“The Hour shall not be established until tribes of my Ummah unite with the idolaters, and until they worship idols. And indeed there shall be thirty imposters in my Ummah,each of them claiming that he is a Prophet. And I am the last of the Prophets, there is no Prophet after me.” (Jami`at-Tirmidh, Book 33, Hadith 62)
The history of Egyptian class structure can be traced back to early pre-colonialism. From the age of Kings, the structure started with the hierarchy, Starting from the generals, the military and lawmakers, to the workers and manual laborers. This construct was used for centuries to solidify a simple method, to keep power from the hands of the many. It designed Egypt’s society up unto the present day with few modifications. Egypt’s society is wrought with class warfare in his vast and illustrious history. During the 19th century, Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas’ud ibn Agha was the King of Egypt and Sudan, parts of Saudi Arabia and also the entire Levant. Muhammad Ali was also considered the primary founder of modern day Egypt. From 1805–1848 his reign ruled thru-ought and many had called him a “pragmatist” although he was not a modern nationalist.
Ali had a vision for Egypt. It was to leave the Ottoman Empire and for the country to be ruled by an Egyptian itself. In doing so, Ali had implemented a national revenue stream, something that would “nationalize” the country as a whole. He would go on to raise funds for his own military which would become Egypt’s defense, it worked. With a growing military behind him Ali began reforming the country. Next step was to create revenue to complete with European trade, in this Ali say that Egyptian textile as the immediate financial forefront. Railroads, water conductors, and also technical schools were being built. Egypt would soon begin to born itself as a independent entity which would compete with the high ruling Eurocentric industries within 50 years time.
By 1830 Ali had implemented “judicial law and order” independent of a religious format which the “scholars” saw as Sharia. With Ali’s sudden death in 1848, Egypt had reformed to new heights, but as history seems to repeat itself it was short lived. By June 1882, Egypt was in the hands of nationalists opposed to European domination of the country. The seemingly haunting ghosts of class warfare visited the country once again. France and Great Britain would resist the Egyptian nationalists. By August however, Great Britain had control over the country, ousting the Egyptian Army. Lord Croner, Britain’s Chief Representative in Egypt at the time, viewed Egypt’s financial reforms as part of a long-term objective for the embattled country. By 1906 the British had once again confronted a new internal conflict, this time from the Egyptian residents of a village, Denshawi (the seat of Martyrs). Due to the harsh response by the British military, they feared a new reprisal of Egyptian nationalists. By 1919, Egypt was ripe for revolt.
Mass demonstrations began in and around Egypt. Thus began the Egyptian Revolution, during this revolution a young boy was introduced to his first glimpse into Egyptian Politics, who would in short order create the countries first modern Islamist organization, Hassan al-Banna. This period would also birth a future Egyptian modernist, Gamel Abdel Nasser. Two entities whom would transform Egypt, forever in just 25 years.
British Imperial Governor, Lord Edmund Henry Allenby, declared Egyptian independence on February 28, 1922. The growing and rapid increase to British colonial rule was too much to deter, and was too much of a cost militarily. Meanwhile Hassan al-Banna began hearing of the abolition of the Ottoman Empire. By this time another Egyptian innovator would travel and live in Cairo, his name, Sayyid Qutb. By 1928, Qutb began his career as a teacher in the Ministry of Public Instruction and also would author his first books. Both al-Banna and Qutb saw the ruling Egyptian elite ignoring the ulema of Islamic culture. They demanded to be properly represented in government and in universities. But they had no power to authorize their demands. By the fall of that same year, growing demands of the working and religious class, al-Banna created the first organization which would cater to the lower class, it was called, Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhawn al-Muslimeen).
