mitchell, Richard P. The Society of the Muslim Brothers. London, 1969.

MARIUS K. DEEB

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/hizb/
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  • writerPosted On: June 10, 2013
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