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New Renaissance according to Hassan al-Banna


By Jamal Ashley @ 6:12 pm


| # | Current events, Socio-Political, Islam

Looking over my computer files, I saw these notes from my graduate course in Islamic Political Thought. The article is THE NEW RENAISSANCE by HASSAN AL-BANNA From Political and Social Thought in the Contemporary Middle East Kemal H. Karpat (1968), ed., : New York: Praeger, pp. 118-122

(Note: Hassan al-Banna is considered by Bush, Blair, the CIA, FBI , MI-6 or whatever as one of the dangerous fanatical Muslim political thinkers of the 20th century.)

Hassan al Banna (1906-1949) founded Al Ikhwan Muslimin (The Muslim Brotherhood) in 1928, the largest and well-organized group in Egypt at that time. He was assassinated in 1949.

In this article, al-Banna expressed gladness at the new thrust of interest on Islam by Islamic writers, who previously had only praises for Western civilization. He noted that “voices are raised proclaiming the necessity for a return to the principles, teachings and ways of Islam, and taking into account the situation, for initiating the reconciliation of modern life with these principles, as a prelude to ‘Islamization.”

This development, Banna wrote, naturally “worried a good number of governments and Arab powers.” And these people blame “extremist organizations and fanatical groups.” This sounds familiar to today’s readers even if more than 50 years separate this article from today’s events.

Banna argued that the causes of this Islamic renaissance are: 1) failure of the West, 2) perfection of Islam and 3) “the development of social conditions between the two murderous world wars.

The failure of the West is due to its very materialistic viewpoint. The west has forgotten that “man does not live by bread alone.” According to Banna, “Man’s hunger grows from day to day: he wants to free his spirit , to destroy this materialistic prison and find space to breathe the air of faith and consolation.”

The second cause is the re-discovery of Islamic thinkers of Islam’s perfect principles.

And third, the development of Nazism and Fascism after WWI and their fall, which ended WWII, as well as the victory of Communism and Soviet Russia made Muslim thinkers go back to Islamic teachings and re-discover the validity of Islam and assert their right to freedom from colonial rule.

Al-Banna gave a very interesting “parable” where he wrote that the greatness of the three kinds of government – communist, dictatorial and democratic – is embodied the simple act a Muslim going to prayer. The communist “notion of equality and condemnation of class distinction and the struggle against the claim to property” are present when a Muslim enters a mosque. Banna wrote that “the moment he enters, he realizes that the mosque belongs to God and not to anyone of his creatures…And when the muezzin calls ‘Now is the hour of prayer’, they form an equal mass, a compact block behind the imam.” There is a footnote which noted that “the imam referred to is a leader of prayer, and not be confused with the Shi’ite Imam, who is the supreme head of the community.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]-->

As to its dictatorial flavor, the congregation bows only when the imam bows and moves only when the imam moves. On the other hand, when the imam “makes a mistake in his reading or in his actions, all those behind him – young boys, old men or women at prayer – have the imperative duty to tell him of his error in order to put him back on the right road during the prayer, and the imam himself is bound absolutely to accept the good advice, and forsaking his error, return to reason and truth. This is what is most appealing in democracy.”

Banna’s description above is exactly how I feel about Islam. Every time I see a church closed to parishioners, I wonder why they do that. Does their God entertain prayers only at certain times, such as when their priests are present? On the other hand, mosques are open 24 hours a day. As a child, I used to enjoy the feeling of being one with the community in praying, especially when saying ‘Amen’ aloud. Unlike in Christian churches where the front pews are reserved for VIP’s, the mosque has no such places for anyone.

And what really struck me about praying was when an imam commits a mistake. I have seen them in Saudi Arabia and in Mindanao. The members of the congregation immediately corrected the imam. In fact, in Mindanao, especially during the tarawi’, the members of the congregation even tell the imam to “speed it up.” This is the essence of democracy. I doubt very much if Christian parishioners would dare correct the mistakes of their priests.

Al-Banna was correct in saying that all the good things in communism, democracy and dictatorship can be found in the simple practice of Muslims praying in mosques.

The article went on to demonstrate the “excellence of Islamic principles.” Banna concludes by emphasizing that “Muslims must move toward a return to their religion” and assuring everyone that “far from receiving impetus from blind fanaticism, this movement will be inspired by a strong regard for the values of Islam which correspond fully to what modern thought has discovered as most noble, sound and tested in society.”

The article is well written, not too polemical and certainly not extremist.



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