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KISHK, ABD AL-HAMID (March 10, 1933 – December 6, 1996) more fully, Shaykh `Abd al-Hamid `Abd al-`Aziz Muhammad Kishk, immensely popular Egyptian preacher, known to many of his followers as Shaykh `Abd al-Hamid. Born in 1933 in Shubrakhit, a village not far from Damanhur, Kishk went to school in Alexandria and became blind at the age of twelve. Graduating from the us il al-din (dogmatics) faculty of al-Azhar, he worked for some time in the service of the Egyptian awqaf (religious endowment) ministry as a mosque preacher and imam. From 5 May 1964 until 28 August 1981, he was an independent preacher in the `Ayn al-Hayah Mosque in Misr wa-‘1-Sudan Street in the Cairene quarter known as Hada’iq al-Qubbah. This mosque is also known as the Masjid al-Malik. It was from here that his fame and popularity spread.



Under the regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952-1970), Kishk came into conflict with the authorities over several questions. For instance, he refused to give a fatwa that approved of the death sentence imposed by the regime on Sayyid Qutb in 1966; and he avoided answering the question of Arab socialism’s compatibility with Islam. By such attitudes he identified himself as a dissident, and he consequently spent time in prison.

Under the regime of Anwar el-Sadat (1970-1981), Kishk’s sermons became immensely popular. In these, he continued to criticize sharply any behavior that he regarded as a deviation from the norms of Islam. However, the regime was a little more tolerant of such criticisms, since it needed the support of the Islamic movement in the struggle against “communism and atheism.” Nevertheless, Shaykh Kishk, unlike Islamists such as Shaykh al-Sha’rawi, did not appear on state-run television or publish in the official printed media.

In spite of the official media boycott, Kishk’s sermons were widely distributed on cassette tapes, as were, in the same period, those by the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who came to power in 1979. Hence, the Western media have sometimes called Kishk an Egyptian Khomeini. It is now more obvious than it was in the 1980s that the resemblance between the two men is superficial at best. Whereas Khomeini founded a revolutionary movement that came to power in Iran and survived the death of its founder by years, Kishk’s political views (as far as they can be found in his books) resemble a form of anarchism. He writes, for instance, with great nostalgia about the days when there were no policemen to stop people and ask for their driver’s licenses, or frontier guards to ask for passports and entry or exit visas: those were the days when the Muslims conquered the world, so Kishk wants his audience to remember.

Anarchism, obviously, is too strong and too Western a word to describe the traditional dislike for rulers and government officials in the Middle East and elsewhere. This common attitude is perhaps best put into words by Sa’d Zaghlul (1857-1927; prime minister of Egypt from January to November 1924), who once remarked that Egypt’s citizens tend to look at their rulers in the same way a bird looks at the hunter.

The emphasis in Kishk’s preaching falls on personal and private piety, not on something as transitory as worldly power. The shaykh is occupied with the end of the world, the miracles of the Sufi saints, the metaphysics of the soul, eschatology, and death. Nevertheless, in a politically tense atmosphere the statements he makes about this world may easily be understood as veiled demands for the introduction of a theocracy, especially by those who are in favor, or in fear, of an Islamic theocracy. There can, however, be little doubt that many in the shaykh’s audiences, in the traditions of the Islamic quietist Sufi movements, are only superficially, or not at all, interested in political (Islamic) utopias.

“The believer’s creed must be compressed into: loving God,” Kishk once wrote (Kishk, 1978-, vol. 13, p. 159). It is not plausible, although admittedly possible, that such an emphasis on love, also known from Islamic mysticism, accompanies political ambitions, revolutionary schemes, and participation in the struggle for worldly power. Yet Kishk’s social criticisms may be thought to imply political consequences. In a sermon on 12 December 1980, he attacked not only Jews, Christians, lax Muslims, and a former rector of al-Azhar University, but also a soccer captain and a businessman who was reported to have presented his wife with an expensive coat. Since the shaykh was intermittently sent to jail, one has to assume that those in power were concerned about the force of such sweeping criticisms.

In the first days of September 1981, on the eve of the assassination of Sadat, which took place on 6 October, Kishk was again thrown into prison. He shared this fate with 1,526 others of all political persuasions who were put under “precautionary arrest.” In anticipation of the publication of a complete official list of detainees, the first page of Al-ahrdm on September 4 noted the imprisonment of Kishk along with a small number of prominent Egyptians. In spite of controls on the media, the shaykh’s fame had clearly spread.

On 24-25 January 1982, Kishk was released from detention. In February, the Egyptian semiofficial weekly devoted to religious affairs, Al-liwa’ al-Islami, contained minor contributions by Kishk-an indication that a compromise with the regime of Hosni Mubarak had been reached. His books and cassette tapes were to be freely available (they still were in 1993), but his life as a public preacher was over-for the time being at least. His mosque in Cairo has since been transformed into a public health center.

Kishk’s uniqueness is closely connected to the way in which he chants his sermons. His voice expresses nostalgia for the Kingdom of Heaven in a way that moves many members of his audiences.

[See also Egypt.]


Jansen, Johannes J. G. “The Voice of Sheikh Kishk.” In The Challenge of the Middle East, edited by Ibrahim A. El-Sheikh et al., pp. 57-67. Amsterdam, 1982. Discusses the teachings of Shaykh Kishk.

Jansen, Johannes J. G. The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East. New York and London, 1986. Discusses the teachings of Shaykh Kishk and his reaction to the assassination of Sadat. Contains quotations from his sermons and his booklets (pp. 91-120).

Kepel, Gilles. The Prophet and Pharaoh. London, 1985. Contains translated excerpts of Shaykh Kishk’s sermon for 1o April 1981 (pp 172-190).

Kishk, `Abd al-Hamid. Maktabat al-Shaykh Kishk. Cairo, [1978-]. More than thirty-two small volumes, most of them reprinted several times. The first volume, Tariq al-naja, was written, or rather dictated, before 1973.

Kishk, `Abd al-Hamid Qissat ayyami: Mudhakkirat al-Shaykh Kishk. Cairo, n.d. [1986]. Autobiography.

Kishk, `Abd al-Hamid. Al-khutab al-minbarryah. Cairo, 1987- Literal texts of the shaykh’s sermons. Thirteen volumes had appeared by 1992. Date of delivery is given for some sermons; not arranged chronologically.

Kishk, `Abd al-Hamid. Fatawd al-Shaykh Kishk: Humun al-Muslim al-mu’asir. Cairo, n.d. [1988?]. Ten volumes had appeared by 1992. Contains answers (fatawd) to questions by concerned Muslims.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/kishk-abd-al-hamid/

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