Egypt had many small Islamic groups at this time, so the Brotherhood began to start farming out into local mosques and universities. By the time the Brotherhood began to birth its formal members, young Nasser along with his father moved to Cairo in this same period. Here Nasser would be introduced to Egypt’s class divisions. Nasser had his discontent with those born into wealth and power grew throughout his lifetime, as his family were not from Egypt’s elite ruling class and saw the structure as “divisive”. Thus in the spring of 1937, Nasser applied to the Royal Military Academy. al-Banna’s Brotherhood had began to transcend outside of Egypt, and it is stated from historians that about 500,000 members would make up the Muslim Brotherhood. al-Banna would begin to exert his influence to young Muslims of foreign countries, usually motivating them to not be fearful of secular ideologies.
“We need spirited, energetic, and strong young people whose hearts are filled with life, enthusiasm, zeal and dynamism; whose souls are filled with ambition, aspiration and vigor and have great goals, rising and aspiring to reach them until they eventually arrive at their destination”
It was just 5 years old but the Young Egypt Party, headed by Ahmed Hussayn wanted to cater to Egypt’s nationalism but simultaneously adhering to “religious elements” as well. By 1940 they would become more fervent toward the religious structure of the growing anti-British rule, it would be renamed The Nationalist Islamic Party. After World War Two ended they would rename it again, this time to the Socialist Party of Egypt, with the growing populace of secular-socialist ideologues. Al-Banna saw the threat imposed by socialists and secularists from British colonialism.
“Muslims … are compelled to humble themselves before non-Muslims, and are ruled by unbelievers. Their lands have been trampled over, and their honor besmirched. Their adversaries are in charge of their affairs, and the rites of their religion have fallen into abeyance with their own domains … Hence it has become an individual obligation, which there is no evading, on every Muslim to prepare his equipment, to make up his mind to engage in jihad, and to get ready for it until the opportunity is ripe and God decrees.”
By 1948 however, a new event which would begin the transformation of Islamic culture would begin. This time with the implementation of the state of Israel by British rule. The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 saw the first call to the Muslim ummah of the 20th century. The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was beset by a civil war which suspended the plan. This was the first time Gamel Nasser saw military conflict, and was in Palestine for the war. King Farouk sent the Egyptian army into Israel, as Nasser would serve as staff officer for the 6th Infantry Battalion. At this same time Sayyid Qutb would visit the United States and enroll in its universities, spending several months at Colorado State College of Education. Qutb however was beset by depression and saw the United States as completely opposed to “Islamic law” a nation afflicted with lawlessness and greed. He was appalled by what he perceived as loose sexual openness of American men and women . This American experience was for him a fine-tuning of his Islamic identity.
While the Arab-Israeli War began its first weeks into the conflict, Egypt was also at odds with the Muslims Brotherhood, this time from Egypt’s monarchy. Rumors had began to take hold in the countries streets, that the Brotherhood was trying to assassinate Prime Minister, Mahmoud El Nokrashy Pasha, and conduct a coup against the government. al-Banna ever the pragmatist, tried to conduct meetings with members of the Egyptian Government. On February 12, 1949, Hassan al-Banna and his brother-in-law Abdul Karim Mansur were travelling to meet with Mahmoud El Nokrashy Pasha at the Jama’iyyat al-Shubban al-Muslimeen headquarters in Cairo. As both men waited by the corner in which they resided, they hailed a taxi. Multiple gunmen descended upon the pair, numerous shots were fired. Killing both. Immediately the Brotherhood accused King Farouk and the Egyptian Iron Guard as responsible for the assassination.
The effect of al-Banna’s death resonated thru-ought the Arab world, even into the nationalist sectors. Nasser tried to reach out to the Brotherhood to form an alliance, but noticing the organizational religious structure as becoming too untenable with Nasser’s own nationalist ideology he decided against this.
