Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat Interview: Muslim Brotherhood’s Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Barr | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Barr, member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau stated that the targeting of the organization’s headquarters and its Freedom and Justice Party is nothing more than “barbaric aggression” aimed at hindering the democratic transformation process.

Al-Barr, who is often described as the “Muslim Brotherhood’s Mufti”, said that it was only natural for all Egyptian patriots to be displeased regarding this targeting of Brotherhood headquarters, as well as the inability of the security apparatus to hunt down those responsible.

Dr. Al-Barr also stated that Egypt’s political powers ought to sit at the dialogue table to discuss the situation in the country without preconditions.

The Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau member also asserted that the principle of separating politics and religion is not acceptable “under any circumstances.” The following is the text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you feel as you follow up the news reports about the burning of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters? In your opinion, who benefits from such actions?

[Al-Barr] The headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice party (FJP) across the country have been exposed to aggression on various days. Naturally every fair-minded and sincere patriot feels extremely displeased because of this barbaric aggression, and also because of the security apparatus’s delay in hunting down the aggressors, and its failure to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

As for who benefits, most certainly it is those who have been harmed by this blessed revolution, losing their influence and interests within and outside Egypt. Therefore, these people wanted to make the atmosphere tense, drag the national forces into conflict, and provoke the Muslim Brotherhood into an emotional reaction that would hinder the march to complete the democratic transformation in Egypt. This has not been achieved, by the grace of God, and because of the Muslim Brotherhood’s awareness and sincere patriotism, as well as the people’s support for their renaissance project.

I imagine that those who incited and committed this crime have fired a stray arrow, and that the Muslim Brotherhood, together with the great Egyptian people, have thwarted their plan. Therefore, I do not expect this reckless and foolish act to be repeated.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you follow the satellite channels that criticize the Muslim Brotherhood organization?

[Al-Barr] Naturally I follow up everything that takes place in Egypt, especially in the media outlets, which include those outlets that do not look at the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, and the elected president except through an eye of negative criticism. My course in following up what these channels present is that if I find seriousness in presentation and criticism, I continue watching; but if I find it to be nonsense, fabrications, deviation from propriety, politeness, and logic, and base expression, then I consider my time to be too precious to be wasted without benefit.

It is natural that I-along with other members of the Muslim Brotherhood- learn from constructive criticism, whatever its source, in order to rectify what must be rectified and to do our best to explain what has been misunderstood or distorted so that the nation can know us, and see our course. As for the nonsensical criticism, I disregard this, and I feel pity for some of those who resort to it because of the hatred that comes out of their mouths, and the envy and malice in their hearts that harm them and, by the grace of God, do not harm us. In many cases I exert a great deal of effort to understand the secret of these fabrications and hostile stances adopted by some people, but I do not find anything, and I find myself thinking of the following verse of poetry: “I keep thinking what wrong have I done in your eyes, but I cannot see anything wrong other than that you are envious.”

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In the light of the spread of contradictory fatwas via satellite channels and the Internet-or what some term the fatwa chaos-what are the legitimate mechanisms for issuing fatwas, in your opinion?

[Al-Barr] The controls of issuing fatwas are listed in the jurisprudence books. The most prominent of these controls is: No one should issue a fatwa except a scholar, who is well versed in its tools, knows the Quran, its interpretation, and causes of its descent, knows the Hadith and causes of its pronouncements, is capable of distinguishing between correct and incorrect Hadith, masters Arabic language and its arts, knows the foundations of jurisprudence and the rules for inferring judgment from its evidence, knows the pronouncements of the faqihs about the subject on which he is going to issue a fatwa, is trained in dealing with the various sources of knowledge, is committed to reviewing the situation before undertaking the issuance of a fatwa, knowledgeable about the new developments on the subject of the fatwa, and prepared to adjust the situation correctly in a way that is compatible with the current reality and the circumstances of those asking for the fatwa.

As for confronting the so-called fatwa chaos with regards to fatwas issued via satellite channels and the Internet, I believe that this cannot be achieved merely by listing the controls, but through the will of those managing these satellite channels, and their good choice of those they put forward to issue fatwas.

I believe that it is better for fatwas not to be issued directly on air; rather the subject ought to be submitted to the scholar in question to study it well, prepare his reply, and then present his fatwa after a full study. I consider that the authorities concerned ought to train the Sheikhs, Imams, and preachers to give fatwas, and there is no harm in giving fatwa licenses to those who pass the specialized training course, and after that they could be utilized in the fatwa programs on satellite channels and elsewhere. All of this concerns fatwas to individuals on issues that the people need in their day-to-day worship, work, and affairs.

