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REPUBLICAN BROTHERS. In 1945 a small group of Sudanese led by Mahmud Muhammad Taha organized the Republican Party to oppose both the establishment of a Mahdist monarchy in Sudan and the unification of Sudan with the Kingdom of Egypt. The party’s manifesto also called for an Islamic resurgence. Following the 1969 revolution led by Colonel Ja’far Nimeiri, all political parties in Sudan were banned. Taha’s followers consequently changed their organization’s name to the Republican Brothers or, alternatively, the New Islamic Mission. They continued to advocate a new understanding of Islam to address contemporary personal and world problems as well as to meet modern, rational-scientific concerns.

Taha was born in 1909 or 1911 in Rufa’a on the Blue Nile. By 1936 he had completed his engineering education at Gordon Memorial College (now Khartoum University). An active nationalist, he was twice arrested by the British colonial government and served more than two years in prison. After a period of seclusion and prayer that ended in October 1951, Taha emerged with his version of the “Second Message of Islam.” He spread his ideas through speeches, newspaper articles, pamphlets, and books until he was arrested and hanged on 18 January 1985 by the Nimeiri government, after a grossly unfair trial.

In their writings, Taha and the Republican Brothers define religion as a behavioral system of morals employed to attain peace, genuine freedom, and ever-growing, eternal happiness. They claim that Islam combines the materialism of Judaism and the spirituality of Christianity into a single religious experience. They stress the importance of achieving inner personal peace through religion as the necessary prerequisite to achieving national and international peace.

Taha and the Republican Brothers became politically controversial by opposing President Nimeiri’s policy of imposing the shari`ah on Sudan’s diverse peoples. They charged that the traditional shari `ah based on fundamental political, economic, and social inequalities, could not be reconciled with modern constitutional government. For the Sudan, they advocated a federal democracy with economic socialism and equal political rights for all, regardless of gender or religious preference.

The Republican Brothers’ argument follows from Taha’s belief that the Qur’an contains two divine messages-the First and the Second, based on the Medinese and Meccan texts, respectively. They believe that the portion of the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad at Mecca over a thirteen-year period directed the Prophet to call people to God by wisdom and good admonitions, not by compulsion. Muhammad was enjoined to preach the equality before God of men and women and of people of all stations. The ruling Meccan class, fearing the economic and political consequences of these ideas, rejected this message and persecuted the Prophet. God’s later messages were tailored to the specific socioeconomic and political problems that faced Muhammad in Medina and were thus less universal. Although they greatly improved social conditions of the time, they were less egalitarian than the Meccan messages that they replaced. They legitimized compulsory conversion as well as the principles of sexual and religious inequality. The Prophet, however, continued to exemplify in his private life the high moral and social precepts embodied in the Meccan texts.

Because Islamic laws up to the present continue to be based on the allegedly inferior Medinese texts, the Republican Brothers claim that all Muslims must now turn back to the Meccan texts, or Second Message. Through ijtihad they must reinstitute a religion and law based on fundamental principles of racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious equality. The historic shari`ah, as advocated by the Muslim Brothers of Sudan, Egypt, and Syria and the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, is a primitive level of law suited to an earlier stage of cultural development.

In the early 1980s the Republican Brothers had a few hundred hard-core members of both sexes and more than a thousand sympathizers. Many members were highly educated; some were university professors. They were widely respected by Muslim moderates and Sudanese non-Muslims, but were strongly opposed by the Muslim Brothers and other Muslim fundamentalists. After Taha’s execution the Republican Brothers movement fell dormant in the Sudan, which continued to be ruled by military-backed fundamentalist governments.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Magnarella, Paul J. “The Republican Brothers: A Reformist Movement in the Sudan.” Muslim World 72 (January 1982): 14-24. General overview of the movement, based in part on interviews with one of its leaders.

Stevens, Richard P. “Sudan’s Republican Brothers and Islamic Reform.” Journal of Arab Affairs 1 (October 1981): 135-146. Excellent general treatment.

Taha, Mahmfid Muhammad. The Second Message of Islam. Translated . and Introduced by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im. Syracuse, N.Y., 1987. Taha’s major writing with an informative introduction by one of his important followers.

PAUL J. MAGNARELLA

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/republican-brothers/
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  • writerPosted On: July 16, 2017
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