After the Arab-Israeli conflict, Nasser would continue to instruct at the Royal Military Academy. By 1951, Sayyid Qutb would return to Egypt from the United States. His experiences there would transform him into a more fervent Islamic instructor. He saw the West as inferior and absent of god, needing a religious structure, in which he saw a threat to Arab unity in the Middle East:
“The American is primitive in his artistic taste, both in what he enjoys as art and in his own artistic works. “Jazz” music is his music of choice. This is that music that the Negroes invented to satisfy their primitive inclinations, as well as their desire to be noisy on the one hand and to excite bestial tendencies on the other. The American’s intoxication in “jazz” music does not reach its full completion until the music is accompanied by singing that is just as coarse and obnoxious as the music itself. Meanwhile, the noise of the instruments and the voices mounts, and it rings in the ears to an unbearable degree… The agitation of the multitude increases, and the voices of approval mount, and their palms ring out in vehement, continuous applause that all but deafens the ears.”
Qutb began his direct affiliation with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He regarded the death of al-Banna, and immediately called the founder of the Brotherhood a “martyr” against the threat of Arab nationalism. Qutb feared the influence of the West beginning to take hold not just in Egypt, but thru-ought the Arab East as a whole. Egypt would once again witness another class warfare by 1952, the Free Officers Movement of Egypt began a military coup of the Egyptian Government, forcing the ouster of King Farouk. Initially started as a small rebellion military cell under Abdel Moneim Abdel Raouf, which included Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hussein Hamouda, Khaled Mohieddin, Kamal el-Din Hussein, Salah Nasr, Abdel Hakim Amer, and Saad Tawfik.
The new leadership witnessed Muhammad Naguib as the official “figurehead”, however this was short-lived. Nasser had the backing of the rebellion, and suddenly it became a full on wall revolution of the country. Nasser upended Nagbuib and became the defacto leader after deposing Naguib. The Muslim Brotherhood however were the ones behind Naguib, and tried to force religious authority over the residents of Cairo to which Nasser rebuffed them. Almost immediately upon his ascension to being President, Nasser cracked down on the Brotherhood. Arresting and deposing many in the harsh Egyptian prison cells.
By 1954, Nasser had implemented a separate organisation was called “Tahreer”, they would oppose the Muslim Brotherhood. al-Banna’s, brother in law, Said Ramadan would be the defacto leader of the Brotherhood at this time and Sayyid Qutb as its influential religious authority, Nasser held closed door meetings with both men assuring them, falsely, that the Egyptian Government would allow the Brotherhood to remain free to conduct their activities without imposition. However in short time, Qutb found out about Nasser’s actual plans for the Brotherhood, and conducted plans to conduct a coup against the Nasser government. Nasser responded by mass arresting most of the hierarchy of the Brotherhood, as well as Sayyid Qutb. The continuing class warfare of the ruling nationalist government in the next two years against the religious authorities of Egypt were rampant. Qutb was tortured like so many of the Brotherhood and other religious adherents.
Qutb saw early release after pressure from Prime Minister of Iraq, Abdul Salam Arif, who saw Qutb’s imprisonment “unjust”. However in just a few short months, Qutb was arrested once again, this time charged with plotting to overthrow the state. Qutb’s trial was a farce to many who attended. Qutb however was unfazed by the death sentence for he knew his death would be reverberated thru-ought the Islamic world. On the morning of August 19.1966 Qutb along with two members of the Brotherhood were executed by hanging. Upon immediate news f his execution, the Islamists, thru-ought the Levant were impacted, they saw Qutb as a true martyr. Nasser witnessed a new Islamic revolution, in which the Islamic authority saw secular Pan-Nationalism as a direct threat to its existence. So did Great Britain. The British along with the United States wanted to upend Pan-Arab Nationalism, the influence purported by Gamel Nasser. They began implementing goals to slowly upend Nasser’s ideology, Nasserism (socialist Arab nationalist political ideology).
Qutb’s early prison writings were influential into the growth of Islamism. One such book, Milestones, warned of the threat to the Arab world of secularism:
“Democracy in the West has become infertile to such an extent that it is borrowing from the systems of the Eastern bloc, especially in the economic system, under the name of socialism. It is the same with the Eastern bloc. Its social theories, foremost among which is Marxism, in the beginning attracted not only a large number of people from the East but also from the West, as it was a way of life based on a creed. But now Marxism is defeated on the plane of thought, and if it is stated that not a single nation in the world is truly Marxist, it will not be an exaggeration. On the whole this theory conflicts with man’s nature and its needs.
