In an article that surprised many, the Kuwaiti Islamist writer Abdullah al Nafisi called upon the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to disband because it has become a burden upon Islam, asking the mother-group in Egypt to follow the lead of Qatar’s Muslim Brotherhood that, following an internal study of the status of the organization in that country, concluded that it should disband. According to al Nafisi, the significant study, the second part of which is yet to be published, arrived at the decision to dissolve the organization in 1999 and transform into a general Islamic intellectual current that serves educational and intellectual issues of the whole of society.
In his article entitled “The Islamic Condition in Qatar,” al Nafisi concluded that the idea of the organization is ineffective and that the organization’s historical entity had become an obstacle to the development and productivity of the Islamic condition on account of the organization’s burden, limpness and antagonism with the government. He quoted a “former” Qatari Muslim Brotherhood member giving an “interesting” statement…
“The Qataris have shown early judiciousness that will spare them from many problems faced by their brethren in various Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. I asked one of those who conducted the two-part study, ‘After all these years, what do you think of the MB in Egypt?’ ‘It has transformed into a sponge that absorbs and freezes all energies,’ he replied.”
So as to prevent this sponge from absorbing more of the energy of the members and advocates of Islamic movements and also to preserve the main goal of the Islamic condition that was the underlying reason for the creation of the movement in 1928 – to implement the Islamic project, to mobilize energy for this project, and going to the battlefield for its sake, according to Hassan al Banna, they must heed the greater goal and avoid protecting means at the expense of ends, especially as this goal is now exposed to harm and is facing obstacles that hinder its achievement. This is only because the movement itself has outgrown the goal and therefore there came to be a state of alienation and withdrawal from the movement by some senior individuals, particularly in Egypt.
As explained by another “inside” writer and critic of the MB who presented a study on the future of the Brotherhood as an organization, he referred to the signs of aging that befell the organization and how Hilmi al Jazzar, a leading MB figure, convinced the generation of Mustafa Mashhur and Hamid Abu al Nasr of the necessity to admit the then MB’s young cadres to the leadership cadre, though this did not succeed in revitalizing the organization and did not prevent the withdrawal of the centrist party in Egypt. Also, the discomfort of the group/center with the individual opinions of some of its intellectuals accelerated splits from the group, such as the case with al Turabi in Sudan and to some extent with the Renaissance Party in Tunisia, not to mention those who became independent of the group such as Sheikh Muhammad al Ghazali and Abdul Halim Abu Shaqqa in Egypt and Bassam al Amoush, member of the international Muslim Brotherhood and former Jordanian cabinet minister. Even al Nafisi can serve to some extent as an example of those who became independent of the group.
Al Nafisi’s recent call upon the MB to disband and become a “general intellectual Islamic current that serves educational and intellectual matters for society as a whole,” instead of being a political organization was not welcomed by Egypt’s MB. “I have no details about the country-based status so as to comment upon it,” the deputy supreme guide of the MB, Mohammed Habib, told Asharq Al Awsat last week…
“These foundations [the MB’s principles] have to be transmitted, promoted and called for by people and these people have to belong to an organization,” Habib said, adding “It is not logical for each individual to act in a separate and different way. An organization specifies directions and sets principles in order to avoid losing movement and methodology.”
Others viewed al Nafisi’s call as fighting against the Islamic project represented by the MB, as the organization is the “heart of hearts” of Islamic currents. Some brought up al Nafisi’s critical contributions against the Islamic movement since his publication, “The Islamic Movement: Future Vision, Papers in Self-Criticism,” that was published in 1990 and in which al Nafisi presented a criticism of the reality and course of the group and at the time, he called upon it to transform from an “organization” to a “party” following the example of the Sudanese experience. Now he returns to criticize the rigidity of the organization and the organization becoming a party, according to some defenders of the MB’s political experience.
But the fact is that there is despotism amongst the leading figures of the organization, denial of any flexibility or internal transformation and domination over internal decisions, for example, Mamun al Hudaibi’s “despotism” over other leading figures of the group when he decided to pledge allegiance to Mustafa Mashhur during the funeral of Hamid Abu al Nasr. In addition, the anger of the group’s senior members towards the younger members is a fact that is recognized by people whose dedication and allegiance to the MB cannot be questioned, such as Yusuf al Qaradawi, who in his book entitled, “Islamic awakening from adolescence to adulthood,” warned against the inflexibility of the leading MB figures regarding the acceptance of internal development. He even asserted that al Banna would not be turning in his grave because of some of his disciples or followers who have individual opinions on action development, confirming that all those who sought to change or develop action methodology were faced with rejection and rigidity.
However, al Nafisi’s call remains the most critical and important one because, according to my understanding, it indicates that the MB’s pure political action, which it regards as a kind of jihad and religious duty, is in fact a worldly activity that has failed and that this long exhausting journey, which started around a century ago when it was launched by the first guide in Ismailia, has reached its final stop. But this does not mean the end of the notion of politicized Islam, perhaps in order to preserve this notion that has been weighed down by the MB’s heritage to the extent of failure. Because of all of that, individuals and intellectuals affiliated with political Islam such as al Nafisi called for getting rid of some of the load to keep the ship afloat—the Islamist salvation ship. We have no idea about the nature and essence of al Nafisi’s proposed solution to transform into a “current” although he tried hard to explain the concept. But this does not prevent one from saying that what was said signals a long awaited moment of recognition.
Now, does the limpness of the MB’s main body and its transformation into a burden upon others who are convinced by the political Islamist project mean that the organization’s failure resulted purely from internal causes or because of the ongoing security suppression practiced by “most” Arab governments?!
The answer may be both, but in the end, we are facing an argument made by some members of the Islamist movement, a heated argument that indicates a collapsing structure and a falling leaf, that is, the leaf of the most prominent political Islamist organization, followed by another leaf that bears the name of another current.
What is interesting about Dr. Abdullah al Nafisi’s criticism is that although he covertly admires the state of Al Qaeda’s “opposition” or “resistance” against the American project as concluded from his lengthy analyses, he is sharply criticizing the MB’s organizational experience. Therefore, does he want to pave the way for a new Islamist revolutionary state, according to some MB defenders or is it one of Dr. Abdullah’s endless manifestations?!
It remains to say that al Nafisi’s call is worth the read and consideration. Moreover, the MB, especially in Egypt, must know that it is no longer the “Vatican” of political Islam and that many Brotherhood birds have flown the nest, some of whom have flown much and soared in a sky that is far from the organization or the current. Above all, what was and is being said makes us realize time and time again that all experiences of Islamist movements are purely political experiences that can be accepted, rejected and even canceled and disbanded. Islamist movements do not enjoy divine protection as we are told either implicitly or explicitly.