As for the major public issues, and the fatwas related to public affairs, state affairs, new scientific issues, new and modern financial dealings, and such issues required by society as a whole, I am of the view that the issuing of such fatwas ought to be undertaken by major religious institutions, and well-known councils. This includes the Senior Ulema Commission, the Islamic Research Council, the various jurisprudence societies, the Fatwa House, and specialized departments at the religious foundations and Sharia colleges. I believe that specialized religious knowledge seminars and conferences ought to convene over these issues, and students reading for Masters and PhD-level degrees should be invited to study such issues. The satellite channels muftis should therefore not issue fatwas in this field so long as they have not gained knowledge of the results of such studies and understood all the details.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What’s your view of the National Salvation Front’s stance rejecting national dialogue with the president? What issues can the opposing factions reach agreement on at this stage?

[Al-Barr] I believe that the national forces ought to sit at the dialogue table and present everything that they have away from pre-conditions and sharp stances. There are many issues over which the national opponents can meet, including the issues of public freedoms, social justice, general national accord, and national unity. They also include ways and means of restoring the looted Egyptian wealth, finding a way out of the country’s economic crisis, as well as dealing with and developing Egypt’s great natural wealth, including the major national projects that Egypt needs to create, such as developing the Suez Canal zone, reconstructing the Sinai, and the scientific and educational development that ought to distinguish the new Egypt, starting with the project of Zewail University. This also includes ways and mechanisms of restoring and increasing the role of tourism in Egypt, which is one of the country’s most important resources in addition to the nature of the foreign policy of the new Egyptian political system so that Egypt becomes independent and far-removed from being subject to any foreign pressure. There are also other issues on which the national powers consider it necessary to agree.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people are of the view that over the past years the Muslim Brotherhood has become more interested in the political aspect at the expense of the Islamic Dawa (call) aspect. What do you think?

[Al-Barr] There have always been some people who make such claims. I think that this claim stems from some people not understanding the call of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the call for Islam in a comprehensive way that organizes all the issues of life, and gives fatwas on every issue. The martyred Imam Hassan al-Banna, God have mercy on his soul, stated that the Muslim Brotherhood call is a Salafi call, the Sunni way, and a Sufi truth, in addition to simultaneously being a political institution, an economic company, a charity organization, and even a sports institution.

Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood members are active in the political field in the same way that they are active in the Islamic call aspect, the services aspect, and the charity aspect. In the same manner that the Muslim Brotherhood has established a political party, it has a department for spreading Islamic Dawa, which I personally supervise. This focuses on practicing this call in mosques and elsewhere, organizing the weekly Tuesday lessons across the country, staging Sharia knowledge courses to raise the standard of the preachers and teach Sharia knowledge to those who want to learn, studying the Sharia issues that people need, and focusing on other many Islamic Dawa work and activities for men and women.

Moreover, we consider political work to be one of the aspects of Islamic Dawa. Through political work we present a political model that conveys the values and principles of Islam to the arena of politics and public life and confront the bad examples that deal with politics as an art of deceiving people, and tricking the masses. Such models put personal and partisan interests before ethical principles; our model also confronts the mistaken concepts that consider politics as evil from the devil, and does its utmost to present a lofty ethical political model.

Here, I have to refer to what martyr Imam Hassan al-Banna wrote in the message to the Muslim Brotherhood’s fifth conference: “As for us being politicians in the sense that we care for the affairs of our nation, believe that the executive power is part of the instructions of Islam, comes within its domain, and is subject to its rulings, and that political freedom and national pride are among the pillars and duties of Islam, and that we work relentlessly to complete the freedom and reform the executive tool, in this sense we are politicians. We believe that we do not introduce anything new in this, because this is well known to any Muslim who has studied Islam correctly. We do not know any meaning of our call or imagine any sense for our existence other than achieving these aims. By this, we do not deviate by a hair’s breadth from the call for Islam.”

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are there any boundaries that separate the Islamic Dawa aspect of the Muslim Brotherhood and the political aspect?

[Al-Barr] The group practices Islamic Dawa and politics, and does not see any contradictions between them. The group considers political work as part of Islamic Dawa aimed at showing the advantages of the Islamic course, and its distinguished status in the field of government and politics. Our primary mission is to present comprehensive Islam as a civilized model that cares for man in all aspects of his life. The existence of departments and specialties in the fields of work within the group is not in order to separate between what is described as political, and what is described as Islamic Dawa related, but it is in order to carry out the mission and master each of them. We do not accept separation between religion and politics under any circumstances whatsoever.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where has the nickname or title “Mufti of the Muslim Brotherhood Group” come from?

[Al-Barr] This is a title bestowed by some newspapers and satellite channels on His Eminence Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah al-Khatib, God preserve him, when he was a member of the Guidance Bureau. Perhaps they were motivated to do so by the fact that as one of the senior scholars of the nation, Sheikh Al-Khatib used to reply to the readers’ requests for fatwas and queries in some Islamic newspapers or magazines. Bear in mind that in the Muslim Brotherhood Group there is no post called “Mufti of the Group.” It seems that some journalists have decided to bestow this title on my unworthy self after I was elected a member of the Guidance Bureau, especially as that happened at the same time as His Eminence Sheikh Al-Khatib left the bureau, and because I am a professor at Al-Azhar University. Despite the fact that I rejected this, some members of the media continue to insist on describing me as mufti of the Muslim Brotherhood.