This ideology prospers only in a degenerate society or in a society which has become cowed as a result of some form of prolonged dictatorship. But now, even under these circumstances, its materialistic economic system is failing, although this was the only foundation on which its structure was based. Russia, which is the leader of the communist countries, is itself suffering from shortages of food. Although during the times of the Tsars Russia used to produce surplus food, it now has to import food from abroad and has to sell its reserves of gold for this purpose. The main reason for this is the failure of the system of collective farming, or, one can say, the failure of a system which is against human nature.”
From his works, Qutbism began to influence many young Islamists. One of them was a young student of Egypt’s medical system. Ayman al-Zawahiri. al-Zawahiri saw Qutb’s death as a profound act from an existential threat to the Islamic ummah as a whole. Another Islamic student of law, Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind sheikh from Cairo. also began preaching against the government of Gamel Nasser thru-ought the late 1960’s. Rahman had become a muzzeuin, one who has completely memorized the Quran, for him it was at age 11. A remarkable feat considering he was blind and used a Quran which was in braille. Egypt would once again feature a new internal reclassification, as history would reintroduce a new “revolution” in short order. Gamel Nasser has succumbed to a heart attack on September 28,1970. Leaving his vice-president, Anwar Sadat to become the countries new president.
Upon his new ascension to the throne, Sadat wanted to become a more “liberal” minded leader toward the growing influx of Egypt’s Islamic ruling class. He relaxed the strict governance toward the Muslim Brotherhood and toward Egypt’s religious institution. This would prove to be a fatal mistake later on however. In a move that would define the new beginning of the Islamic Revolution and begin a force that would exist to the present day, Sadat conducted a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights on October 6,1973. The attack would be historically known as the Yom Kippur War. Just 6 years prior the six day war which saw a failure of 5 combined Arab nations against the Israeli military, backed by the United States. The Israeli Army, led by General Ariel Sharon, who would later become Israeli Prime Minister, had crossed on into the Suez Canal. The United States did not want to witness a second war of failure by the Arabs, and enacted Resolution 338, which proposed a ceasefire led by the U.S and the Soviet Union.
The war boosted morale thru-ought the Arab world, the Islamist uprising saw Sadat as fully detached from the early ideology promoted by Nasser. However Sadat’s next move began his downfall. On January 18, 1974, Sadat negotiated a peace deal with Israel. This never had happened in the history of the Arab world. Egyptian groups, like the Brotherhood, whom transformed into a more political-ideology, were not fond of the idea but didn’t oppose. However Egypt’s more radical Islamic groups like the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Gamma Islammiyah, saw this as an affront to Islam. On November 19, 1977, Sadat become the first Arab leader to visit Israel. Finally, on March 26,1979, with the influence of U.S President Jimmy Carter, the Camp David Accords signed by Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat and Israel Prime Minister, Menachem Begin in Washington D.C were finalized. It was a truly unprecedented move. The key points of the constitution were as follows in regards to the West Bank and Gaza sections:
Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the representatives of the Palestinian people should participate in negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects
Egypt and Israel agree that, in order to ensure a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority, and taking into account the security concerns of all the parties, there should be transitional arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza for a period not exceeding five years. In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants, under these arrangements the Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas to replace the existing military government.
Egypt, Israel, and Jordan will agree on the modalities for establishing elected self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza. The delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza or other Palestinians as mutually agreed. The parties will negotiate an agreement which will define the powers and responsibilities of the self-governing authority to be exercised in the West Bank and Gaza. A withdrawal of Israeli armed forces will take place and there will be a redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces into specified security locations. The agreement will also include arrangements for assuring internal and external security and public order. A strong local police force will be established, which may include Jordanian citizens. In addition, Israeli and Jordanian forces will participate in joint patrols and in the manning of control posts to assure the security of the borders.
