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TAKFIR WA AL-HIJRAH, JAMA`AT AL-. After a group of radical Muslims in Cairo abducted and assassinated Shaykh Muhammad Husayn al-Dhahabi, a former Egyptian minister of awqaf and Azhar affairs, in July 1977, the Egyptian media referred to this group as Jama`at al-Takfir wa al-Hijrah. The term defies simple definition, but the meaning is clear: the society “which accuses [nominal Muslims] of unbelief’ (takftr) and urges [true Muslims] to “emigrate” (hijrah) from the paganism of modern Egypt.

This, however, was not a name that the group had chosen for itself. Created for it by the Egyptian authorities, the name drew attention to the two tenets of the group that were bound to be the least attractive to the Egyptian public: true Muslims must emigrate to Muslim-controlled political communities, away from the day-to-day unbelief of secular Egypt; and people who do not live according to the Qur’dn are not Muslims, but unbelievers.

The self-appellation of the group appears to have been Jamd’at al-Muslimm, the Society of Muslims. This name suggests a certain zeal for religious exclusiveness. The group, so it appears, regarded itself as the real and only community of Muslims. Whoever refused to become a member of the group or wanted to leave it, declared himself to be an enemy of God and was to be treated accordingly. One of the group’s surviving exmembers reports that members who considered leaving the group were threatened with death, the traditional punishment for apostasy and desertion from Islam. Such would-be defectors came to fear their fellow-members and so became easy prey for agents of the Egyptian secret services. It follows that in this way the group became the center of a complicated game of information and disinformation that cannot be unraveled by the uninitiated. Every crime supposedly perpetrated by members of the group may have been committed by, or at the instigation of, government provocateurs.

The group was led by Shukri Ahmad Mustafa (b. 1942), who was executed 29 March 1978, together with the actual perpetrators of the murder of Shaykh al-Dhahabi. Shukri taught that all present societies are un-Islamic; that only members of his group are true Muslims; and that the classical system of Islamic law must be rejected because it is not the word of God but only the work of men: “We do not accept the words ascribed to the Prophet’s contemporaries, or the opinions of those versed in Islamic Law, the fuqaha’. We do not accept the opinions of the early jurists, or their consensus (ijma’), or the other idols (asnam) like analogy (qiyds). How can words of mere humans be a source of divine guidance?” (Abu al-Khayr, 198o, pp. 9, 139).

Such statements imply an almost complete rejection of fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith, hence a rejection of Islam as we know it, with the exception of the Qur’dn. With regard even to the Qur’dn, Shukri admitted, under questioning in court, that he was not certain about the infallibility of its transmission. What is known of Islamic history Shukri regarded as “stories of dubious authenticity.” The difference from the teachings of modern Muslim mainstream fundamentalists, who want to implement traditional Islamic law in its entirety, both in public and in private life, could not be greater. Indeed, this movement differed markedly from the other, more conventional, Islamic fundamentalist movements in the 1970s and 1980s. Whereas mainstream Islamic radicalism wanted to apply Islamic Law in its totality at whatever cost, the Shukri movement wanted to do away with Islamic law in its traditional form.

It is ironic that, nevertheless, it was the Shukri movement that was used by the Egyptian authorities to organize the general suppression of the Islamic fundamentalist revival in Egypt in the late 1970s. In the summer of 1977, the Egyptian authorities were convinced that they had no alternative but to curb the Islamic movement in its entirety. No matter how poorly organized this movement was, by insisting on the application of Islamic law, it challenged the authority of the government, propagated revolution, and demanded the establishment of a nonsecular Islamic state. Shukri’s group could be used by the secret services precisely because its inflexible condemnation of apostates drove into the arms of the authorities those members who contemplated renouncing its ideas. These men concluded that as long as they had to remain in the group, service as government informers or agents provocateurs could be profitable. This, one has to conclude, is the larger significance of the Takfir wa al-Hijrah, a movement that has not lasted.

Like Shukri’s movement, Islamic fundamentalism is a natural response to the secularization of the ruling elites in the Muslim world. Islamic fundamentalists, like Shukri and his followers, want to put the power of the omnipotent modern state into the hands of the best possible Muslims. It is this obsession with the power of the state that makes them so dangerous in the eyes of the authorities. Yet it is clear in retrospect that Shukri Mustafa never attracted a mass following and that Takfir wa al-Hijrah represented a case of cult formation rather than a true revivalist movement.

[See also Egypt and the biography of Mustafd]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abu al-Khayr, `Abd al-Rahman (pseudonym?). Dhikrayati ma`a Jama’at al-Muslimin “Al-Takfsr wa-al-Hijrah.” Kuwait, 1980. Memoirs of a survivor of the group.

Ahmad, Rif at Sayyid, ed. Al-rdfidun. London, 1991. Contains transcripts of the court proceedings against Shukri Mustafa. See pages 53-109.

Ahmad, Rif at Sayyid, ed. Al-tha’irun. London, 1g91. Publication of parts of Shukri’s own text, Kitab al-khildfah (The Book of the Caliphate). See pages 115-160.

Hassan Hamid, Muhammad `Abd al-`Azim `All, and `Abd al-Fattah Yahya Kamil Ahmad. Muwdjahat al-fikr al-mutatarrif ft al-Islam. N.p. [Cairo], 1980. Discusses the Shukri group from the viewpoint of the ruling elite, and contains quotations from the proceedings of Shukri’s trial.

Jansen, J. J. G. “De betekenis van het Islamitisch fundamentalisme: De lotgevallen van de Shukri-group in Egypte.” In Naar de letter: Beschouwingen over fundamentalisme, edited by P. Boele et al., pp. 185-202. Utrecht, 1991. Discusses the tenets of the Shukri group and the way in which the group distinguished itself from mainstream fundamentalism.

Kepel, Gilles. The Prophet and Pharaoh. London, 1985. Describes the Shukri movement and its intellectual links to Sayyid Qutb. See especially pages 70-102.

Munson, Henry, Jr. Islam and Revolution in the Middle East. New Haven, 1988. Standard account of the tragic events in which Shukri and Shaykh al-Dhahabi played a role. See pages 79-8o.

Al-tawhid: Majallah Islamiyah thagdftyah shahriyah (Cairo) 5.1o (September 1977). Discusses the Shukri group from the viewpoint of mainstream fundamentalism.

JOHANNES J. G. JANSEN

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/takfir-wa-al-hijrah/
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