The Islamic sects of Egypt immediately began implementing a government coup that saw Sadat’s recent political agendas against the unity of the religious authority. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad, headed by Muhammad abd al-salam Faraj, began recruiting Egyptian military officers into the plot. Aboud El Zomor, Egyptian colonel of Egyptian military intelligence and Khālid al-Islāmbūlī, First Lieutenant of the 17th Artillery Regiment, began implementing a plan for the assassination of Sadat. Both men were members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Members of the Group’s “Majlis el-Shura” (“Consultative Council”), led by (Blind Sheikh) Omar Abdel Rahman were the primary influences of the plot however, while al-Zawahiri was behind the scenes and had no major part.
October 6th 1981, Sadat is seated just three rows behind the military facade where a victory parade was held in Cairo to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Egypt’s crossing into the Suez Canal. Sadat was surrounded by layers of his security detail. When the Egyptian Air Force Mirage Jets flew overhead, members of the Egyptian military began to follow each other out of an army truck parked just a mere 50 feet away from the facade where Sadat was seated. One truck contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. They immediately began firing into the facade, Sadat’s nephew Talaat El Sadat later said, “The president thought the killers were part of the show when they approached the stands firing, so he stood saluting them”. Sadat was hit in the first volley, and members seated at the facade began throwing their chairs at their assailants. Sadat and ten others were killed outright or suffered fatal wounds, including Major General Hassan Allam, Khalfan Nasser Mohammed (a general from the Omani delegation), Eng. Samir Helmy Ibrahim, Al Anba’ Samuel, Mohammed Yousuf Rashwan (the presidential photographer), Saeed Abdel Raouf Bak.
Faraj gave his reason for the assassination during the trial:
“The basis of the existence of imperialism in the lands of Islam is these self-same rulers. To begin with the struggle against imperialism is a work which is neither glorious nor useful, and it is only a waste of time. It is our duty to concentrate on our Islamic cause, and that is the establishment first of all of God’s law in our own country and causing the world of God to prevail. There is no doubt that the first battlefield of the jihad is the extirpation of these infidel leaderships and their replacement by a perfect Islamic order, and from this will come the release of our energies.”
Before the trial had started, Egyptian authorities investigating the murder of Sadat came across a profound document. During a search of Faraj residence, they came across a manuscript entitled Al-Farida al-gha’iba (The Neglected Duty). The manuscript would outline the agenda of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and future islamist groups, that would carry across decades to the current age.
“Muslim blood will be shed in order to realize this victory over Israel. Now it must be asked whether this victory will benefit the interest of Infidel rule? It will mean the strengthening of a state which rebels against the Laws of God, the shari’ah … These rulers will take advantage of the nationalist ideas of these Muslims in order to realize their un-Islamic aims, even though at the surface these aims look Islamic. Fighting has to be done only under the Banner of Islam and under Islamic leadership.”
The assassination began a new revolution within the Islamist generations. The ideology of Arab Nationalism was long dead, a new movement had began, Pan-Islamism. An ideology influenced by the tautology of Ibn Tammiyah, Islamic scholar of the 12 century, the ideology of Ibn Hanbal, Islamic scholar of the 9th century and the early works of Sayyid Qutb had began to transform not just Egypt, but to Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Even Afghanistan. After the Soviets had invaded it had given momentum and the rise of “defensive jihad” purported by a Palestinian imam, Abdullah Yusef Azzam. Soon other islamist groups would start operating thru-ought the Arab world that would continue to the present day. At the current moment many of the islamist organizations seem to be heavily motivated by U.S-Israeli foreign policy, and there seems to be no end to the Islamists ideological direction, even under the assault of drone strikes of countries that were once made prosperous under Pan-Arabism.
The “Tawheed” of the Islamic community continues to battle two fronts, one from the extremist perspective who sees only the Mujhid-Jihadist world and those from the foreign policy perspective (U.S & Israel) of interjecting into Arab politics. The end result is yet to be seen, but the future of the Arab world is currently under the direct threats of endless foreign led destabilization and internal sectarianism. The Jihad continues.